[big edit because of things I was forgetting when I first wrote the post]
I’ve not always been good with subtexts, & in social contexts sometimes painfully aware of not getting it, or not having got it, or being told by friends that I didn’t get it (so if there should be a woman reading this who is keen on this Aspie, be warned, you might have to take drastic action to get the message through – so says the report of friends). I now understand that this is Aspie typical.
I spent my years 7 & 8* of school at a boarding school & in one of those years I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn which one of the senior year students expressed great surprise at because it part of their final semester reading. In year 11 I struggled with all the subtext analysis of Wuthering Heights & Hamlet. I even had a hard time seeing beyond the great stories that both of those are. The difference between Ivan Denisovich & Wuthering Heights or Hamlet is that Ivan Denisovich (& a lot else of Solzhenitsyn) is utterly devoid of subtext, the story is the intended meaning.
In keeping with another thing that I now understand to be Aspie typical, the learning of a lot of things that don’t come so naturally, I do now get a lot of subtext. I may not get it as completely or in quite the same way as neuro-typicals but when I do get it I often find it deeply fascinating.
These days I find myself actively looking for the subtext in a lot of things especially in the arts which are a big part of my life. I have no idea whether others actively look for subtexts like that, just get it anyway, or don’t give a damn. I’m sure there’s variation across all of those possibilities but this is one of many areas where I have no sense of how I function compares with others. The best I have it to apply the mediocraty principle, which is to say that if I consider any characteristic of myself then it’s more likely than not that a lot of other people are similar to me in that regard. Hardly a precise instrument.
All of this plays somewhat to something my psychologist said when I spoke of my mother dismissing any issue I took with something she’d said to me as being just how I take it. My psychologist’s suggestion was to say that I should respond by saying “Perception is reality.” Aside from the fact that I’d probably lose that thought completely in the heat of the moment I think it over a bit because on the surface it seemed a bit of fluff that could itself be easily dismissed.
However in communication perception absolutely is the reality. What is percieved by the receiver is what is communicated, even if it is different to what was intended. Aspies will often perceive, & so receive, communication differently to neuro-typicals. Part of that can be not getting subtexts. Aspies also communicate differently, including making less use of subtext. Along the way I’ve learned that my own communication style as it comes naturally is taken as rather blunt & direct. Subtlety, tact, & the use of subtext in my own communication is something I’ve had to learn.
I’ve often been told that I have a rather blunt style, & also sometimes been told that I’ve done a good job of being diplomatic or tactful. Yes, the feedback I’ve had about the former has usually been about my communication style in general & the latter about specific instances. I think that alone says a lot. I suspect the former is what comes most naturally to me. I know without a doubt that the latter demands hard & careful effort of me & must be preceded by conscious awareness diplomacy or tact is called for. And once again the only gauge I have for how that compares with others is the mediocraty principle.
* References to school years are Queensland Australia school years at the time year 7 was the last year of primary school & year 12 the final/senior year of high school. The boarding school I went to positioned year 7 as a transition to high school year.