Micah and his parents tell a memorable story about an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting that was held to determine school services for Micah. His family made a practice of having Micah and a couple of his friends attend each of those meetings in addition to the professionals and parents who typically gather at these events. At this particular meeting, a teacher voiced a concern that Micah looked bored in her class. Immediately his parents began thinking about what the problem might be, and how they might work with Micah to improve his responses in the classroom. However, one of Micah’s friends spoke up and told the teacher that in reality, ALL of the students were bored in her class. The other friend added, “The difference between us and Micah is that we’re better at faking it!”
If we’re honest with ourselves, I think that much of our social success depends on our ability to “fake it.” What do we fake? Sometimes, like Micah’s friends, we fake interest in something another person is doing or saying. Other times we might take time to listen to and acknowledge another person’s sorrows and frustrations, suppressing the elation we feel over something exciting in our own life. Or perhaps we fake the reverse of that; in spite of our own difficulties, we find ways to celebrate with others and allow them to feel good about the successes in their lives. Inside we may want to focus on our own triumphs or woes, or our own desires, yet we portray something else to others in order to meet their needs and/or to be viewed positively by them. We recognize that our social success depends on our ability to set aside our own context in order to do and say things that work for others.
Next week I’ll write about the conflict that this presents for people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders). This is one area that typically causes “gaps” in communication or other aspects of interactions with people with autism and Asperger Syndrome. However, although the gaps are likely to remain to some extent, there is still plenty that we can do to help all of us to be successful in our social interactions!
Best wishes to all of you, when you’re on the giving end of the “great fake,” and when you’re on the receiving end of it. When we’re practicing “social insight and understanding,” we recognize that we’ve all likely been on both ends of that quite often throughout our social lives!