Diseases, disorders, and conditions seem to go in and out of public favor. Not so long ago everyone seemed to have dyslexia, and then it was ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder). Charlie Sheehan put mania back on the radar. With the widespread success of the movie “Social Media,” “Does he have Asperger’s or doesn’t he” became a popular debate. Speculation by specialist in the field (true gamesmen) has thrown names like Gates, Einstein, Beethoven, Jefferson, Mozart, and yes, Mark Zuckerberg onto the “yes” list. Not bad company.

Listening to John Elder Robison, author of a best seller, “Look Me in the Eye” (his story of living with Asperger’s), speak about his latest book, “Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian,” got me thinking how applicable most of his advice would be for all of us, Asperger’s or not, especially in our world of work.

Here are a few of his observations and suggestions:

“Watch, Wait, then Imitate”: How often have you found yourself in a new or difficult position? Maybe it’s your first day on the job, a conference where you know no one, a new neighborhood or travel group. Sitting back and seeing how people operate, waiting to make sure you’ve deciphered the pattern, rather than a blip, and then copying the behavior until you’re accepted sounds like pretty good advice.

“Accept Others (even if they’re wrong)”: Aspergians (Robison’s word, he calls those without the condition “netypical” short for the clinical term “neurotypical”) are known for having a unique view of the world, often because they are not restricted by everyday norms. Yet, to function at work, within a family, or among classmates, we all have to go to some level of acceptance of the decisions and ways of others. Robison’s advice? If they’re dead wrong, try and accept it as their view. If their sort of, or maybe right, go with the flow. I ask, “how often do we call something ‘wrong,’ when in fact we just don’t agree?”

“Mind Your Manners”: I hope poor manners are not a symptom of Asperger’s. If it is, the CDC should issue an epidemic alert. But what can we learn from people who see the world, and you, through different lenses and with higher brain wave levels? Getting along, being accepted and asking to join requires a certain amount of decorum. In the workplace, there are rules and behaviors that are expected, others that are eccentric but permitted, and those that are just plain off the chart. Tolerance for bad behavior is far less acceptable as legal actions, claiming hostile work environment, is more prevalent. Advice — act as you want to be treated and you’ll be fine.

“Embrace the Geek in You”: Whether you’re a nerd, a book freak, a people junkie, or a rebel with a cause, accepting that you just might not be a typical brand of person can be very liberating. Aspergians are known for their eclectic interests, talents, and less popular hobbies. Start a social network in your dorm room anyone? Behaving in a way that can make you a little more interesting from a mainstream perspective and therefore approachable, can open the gates, and bring in friends and colleagues.

I’m not a big fan of people being described by their diagnosis or disorder. I think alcoholics are more than people who drink too much, introverts aren’t antisocial, and surely children and adults living with Asperger’s have feelings and views far above the label placed on them. In fact, maybe they have learned a higher level of coping.

Here’s your challenge for the week.

  1. Participate in a meeting, call or chat, and for the first ten minutes assume the person is absolutely right. View the discussion from his or her perspective. What have you learned about you and the other individual?
  2. Choose a person you greatly admire. Identify those traits that make him or her so attractive. Watch the individual do his or her thing and then imitate. (I have successfully applied this technique with clients who have to upgrade their workplace wardrobes because of promotion or job interviews).
  3. Own up to the most eccentric thing you do. (I’d have a list.) Decide how it works in your favor (if it does) and then accept it. Might even think about placing it into your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) when self-branding.

Make an effort to get to know someone with autism or Asperger’s syndrome; it will enrich both of your lives.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.