Zoë Blade's notebook

Implicature

There is a dearth of information on how allism works, because as the majority neurotype by quite some way, it's assumed that "everyone" knows. The information on autism isn't much better, as the change from a conformity-enforcing colonial viewpoint to one centered around the lived experiences of those in the minority group hasn't, as of the 2020s, gained enough traction to lead to scientists asking the right questions. Therefore, these are merely my very tentative hypothoses, and should be taken as such.

An implicature is when someone says one thing in order to hint at another thing.

As a broad generalisation, if you want to say something, a common (amongst ourselves) autistic approach is simply to say it as directly and precisely as possible, truthful "to a fault", to avoid any kind of ambiguity or inaccuracy.

In stark contrast, it seems allistic people often instead opt to say something else entirely, that merely hints at the information they really want to convey.[1][2][3] Ambiguity is considered a feature, not a bug, because it allows plausible deniability. There are two likely reasons for this:

  1. The person talking wants to avoid the embarrassment of being openly rejected or rebuked in some way
  2. The person talking wants to spare the person listening the risk of being offended, or similarly embarrassed

This is especially true if the listener outranks the speaker, something autistic people tend to forget to bear in mind, yet allistic people seem to care about.

If the listener doesn't agree or reciprocate, then both people involved are free to pretend the unrequited suggestion or observation wasn't even intended, even though it was. This is most obvious with flirting in particular,[4] but it seems it might be used by allistic people in many other contexts too.

Both the autistic and allistic approaches are valid (although mitigated speech can be dangerous in important situations),[5] and both generally come naturally to their respective neurotypes, but as allistic people are far more common, the burden unfortunately falls upon autistic people to try to learn to speak the more popular allistic dialect.

This is especially important, as an autistic person speaking naturally to an allistic person won't be perceived as using a different dialect. We'll be perceived as blunt and intense, even arrogant.[6][7] This causes some very unfortunate miscommunications amongst different neurotypes, and from a young age teaches autistic people the hard way that we need to speak unnaturally in order to fit in... although many of us don't get that lesson, because it's taught implicitly.

It's a natural temptation to try to avoid this misunderstanding by making your words ever less ambiguous and more precise. However, as allistic people still expect you to do the opposite, this will, alas, only make things worse. They'll either persist in looking for your nonexistent hidden meanings, or they'll wonder why you have such little respect for them that you'll openly speak directly, unaware that's your natural way of speaking.

Conversely, you might perceive an allistic person speaking naturally to you as frustratingly cryptic, hinting at things using an unbreakable code. But as we're the ones in a steep minority, allistic people are seldom going to cater to us by talking to us in a way we can easily interpret.

Now that I realise this, I finally understand why I'm perceived by allistic people as both "blunt" and yet "obtuse". Unfortunately, knowing that most people will be talking to me at crossed purposes doesn't help me all that much to spot it happening and diffuse the situation. I'll likely still find it hard to spot implications, and all but impossible to make my own. I guess I'll find out how flat out asking "was that implying something?" works out...

References

  1. "Have Any of You Ever Argued With Another Person on the Spectrum, Then Thought 'Holy Shit, This Is Why People Hate Arguing With Me'?" tuoder, Reddit
  2. "Have Any of You Ever Argued With Another Person on the Spectrum, Then Thought 'Holy Shit, This Is Why People Hate Arguing With Me'?" tuoder, Reddit
  3. "Just a Little Help" purple_baron, Reddit
  4. "Elon Musk" Philosophy Tube, Aug 2018
  5. Outliers Malcolm Gladwell, 2008, ISBN 978-0-316-03669-6, pp. 194—198
  6. "Politeness Theory: Bald On-Record" Wikipedia
  7. "Not using mitigated speech for something, for allistics (women especially), often implies heavy emphasis on that thing: indirect → (surface) conflict-avoiding → 'polite', so choosing to not be 'polite', by being direct, implies that the topic is strongly emotionally important to you, bc you're risking social conflict for it. This can make an allistic listener interpret directness for confrontation, causing anxiety, confusion, or defensiveness." @ChromaticIndigo Twitter, Mar 2022

Communication: Body language | Implicature | Pragmatics | Saving face | Scripting | Shavian | Socialisation