I Can Read Animals (But Not People)

I can read and feel the emotions of animals. It is a skill that I picked up as a child, roaming the woods freely, trying to get close to wild animals.

Its funny. Reading people is very difficult for me. When I know someone well, it becomes a bit easier for me to read them, but only the obvious emotions. Decoding the messages in a strangers face is almost impossible.

It doesn’t matter if I devote all of my attention to a stranger’s face, there is no information being received. Often, I try so hard to read someone’s face that I miss out on what they are saying. Paying attention to the words is easier and more efficient.

There is a lot of information being given out by the face, so when you can’t read faces you are missing out on a lot of important cues. I never know if something that I’ve said is offensive to the people around me. When I was a child I didn’t care, but as an adult keeping a job depends on it.

More often than not I just hold my tongue at work. If something is important enough and I am confident in my answer, I may speak up. It all depends on if I feel up to having a serious conversation. I can only handle so many of those in one week.

People are hard to read. A lifted eyebrow or a squished mouth may mean something very important. When you miss a tiny cue, you risk misinterpreting an entire situation.

Animals on the other hand are much more obvious. When an animal is upset, happy, or afraid his body tells you everything you need to know. Every part of the animal’s body tells you what it’s feeling, thinking. When you study their habits you learn to predict them.

As a little girl, playing alone in the woods, I saw many creatures. Snakes, coyotes, foxes, turtles, rabbits, cats, dogs, birds, squirrels, deer, the list goes on and on. If you could learn how to tell when an animal is getting nervous you can also learn how to keep them calm.

Flight distance is a term used to describe how close you can get to a wild animal before it will run away. Growing up, I pushed this to it’s limits. Advancing closer and closer to the animals I encountered, learning to stop and sit down right before they flee.

Waiting them out was key. Animals will relax as they get used to seeing you. When they learn that you are not going to harm or scare them they begin to accept you. Almost all animals will do this, if you are patient enough.

It is a delicate dance. You want to push your presence to be just a little more comfortable, so you are a little bit more accepted. If you go to far and frighten an animal, than you have pushed them past their breaking point and set yourself back considerably.

Any time you scare any animal, wild or domestic, you hurt your relationship with it. Wild animals and timid domestic animals are the easiest to scar. Because of their fearful nature, skittish animals are more easily frightened even by people and things that they normally trust.

Sometimes I remind myself of a skittish animal. It is hard for me to trust someone once they have harmed me. Mostly I am very forgiving of misunderstandings and unintentional transgressions, but drama and viciousness is never tolerated.

I don’t do fake people. Because I can’t read faces, I need to be surrounded by people who say what they feel. I like things obvious and blunt and if I feel comfortable around you, that is how I will act.

I rather just tell people the truth. It is hard for me to sugar coat things.  I am honest and real or I rather not talk at all. The animals never had a problem with that.

Maybe that is why I can read animals but not people.

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12 thoughts on “I Can Read Animals (But Not People)”

  1. Interesting to read about autism from inside and not by a medical specialist as such but not having the condition. And I find it very courageous from you to share your world and the way you see it. Thank you for that.

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  2. People are still hard to read. I end up over reading and making up stuff in my head about it. Usually I’m wrong and seem about as socially awkward. If people just spoke what they meant it shouldn’t matter what their face says

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  3. I have a hard time with body language both with humans and animals. I am usually hyper-focused on what I want to convey. I’ve had a hard time getting used to having a cat again. She will nip (not break the skin) at times when she doesn’t want to be picked up. My NT sister had to help me understand why. It helped to know that she does this when she thinks its time for her to go in her room to sleep and she wants to stay out. My mom always told me to ask other people what they mean, but I have found that they find this irritating, unless I disclose that I’m autistic.

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    1. I think I learned to read animals because as a child they were my special interest / obsession. When I was little someone once asked me what I would like to be when I grew up. To that question, I quite seriously replied “A cat!” I pick my battles when speaking to people. If what they think of me has no impact on my life, I refuse to worry about / waste energy on it.

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      1. It is awesome that you got to the point of not letting pointlessness get to you. Did you have any help with that or did you just get to a point where negativity didn’t impact you anymore. I’m in my 30’s and have had much negativity in the community. As a result, fear and self-loathing have nagged at me since my teens.

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        1. I was a mess growing up. The little goth girl who didn’t care about anyone else’s feelings unless they somehow effected her. Years of bullying left me calloused and cold to the world. I learned to put up walls to keep people out. As an adult I studied yoga, Buddhism, and meditation which have all help me.

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  4. Even though I’m not autistic, I can still relate to that feeling of being able to better read other animals (vs. humans).

    People with all their evolved intelligence have also found ways to hide their motives, lie and mislead others. But of course there are those who are still honest and transparent about things.

    Too bad we don’t hear about the honest individuals as often in a world drowning in the human politics. But as the saying goes, be the change you want to see in the world. If people can change to be a lot MORE honest, things could very well change for the better :).

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