How to Speak to your Aspie so They Listen and Understand

Have you noticed any patterns that get in the way of your Aspie listening to you? Here are some some things to avoid and to include in your conversation. When you want to have a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, you have to learn a new language…Aspergian. This involves understanding their unique patterns of thought and speech. With this understanding, you can neutralize everyone’s distress.Something clicked for me when I recognized the mindset of Aspies. I started developing an awareness of what they meant, why they do what they do, and how to communicate with them in their language. The mind blindness, the context blindness, the lack of empathy – understanding all of this helped me to think like an Aspie. Once I got it, I could speak to them so that they would listen, actually hear me.

This is no easy feat of course. Step one is to get our emotions and traditional beliefs out of the way. Step two is recognizing that Aspies want the same things we do, though they go about it differently. Step three is to speak their language – because they can’t learn ours.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, you know we talk about context blindness frequently. Each “aspie” is different, but you will find that there are communication patterns they all follow. Come prepared to write down your own Rules of Engagement, as you identify problem areas in your communication. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Things to avoid when speaking with your Aspie

  • Sarcasm
  • Double entendre
  • Ambiguity or vagueness
  • Hints
  • Passive-aggressive speech
  • Slang or colloquialisms
  • Metaphors
  • Beating around the bush

Things to include when speaking with your Aspie

  • Say what you actually mean.
  • Be open with your intentions.
  • Voice your feelings but remind them this isn’t a criticism of them.
  • Speak clearly and concisely, without rambling.
  • Ask direct questions.
  • Ask them to do one thing at a time.
  • Withdraw from circular arguments.
  • Accept that sometimes communication will hit a brick wall.
  • Remain patient and calm.

Have you noticed any patterns that get in the way of your Aspie listening to you? Join me on Facebook and let’s start brainstorming some solutions.

40 Replies to “How to Speak to your Aspie so They Listen and Understand”

  1. It always hits a brick wall with me and my boyfriend who has AS. I’m close to a nervous breakdown with it all. I’ve done everything the experts say, and while it does help it’s next to impossible due to their selective hearing and false memories. 🙁

    1. I understand your frustration. Hang in there. Remember that your boyfriend probably means well, but he has “mind blindness,” which means he cannot fully fathom what is going on in your mind. Instead of expecting him to understand your feelings, you have to make the first move. Understand where he is coming from, but don’t stop there. Be direct and explicit and let him know what you want him to do . . . not to miraculously understand your inner feelings. This may not be what you want to hear, but it’s what works.

      1. Hi, I’m a female with Asperger’s, came here to see what neurotypicals write about how we communicate and I must say you got it all wrong, and asking direct questions it probably the worst of your advices. Direct questions about how we feel or what we want make us feel confused and intimidated. Feel free to email me if ylu want to discuss that in any more details.

        1. Hi Magda, I would want to hear your intake on that. I do feel that my husband avoids to answer direct questions, goes to a different topic and if I insist on the clear question he gets angry and still avoids answering.

          It is like a dead end for me.

          1. Navigating the social world is so difficult for most “ Aspies” that they develop a variety of dysfunctional behaviors in order to cope with their excessive anxiety and confusion. One of them is avoidance. Years ago I had an ASD friend who could never say “No” to my requests. When I would ask him to meet me for coffee for example, he would say “Yes” if he wanted to and he had the time. But if he didn’t want to or couldn’t fit the time into his schedule, he would say nothing. If he could avoid my request by not returning my call or txt, he would do so. In person, he would stand there unable to speak. I tried explaining that I could handle a “No” without feeling offended, but he still couldn’t do it. Learning to say “No” or “I’m sorry,” are social skills that NTs take for granted, but for “Aspies” the strain is too intense. They avoid anyway they can, through the silent treatment or rage.

        2. I agree and this has also been my experience. Do you have some phrases or strategies that work and make you feel more comfortable?

        3. Just what I thought as I was reading the article. Direct questioning puts the person on the as spot and induces massive stress. It has to be indirect and in very small doses.

        4. Im married to my aspie wife she justs want a calm life doing routine things taking care of the baby feeding him puting him to sleep cooking etc but she never talks about her feelings her frustration herself ! And she doesnt want to hear me when im trying to express how i feel if something bothers she looks at her whatsap while im talking she starts to do things when im talkin walk away sighs etc i feel like im dealin with a program or a software or a robot im so hurt and confused i feel alone

    2. You are not alone. Mine also makes assumptions about everything I say to suit his own screwed up understanding of what I have or have not said.

      1. I hear you. Sometimes it’s unbearable and quite isolating. Its manageable if your own life is running smoothly and you can manage the extra time you need to understand, but when your own life has changes as all of ours does, it can get over bearing and alienating. Just remember that you love each other, and there will always be better days!

    3. I hope you don’t make the same mistake as I did. An ASD partner left me lonely, disconnected and feeling abused. Upon receiving a diagnoses of breast cancer, he yelled at me for two hours for not opening the garage door for him. I’m all for providing resources to this population and to not societally discriminate, but when it comes to an intimate parter, there will be a profound emotional absence and insensitivity. It’s not their fault, but neurotypicals deserve to guard their well-being. A true and deep emotional connection and caring will not be in the cards.

    4. I adore my Aspie, it was not until our 2nd year of marriage, (4 years together) that I started to ask myself questions about his behavior. He did ask me in the beginning of our relationship if I thought he was on the Spectrum, and I said I could see some traits, but he is in denial. His obsession buying clothes while I was restricted to bed rest due to a serious medical issue, he went shopping all day. It resulted in him assaulting me when I tried to look at his numerous business suits, that he does not need. He was arrested (in Canada the police make the decision) but charges were dropped. He still remains separated (9 months later) and says he is scared of the violence returning. I have researched an Nt/ND marriage, how to communicate and personal counseling while he just keeps avoiding me, even though he said he wanted reconciliation. He has been enabled by his entire family and his older sister is extremely intrusive in our marriage. How or will my husband come back to me.

  2. Being and doing things together when you can is more important than talking.
    Having some things you enjoy together such as hiking or beach walking l found the most rewarding. My husband and l enjoy art museums and music at local pubs. Forget discussions,avoided this most recently. Discussions are just too difficult.l no longer ask him would he like this or that. I plan our social activities and if he chooses not to join me fine l just go. I enjoy meeting new people and make it a habit to meet up with friends. Yes l would like a more affectionate partner with more hugs and intimacy. It just ain’t going to happen. So the more l get out and meet up with others the happier l am. Yes it’s not what you planned and it can be lonely but developing your own interests can be rewarding.

    1. You have figured it out Sharon. It’s not for everyone, but staying sane really requires facing the truth about your relationship. Bravo.

  3. I married him in 1965, three little boys, unhappy all the time, no emotional. support, no validation. The youngest boy died and I just went to pieces, thought I was going crazy, he exposures to boys to danger as he could not see the dangers. We went for counselling, I left him in 1980. After all these years now to discover that this husband was/is an ‘ Aspie’. I am 75 and still suffering from PTSD!!

    1. The shock of discovery is profound because it affects our sense of self too. It’s one thing to bE “shell shocked” for decades. It’s quite another to wake up to the fact that you were,conned out of your life. Take back your life Valerie.

  4. I married a text book Aspie at 17 and lost ten years of my life. What a nightmare! No emotional support, concern, care, love, validation, security, or human connection. They are robots with their only concern being themselves. From having to live with an emotionally unavailable and abusive Aspie I developed a irregular heart beat, PTSD, chronic fatigue, and anorexia. Finally when he started to endanger my life with his lack of common sense I divorced him and have never looked back. If you find out your partner has it RUN away. And run fast.

    1. Kate, this is such a common story. Without intervention, relationships with ”Aspies” can massively deteriorate. Plus chronic illness and depression among the NT partners is, sadly, the norm. Good for you that you found yourself again.

    2. He was most likely NPD as well (narcissistic personality disorder). Most with Asperger’s don’t display that level of coldness, detachment, and egotism/self-centeredness; those with NPD absolutely do.

    3. I just recently learned my husband has aspergers we have been together 4 years and have a 2 yr old daughter. Our relationship has been nothing but misunderstandings and long drawn out arguments. I now realize his brain is different then mine and I’m going to learn everything I can to help my husband. I read a comment that said run away if your partner has AS and that is a terrible thing to say. Learning why my husband acts and does the things he does is almost a relief. I’ve let go of a lot in just a few days that I’ve harbored for a few years. I love my husband more now then I did a week ago before I realized the problem. Everything makes sense now every problem we have ever had makes sense!!! I would never leave my husband because he is wired differently then me. It’s going to take a lot of patience but I love him and our daughter enough to learn a new way of living in our marriage.

  5. I have been in a marriage for 10 long years with an undiagnosed but clearly Asperian spouse. I have been in denial that he is incapable of learning how to manage or understand his issues and am sadly now dealing with my own depression and negative emotions due to the strains of our relationship or lack thereof. I need to separate from him to gain back my sanity but that will lead to many other complications that include among other things, our 8 yr old daughter. We are not happy and always arguing because of his lack of common sense and life intelligence. There does not seem to be much of anything ever going on in his mind, and all he can do is act on the first impulse of thought, without even thinking whether it ever makes logical sense to do so. To compound things, he also has short term memory issues, dylexsia, and certain auditory and visual dysfunctions. Yet, he operates completely functionally and efficiently as an EMT in the ambulance/EMS field, where he is regularly praises for his good work and patient care. I don’t understand this, because, on the home front, that is not even the case, and when there is an emergency outside of work with his own family, ie, my son nearly passed out from a serious hit to his knee and my spouse did not even know what to do, and SAT son UPRIGHT in a chair where he began to fall over and had I not walked in on the scene, would have hurt himself further! I had to tell spouse to lay my son down with his legs elevated! This is well known protocol for him in the workplace! How does that even make sense? Nothing he does ever makes ANY sense. I am at a loss what to do and the thought of trying to accept that I will never be able to expect any change from him is unbearable. I’d rather he be a handicap. At least THEN there would be no pretenses. And I wouldn’t have to carry on like there is some kind of normalcy when there is not and will not ever be any.

    1. Hello Renay. I am so sorry that you are so stressed. This is certainly a common reaction when living with an “Aspie”, even though this knowledge is little help. Yes, they pull it off elsewhere, particularly work, because the boundaries are clear. When they get home, they find that family life is more fluid than that. Plus they have the advantage of an NT spouse who guides them, so they often don’t think about the Rules of Engagement (ROE) at home. They can learn, though, and you should teach him, if he will listen. I don’t know if your marriage is retrievable, since love dies when it is not nurtured, but if there is a chance he will go to therapy, I’d encouraged it. As an EMT, he might see the common sense in talking with a doctor.

    2. Renay, save yourself and your daughter. She will bounce back and adjust much faster than you might expect. Get the hell out and let the guy figure out life without you. A famous psychiatrist said “children would rather be from a broken home than live in one.” That speaks volumes. Give her a chance at a better life. If you are looking for permission to move on, you have it.

      1. Heartstrings. I would’ve left my spouse 1,000 times if I dropped him each time I was irritated with him. Thankfully I stayed because of my faith. I can look back now (many years later) knowing I made the right choice. Working on things is better. There’s help and advice available, so things can always improve. I’d focus on support groups.

        Though what always works for me is a sense of gratitude. I stop thinking the glass is half empty. I count my blessings. Even counting the things that hubby does right. I think about our love story. Why I fell in love with him, the ways he’s good with the kids, the ability he has to go to work everyday, the ways he’s able to support our family. I view him as doing his best… the best his mind will allow. And for his shortcomings, I try to make up where he lacks.

        It’s not always easy, but God created me to be his helpmate. Even ifI have to de-stress afterwards and sort my thoughts. Our child has both mom and dad around thanks to my choice to stay. We may not be happy every moment, but there’s enough good to outweigh the bad.

        You learn something everyday, you try again, and time passes. And you celebrate anniversary after anniversary. And you count the years, a badge of honor that you fulfilled your vows. You made room for love in your heart. You kept at it ’til death do you part’. None of us knows how soon that may be. So each day I take a deep breath and choose to understand and love anyway. I promised to care for him, and I won’t give up on him. Just as I’d want him to do for me if the tables were turned.

        Prayers for your relationship and family.

  6. I have just found out that after 5 years of loving my aspie male and giving him the space that he needs he’s been living with a women for 10 years .
    Iv always known he was an undiagnosed aspie I have read everything online and didn’t think he would lie due to aspies finding it hard to lie .
    I’m so heartbroken according to him he lives with his girlfriend because she doesn’t ask too much and he loves her dog.
    A bit of advice get out as soon as you can . He is intelligent and knew exactly what he was doing . He’d still be seeing me as well as her had I not found his address on a parcel he sent. He only came clean when he was found out. An aspie is a phyvopath with a different name that’s all .

  7. My husband was diag with ADHD but his sister, a Social Health Worked Ma. Suggested he might also have Asperger’s. I have read about it quite a lot, and found this site where seemingly other spouses have the same issues.
    I know he was tested in the 80’s but he won’t show them to me. I would like to get him tested again on the whole spectrum but I just don’t know how to approach this at all.
    The test results will dictate if I stay or if I go with the kids.
    I am myself dealing with my own mental issues which were found out after we got together.
    Bipolar II.
    We seemed counseling a couple of times already changes were made for a short period, but everything goes back to the same.
    I’m at my wits end. Help please

  8. Wow…stumbled on this page, and this comment section is wildly inaccurate. First of all, not all people with Asperger’s are alike. Some are on the lower end of the spectrum and highly functional (like myself) and others are much close to being fully autistic (higher end of the spectrum). Consult professionals , and learn where the person in your life falls. Second, don’t assume that none of us have preferences, can have actual convos, friendships with neuro- typicals, or are unable to experience empathy/emotions. It is more difficult at times ,as many of us have to learn how to read emotions/facial expressions, etc. We often do not have that ability, or struggle with social skills. It doesn’t mean we are stupid or in any way inferior. It DOES mean that we have to be gently taught some things that come naturally to you. Some Aspies do not yet have control of feelings, and get frustrated or annoyed trying to understand neuro typical worlds. Your mannerisms are not natural to us, just as our perspective does not always make sense to you. The person who wrote the article seems to have an understanding of this. Commenters- are you here to complain or actually learn? Ask your Aspie what is difficult for them. Speak in concrete terms. Don’t assume. We hate that and will tune you out. Try to learn to like/be interested in things we care about. These things are helpful. Sheesh…

    1. God I just stumbled on this too while trying to find advice for talking to my partner who is obviously undiagnosed aspi. I was previously married to another for 9 years and that relationship fell apart because I didnt know he had asperger’s. But my current partner as well as my ex husband are both wonderful people fully capable of loving. My partner is the most loyal, honest, and caring person I’ve ever met. He just doesnt know how to show it and is closed off and afraid to be himself because of years of people who never took the time to listen to him and were mean and abusive. Not everyone has the ability to think beyond their own needs and open themselves up to loving someone like that but it doesnt mean there is anything wrong with them.

    2. Thanks for sharing. I especially liked that you mentioned the value of showing an interest in an aspie’s interests. Above all, I’ve found that to be helpful with bonding and closeness. You get much more cooperation and trust from them.

  9. This comment section breaks my heart. I feel like a lot of you have had such negative experiences possibly because the people you are referring to grew up without the support they needed.
    My boyfriend has Asperger’s. I have been with him since we were kids. I am now 25 and he is 23. We have a 20 month old son together.
    He is very high functioning. If you only had a conversation or two with him, you would never know that he had it. I suspect that this is due largely to his mother bring so hands on and encouraging him to be open with her.
    My brother also has asperger’s, and he did not have this kind of support. We had loving parents, but my dad in particular just didn’t know how to deal with mental health issues in general. My brother is also very high functioning, but it is much easier to tell that he has it.
    I have had a mostly great experience with my brother and my boyfriend. I have less patience with my brother because he tends to lack complain sometimes, but that is what he was taught.
    My boyfriend only really struggles when we need to have serious conversations. I always know when something is on his mind, because he becomes very distant and anxious for a while first. It’s heartbreaking, because he wants so badly to be open with me, but he can’t seem to get out what he needs to say. It can also be frustrating, especially now that we have a child, because I don’t know what’s going on in his head and we don’t have a while lot of time to talk like we used to.
    But I just wanted to make this post because I feel like because of some of the experiences people are having, they are thinking everyone with Asperger’s is a terrible person. Of course having Asperger’s doesn’t mean you can’t be a jerk. But I feel like a lot of the time, that is how we perceive them because they can’t appropriately communicate what they want to convey and sometimes, they just cannot empathize with certain situations.
    In fact, I feel like when people with this condition have a good sorry system early on in their lives, they can be beautiful people. That’s why I fell in love with my boyfriend. He sees the world through a very different lens, and because of his experiences, he has had to work harder than most to understand other perspectives. He is a beautiful human.
    But, if anyone has any advice on how to make him more comfortable for serious, difficult conversations, please do share! We have a lot more difficult things to discuss now that we have a toddler and it has been hard on both of us.

    1. THIS is what I’m talking about. When you love someone so much that you don’t give up on them! Having a young one now will certainly stress your relationship. Lack of sleep and communication issues are hard to sort out.

      Hoping you have family or friends willing to babysit occasionally? I’ve found it easiest to talk when aspie’s are well rested, not hungry, and certainly not when they’re deeply involved in their interests. Hoping you take part in those interests connect with him.

      I never announce when we ‘need to talk’. I just bring up tidbits here and there (bite-size info thats easily digested). It works best when I’ve already sorted my difficult thoughts beforehand, perhaps by writing an angry email or letter to him but never showing it to him. Once my feelings are out, I read over it again, editing it down to my basic points. With most of the emotion vented already, I can talk to him calmer (and for shorter durations). It works better for us.

      I have a nephew in his early 20s who is undiagnosed. And just like you described, he never got the support and care that he needed from his family. But he was fortunate to have his highschool sweetheart love him anyway. They made it through the infant and toddler years with their young one just fine. And I largely thank his beautiful wife, as she has a kind heart and lots of patience for him.

      With you on his side with your heart filled with love, I believe things will work out. A few bumps in the road here and there can’t stop you!

      Prayers and blessings for your family!

      P.S. I really liked that you said he “sees the world through a different lens”. It’s true, and should be taken into consideration even during problems. But your man is certainly lucky to have you think so highly of him.

  10. My son is 32 now, up to 16 years he had a normal life. No one in school or anywhere said or even suspected he has AS. Things went wrong all the way from there onward. He never finished his education. I never understood why he was always so argumentative and he could never see my point of view. He always say NO to things even without thinking. He had sleeping issues. A year ago someone told me about his syndrome- now I found out. I read, researched and watched videos. He need support. Unfortunately I can’t run away. But he need to know to be told.

    Looking back his father was on spectrum. Him and I never got along. He was ruthless man. After 12 years of marriage I divorced him. I got my life back. Yes I suffered from his abused. A was only 19, wen I got married and it took me years to get my confidence back. I was lost, broken and abandoned, no money yet I had to raise two kids.
    He never gave me any money to raise kids. I had two jobs. Whether my marriage and then raising two kids by myself- I know I lost 30 years. SAD.
    No one give you any rewards or pat on your back. It’s was my struggle day after day.
    I know I did not deserved. All I can say- there is NO where to go. 😭

    1. I am so sorry Billie. ASD can be at the center of such tragedy. I know this from my own personal experience too. But please know that you are not alone. Now that you have found this website I hope you join our little Meetup group. You can find the link in the menu.

      1. How do I help my son? He does not live in a real world. He has ideas, which I know never will materialise. How he is gonna make living? How I can explain to him that you are wrong, on the other hand he always think he superior then others. He is very intelligent. He say thing so hurtful, I can’t take him to the doctors? I am not gonna live forever! How do I help him?????

  11. Thank you to everyone who has posted. It really helps to validate my own feelings at the moment. I find it very helpful. I live with my boyfriend with Aspergers. He also has been diagnosed with NPD. A part of me really loves him and wants to be with him but holy moly it’s a struggle. I have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety and communication can be difficult for us. I’m really trying. Our relationship has been on and off over the last 5 years. Currently we are having an argument and he has just shut me out completely. He won’t talk to me unless it’s shouting. All I want to do is talk to him in a constructive way but he won’t have it.
    It’s hard to talk to anyone because they don’t understand. My friends don’t think very much of him because they see the selfish, narcissistic side. So I do feel a bit alone and can empathise completely with you all.
    I understand that it’s not totally he’s fault but it can be so hard when I just get nothing in return.
    Thank you for the opportunity to vent a little.

    1. There is no constructive way. In my experience arguments wil break down relationships.
      Relationships with AS is one way street.
      You gave to give examples if you want to change. AS people are so stubborn and have no empathy. You will never win any argument- trust me. I got 30 years experience.

  12. Please take care of YOURSELF, love YOURSELF, and learn to leave and let go of people and situations that aren’t beneficial to YOU.

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