I’m working a couple of more in depth pieces (including what will be my “100th post”), but I thought I’d share a little interaction I had yesterday, that is a great example of how my social scripts can get me in trouble.
Earlier in the day, I’d been introducing people to each other. I’m working with an undergrad this quarter on an independent study project, and was introducing him to some of my collaborators. Lots of introductions. So my brain was in “intro mode”. Then about 20 minutes later, I had to hobble over to another building for our weekly seminar. I ran into my advisor on the way there, and we had a brief chat about my morning’s activities, while heading to the room and sitting down. Then a friend of mine came in and sat down behind me. I wasn’t really thinking and asked if they knew each other. Now this would be fine in most situations – rude to say hello to someone when already conversing with another person, and not ensure they know each other.
But I’d forgotten that my friend had, in fact, worked in my lab for a few months before we both became grad students. Of course my advisor knew her. But because my brain was on full-on “introduction” mode, and I hadn’t been really paying attention to the things outside my conversation with my advisor, I made a rather silly social error. Of course, when they both laughed and pointed out to me that I did, in fact, know about their prior connection, I felt like a total idiot – part of the reason I’m friends with this girl is because we had known each other prior to grad school officially starting. But the thing about my amazing advisor and friends, is that they totally understand me, and don’t mind when I make a social faux pas. Usually they don’t even bug me about it after. My advisor was really sweet and understanding about it when I made a comment about my error too. (“Oh. Right… I totally knew that, sorry” “It’s totally ok. You had other things on your mind, and we were just talking about introductions.” – My advisor just gets me like that sometimes.)
And then it clicked – exactly why I’d made the error: I’d been talking to my advisor about introducing the undergrad to various people that morning, then when my friend sat down, I was thinking about introductions. Of course, that’s what I would think to do: introduce! So my brain got stuck on a loop, and caused me to make the error. And it was ok. Because I have great people in my life who don’t mind it when those errors happen, and who know I am not being condescending or rude or anything else. And that’s how it should be. When my brain short circuits, it’s nice to know that the important people in my life will help me un-short-circuit it, then leave it at that.
Moral of the story? I have the best advisor an autistic graduate student scientist could ask for. And some pretty cool friends too.