Humour. Sarcasm. Teasing. What do these all have in common? They all involve somebody saying something that isn’t true. Somehow I’m supposed to be able to recognize that and react appropriately (whatever that means). Okay, it’s not quite as bad as all that. Often there’s context and other indications such as sheer implausibility that pretty much give the game away. NT people appear to pick up the signs much more easily than I do – I don’t know whether there are subtleties of tone or body language that give it away because I’m pretty much oblivious to those.
My normal reaction to anything somebody says is to take it at face value unless I know that what they are saying is incorrect. Teasing and sarcasm give me the most problems because what they say might be true. I have to respond as if they are being straight. It means I get laughed at sometimes but that doesn’t bother me these days – it used to but I’ve got thicker-skinned over the years and more confident in myself. I’ve learned to make a joke of it, laugh it off, sometimes deliberately take things literally to a ridiculous extreme. That had an unexpected bonus: people started to expect me to be literal and seemed to take account of that more often when speaking to me.
What does bother me about teasing is that I find it hurtful because I believe what they are saying. Even if the person turns round later and says “I was only joking. I didn’t mean it.” the damage has been done. I trust that person less. In my mind I feel that I have to be sceptical about anything they may say to me in the future, treating them like the boy who cried “wolf”. Once I start thinking like that, something has been lost in our relationship – it is less close, less trusting. There are people with whom I start from a position of disbelief when they say anything at all to me. I’d take some convincing before I would believe them if they said the sky was blue.