“Tim, please… keep it to yourself.”

Who here has ever asked themselves these sorts of questions:

“When exactly am I supposed to talk?”

“When am I supposed to be quiet and listen?”

“Why do people seem to hate it whenever I talk?”

“How come hardly anyone seems really interested in what I have to say?”

“How come I can never find the right time to raise my thoughts during a conversation?”

“Why do I keep going on some tangent whenever I start speaking?”

“Why do I have so much trouble with shutting myself up and listening?”

“Should I even enter this conversation at all, or should I leave it alone?”

“How can I possibly contribute to a conversation I have no interest in to begin with?”

“Why does it have to be such a chore for me verbally interact with other people?”

If these questions seem at all familiar to you, then you are definitely not alone. It’s always been tough for me to understand exactly when I should open my mouth, and when I should just stay silent. Aspergers Syndrome often makes it difficult for people to communicate fluently with others, and so the appropriate time to provide verbal input isn’t always clear to them. As a result, engaging in a productive, two-sided dialogue does not usually work out for me like it does for most people.

This is not to say that I can never a good, meaningful conversation with anyone; very far from it! I have had the pleasure of enjoying countless discussions that were fun, amusing, informative, friendly, comforting, and thoughtful. I mean, I actually really enjoy chatting with people whenever I can, preferably those I know fairly well. It’s just that I need to learn how to be a more responsible, self-restrained speaker.

For one thing, I have very frequently found myself going off on a tangent as I discuss a certain topic of interest with others. What happens is that once I perceive an opportunity for me to speak out, I immediately take it and then quickly end up talking endlessly about what’s on my mind. Without thinking at all, I get carried away and establish myself as the center of the conversation, inadvertently failing to give the other person their chance to speak. This usually leaves people a little agitated at me and completely unengaged in what I’m saying. They anxiously wait for me to be done with my monologue, occasionally trying to find a polite way of telling to be shut up and let them speak. Unfortunately, I won’t realize I was dominating the discussion until it’s too late, feeling regretful for being so inconsiderate to the other person.

Meanwhile, when trying to have conversation with others, I tend to talk about things that only I want to explore- regardless of how everyone else feels about the topic. Sometimes I might begin a conversation, usually out of complete nowhere, concerning a subject matter that I desperately feel like sharing, simply for the sake of “getting it out there.” Alternatively, I might find a way to bring this subject into an already active conversation when it is not the least bit relevant. In most cases, this dissolves into the one-sided rant that I mentioned earlier, meaning that people have to listen to me jabbering on and on about something they really don’t care about. Even though I may have gotten better at this, I still find myself committing the same mistake rather frequently, mostly unaware of what I’m doing wrong until later.

This brings me to one of my more regrettable habits, which is constantly interrupting people in the middle of talking so that I can give my thoughts. Despite my efforts to try and give other people their space to talk, it remains somewhat of a challenge to keep my mouth shut and pay attention while others are talking. If I feel like I really have get my thoughts out, then I may not be able to wait my turn and save what I have to say till the other person is done.

This is especially prevalent when there is some disagreement between me and the other person. If I really do not want to hear what someone is communicating to me, I may try to block it out by simply cutting them off and abruptly offering a counter argument. A good example of this is when I used to talk to my parents about schoolwork or my behavior. Whenever they would try to say something that I didn’t like or made me somewhat bad, I would instinctively try to shut them up and say something like, “Y-yeah, buuut…” or “I know, I know. Just lemme talk now.”

What makes this even more interesting is the fact that I seriously hate being interrupted myself. Indeed, if someone tries to correct or disrupt me before I finish speaking (which, as you remember, will often take a while), I often react irritated and insist that I be allowed to finish.

Similarly, I often have trouble identifying when I may contribute to a conversation with several people. In many cases, I desperately want to join in on a discussion that apparently isn’t allowing me any room to talk, which makes me feel irritated. I keep trying to find an opportunity to share my thoughts, typically when it seems that someone else is done talking, and unfortunately I can’t find the right moment. This is because either the other person continues to talk, or someone else jumps in to speak instead. Of course, I may eventually grow very impatient and just decide to interrupt someone else so that I may express what I wish to get out. I basically get tired of waiting my turn, so I sort of “take my turn.” In other cases, I may simply give up on trying to contribute at all to the conversation and either stay completely silent, or possibly walk away and leave the discussion altogether.

Does this all sound familiar to anyone?

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