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No matter what I say or do, I am truly just always asking questions about what I do not understand to people who are capable of helping me understand what I need to know about that topic, and no one seems to be willing to answer me, and normally treat me like I'm an idiot... I am autistic with Asperger syndrome, but I’m not stupid by any means. What could I do to finally get people to help me understand what I need to understand, in a lot of different areas and situations?

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    Please give some examples of conversations where you had issues. – AsheraH Oct 1 '20 at 8:40
  • Where do I begin... There are questions that are relevant/pertinent in my life/to my existence… And I ask these questions to the people who could answer those questions or at least point me in the right direction of the answer, and just get treated like I’m stupid… What am I doing wrong? – robbie pope Oct 1 '20 at 8:43
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    Could these questions be labeled as "sooo obvious" (in their opinion) by others that they think you're kidding / fooling them? Can you please give a couple of examples? – OldPadawan Oct 1 '20 at 10:51
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    This is really hard to judge without specifics, it could be interpreted as "Why don't people drop everything they are doing and give me long involved explanations every time I ask something?" Or "Why don't people drop everything they are doing to answer my easy-to-google questions?" Or "Why don't people want to spoonfeed me detailed answers when they figure out that I haven't lifted a finger to try and help myself?" – swbarnes2 Oct 1 '20 at 23:00
  • @robbiepope You really need to give a specific answer to AsheraH's question. To be honest, I think the way you answered his question ("Where do I begin...") might indicate what the problem is. You were asked a question about what help you needed, and you gave an answer that really doesn't say anything. – DaveG 5 hours ago
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Everyone has a different expectation of what constitutes a satisfactory answer to any given question he asks, even that question is as straightforward and simple as what 1 + 1 equals. That is due to the fact that there are certain subjective presumptions of prior knowledge inherent in both the question and in any attempted answer that are by no means obvious other than to the questioner and the answerer themselves. To bridge such gap between the two, the questioner should try to state such “prior knowledge” as far as possible, such as by stating:

  • your educational attainment and relevant experience,
  • your previous attempts as in what you have done in solving the question yourself,
  • your difficulties with following the logic from progressing from one step to the next among the bits of information that you have gathered, or
  • at the very least, describe how the question came across your mind in the first place, which gives context to the question that most people might have been in a similar situation some time in their lives and would then spot what you have missed in your search for the answer. (This is why many support desks for software bugs asks you to “reproduce” the issue that you faced.)

Another piece of advice is: do not treat an unsatisfactory answer as not an answer at all, but bits of breadcrumb for you to trace the eventual satisfactory answer. The fact that you felt others treat you as an idiot, is probably because others got no information from you about your “prior knowledge” and therefore would make no such presumption on you and start their explanation from a clean slate. That does not mean they are not trying to guide you to approach the question from the right perspective.

For instance, for 1 + 1 = ?,

  • someone might start with introducing the Arabic numeral system and counting (1, 2, 3, ...). This is perfectly valid for societies that operate more on a non-Arabic numeral systems.

  • Someone might start with introducing the arithmetic operators “+” to mean joining and extending the counting from the left-hand-side operand to the right-hand-side operand. This is when one wishes the questioner to understand the method, rather than only the direct answer to the specific question asked, with an aim to also helping solve similar addition questions e.g. 1 + 2, 2 + 2, etc.

  • Someone might brush the question off by saying “For goodness sake get a calculator”. This may be rude, but in fact the most direct answer that would enable anyone with any level of prior knowledge to get the answer because what it takes is just to recognise these three buttons “1”, “+”, “=“ and enter them sequentially as how the question reads, and would open the door to a plethora of solutions that a calculator could give to millions of arithmetic problems.

The mindset that requires you in order to bridge the “prior knowledge” gap as soon as possible is to be humble and giving the “benefit of doubt” to those who do spend the time and effort to give you an answer (albeit appearing unsatisfactory or condescending to you), and try to seriously consider how different those answers are from the previous attempts that you have tried in solving the question yourself. If you really cannot glean anything from the answers given, try to stand in the answerer’s shoes and tell people what you would do were you the answerer, such that that could more effectively enable the questioner to arrive at the answer (e.g. Questioner: I would hope someone could kindly point to a reference in an academic journal, or point to a wiki entry, or suggest some Google search keywords, to enlighten me on the answer to the question.). In fact, for most of the cases online, if the answers are solely just to mock you and not trying to get you anywhere, they probably would not have survived the downvotes from moderators and peers before you read them and realised they contain no merits.

This is the most I can suggest you without any examples given like what the comments above suggested. Cheers.

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  • I appreciate your input, thank you very much – robbie pope Oct 1 '20 at 21:10
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Thinking from the point of view of the person answering a question, why might they not be helpful or effective at answering?

If they are busy, (a colleague at work with her head in some complex code, or my brother is taking washing off the line before it rains) they will not give full attention to your question. Wait for an opportunity where someone will be able to give you full attention.

A special case of busy is when they are already explaining and the question pre-empts what they are about to say, or the question might even cause them to lose their train of thought. Teachers and lecturers often find such questions irritating. Wait for someone to finish speaking. If it's a lecture then take a note of your question, and ask at the end if questions are invited, or by email, or in some other culturally appropriate setting.

When you ask a question, without making some effort to solve it yourself, it might irritate a teacher because an important part of learning is constructing things for yourself in your own mind, rather than being spoon fed the answers. Consider the question yourself before asking it of someone else. It often helps to explain how far you get in trying to understand for yourself, and at which point you fail to understand.

If you ask the same question that you or someone else has asked before then it can be irritating that you have not paid enough attention, or bothered to remember.

If you ask a long, rambling question, with many subclauses, or many questions all-at-once then people may lose track of what you have asked, and might only answer the last question. So be direct, but polite, and ask one thing at a time. Written questions (e.g. in email) can give you the opportunity to revise, simplify, and make your questions straight to the point. If you ask too many questions in a short period of time it might indicate you are not making the effort to answer things yourself. It might also tire the person answering, or make them late for an appointment, meeting, class, or social engagement. So their answers might be rushed. So be aware that people have limit resources of time and energy. They have other things to do.

You won't get good answers if the person you are asking perceives the question as a threat e.g. a question might expose a person's inconsistent logic or lack of knowledge, cause them to lose face, or show their inferiority. The answer might be embarrassing to admit to a particular audience. So try to ask in the right context, with a genuine interest, and the humble manner of not understanding.

The threat need not be in the question itself. If you are perceived as an enemy or rival by the person answering then they might not be inclined to help you.

There is always the possibility that the person you are asking doesn't know the answer, perhaps no one does, or there might be competing theories about the answer. Questions about politics, religion, society are often contentious, and fiercely fought over. Questions in these arena might (rightly or wrongly) be perceived as threatening, asked with a hidden agenda, rather than a genuine effort to uncover the truth.

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Caleb Orange is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
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  • Hi Caleb. Once again, I think that you could improve this answer by adding some background, like data, or experience. Could you explain why you think this approach could be helpful and work? This stack require answers to follow some guidelines, so, in order to help you, please check How to Answer or our meta site. – OldPadawan 2 days ago

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