View Full Version : Stuck on wording/details/literal meaning

09-27-16, 11:38 PM
I am very picky with my words and I choose each word carefully.

I can get confused and annoyed and maybe even hurt by others when they say words that are just "close enough" and not the exact words that they mean.

When people tell me things, I "write it in my brain." Because of this large collection of verbal and written data, my brain is constantly looking for contradictions/patterns comparing what they say with everything they've ever told me. (I have a pretty decent verbal and written memory - as long as I'm not overwhelmed/tired when someone is telling me something I'll probably remember what they said....for years) It happens automatically as if at a subconscious level my brain is running an algorithm or program that is comparing what they are currently telling me with everything they've ever told me down to the detail, and seeing how it matches up/compares/noticing inconsistencies. I don't try to do this it just happens, and when a piece of information (such as an inconsistency) is found with something x person said once (for example) 2 years ago, the sentence of what they said back then will pop into my brain.

I also take (nearly) every word literally, and I sometimes have a hard time when a word is being used in a way that isn't its usual meaning.

I don't think to ask people what they really mean because my only mode of functioning is processing the words of others as if they mean each and every precise word.

This can frustrate others when communicating with me because they feel pressured and stressed to choose every word carefully and perfectly instead of being able to say things where I'll "know what they mean." (Referring to the phrase "ya know what I mean?" I dislike that phrase because no I can't know what you mean unless you tell me.)

And so miscommunication happens lots of times because I thought people meant their words in a literal way and that they pick their words as carefully as I do - I mean why wouldn't they? Isn't accurate communication through words important?

I have a feeling others have non-verbal cues that they can pick up on when communicating with each other which helps them to understand what's really being said. I don't have this so I heavily rely on accurate choice of words.

I can get hurt and even feel lied to when someone says something they don't literally mean. I can feel overwhelmed and frustrated when others choose words that "sorta mean" what they are saying but not really. I can get so bogged down in details and stuck on details people are saying and then I miss the entire point of the conversation because to me details are extremely important, and I can't see the "bigger picture" because I process my world by gathering lots of details and a "bigger picture" makes absolutely no sense to me if all of the details aren't filled-in.

And for someone who cares so much about picking words - this was actually a post that was not very well-written and I'm sorry about that.

I would like to read experiences of those on the autistic spectrum although non-autistics are definitely welcome to comment about their own experiences. I'm wondering how to communicate better with others, and how to reduce misunderstandings and to help people better understand the way my brain works (in the ways I've described in this post).

09-28-16, 04:50 AM
Ironically, I can get hurt easily by taking someone too literally, yet I am the queen of sarcasm, innuendo and hidden meanings. Not that fair, I know.

09-28-16, 07:54 AM
I can feel overwhelmed and frustrated when others choose words that "sorta mean" what they are saying but not really. I can get so bogged down in details and stuck on details people are saying and then I miss the entire point of the conversation because to me details are extremely important, and I can't see the "bigger picture" because I process my world by gathering lots of details and a "bigger picture" makes absolutely no sense to me if all of the details aren't filled-in.

Generally, I have enough words and meanings for words that "close enough" works well for me. Especially when it comes to language, I play with the boundaries and the areas where there is wiggle-room in terms of meaning.

Having a good memory is a blessing and a curse. It's a curse because people often don't remember exactly what they said, let alone pay attention to how they said it. I don't so much as remember exactly what people say and how they say it, but I am often the only person in my group who remembers what happened where. I cannot count the number of times I'll ask someone "Remember when we were at X and Y happened?" only to get a blank stare and a "Nope" in response. :(

There are some scenarios where I am very detail-focused. There are other scenarios where the details that you might find extremely important . . . just don't register for me *at all.* There are other times where I have to ignore the details. If I don't, I will go down a rabbit hole of anxiety and discomfort.

09-28-16, 12:00 PM
i'm not on the spectrum, but for me i'd say how literally i take things depends on how overall well i am. when i'm unwell i have zero sense of humour and because i'm so serious about things, i fail to see jokes in others or sarcasm or innuendo in others. and yet i'm simultaneously thinking there is all of this subtext others ARE using that i'm not getting...until i think i do get it and i'm in on their schemes.

joking,'s always versus me.

but then when i'm more mentally healthy in general, i can take things in stride and not hold people to literal meanings or see them as adversarial if they try to use subtext.

09-28-16, 11:37 PM
I can sympathize. I get pretty frustrated when people say something different than they mean or when they assume I meant something different than I said.

But I try to be sympathetic to the other people too, because of reasons like...

Human language is inherently imperfect, so there will ALWAYS be some assumptions going on during the process of communication. It's not just a matter of literal versus non-literal. Miscommunications happen when people are making different assumptions, and there are a lot of things that can affect those assumptions. (Example: At my job, I work with a lot of people from two different regions of the country. One region typically does a lot more "sugar-coating" than the other. Misunderstandings and hard-feelings are a constant occurrence.)

Words are hard! For me at least. During a discussion of any significant sensitiveness or complexity, forming precise sentences fast enough to maintain a normal conversational pace often takes way better working memory than I've got. (Especially since, besides literal meaning, there's all sorts of other word choice concerns, e.g. connotation of each word, appropriateness or "political correctness" of each word for the setting I'm in, what meaning the other person likely associates with each word, whether I know how to pronounce each word, etc.)

Sometimes even when I've picked the words correctly in my head, different words might come out of my mouth, and I may not even notice....


One thing that always trips me up is... what if someone asks a question or gives a command, and I have a strong suspicion they mean something different than they actually said? (Suppose their words don't leave much room for ambiguity; my suspicion is for some other reason.) I'm often not sure what to do here. Sometimes it works to ask for clarification, but sometimes it's hard to politely ask something like, "Just checking, do you actually mean what you just said or do you actually mean this other thing?" And sometimes they clarify that they meant what they said, but it later turns out they didn't. I don't want to just assume they meant what they didn't say because it tends to drive me nuts when people do that to me (Golden Rule).

10-23-16, 05:34 AM
I'm bringing this back up because I'm realizing how much this disables me in my real every day life.

I feel like I pay too much attention to words and can't "see" the general meaning.

Especially in conversations with other people.

I actually even get the sense that it's worse now than even a few years ago, unless I'm just more self-aware now.

Am I doomed to be stuck like this forever?

Why can't I just be like everyone else? Why do I "miss the forest for the trees"? (Hope I used that correctly)

Do I need therapy? Is my brain broken? Am I going to forever annoy people because I give each word they say importance instead of being able to see the general meaning of what they're saying? And annoy people when I find inconsistencies when really they probably aren't inconsistencies but instead people just saying the same thing two different ways?

I feel like my brain is turning into a computer and making me stupider because of that. Like the more my brain develops the more it runs these programs/these programs become more advanced and dominant. I am feeling miserable getting stuck on words so much and not getting things the way everyone else does.

(Oh my - realizing I didn't reply to anyones posts. Sorry if I seem selfish just posting again without replying, I really did thoroughly read/think about and appreciate your posts and I thank all who participate.)

10-23-16, 07:44 AM
Bella maybe this seems more of a problem now since you are in more contact with people, in general?

i am also quite obsessed with language and the right words but this works in my favor and i could make a living off of this as atranslator.because i dont see words mathmatically at all, they are all in nuances. i have synthestasia so they have tastes so i dont see them in colors as some do but they all have a feel like think of it like those things of colors they have for shades of interior paint in a hardware store.

im absolutely not writing this to make you feel bad but to say i understand completely what you mean, and how that could be, if it ( language) was more like a math equation that doesnt add up correctly.

i wonder if someone could help you with this? a specialsed therapist
at the same time it doesnt mean there is something " wrong" , you see things differently and you may have other skills that could result from this vision of things. :grouphug:

10-24-16, 02:19 AM
BellaVita - I wonder whether you may have developed the thing you're describing as a defence/survival strategy in dealing with your mother's constant lies and manipulation. (well, both of your parents)

Though clearly there's likely to be an autism component to this as well. I don't know how it all might fit together.

10-24-16, 06:24 PM
The English language is vague and complex. Every word has multiple meanings. Also, thanks mostly to pop culture, many forms of intentional mis-communications, such as sarcasm, are rampant.

Therefore, while I, like you, admire the precision of carefully chosen words, I keep the following in mind:
1) Almost nobody is as careful with words as I am. And, I want to get along with them, so I can't expect them to be so picky.
2) Because I'm socially disconnected, I don't know a lot of common/recent colloquialisms.
3) Because I have never been a TV watcher, I don't tend to know phrases like "Beam me up, Scotty"

Therefore, in order to understand others, I MUST be an active listener. Not by saying "what do you REALLY mean", but by showing some empathy: "When you said xxx, did you mean that the situation saddened you? That wouldn't feel good." or whatever is appropriate.

Generally, if someone seems serious about whatever they're saying, I NEVER assume I got it right, even if I think I did - I always ask a clarifying question - because if they were serious, and I get it wrong, I can do a lot of damage.

Of course, this doesn't help me at all when I think they're not serious, so I don't think it necessary to clarify - and I'm incorrect. Can't figure a way to overcome that - yet.