“Let’s Get Down to Business” – When Autistic Attributes Turn from Disadvantage to Strength

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For the longest time, I thought one of my more autistic working attributes was 100% detrimental.

Now it’s probably 95%, but I’ll take the win.

As a manager, I had a hard time with some of the meetings with other managers. We all got on fine, and while I was not often abrasive, I started showing my struggles it came to getting things started.

It might be a human thing, but I could tolerate the small talk and warming up the room only so much before feeling tension and getting short with everyone. Sometimes it felt like meeting to generate a spark of ideas and light a torch of actions, only neither of those things would happen.

With my more rigid, purposeful autistic attributes, it irritated me.

“We’re here to discuss X and take away Y, but fifteen minutes in, we’re still on ABC. Okaaaay…” 

I can be fun and lighthearted when my mind says it’s time. But when it’s “business time,” a lot of that colored pencil gets sharpened to a point prepared to trace, draw, dot, and poke.

“But Hunter, this kinda sounds like a regular person thing. How does that—”

When you’re a focused, laterally thinking person, imagine how you’d feel when those attributes get shut out because people perceive you as ‘impatient’ and ‘short’ for being more routine and purpose-driven.

When a meeting is just to BS and have a good time, you better believe I can play along and fill that half-hour. Sorta. But when it’s getting in with ideas and getting out with action, I’m there for the reasons stated. It just locks into my mind, and it’s hard for me to pivot out and away from that.

That didn’t help.

Until last week.

I met to help coach a friend on some interview prep in a 30 minutes session. Within the first 30 seconds, I was onto my practice questions and scenarios. I figured he would appreciate my economy of time and purpose, even if I dove right into the thick of it.

What I didn’t expect was what he said afterward, more or less:

“Hunter, one of the things I appreciate about you is that you can get straight to business when it’s time to get straight to business. Thank you.”

I’ve never heard it put that way before.

Pretty much my whole career I thought that attribute was doing me more harm than good. In many ways, and in many less-than-fair blemishes on my reputation, it has.

But this time, it didn’t.

Maybe this is another time we need to embrace the hidden strengths of autistic attributes. Where that one person getting uneasy in a brainstorm isn’t being bored or otherwise unworkable. Where your creative thinker isn’t actually checked out.

We’re just ready and waiting for someone to say “Let’s get down to business.”

(So if you ever need to defeat the Huns, you’ll want us along with you.)

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