No Arguing

No Arguing

I don’t do arguments. That whole in-your-face shouting business? Take it somewhere else because I don’t want to know. I’ve gotten my reasons for avoiding these situations, some of which relate to my autism, others to my anxiety.

I’ve been in confrontations: they usually take one of two forms. It may be that what starts as a debate gets heated. Or it may be that somebody is simply angry, whatever the cause.

When it comes to debating an issue with somebody, I’m pretty keen as long as it’s something I care about or I’m interested in. The trouble for me is that some people are so passionate about a subject that they unconsciously raise their voice as they get into their stride.

Raised voices are a big, bad trigger for me. First of all the volume causes me sensory overload which disrupts my ability to concentrate on what they are saying. I start to miss words, struggle to formulate my responses. As it continues I stroke and rub my hands: a stimming response to sensory stress to help me cope. Until it all gets too much and I either become unresponsive or get the heck out of there.

A raised voice is also something I associate with anger and danger so it makes me anxious. The same goes for expansive gestures and physical proximity. Combine all three and I start to panic, my fight or flight instinct pulling me away: I think I should refer to mine as a flight or flight reflex: I don’t ever feel any urge to fight. That option is too frightening for somebody as risk-averse as me.

The other problem with arguments for me is that even if I didn’t have the sensory and anxiety issues I still have one other thing that hampers me: the processing time I need in conversations. Arguments are quick-fire interactions. I have no idea how people can sustain an exchange at those speeds: I need at least a second or three to think before I can respond. More if I’m struggling with overload. Under that kind of pressure I can’t build a coherent response so I fall silent.

And when I have gotten away from the situation the guilt kicks in: I’ve run away again, failed to stand up for myself, defend my beliefs. I rationalize that it’s self-preservation, but isn’t it the act of a craven? Well, I’ve gotten used to living with that internal conflict, that argument with myself.

11 thoughts on “No Arguing

  1. Yes, I recognize the shame of feeling you ran away from an argument. That’s one of the things I love from the internet, that you can discuss subjects, where a) you can think about your response and b) no-one can shout at you. Makes it (slightly) easier later in r/l discussions.

    For me the anxiety I suppose comes from this low esteem partly related to the late diagnosis. I grew up knowing I was always wrong or weird somehow. Plus my parents never really tolerated different opinions, I was being wayward if I disagreed with them. They argued and shouted a lot at each other and us, and that’s a danger (in the mind of a child)
    So raised voice -> I did something wrong again -> I am a bad person. I still cannot seem to separate between someone disagreeing with me and someone hating me as person. I don’t know if that’s the same for you.
    The raised voice definitely triggers that more than a disagreement online.


    1. Yes, the raised voice definitely has that effect on me — that I am being told off — to a degree, but for me it is overshadowed by the anxiety. Like you I can handle disagreement online (but quickly switch off from ad hominem attacks).


  2. At the same time I am one of those people who raise their voice as you describe, passionate about the subject or my stance. But also, the delay you mention sometimes means someone starts talking before I managed to formulate something. And that can derail me. So sometimes I interrupt them, raising my voice to be heard at all. 😦
    Maybe if you discuss with someone who you know and trust, you could agree upon a signal or stop sign. I know I wouldn’t mind a “Petra, you’re raising your voice again!”-sign, if that meant I’m not overloading you by accident.


    1. Yes, I’m guilty of that too. And I’m not usually aware of it so when I get told “You’re shouting” it throws me completely off track as I stop and consider whether I was actually shouting. That lack of body awareness is not unusual for me.


      1. And a big problem is also that when people tell you about you shouting, it’s usually angry or accusing, which doesn’t help. People don’t realize you do it subconsciously. I think if there’s a sort of signal, agreed upon on beforehand, it might not throw you off so much. But maybe that’s just theory.


  3. SO MUCH THIS. I also have issues when other people argue, particularly my parents/family in general. I’m not entirely sure why, but it’s the only thing besides full meltdown that gets a consistent crying response out of me. On the plus side, at least if I’m not involved in the argument I can usually run off to my room and block it out with music. It’s when I *can’t* run off that things go really wrong, because I don’t really know how else to deal with it.


    1. Other people arguing causes me issues as well. I remember walking along the street one time and there was a parked car with a couple arguing inside. I had to cross the road because I couldn’t bear to get close enough to walk past on the same side.

      It’s a terrible situation to find yourself in because it leads so quickly through overload to meltdown and then the long process of recovering from the exhaustion.


      1. Same here. I realized this year that this was part of alexithymia (Musings of an Aspie’s blog). When people are arguing with / angry at each other it feels like the anger is directed at me. It feels so bad (and kind of stupid?) to be all upset because of people I don’t know, who are not even talking to me.


        1. It’s not stupid, it’s simply an instinctive response to a stimulus — in this case the volume and/or tone of voice — that is interpreted as threatening. The threat may only be implied — i.e. no actual danger to oneself — as with some phobias to trigger a strong fear reflex.


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