TLDR: I'd like to be able to use mirroring online, similar to how I do this in person, and change my communication style online so that it will be more well-received by people, and be more similar to the way I am perceived in person.
So, I'm level 1 autistic (Aspergers) and I notice that I struggle a lot with mirroring people online, and people tend to perceive my mirroring / directness online as being condescending, whereas in person people perceive me as joyful, supportive, and kind.
What is mirroring?
There are strong biological connections in social mirroring and empathy. Humans have mirror neurons, neurons that are activated both when we observe another person complete an action, and when we complete the same action ourselves. Mirror neurons were first discovered in the brain of macaque monkeys.
These are mirror neurons that do not trigger for me when I interact with other people who are neurotypical even in person; let alone online.
My goal is to communicate more effectively with neurotypical people online. I seem to do a pretty good job of masking in person by copying their body language and smiling, but in an online setting where there is no nonverbal body language at all, it becomes obvious to certain people that I am autistic. (and this can also place a target on my back). This is something I would like to avoid.
What I do in person:
In person, it is much easier because I can follow a specific set of "rules" like:
- 3 seconds of eye contact, 2 seconds of break
- Copy their body language. If arms are crossed, cross my arms.
- Smile and nod to show interest.
- Stand 2-4 feet away for friends, 6 feet for coworkers, 10+ for strangers.
There is still a significant disconnect in person as well, but I am better at "Masking" it. For example, the other day my coworker looked at me with a concerned face and asked if I am okay, when I was simply concentrating on a specific task. I was able to mask it by smiling and telling him that I am doing great, and am very focused on xyz task.
I want to learn how to mirror (mask) online well enough with neurotypical people in order to have greater success in corresponding with online coworkers, friends, etc.
I realized I do not have enough online "rules" for me to "pass" as being neurotypical online. This causes a great deal of struggle because the way I describe things can be perceived as hostile or condescending when I'm simply communicating in a direct way.
What I try to do online:
The only "rules" I have for mirroring people online are:
- No more than 3 texts that have not been responded to
- If someone responds with 1 word answers, it means they are not interested
- Apparently if people constantly send you compliments online, then they are flirting with you.
- If you have anything that could be potentially perceived as negative to say, sandwich it in between two compliments
- Ask people if they want advice before giving it.
Things I have tried:
I read this book recently called Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and it has helped tremendously for me to improve my communication style in the software world. https://www.cnvc.org
This book helped a lot because it gave me a framework to text and speak differently. Before, I would ask people how they felt about something but stopped there.
Now, after reading this book, I ask someone how they are feeling, then try to figure out what is their underlying need, and connect the feeling to the need, asking questions to confirm I have understood it right.
However, this book did not help me with online mirroring; because when you ask people how they feel and how it connects to their core need online, the most common response is "why are you analyzing my psychology?" or something to that effect.
I truly believe this comes from a difference in communication styles where my only choice is to be direct and focused on details; where as neurotypical people sometimes see directness as a threat. I truly do not know how to bridge this communication gap between the way I'm perceived in person, compared to the way I'm perceived online, and this is why I'm asking the question.
How can I do mirroring online, similar to my mirroring in person?