The Art of Autism and Irrational Confidence

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My uncle once told me that if you walk in somewhere and act like you own the place, people will think you do.

It’s a great bit of advice, though I don’t quite recommend waltzing into an Outback Steakhouse pretending to be “Paul Outback, Owner” and trying to get a line cook fired for messing up your Bloomin’ Onion.

But for all of my social foibles, autistic inhibitions, inability to read a room properly at all times, I’ve unlocked a small victory in The Life Autistic:

Act confident, and the confidence will follow.

On the surface, it feels SO irrational.

I can barely dial a pizza chain to place an order, nor can I get gas if there’s no pay-at-the-pump. I’m not a confident person.

So when I “pretend to be confident” – it’s like a switch goes off. My lack of confidence keeps me from coming off as overconfident (well, most of the time) and helps keep my most confident leaps forward from leaping overboard.

When I took phone calls as an agent, I was nervous to the point of nausea. For MONTHS on end. Couldn’t stomach breakfast. Shook. Twitched. Until I picked up the phone and slipped into “The Confident Advisor.” Once someone assumed I was confident, I had it, and that was that.

There’s sound, and there’s effort.

After a Tableau conference in 2018, I heard a very senior level person in our company present and use the word vignette. 

A ‘normal’ person wouldn’t notice.

A ‘different’ person might pick up that choice word and nod.

Me? No, I’m abnormal and different, so I email this person afterward and tell him how much that word caught my ear and how I enjoyed his preso.

He actually responds and opens his proverbial door for recurring talks — which we have every quarter. He’s a visionary with excellent mentor-level advice, and he’s generous to offer it to me — and I’m pretty much a level 1 rando.

“Wait, so YOU have a standing 1×1 meeting with [AWESOME EXEC]? How did you manage that?”

It is the most irrational kind of confidence, indeed.

Where the smallest, oblique signals turn into a confident action.

Where you foist myself into “acting confident” to offset all the awkwardness that floods at the beginning if you’re not.

Where you never imagined you’d walk in acting like you own the place and people assuming you do.

 

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