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June 16, 2024

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Communication styles can vary significantly between individuals, particularly between those who are neurotypical (NT) and those who are neurodivergent (ND). Neurodivergent individuals, including those on the autism spectrum or with other cognitive differences, often experience the world and process information in ways that differ from the neurotypical majority. This divergence can lead to unique communication challenges. One common issue for many neurodivergent individuals is the tendency to over-explainβ€”a behavior that is not merely a communication habit but often a compensatory strategy for bridging understanding gaps. This article explores why some neurodivergent individuals might over-explain and offers strategies for more effective communication.

Understanding the Compulsion to Over-Explain

For many neurodivergent individuals, the world is a place where simple concepts do not always come simply. They may find that what is intuitively understood by others requires explicit explanation for them to grasp fully. This discrepancy can lead to feelings of frustration and misunderstanding. The compulsion to over-explain, then, is not merely a preference for verbosity but a proactive approach to avoid the confusion they frequently experience themselves.

  1. Compensating for Perceived Gaps: Neurodivergent individuals might assume others also need more detailed information to understand concepts, mirroring their own experiences. Over-explaining is a way to ensure that all possible gaps are filled, and nothing is left ambiguous.
  2. Fear of Being Misunderstood: Due to past experiences of being misunderstood, ND individuals might over-explain as a way to control the narrative and reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation.
  3. Striving for Clarity: There is often a genuine desire to be as clear and thorough as possible, to facilitate a deeper understanding, which drives the ND individual to provide more context than might be deemed necessary by NTs.

Challenges of Over-Explaining

While well-intentioned, over-explaining can sometimes have unintended negative effects:

  • Cognitive Overload for the Listener: Providing too much information might overwhelm the listener, making it harder for them to grasp the essential points.
  • Communication Fatigue: Both the speaker and the listener can become exhausted by lengthy explanations, leading to disengagement.
  • Perception of Condescension: Listeners might misinterpret the intent behind the detailed explanations as a lack of respect for their ability to understand, which can lead to resentment or defensive reactions.

Strategies for Balancing Communication

To manage the tendency to over-explain and foster more effective interactions, consider the following approaches:

  1. Gauge the Listener’s Background: Assess the knowledge and background of your audience before diving deep into details. Adjust the level of explanation based on their familiarity with the topic.
  2. Ask for Feedback: Regularly check in with the listener to see if the explanation is clear or if they need more details. This can prevent unnecessary elaboration.
  3. Focus on Key Points: Start with a summary of the main points and then delve into details only if requested. This strategy helps to keep communication concise and focused.
  4. Practice Active Listening: Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues from the listener to gauge their interest and understanding. Adjust your communication style accordingly.
  5. Seek Clarification: When you’re the listener and find that explanations by NTs seem insufficient, don’t hesitate to ask specific questions to fill in your gaps in understanding, rather than assuming others also share these gaps.

Conclusion

For neurodivergent individuals, over-explaining often stems from a personal struggle with receiving too little information to fully understand others. By recognizing when and why they over-explain, ND individuals can work on adjusting their communication style to better match their audience’s needs. At the same time, fostering an environment of patience and understanding from all parties can lead to more productive and meaningful exchanges. Communication is a two-way street, and effective dialogue relies on both parties being mindful of each other’s communication needs and preferences.


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