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June 14, 2024

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In the complex landscape of human communication, misunderstandings are commonplace, especially between neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals. Neurodivergent people often seek to understand the underlying thought processes of others through direct questions like, “What were you thinking?” However, these inquiries can be perceived by neurotypicals as confrontational or accusatory, leading to defensive responses or outright refusal to engage. This article explores the dynamics of this interaction, offering insights into how both groups can better communicate their intentions and understand each other’s perspectives.

The Challenge of Direct Questions

For many neurodivergent individuals, direct questions are a straightforward way to gather information and understand another person’s point of view. Questions such as “Did your mom teach you that way?” or “What is your end goal?” are not meant to challenge but rather to clarify and synchronize understanding and actions.

However, neurotypicals might interpret these questions differently. In many neurotypical interactions, directness, especially regarding someone’s personal decisions or thought processes, can be seen as invasive or aggressive. This difference in communication style can lead to significant misunderstandings:

  1. Perceived Confrontation: Neurotypicals may view direct questions about their thought processes as confrontational or critical, especially if posed in what might be perceived as a challenging tone.
  2. Cultural and Social Norms: In many cultures, questioning someone’s actions, especially in a direct manner, can be seen as disrespectful or impolite, which might explain why some neurotypicals are hesitant to respond openly.
  3. Defensive Reactions: Feeling under scrutiny, neurotypicals might respond defensively, which can shut down further communication and lead to conflict or misunderstanding.

Fostering Effective Communication

To bridge these communication gaps, both neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals can employ strategies that foster understanding and respect for each other’s communicative preferences:

  1. Clarify Intentions: Before asking direct questions, neurodivergent individuals could benefit from clarifying their intentions. For example, stating, “I’m not trying to start a fight; I genuinely want to understand your perspective. Could you help me understand why you chose this approach?” This preface helps set a non-confrontational tone and makes the purpose of the question clear.
  2. Cultivate an Open Environment: Neurotypicals, on their part, could strive to cultivate an environment where direct questions are not seen as threats but as opportunities for clarity and learning. This involves adjusting their perceptions and responses to direct inquiries.
  3. Use of Softening Language: Neurodivergent individuals might also consider softening their language to align more closely with neurotypical norms when necessary. Phrases like “I’m curious about…” or “I’d love to understand more about…” can be less confrontational but still achieve the desired insight.
  4. Mutual Education: Both groups can benefit from mutual education about their differing communication styles. Workshops, shared articles, or even informal discussions about communication preferences can enlighten both sides about the best ways to interact without misunderstandings.
  5. Respect for Different Styles: Finally, respecting that different people have different communication styles is crucial. Acknowledging and adjusting to these differences can lead to more productive interactions and less frustration on both sides.


Understanding and adapting to different communication styles is essential in a neurodiverse world. By explaining intentions, adjusting communication methods, and fostering an environment of mutual respect and understanding, both neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals can enhance their interactions. This not only reduces misunderstandings but also enriches relationships, leading to a more inclusive and empathetic society.


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