I do well most of the time. Fortunately for me my job allows me to work from home fairly often and on days I have to make the drive into the office, I try to keep to my work behind my laptop. The best days are the ones where I can work with headphones in and have minimal distractions. Sometimes I find it difficult to get back on task when I am interrupted.
I love my job. With my computer in front of me I am able to “get in the zone” and can work for hours. Working from home is great. I love working in yoga pants and sleeping in. The best part about working from home is the silence. Uninterrupted I can get a lot done. I do have to set reminders to take breaks. I tend to get so wrapped up in things that I often forget to eat.
At the office I prefer to keep social encounters down to a minimum. Around close friends and family, when relaxed, I can be extremely talkative but tend to mask my talkative nature at work. My biggest problem is knowing when to stop talking, especially when talking about the things that I love or know a lot about.
Timing in conversation is my biggest weakness. I try hard not to interrupt people’s conversations, trying to wait for the pauses doesn’t work well either. I’ve also been told that I tend to turn conversations around, focusing them on myself and my own experiences. Even worse, when I start talking about something, I keep talking about it. Stuck in a loop, I tend to repeat myself a lot.
It is frustrating for me because I don’t even realize when I am doing this. I genuinely care about people and do not want to be rude, but trying my hardest to be “polite” still isn’t good enough. I’ve cried over this more times than I care to admit. This is why I’ve recently changed from trying to talk at work to holding my tongue.
I try to only talk when I have to at work, terrified that I might get stuck in one of my “loops” or accidentally say the wrong thing. Instead of looking for the right time to talk in a conversation, at work I look for the fist opportunity to exit a conversation. The less chit chat the better, else my “deep dark secret” might be realized.
All of this would work almost perfectly except for one small problem. This past year my manager has been pushing me to attend networking events. For a while I got by networking with a partner, relying on the person next to me to cue me on when conversations should start and stop. Management wants us to spread out at networking events, so that we do not seem “cliquish” and can network with more people. Obviously I dread networking more than anything else.
Struggling with reading people is bad enough with my coworkers, but reading the faces of total strangers is almost impossible for me. I am constantly approaching people at the wrong moments, and fighting to be a good representative of my company is exhausting.
Structured networking events are not as hard. There is a women’s group that I attend that has regular faces and a set schedule. They start with a thirty minute talk or presentation, then each person has three minutes to share something about themselves. This is easy for me because there are no conversational cues to look for and I am actually beginning to enjoy attending this group.
After attending “regular” networking, where I have to hold conversations and approach people, I feel dead inside. All I want to do is hide in my bathroom, soaking in hot bath water up to my ears. If there was one thing that I would change about my job it’s networking. I HATE IT!
With almost everything else in my life, study and practice has allowed me to overcome. I don’t like failure. I am a strong woman and I feel like I can do anything that I put my mind to, but if practice makes perfect it is hard for me to accept that networking is not getting any easier.
Am I really beyond help? Can I learn to have conversations like a “normal” person? Is it worth the amount of stress and frustration? Is anything worth this much stress?
Are my coworkers going to find out that there is an Autistic in the office?