Here’s a tip about nonverbal cues you may find useful when communicating with ND folks, “If they don’t do it, they don’t see it.”
How to socialize, nonverbal language, is typically learned through social modeling.
Unless your brain is Neurodivergent. Then it comes complete with detours and trap doors that get in the way of you seeing the nonverbal language being communicated.
For example: If someone speaks in a monotone voice, they won’t tune into your vocal inflection the same way. They don’t have the range you do.
They may interpret your inflection in an all-or-nothing way. Believing the moment your voice no longer sounds happy, it means you’re upset with them.
I’d been told in the past I don’t use a lot of facial expression when I talk, though my voice is expressive.
I also had difficulty interpreting facial expressions. I’ve put work into this and think I’ve improved in both areas.
It’s helped me deepen my empathy and become an even better listener.
So how do you bridge this gap? Observe them to see what they’re not doing:
Not making a lot of facial expressions
Not using sarcasm (correctly)
Not speaking with inflection or emotion
Not using hands or body to help convey their message.
Whatever they aren’t doing, they’re likely missing in part or entirely when you do it.
They may as well be blind to it, like it never happened.
Solution? As the owner of an ND brain, I’ve learned to ask strategic questions so people speak what was otherwise communicated nonverbally.
For everyone else, you can ask yourself these question during the conversation.
1) Have I clearly verbalized whether something is upsetting me in this conversation?
2) Have I clearly verbalized my needs?
3) Have I clearly verbalized the actions I plan to take and any I’d like the other person to take as part of any agreement?
Those are examples of key things you might assume are communicated in an obvious way during conversation. Not so fast, as you can see.
Let’s meet somewhere in the middle please.
Hey Fellow Neurodivergents!
There are two kinds of skills you need to learn when working to make the butterflies in your brain fly in formation.
You need skills for regulation and execution. There tends to be an overemphasis on execution. By that I mean techniques for accommodating executive functioning struggles.
Examples would be use of planners, digital calendars, alarms, note takers, post-it notes. They are concrete solutions that can be checked off the same way providing a wheelchair or a pair of glasses would be.
They address issues that most impact productivity and are therefore prioritized.
Now you can have all the skills in the world to execute, take action more effectively. But if you’re unable to regulate your emotions, anxious thoughts, tendency toward catastrophic thinking. Then you’re essentially wasting your time.
Whenever your emotions are dysregulated. Which is pretty constant when you’re neurodivergent. It’s just a matter of degree. The brain shuts off support for the prefrontal cortex which is where the executive functions live.
So the parts you need to use for execution go offline because the effort switches to trying to regulate your emotions.
Your ongoing feelings of anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, disorganization can have more to do with your prefrontal cortex being offline than it has to do with you lacking executive functioning skills.
Keeping yourself calm and focused helps keep your prefrontal cortex online, more often, so you can use the natural abilities you have. In addition to being able to apply any strategies you’ve learned.
So the solution is to learn to regulate your emotions FIRST! Things fall in line so much more easily after that. That’s why I emphasize teaching the women I coach how to calm their nervous systems while teaching them the executive functioning skills. It’s a perfect balance.