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Why do I need to understanding my NT’s Processing and Communication Style? Part 1

Dr. Stephanie C. Holmes

In the realm of relationships, much attention is often given to understanding and accommodating neurodivergent individuals. However, it's equally vital for those who are neurodivergent to grasp the communication styles and needs of their non-autistic partners. Building mutual understanding and empathy forms the cornerstone of any successful relationship, regardless of neurotype. In this post, I'll explore how neurodivergent individuals, particularly those on the autism spectrum, can navigate and connect with the communication methods of their non-autistic partners.This blog idea came from a coaching client who said, “In an argument I said to my spouse, you know I have read a lot of blogs and books about understanding my autistic partner, have you read anything to better understand how I communicate?” This got me thinking. While it is important to understand the AS/ND way of thinking, processing and communicating, for healthy communication each should better understand the other’s form of processing and communicating.

So this blog is not to promote ableism or suggest an ND/AS communicates is wrong, but remember there are double empathy challenges in the neurodiverse relationship. Neither of you know what it is like to be the other person.

Healthy Relationships

  1. Recognize the Importance of Mutual Understanding

We have said on the podcast many times that communication is the lifeline of any relationship[ and communication is one of the greatest challenges for the ND couples. Acknowledge that each of you communicate differently and it is equally vital for the AS/ND partner to understand the NT partner’s communication style. Embrace the diversity in communication style and seek to understand versus criticize.

  1. Learn Your Spouse’s Communication Preferences

Non-autistic individuals often rely on subtle cues such as tone, facial expression and body language to convey their emotions and intentions. While your spouse is being coached not to read too much into your tone and body language, you can learn what your spouse’s tones and body language means according to them and not your perception.

  1. Understand Emotional Needs

For the NT or ND woman, emotions may play a significant role in communication. While the AS/ND male may experience less emotional preferences or present information in a flat affect way, this does not negate the importance of emotions, emotional needs or need for support for the wife.

  1. Tips and Strategies

When you take a course or do marriage counseling or coaching, reading the material and showing up for the course/session is not equal to doing the work. Obtaining more knowledge or information about something without practice or trying new strategies does not promote understanding or learning skills. Each of you has something to learn about your spouse and the communication techniques taught in ND courses or coaching are meant to be tried and practiced and tweaked. Many times the ND spouse practices the new skill in his head and determines it will not work before even trying with their spouse.

Communication is a two-way street and very challenging in the ND relationship which will require effort, time, intentionality and understanding from both partners. Reciprocity and mutual understanding are crucial to a healthy marriage relationship. When you get a new skill or tool to try, create a safe environment for both people to try. A safe environment will not be critical and will make mistakes as the new tool or skill is practiced. Communication is far more than about the actual words that are used but the connection and understanding that can be obtained through healthy communication.

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