I said to a friend of mine the other day, “I get the feeling my life is never, ever going to be like everyone else’s. I am always going to be really different.” Some days that is really hard and some days, it’s a blessing. I rejoice in the blessings and work my way through the pain of the hard days.”
– Julie Bradshaw
I read the above statement on Facebook this morning and I use it here with permission. It reminded me of a conversation I’ve been having with my clients over the past few weeks. The lesson I have been emphasizing with them is the importance of realizing that when a situation isn’t working the reason is often less about what they or the other person is doing and more about a poor fit between the two.
For instance, if there is a misunderstanding between two people, in many cases the issue lies in mismatching communication styles as opposed to one person being a better communicator than the other. If a child on the autism spectrum is having difficulty managing a classroom situation you can put the onus entirely on the child and tell him he needs to learn how to cope better or you can lecture the school staff telling them they need to do a better job of accommodating your child.
The third-party that most often tends to get missed in these conversations is the point at where the two parties meet and how well the two parties fit, connect, and work together. Sometimes the reality is you simply have two people or a person and the situation that simply do not fit well together in spite of your best efforts and the resulting poorness of fit is not an indication of failure it is simply a fact.
Many people will frustrate themselves by believing that a fit can always be made, unfortunately there are times when it simply is not possible. Think about any time in your life where you have completed a puzzle or had to assemble something and you’ll realize that certain pieces are designed to fit perfectly together and other pieces simply will not fit no matter how hard you try to make them. With that said, I realize that people have the potential to be more flexible than puzzle pieces or mechanical parts. Therefore, it’s important that we make every effort to increase the goodness of fit before abandoning our efforts.
In the spirit of simplicity I would like to share with you three options that I follow in trying to manage goodness of fit problems in the various situations in life where I feel disconnected, out of place etc.
1. Educate. When you and another person seem unable to communicateeffectively, it’s imperative that you clarify to find out better what they want and what they believe to be the best way of getting what they want. You also need to educate them about your needs and values. The better you understand this the more quickly you can determine where they do not align and hopefully you’ll be able to find the values and beliefs that do align better and work from that point of fit or connection.
2. Delegate. This is the option you use for establishing responsibilities in any given situation. For instance, just this morning I had to prompt my youngest son Connor seemingly every 10 seconds to stay on track so he could get ready in time for his bus. Connor has significant struggles with ADHD and until his medication kicks in he is so highly distractible that it’s virtually impossible for him to accomplish a single task in a timely fashion.
An average person who has a stellar ability to focus may be able to take complete ownership of his attention and his ability to complete a task, however, in Connor’s case he and I need to share in accomplishing the outcome of keeping him on task. Thus, some of that responsibility is delegated to me. Once his medication kicks in, however, he is much better able to maintain his focus and have a higher level of self-determination. The medication greatly improves the fit between Connor and the needs of the home and classroom environments.
3. Evacuate. A more simple way of saying this is that when all efforts are exhausted you simply accept that a goodness of fit doesn’t appear to an option either at the moment or ever and you simply leave. I recently attended a meeting for a client after many efforts were made to improve the goodness of fit between himself and the public school environment. It was determined that his needs simply could not be met by the present school nor did his present skill set allow him to step up and meet the needs of the school better. We decided that finding an out of district placement would be the best solution at this time.
Again, the decision we arrived at is not an indication of failure. It was a decision that was arrived at after we made significant efforts to educate the staff as well as the student on more effective ways to work together. When the education was ineffective we moved to delegate. We brought in more supports and additional staff with new responsibilities to help better support the student in his struggles. When that didn’t work either we knew it was time to evacuate and try something new.
As adults with autism spectrum challenges or other difficulties we navigate our everyday lives as best we can. Some days feeling as though the world gets us and other days it seems like things simply aren’t working. If you experience days like this I strongly encourage you to remember that although our tendency is often to beat ourselves up or blame others for the fact that things are going smoothly, sometimes it’s simply a matter of two people showing up with two different agendas or two different mindsets that result in a poorness of fit – a problem which is not based on mean-spiritedness or selfishness.
When you experience these moments remember that the way things are is not the way they must be. We have three options for managing and hopefully improving the situation: we can educate, delegate, and if necessary we can evacuate. There are few moments in life where we are truly helpless; the moments in which we do feel helpless are frequently caused by our own ignorance of the options that are available to us. I’ve just given you three options and I hope they will play a small part in helping you create a better fit between yourself and this amazing world that we live in.
Thanks for being you.
Brian R. King LCSW (ADHD & ASD Life Coach) is a #1 Best Selling Author, 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.