Is it worse to misinterpret cues than to miss them?

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Joined: 31 Jan 2011
Gender: Male
Posts: 1,026

04 Jul 2021, 10:29 am

Kind of an odd question, but given our struggles with spontaneously and accurately interpreting non-verbal cues while seamlessly integrating them with ToM and situational context... have you found that it's generally worse or better to miss, or to misinterpret those emotional cues??

Now granted, if you miss cues you don't find out - you just get avoidance or passive-aggressive treatment later on.
But if you misinterpret cues, as long as it's not super mutually embarrassing... I think you might be given more slack, at least that is my feeling anecdotally.

I think as long as you (consciously) demonstrate politeness and attentiveness to another person's point of view or sentiment about something, some part of an interaction, it will likely get you further - granted, peers such as third party onlookers may be thinking "how did he think that, or wasn't it obvious" but maybe they'll at least see you as more conscientious or pro-social, and at worst "a bit weird" which is better than full-blown "weirdo", or "freak" or "not all there" or "spaced out" 8O
...and yes, I've heard all of the above, mostly second-hand feedback.

It is generally better to question than to assume.
Things like, say, in reaction to somewhat negative facial expression or turning the body away, you could say "Oh! Was there..another way that I could have phrased that?"
Or, "Is there something I could help you with?" or even "is that a prompt/cue for help with [insert environmental object, like something they're working with or carrying", or "Is this kind of boring you - should I move on?" (don't ask when it's REALLY obvious, even for us, like he/she is grinning and laughing openly)

Of course, this might be somewhat "deadly" in certain situations, where someone might be a manipulator and they might pick up on your desire to please / relate to / connect with others, they might detect a certain desperation and then "fake-friend" you to get favours or get you to make a spectacle of yourself. Pros and cons!! !
Also, if you're an Aspie guy on a date with a young woman, she may interpret this behaviour as a lack of confidence, or "beta" behaviour (as much as I hate using that term), she may think b/c her non-verbals are so obvious to a "normal" person that your misinterpretations are best ascribed to you being nervous due to her hotness.

But yeah, in general, I would say from my experience and educated guess, that it's far better to misinterpret cues as long as they're not wildly inaccurate or you say something morbidly embarrassing, e.g. sexual, or where someone's loved one just died and you respond like a Rowan Atkinson character, or something of the sort.

Generally speaking as well, the whole basis behind non-verbal cues or "hints" is because the other person doesn't want to feel like they're begging, or that they're raising a reciprocal obligation on themselves, in order to save face. Just keeping that in mind and repeating it yourself each day may help overcome some of our obstacles :wink:


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Joined: 15 Sep 2008
Age: 68
Gender: Male
Posts: 8,282

05 Jul 2021, 12:57 am

I think that, much like making assumptions in general, it depends on the individual case. Obviously if the outcome of turning out to be wrong isn't really bad, it makes sense to take the risk. But it can be hard to forecast that in advance, especially with social decisions where we might not have much time to decide how to react to a cue. It might help to figure out in advance whether a particular person's view of you is all that important. That might include the question of who else might see or find out how you might behave towards them. For anybody deciding to increase their risk-taking, it can be quite exciting.


Joined: 25 Feb 2020
Age: 53
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Location: Southern Sweden

05 Jul 2021, 8:51 am

It could be argued that missing cues is one way of misinterpreting them. An extreme way. (You don't realize someone is flirting with you.)
On the other end would be to read too much into cues, or see cues where there aren't any. (You think someone is flirting with you, but they're not.)
I would say that the second extreme is worse, but both kind of suck.


Gonna eat some worms