Autism and honesty

Aspies can’t tell lies. Or so that ridiculous theory goes.

Those on the Autistic Spectrum are quite capable of bending the truth, just like every other flawed human being on the planet, but perhaps the idea comes from the fact that many Aspies are so dedicated to searching and delivering truth. Or at the very least are direct enough to appear extreme in their take on honesty. This can come in many forms.

Some people are disproportionately concerned with a universal truth and spend a great deal of time involved in ‘research’ on current affairs, religion, science, politics and other heavy topics they often bore those around them with. For these Aspies, informing people of the real truth is of utmost importance and they cannot understand why others either cannot understand or refuse to believe.

It is with great empathy that I ‘get’ Greta Thunberg on her crusade to awaken people to what she perceives as a global emergency. In her exasperation with the lack of coherent response or effort I see parallels with so many topics I hold dear.

This situation drives some on the spectrum to depression and creates other mental health complexities.

Other truths fit into the interpersonal category. How many female Aspies have lost female friends by answering that loaded question, ‘How do I look’? with a blunt and honest answer which was most definitely not the ‘right’ answer even if it was truthful!

Then there are the ‘truth’ dilemmas at work which make it almost impossible to retain a job for very long, or ones sanity.

Telling it like it is or being blunt at work works fine on an episode of ‘The Apprentice’ but in practice can make for uncomfortable co-working. Expressing views about less than truthful  episodes inevitably makes you look bad.

A political think tank I worked for in the vain hope I was doing work which would have a meaningful impact resulted in total disappointment when I realised I was going to end up being labelled as a whistle blower. Flagging up events to senior members of the board was a last resort when my own colleagues were disinterested in hearing the truth.

I am sure there are jobs that exist where truth telling and quick efficient work is rewarded and desired but my own experience has taught me that as in life as well as in work, people are not always fans of the truth and occasionally prefer to be quite in the dark.

So given this complexity, working with politicians in any way would seem the antithesis of what those on the spectrum should be doing.

While this might seem niche, after all, how many people work directly in political jobs, in a world of ever increased ‘activism’ now the whole world is feeling ‘exasperated’ at the lack of getting things done or addressing the big issues. Neurotypical methods may not necessarily be the best solution. Do Aspies hold the answer?

For those on the spectrum, truth is a central theme to their behaviour.

Correcting others for being factually incorrect will seldom win you fans but in the quest for truth you may keep doing it regardless. Being direct or blunt is a common spectrum trait and certainly as a woman and through masking or simply growing up, one does learn to gauge a situation as to whether sugar coating or even lying may be the better course of action. However, the truth usually wins out, masking is exhausting and lying feels inauthentic so those around us become accustomed to our direct approach. Others may not. This is a fact of life we have to accept.

Then there is the super hero skill of ‘truth radar’. Knowing a lie from fifty yards can be shocking and is often disappointing, no-one likes being lied to, and thankfully as we discussed most people live in blissful ignorance. For some on the spectrum that truth radar is a curse, not a blessing and many such a time has resulted in me cutting ties or walking away from a person, workplace or situation to avoid this negative energy.

While I may not agree with Greta Thunberg on many points or even her methods, she has shown that passion, energy and belief in a cause and the quest for delivering truth can be a force to be reckoned with.

My experiences in politics could have left me jaded but there is some room for optimism.

In the wider picture, people like outspoken people and want fresh innovative ideas but while the world is still running by outmoded ideas so we can feel compelled to stay in the rigid boxes we are used to. Fear curtails truth. Maybe some Aspies are braver!

Paradoxically in some respects the political arena is the worst and the best place to be! Only here can real change occur.

Aspies bring passion, energy and desire for truth and change. Research, knowledge and focus is unsurpassed, and in many ways we need more people on the spectrum in politics and it would be a  loss  if many felt put off by an alienating environment.

Just as many workplaces now actively seek neurodiversity, politics needs to catch up. All around the world now, people are questioning their governments, media and organisations and asking the question, ‘Are politics and truth mutually exclusive’?

Maybe the world is not yet wholly ready for what this may bring. But when it is, and people are ready to hear the truth, Aspies will lead the way!

Charlotte Sabel

May 2022

Share this page