It takes two to communicate

Read just about any book on how to improve your communications skills and you will find that one of the most important aspects of interpersonal communications is the ability to listen.  Unless, of course, you are reading a book about helping autistic people “learn to communicate”, in which case it is all about trying to get them to listen, and pay attention, to you; very rarely will those types of books try to help you, a non-autistic person, figure out how to listen to an autistic person.

In fact, the very definition of autism in the DSM-IV is based on, among other things, “qualitative impairments in communications.”  As if communications is something that autistics can do on their own.  This is the starting point for autism blogger Dora Raymaker in her post The Dynamics of Communication, in which she reminds us that:

Communication is dynamic. It is an active relationship. Communication is not something an autistic person does or does not do. Communication is something that people do or do not do together. In order to have effective communication, all parties in the relationship are responsible for keeping the communication flowing.

What the DSM is really saying is that autistics are autistic because they don’t communicate with non-autistic people in a way that non-autistic people can understand and they don’t understand the way non-autistics communicate.  Almost like they speak a different language.

Communication is a two way street. We have, in general, spent a lot of time trying to get autistics to understand us, to learn our “language” .  Maybe it is time we devote some time to trying to learn their language.

Just a thought.

More books, books, and more books

Back in November ’07 I signed up for Shelfari, the self-described “premier social network for people who love books.”  Up till that point I had been keeping a book list in my handy-dandy notebook (I’m still a bit low-tech in some areas).  This was about the time I was jumping into the world of social media beyond the blog, so it seemed a reasonable thing to transfer my book list onto Shelfari.  I spent a bit of time getting used to the interface, and then started plugging in my books.  I also used Shelfari to track my progress in the 50-book challenge for last year.  But, I have to admit, I didn’t really care for the way the site worked so I didn’t use it much.

A couple of weeks ago, through a tweet from @randyholloway, I learned of GoodReads, another social network built around books.  (Despite all the predictions to the contrary, books are obviously alive and well!) My first impression of GoodReads was that I liked it, so I decided to give it a try.

I can’t say exactly what it is that I like about GoodReads more than Shelfari.  I do like the ability to update my status in a book, including adding comments along the way.  I also like that you can use formatting and other html in the body of reviews and other text fields; the lack of this always frustrated me in Shelfari.

I also like the layout and display a bit better; I understand the shelf motif that Shelfari uses, I just don’t think it really translates that well to the web.  (Cool to look at once, but not really usable over time imho.)  Having RSS feeds for the different “shelves” is also nice, gives me a simple way to add my list of reading, to-read, and read to this blog (check the right column) or any other sight.

As for the social networking aspect of GoodReads, I haven’t really had a chance to take advantage of them yet.  In this regard I think it may be about the same as Shelfari, with the ability to find others who are reading the same or similar books and to find other books that I may enjoy.

Of course, there was no way I was going to go back in and add 200+ books into yet another site.  I’ll keep my Shelfari shelves intact as an archive of my pre-2009 reading, and my GoodReads shelves will serve as a record of my 2009 and beyond reading.