Literal interpretation

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Many (most?) autistic people have a much more literal manner of communication than allistic people. This manifests in both understanding of spoken or written words, and outward expression of language.

In understanding what someone says, the literal meaning of what was said is taken as the intended message rather than any implied or tacit message that was actually intended to be conveyed. This means we don't read between the lines or 'get' subtle hints that the person is trying to drop.


  • Not always getting the joke, confusion or taking seriously when someone is just kidding
  • Not realising that a manager is subtly criticising your work or hinting that you should be doing something differently
  • Personal example: I thought I couldn't be autistic because I understand many figures of speech. I had to have it explained to me that when allistic people say that autistic people take everything literally, they don't literally mean that autistic people take literally everything literally.

Being misunderstood by allistic people[edit]

In outward expression, the use of literal communication means we will tend to say exactly what we mean, without any implied message being intended. This can be seen by neurotypical people as being quite direct, blunt, or even rude, as they will infer a neurotypical underlying message intention to what was said.

Being literal with other autistic people[edit]

Between fellow autistic people, literal communication can work very well, as both/all parties will be expressing/understanding on a compatible basis, and there is likely to be less ambiguity than might be present in an equivalent conversation between neurotypical people.

Misunderstanding allistic people[edit]

Allistic people may attempt to manage situations in order to lower the barriers of personal engagement, often by saying things which are not technically true, but which they perceive to have low importance. E.G. a White Lie An example of this would be an allistic person complimenting someone else's shoes, with the objective of beginning a larger conversation with a non-threatening topic. They may or may not have any strong opinion about the shoes. An autistic person is likely to miss the cue to socialize, and instead feel misled, manipulated, or lied to, if they learn or suspect that the compliment was not wholly genuine.

See also[edit]