Different kinds of people do different kinds of work well. Surprise, surprise—this goes for Aspies too.
Lots of people do their best work interacting with others regularly. At the water cooler, in the hallway, in meetings. Tthat's probably why meetings are more popular—and maybe even more effective—in American corporate life than generally believed. People like day-to-day chitchat. (They may curse under their breath as dear old Arnie burns the popcorn in the breakroom again, but they'd miss him if he left permanently.)
Not all of this chitchat is, strictly speaking, productive. But it's just like when a couple leaves their kid with the babysitter and spends a night out on their own: When they come back refreshed that leaves them better able to deal with their kid some more. Likewise, “idle” chatter helps everyone get to know and like each other better so they're there for one another when they need it.
On the other hand, some people—maybe especially Aspies—do better when we can create by ourselves and then show our work when we're ready. And through trial and error (and frustration experienced by more than a few of my previous bosses and co-workers) I've found that I'm one of them.
I'll bet that pretty much every workplace in America was all abuzz earlier this week after the Super Bowl. Even folks who barely know a field goal from a home run (um, touchdown--see what I mean!) enjoy discussing the ins and outs of the great game with co-workers.
Well, I've always hard a hard time relating to the Super Bowl. (The World Series is another matter—but hey, I'm a New Yorker—used to winning baseball teams!) And while I can stand there silently while a co-worker expounds on who shouldn't have thrown what pass and whose fumbling cost their team the game, it doesn't help me work. After hearing ten reasons why the other person's talents are wasted in taking telephone surveys or helping customers find books instead of coaching football, I find it really hard to get back to my work.
And that's if I just stay in front of him and stop myself from yawning. Actually saying things like “Oh, wow! That's interesting!” “Oh, my—what happened next?” drains quite a bit more energy. So my choice is to (seem to) listen attentively to a surprise lecture, or gain a new enemy. Do the latter enough times and one thing I don't gain is another paycheck!
That's why Emily and I decided that I should create my own business, A SPLINT. Indeed, clients need pleasing—as an entrepreneur, you don't “work for yourself,” you work for whoever is willing and able to pay for your services. Sometimes quite a bit of pleasing … good performances take hours and days of work behind the scenes.
That is, self-directed work. Where somebody probably isn't going to come barging in to prove how the Toyota Prius is the car of the future, or how incompetent/brilliant/normal (hah!) the government has been. Heck, even the Jehovah's Witnesses have learned to keep their distance!
With the exception of current clients, friends and family members (isn't Caller ID great?), people contact me by leaving a voicemail or sending an email, fax or letter. I can take a minute or three to process what's going on and do any necessary research or other preparations before responding. And that makes all the difference in making people happy.
Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. But for those of us—perhaps especially Aspies—who can better please people with a prepared personality—it can be worth a shot.