Why Do “Aspies” Always Say No?

Those of you who have been following me may have noticed that I am doing a video conference series that is starting next week. It’s called, “Why Do ‘Aspies’ Always Say No?”. You can find a bit more about this conference series from my video:

This question of why do they always say “NO!” comes up a lot in our international MeetUp group “Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD”. Our “Aspies” are struggling to follow our line of reasoning. Sometimes they say “NO!” and other times they ignore us completely. When we are ignored as we try to talk, we feel insulted and not worthy. It usually signals that something is wrong. Those on the Spectrum don’t often respect the social etiquette.  Situations like these create the perfect storm for miscommunication and hurt feelings in a NT/AS relationship.

People withAsperger’s” have great difficulty with change or spontaneity more than Neuro-Typicals. A new idea, a new event, a new plan to go on a family trip creates tension and complicates the decision-making process. “Aspies” need to properly examine each idea, in great detail and how it fits into the context. They need to get past the novelty and build a new paradigm. For them, your idea requires an entire process of thinking. 

Instead of discussing your idea, their first instinct is to say “NO!” or “I’m not interested”. This buys them time to get away from our demands and to protect themselves from confusion.

They say ”NO!” because it is comforting to be in charge when so much of their interpersonal life they do not feel in charge. I am sure our members can share many other examples of when theirAspies” say “NO!”.

What can you do? How can you get around their reflexive action to put us off, and shut us down?

If you are persistent and patient and unwilling to give up, your “Aspie” may come to trust you enough to agree to something, even if they have no idea what you are talking about. Of course, then we have to find a way to cope with the eye-rolling and the classic criticism that “You always get your way.”

I will be talking extensively about ways around their first “NO!” and what you can do. If you are interested to attend one of the calls from my video conference series titled “Why Do ‘Aspies’ Always Say No?”, please register on the new membership website “ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life with an Adult on the Autism Spectrum”. The dates are as follows:

Tuesday, August 6th at 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM Pacific Time

Thursday, August 8th at 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM Pacific Time

Thursday, August 15th at 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM Pacific Time


I hope to see you at one of these video conferences!

7 Replies to “Why Do “Aspies” Always Say No?”

  1. I am married to an Aspie man, and he’s a bit different from the “saying NO” type. He doesn’t actually say “No,” he just avoids making a decision.
    For example, we talk about going to a restaurant for dinner. We put some ideas on the table. Then, finally the very difficult and convoluted decision-making process is completed. I am under the impression that a decision has been made and all we need to do now is get in the car and go there.
    But even after we have decided on a place and time, on the way to the restaurant he starts giving me more possible places we could choose!
    I have learned that when we have come to a decision about where to go, and before we leave, to say, “OK. So we’re going to XYZ restaurant. I am going to stick to our decision, so if you think of other places you might like to visit, we will do that next time.” When he starts bringing up new choices in the car (always), I just say, “Now, remember. We are going to think about that restaurant next time.”
    And then I promptly change the subject! After 52 years of marriage, I am finally learning how to deal with such situations!
    I have one of your books, and I found it very informative and helpful.

    1. When I ask for a simple decision on say – ‘This afternoon we could paint that furniture.’ , I get an initial basic agreement and then a series of options . ‘Or we could do it tomorrow, or paint half today, and the rest later, or do it when we’ve finished ‘X’ .

      A Yes/ No seems to mean nothing and prevents us from moving on. Is this a form of procrastination or giving himself time to work through all the options to his own satisfaction.

      1. Saying yes or no requires committing to another person. Conversation to an “Aspie” is transactional, not interactional. And certainly not personal. Even when we are planning Saturday chores, we are considering our list of tasks within the context of the people in our lives. This is confusing to “Aspies.” Saying “NO” or avoiding an answer is their way to stop the confusion. Or they might say, “Just tell me what you want.” They do not recognize that we are encouraging their participation in the outcome.

    2. Thank you for sharing this. I really battle with this and end up getting thoroughly irritated. I get the response “ but I am just giving you all the options.” I, on the other hand consider the decision already agreed upon. It just muddies the waters.

      1. Don’t forget that we are just as confusing to them. Why are we bringing up the conversation if we are not expecting them to fix it or make a decision? “Aspies” do not realize the underlying benefit of conversation for the pure sake of connecting, regardless of the outcome of the topic.

  2. I am a late-diagnosed aspie myself: I think it depends on how much notice I get. So if a friend says they want to visit me in three weeks time I will probably say yes fine but if they want to suddenly come tomorrow I will probably get stressed out and either say no or say yes reluctantly and then resent it.

    1. Thank you for this perspective Adrian. I quite agree that with enough time to plan for self care or at the very least to think through the changes that are coming, an “Aspie” doesn’t always say “No.” However, if they do say “No,” I also suggest not to be discouraged. Often if you give enough time for your ASD loved one to think about it, by the second or third time you ask, they often say “Yes.”

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