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Do you have a moment to read about framing?

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Good writing should both lead you in and tell you where we are headed together, giving the reader enough information to experience full choice about how to continue.

Why should conversations be any different?

I really enjoy when conversations are framed at the outset. A close friend who knows me well foreshadows conversations: “Bob, I’d like to discuss our plans for the baseball game.” This allows me to adjust my focus; anything less might be experienced as abrupt.

Seriously – at any given moment, I’m already running seventeen different thoughts, and I would need a moment to realize and choose to pay attention to another.  I’m easily caught off-guard. And although there may be some objective validity to this preference for framing, I know that my struggles are at least in part related to some of my habitual difficulties, aka “lagging skills,” with transitions.

As it turns out, I know quite a bit about my “lagging skills.”  Most of us don’t inventory our executive-functioning abilities.  I do.  And the first ability listed in the “Assessment of Lagging Skills & Unsolved Problems” at the Center for Collaborative Problem Solving is “Difficulty handling transitions, shifting from one mindset or task to another.”  Oh boy.

I can get so caught up in my train of thoughts that everything feels like interruption. I experience every conversation I do not initiate as jarring. 

As you can probably imagine, this can be hard for the people in my life to handle.  As a kid, there was never a good moment for my father to remind me to mow the lawn; I was always engaged in something.  As much as I work to take responsibility for my own thriving in the world, I just wish there was more consideration. In my fantasy world, before initiating a conversation, people would ask if I had a moment.

Of course, we usually can’t make our fantasy worlds come true without some effort.

For many lagging skills, including this one, we can train kids and encourage adults to overcome their developmental delays. And sometimes, we can set them up for success and make transitions easier on them. Colleagues and I call giving advance notice “frontloading”, and it gives people a chance to gather their internal resources (including focus) to attend to the new person or idea.

I may love the color blue, but I hate when things come out of the blue.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Cynthia Akazawa June 30, 2014, 11:42 pm

    Thank you for this. Your comment “I experience every conversation I do not initiate as jarring” gave me deeper insight into my Aspie son. Often I ask him how his day was, or what he had for dinner, and I get silence or rudeness. And, yet, when he chooses to initiate a conversation, it can feel so close. I yearn for more of that, but I am learning to have patience so that I can wait for it to come. He is like a cat, and I unfortunately am an affectionate dog. But understanding that perhaps he has 10-20 thoughts going on at any given time, and that he must prioritize, and that sometimes what he had for dinner doesn’t merit the shortlist…well, that helps me to edit my demands on his time. Is it important enough to interrupt? And, your request that people in your life first ask “Is this a good time” before demanding an audience is really helpful for me. I will try that in the future and see if I get better results.

    • byamtich July 1, 2014, 1:06 am

      I am glad to hear from you. I am particularly touched that something that was vulnerable for me to name has been useful. It’s not easy being a cat. I’m glad you are there for your son. I, at 33, am still upgrading my ability to connect with people with the warmth of dogs. So, on his behalf, thanks for your patience. I know I show up differently depending on whether or not I had the first word in a conversation. I try to make up for it (here’s where the Aspie self-responsibility comes in) by not insisting on having the last word. That could set the seeds for a successful interruption, a call from the world and my response to it.

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