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The Divergent Conversations Podcast is hosted by Patrick Casale and Dr. Megan Anna Neff, two AuDHD mental health professionals and entrepreneurs, as well as features other well-known leaders in the mental health, neurodivergent, and neurodivergent-affirming community. Listeners know, like, and trust the content and professionals on this podcast, so when they hear a recommendation on the podcast, they take action.

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[FLASHBACK] Episode 25: Exploring Different Neurotypes: Ask a Neurotypical [featuring Jennifer Agee]

Jan 25, 2024
Divergent Conversations Podcast

Show Notes

Would you describe the way you feel as you walk through the world as having raw, exposed nerve endings? Or would you say that you just flow through the world able to smoothly transition throughout to day to handle whatever comes your way?

In this episode, Patrick Casale and Dr. Megan Anna Neff, two AuDHD mental health professionals, talk with Jennifer Agee, a neurotypical mental health professional, about her experience moving through the world as a neurotypical in comparison to the experiences of autistic individuals.

Top 3 reasons to listen to the entire episode:

  1. Understand some of the ways allistic neurotypicals might experience small talk, context cues, and pivot in social situations.
  2. Identify the ways in which neurodiverse couples communicate and adjust for sensory needs so that both partners can have their needs fulfilled.
  3. Hear some personal stories from Patrick, Dr. Neff, and Jennifer about how they experience travel, dating, marriage, and daily life in different ways.

We want to give this disclaimer that this episode only highlights the experience of one neurotypical person, but it still gives a glimpse into the unique ways that various neurotypes experience the world.

More about Jennifer Agee:

Jennifer is a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, Professional Entrepreneurial Retreat Host and Coach, host of the "Sh*t You Wish You Learned in Grad School" podcast, an internationally known speaker, and owner of Counseling Community, Inc. and Counseling Community KC. Jennifer stepped away from seeing clients in January 2023 and is now focused full time on clinical supervision, strategic business coaching, leading retreats and continuing education. Jennifer is a mental health regional spokesperson for a national healthcare company and pursues entrepreneurial opportunities utilizing her educational and therapeutic training to benefit the community in non "butt in seat" ways. She has a passion for helping therapists not only become excellent clinicians but solid practice owners.

 


Transcript

PATRICK CASALE: Hey everyone, you are listening to another episode of the Divergent Conversations Podcast. And today we are continuing on our series of our neurotype interviews. And I'm really excited to have Jennifer Agee here today who's an LCPC in Kansas City, and a business coach, and my business partner in retreat planning, and a podcast host, and all the things, owns a group practice out in Kansas City as well.

And today's part of the series is going to be neurotype Ask An Allistic, specifically, a neurotypical. And Jennifer and I just spent 30 days traveling together in Europe. And we're going to talk about how that experience was vastly different for both of us. But Megan wanted to have you kind of set the tone per usual and just kind of define terms, and then we can get into it. And Jennifer, thanks for coming on.

JENNIFER AGEE: Thanks for having me.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, so there can be some confusion sometimes around neurotypical allistic all these terms. So, allistic is just a non-autistic person. So, last week when we had Dr. Donna Henderson on she was allistic because she's non-autistic. And then a neurotypical would be someone who doesn't identify with any form of neurodivergence. So, now we have Jennifer here, who is both allistic and more specifically, a neurotypical allistic.

PATRICK CASALE: Jennifer, what's the first thing we said to you when we got into this room about [CROSSTALK 00:01:31]-

JENNIFER AGEE: I don't remember what you said, but I said, "I don't know what is going to happen today but I'm here for it." And you both laughed.

MEGAN NEFF: That is just so, like, I would never say that. Or I would never feel that. I wouldn't be say it if I was masking. I would never feel that. And I love that, that it's… So, like, you didn't totally know what was going to happen today but you're just cool, go on with the flow.

JENNIFER AGEE: Absolutely. And Patrick knows me well enough, especially, even in traveling with me that that's really me all the time. I really do feel that way. If something happens, I'll pivot, no big deal. If a room's uncomfortable, I can be a little uncomfortable.

And one of the things that was super apparent to me when we were traveling together is that we really do walk through the world in wildly different ways of how we experience it. And towards the end, I said, "I just feel like you walk through the world as a raw, exposed nerve ending. And for me, I'm just flowing through the world. And it's very apparent in spending this time together that that's what's happening."

MEGAN NEFF: I love that imagery of flowing through the world and Patrick actually brought that into a podcast, which is really interesting because I've used a similar metaphor to describe both my daughter and myself. Like, our nervous system being outside our bodies and the idea of flowing through the world. Gosh, I'm experiencing a little bit of envy right now, that sounds really nice.

PATRICK CASALE: I'm going to give you a real-life example of this because it just happened like an hour ago. I was talking to Jennifer. We have a retreat coming up in Portugal in October. And I said, "I'm really concerned that the retreat host is like, not very communicative, he takes about 10 days to respond. My mind goes to like, what are we going to do if this person just keeps our money? We have to refund 30 people." And she's like, "No, we'll just pivot and figure it out." And I'm like…

MEGAN NEFF: Whoa.

JENNIFER AGEE: And we would, and we would. And here's a part of why, actually, this combination of the way Patrick's brain works and my brain works is a good combination, where I say, "Yeah, we'll just figure it out. Like, we'll pivot, we'll make it awesome. It'll kick ass, it'll be great."

And I know that his anxiety is going to be so freaking sky high around it that he will have contacted every person he knows in Portugal he would have made contact somewhere. Like, we would have pulled it out of our butt if we had to, but it's going to be great, it's going to be great.

PATRICK CASALE: This is a good example, Megan, of like, what every day together in Europe was like for 30 days where I was, like, struggling so much and I'd be like, "Okay, this is how I'm experiencing today." And Jen would be like, "Oh, I have like, opened my window. And it felt like I was in a Disney movie. And I was really excited to be here. And I slept really well. And I talked to nine people across the street about, you know, various things." And I'm like, "What the hell is happening here? This is so strange." It was a very good glimpse, though.

JENNIFER AGEE: It was. I think both of us had a good glimpse into the real way that our behind-the-scenes work in traveling together, for sure.

MEGAN NEFF: So, I keep thinking, like, my brain keeps going back to the Big Five. I don't know if either of you are familiar with the Big Five sometimes called the OCEAN. It's actually my favorite tool for understanding personality because it's non-pathologizing. But as I'm sitting here listening to you talk I'm like, kind of seeing your Big Five in my mind. Like, I imagine you'd be very high in openness and very high in extraversion. Have you taken the Big Five? Like, do you know…?

JENNIFER AGEE: I haven't taken that assessment, but I am very high in openness and I am very high in extraversion, for sure.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah. Because I'm also like, yes, you're allistic and neurotypical, but I'm also picking up some strong personality traits that would also factor into this. I'm just realizing how complex this conversation is because we're not just talking about neurotype, we're also talking about personality traits.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, there's a lot of nuance, for sure. And I think that it's interesting to see how people move through the world. So, you know, the reason we want to highlight this experience, and I also did not do the disclaimer that we did last week, we just want to just use that disclaimer right now, that again, Megan, and I know that interviewing one person does not speak for an entire population of people. So, disclaimer now entered into the conversation.

Megan, specific questions, like, that come up for me when I'm thinking about spending time with neurotypical people, my first immediate thought is always small talk. Like, that's where my mind goes of, like, our absolute, like, visceral physiological reaction to small talk. And then, very often neurotypical conversation, which a lot of small talk is kind of the foundation. So, what are your thoughts around that, Megan?

MEGAN NEFF: Oh, me? Wait.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, so I want you to just like expand upon that if you want to. This is where we can explain things like-

MEGAN NEFF: Well, I, okay.

PATRICK CASALE: …we never knew when to talk over each other, so

MEGAN NEFF: This is always that whenever we have a three-person conversation, this is always like fighting the flow. So, I found this study once. I can't refind it, which bugs me because I really would love the citation. But something about where neurotypical people, allistic people get dopamine from small talk, which gave me so much more compassion because for me it's a very stressful experience, I shut down, I low-key dissociate to get through it. Like, no dopamine.

So, yeah, I would be curious to hear a little bit more Jennifer about your experience on small talk? Like, is it pleasurable to you? Like, what is your experience around small talk? Does it depend on who you're doing small talk with or what the topic is? What in your mind is the purpose of small talk? Like, I kind of get it, but like, why do you all do this thing?

JENNIFER AGEE: So, for me, it could be positive, negative, or neutral, right? And the way I view small talk, let me make a disclaimer, I understand that as an extrovert I kind of want to get to know everyone and at my base route I do like most people. Genuinely, I think human beings are fascinating, I love spending time with them, all that things. So, I've just got to say that and that might just be my personality.

But I kind of look at small talk like going to a cocktail party, and you have like cheese trays out and things, and they have cheeses out that you've never seen before. I know how they cut them into those cute little cubes, right? So, you can have just one and you can see like, do I like that one? If so, I'm going to go back and like load the plate? Or do I not necessarily like that one?

And for me, small talk is kind of like those little bits to see do I want more of you or less of you? Are you my people? Are you not my people? Do I want to make a business connection here? Do I feel like you could end up being a friend that I have coffee with? Are you someone that I want to hang out with? Are you someone who… You know, those kinds of things.

So, that for me is really a part of the purpose, is I am sampling off the cheese tray so to speak, to see what you're about, who you are, how you present in the world, are you my people or not my people? And it doesn't cost my system if you're not my person or it's not an interesting conversation. And I think maybe that's a part of where the difference is.

So, for me, if I'm in a conversation that's not all that interesting, I've actually seen Patrick do the, where you could see this look on his eyes where he gets that, "I got to GTFO." You know? Like, he's looking for the exit. Whereas I could just like, enjoy whatever part of the conversation, find an excuse to leave, and like just get out of it, and it's fine. But I like sampling the cheese tray to always kind of get to know people.

MEGAN NEFF: I'm having, first of all, I love the cheese plate butter metaphor so much, but I just had an aha moment. You said, you know, if it's not cheese for me, I can get out of the conversation. That reminds me of that fluid idea. For me, it would be very stressful how do I get out of this conversation? How do I do it without offending them? There'd be an awkward like, "Okay, well I got to go, bye." So, the getting out part is harder for me. And I wonder if that's part of why small talk is not as stressful as you can fluidly enter and leave small talk without it being like this big, "Okay, how do I get into it? How do I get out of it? When do I know when the other person wants out? When do I want out?"

JENNIFER AGEE: I think you're right.

PATRICK CASALE: I also heard like the compartmentalization ability to say like, is this someone I want to have a business relationship with? Is this someone who falls into the coffee category that could become a friend? In my mind, like, there is no ability to have that interpretation and analyzation in the moment where I'm literally, exactly like Megan said, I'm analyzing everything around me, and picking up on everything around me, and trying to figure out the least stressful way to get out of it. And honestly, it does look like this look, that Jen is describing where I'm like, "I have to get out of here."

And I may not do this in a non-abrasive way. Not that that is my intention, but it certainly feels like this thing that has to immediately happen. And that it becomes almost torturous to exist in the conversation the longer it goes on. And I don't have a good filter for like my face. My wife will often say, like, "Patrick, fix your face because it's very obvious."

JENNIFER AGEE: So, what's going through your minds when you're having to engage in small talk? Because you're both business professionals like I am. Like, we're in these spaces where it's kind of expected. So, I kind of shared what's going on in my mind as that's happening. How do you guys see it? Like, what's that like for you?

MEGAN NEFF: That's a great question. I have kind of curated a life where I actually don't do much small talk. I've created a little island of work. And I've actually thought about that of like, it's kind of weird I don't collaborate with more people. Patrick's probably the, yeah, you're like the only… well, I've got one other person that I do some collaboration with and they're both neurodivergent. Okay, but that's not your question.

So, I'm trying to think about the last time I did small talk. It's typically, like, I am thinking about my face, I am thinking about, like, nodding, I am thinking about, what is the point of this conversation? I'm maybe, like, rehearsing ahead of time what my next question will be, so I'm like listening for something to grab on to that they're saying that will like move the conversation forward so there's not an awkward pause. I'm typically not thinking about building connections because for me, if I was like, "Oh, this would be a good coffee person or a good business partner." As soon as I think that it becomes a demand and I want no more demands in my life.

So, there's a scale on one of the, like, autism screeners, and it's social motivation. My scale is very elevated. Meaning I have very, very low social motivation. So, there's also like, unless I'm having a really automatic connection, like Patrick and I did when I was on his podcast, I'm not thinking about forwarding the connection. I'm thinking about how to exit.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, and I think that's where these abrupt conversation disruptions come in sometimes. I also think I do a really good job of, like, camouflaging/chameleoning, that's not a word. Acting like a chameleon.

MEGAN NEFF: Listen to Megan Anna, you just turned something into a verb. I like it.

PATRICK CASALE: Claustrophobic is going to be the one because I still have people asking me about that.

JENNIFER AGEE: You made me Google that word.

MEGAN NEFF: I read a lot of people, that's going to be like a trend in Google because I made a lot of people Google that word.

PATRICK CASALE: I do a good job of picking up on what people are interested in and being able to create conversation off of it, so I can remember being at a job where someone was wearing like a Duke basketball sweatshirt. And I did not like spending time around this person. But I knew that I needed to create conversation with them because of the sake of the workplace. So, my immediate conversation drifted into like, "Oh, Duke, like, how long have you liked them? Like, what's really interesting to you about them?" Because it allowed to create conversation that was not like, "How's your day going? What's the day look like? How's the weather outside?" Like, "Oh, man, how was your sleep?" Like, questions that I don't care about to answer. Like, yes or no questions in, general.

And so, I've always been good at that but it comes with a cost. And the thing that I think small talk does for me is, Megan, you made a great point of like rehearsing already, and like anticipating your answers. And that takes a lot of mental energy to then have to sit there, and analyze, and think about what am I going to say? How am I going to respond? And then often when masking in situations that, like, say I go out with my wife's friend who I don't know I'm going to feel more uncomfortable despite being with my wife and I'm probably going to mask more because I'm going to be like head nodding more, and making more eye contact, and trying to stay engaged in the conversation.

And if the conversation is of no interest to me, and I know that we're not going to become like, friends or contacts, I want it over with. And sometimes in those scenarios, you can't get out of them. Like, I have to sit and endure in that situation.

And I think, Megan, and I want you to speak to this too, and your perspective, but I very quickly and intuitively pick up on who I'm going to connect with and who I'm not going to connect with. And if I'm not going to connect, I have no interest in continuing.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah. And that's why, like, I pick up energy so fast. Oh, I want to ask you about that next Jen, first, like picking up energy, that like within, yeah, probably five seconds I know if I'm going to connect with someone. And it's an energetic, like, either it's there, it's not there. And I feel like I can also register how authentic is this person and if they're not authentic, I feel so psychologically unsafe in their interaction and like, I get disoriented because I can tell there's an incongruency there. Like, I have a really strong reaction to that.

But I did just want to piggyback off something you said, Patrick. I totally did that, too. I forgot it. But when I was in hospitals, until I could find like a shared context to connect with someone I didn't know how to enter the conversation. So, I was always doing that too of like, did we go the same universities? I remember, like the doctors I connected with best were ones that like we had gone to the same university, like out East. And once I could find a shared context, I could enter conversation. But outside of that, I'd feel so disoriented, not knowing how to enter the conversation. So, that was just interesting.

Yes, Jennifer, picking up other people's energy, is that something you experience?

JENNIFER AGEE: Absolutely. But again, I don't think it costs my system if they're not my people, I just re-categorize them in my brain and continue on in the conversation with them in that new category. So, [CROSSTALK 00:17:09]-

MEGAN NEFF: This information.

JENNIFER AGEE: It's information for me to then I'm making decisions as to what level of investment I'm going to have. I will say, though, a part of my personality, and I don't think this is necessarily neurotypical, but I do think it's more part of my personality, I am way more likely to give people more chances, I'm way more likely to see 1000 different areas of gray as to how someone might have arrived at a conclusion or made a statement, or things like that. And so I know that even in Patrick and I's interaction because he does pick up on patterns and things that I don't pick up on as quickly, I'm more likely to maybe stick in something a little bit longer than he would because his system has already very immediately made a decision whereas mine might have made an initial decision and then I test the theory.

But yeah, I definitely pick up on people's energies in the room but then I just re-categorize them and move on.

MEGAN NEFF: So, when you talk about picking up energy and then re-categorizing like, is it like infecting you? Like, does it become your energy? Or is it a like a signal. Like, okay, that person has a high tempo, that person has a low tempo.

JENNIFER AGEE: I think that has changed as I've gotten older, and I know myself better because I am very intentional about protecting my energy in a way that I didn't know to be when I was younger. And I think that's true with most of us, as we know each other better, you know how to show up in spaces.

But I can think of a specific example with another leader in our community who always talked about our friendship. And I did think there was a base of friendship there. I didn't think we were friend friends, but we were kind of like on that road to friendship, for sure. I met them and spent time with them in person. And within the first three minutes, it was very clear I was a business transaction to this person, I was not an actual friend to this person. I felt it immediately, I saw the non-verbals, whatever.

And so, although, I felt just some level of disappointment because I thought it was really going to be one thing, my brain immediately re-categorized this person as this is a transactional relationship. So, anything that they did moving forward, I always just saw it in a lens of we're both getting something out of this, not that it's friendship, but we're both finding ways to use each other's skill set to benefit our businesses in some way. And so I didn't harbor as much ill will or resentment whereas I know other people I've had interactions similar and have walked away with a very different experience.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, that. Because I think, for me, like I'd feel like kind of clickbait like, but with a person and I'd feel, betrayal is too strong of a word, but like, I really have a sensitivity to feeling manipulated because I'd way rather someone be like, "Hey, I'm interested in a business collaboration, let's go." But if someone is like, manipulating to get to that, like, yet, for me, that would be a pretty quick cutoff. Whereas I hear the psychological flexibility in your mind, you're like, "Nope, I'll put them in a different bucket, move forward, fluid. We'll move through the world fluidly."

JENNIFER AGEE: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And if that person was not able to benefit my business in some way, transactionally, I would have then just kind of completely put them to the side. And I wouldn't have had a problem with that. But yeah, there is that flexibility where, again, I think this goes to I do flow fairly easily in the world and in my relationships.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah. I'm going to backtrack something I just said. Actually, I don't know that I would cut them off. I would explicitly ask them, I would say, "Okay, I'm confused. It seemed like you were pursuing a friendship, but now it seems like this is what you're pursuing. What are we doing here?" And actually, now I just don't really respond to people in my DMs but when people used to… Is slide into my DMs always a sexual connotation? I don't know what I mean.

PATRICK CASALE: I think it's the right connotation, yeah.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah. People would slide into my DMs. My kids are going to, like, hate me, they always make fun of me when I try to use like Gen Z language. And want to set up a meeting, I would explicitly ask, like, "What is your intention here?" And I'll still do that. I'll be like, when people want to meet, I'll be like, "Give me a bullet list of your intentions, and then I might consider giving you my time."

PATRICK CASALE: That makes sense, though, in a lot of ways. And like, whether I do think that is certainly much more of a neurodivergent trait, but it makes sense when you get bigger and busier. Bigger, like you're a medium-sized influencer at this point in time. You have over 100,000 followers on a social media channel. Like, you have to be intentional about how you kind of structure your responses.

But I agree with you Megan, like, I want to know the intentionality immediately, and what I'm getting a lot of, and I fucking hate it. Sorry, for cursing world, I'm doing better, is someone will like DM me-

MEGAN NEFF: You don't need to mask here, remember.

PATRICK CASALE: Someone will DM me and then they'll say like, they'll immediately send a compliment out, but then immediately follow up with an ask. So, in my mind that feels very inauthentic, that feels very disingenuous, that feels like you're just sending this compliment out so then you can ask your request. I don't respond to those anymore. And I used to respond to all of them. And I just realized, like, I can't. I don't have the energy or capacity. But I like-

MEGAN NEFF: I'm happy for that progress, Patrick. I'm so pleased.

PATRICK CASALE: I know. Jen makes fun of me because she's like, "Patrick picks up every phone call that comes to his life." [CROSSTALK 00:22:41]-

JENNIFER AGEE: Every, every phone call.

PATRICK CASALE: … if I was in jail because I you know you wouldn't pickup.

JENNIFER AGEE: Yes, absolutely.

PATRICK CASALE: I don't do that anymore, though.

JENNIFER AGEE: I don't think you'd send me bail money too. So, you'd definitely be on my call list.

PATRICK CASALE: I screen more calls than I was screening. But like, I like what you're saying, Megan, about, like, give me exactly what you're asking from me because I think that's really important for us, in terms of, like, no longer masking and no longer trying to always have neurotypical relationships. So, like, just ask me for what you're asking without like all the additional layers and all the additional like fluff that comes with some of the conversation and then I can make a much more informed decision energy-wise and also like intentionality-wise, I think that's important.

And something you said before that stood out to me, Megan, is like, the ability intuitively to pick up on energy that feels incongruent, or out of alignment, or I can pick up on artificiality like that. And as soon as I pick up on it, I'm not having this relationship, it's going to get cut off. And I think that's a big difference in what you're saying, Jen, is, like, the ability to flow through the world and categorize in the moment. My ability is like, black white. Like you're either going into the pile of people that I don't care about, or I'm going to really, really like you, and I'm going to really like show up for you. So, there is no middle ground for me in terms of socializing.

JENNIFER AGEE: That's actually one of the things I love the most because, like, I'm the only neurotypical in my family, right? And so one of the things-

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, I was going to ask you, like, if you had any connections to neurodivergents. So, you're the only neurotypical in your family.

JENNIFER AGEE: Correct, yeah. And I-

MEGAN NEFF: Wow, so, like, you're parents to neurodivergent kids?

JENNIFER AGEE: Yeah, my husband, my two children, two of my grandchildren have already have diagnoses. And so one of the things, I guess, I totally lost my thought, but-

MEGAN NEFF: I'm sorry, I interrupted your flow.

JENNIFER AGEE: You're totally fine. Yeah, I do just flow differently in the world. And I think being in a household, oh, I got it back. Okay, so I'm reining it in. Okay, here we go. So, what I love about the neurodivergents in my life is exactly what Patrick said. If I am someone that they love they like really love me, I am super in, they invest in me time, energy, and mutually we do that. Whereas with neurotypical, I think, because we're more used to flowing in and out of each other's lives based on all sorts of different things, including seasons, everyone in my life who is a neurotypical who I'm genuinely friends with, they're a real friend. And I see that not as a privilege because I'm not inflicting anybody's head, especially, one on this podcast. But I do think that I honor that I know that I'm in a space that not everyone gets to go to in their life. Whereas a lot of people get that space with me, they're not in my inner circle, but a lot of people get access to me in a different way.

PATRICK CASALE: That's a really important point. I think Jen pointed that out to me, Megan, like, while we were traveling, I was thinking about, like, how many people want access to me, and she made a good point, she was like, "Because you don't give them access. Like, you shut them out, so people want to have more closeness and connection."

And in the business world, that's a really strange feeling because it means that people are going to like, try to manipulate you sometimes to have more contact with you. And that's something that I really, really struggle with, as someone who has to be around a lot of people a lot of the time for the work that I do.

MEGAN NEFF: I'm having kind of a realization as well, as we're talking, Patrick, of like, you and I are both in positions because of our like platforms and business where people want access to us. So, we have the privilege of being like, give me a bullet list of what you want to talk about.

Right, there's a lot of autistic people who are experienced in inverse. Like, I'm very aware of my social motivation is so elevated to where like, I don't want more people in my life. But there's plenty of people who are having the opposite experience of like, I'm really trying to build community and I can't give people a bullet list of what do you want to talk about because it's not like I've got 100 people sliding into my DMs.

PATRICK CASALE: For sure. That's a good point. I mean, what do we hear a lot of from, specifically, our autistic listeners and followers is like, loneliness, right? Well, are you trying to revamp the camera?

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, right. Yeah.

PATRICK CASALE: I bought Megan the camera that I have and it tracks your motion, so it's not always in alignment.

MEGAN NEFF: Oh, my God.

PATRICK CASALE: But what we hear a lot of is like loneliness, and disconnection, and the desire to have community, and where can I get more community, in general? So, it's really hard then to say no to requests, say no to demands, have boundaries with energy, and time, and sensory overwhelm because there's such a desire for connection. And I think that is a really good point, Megan, that it definitely is a privilege to be able to say, like, not going to respond to this, or I don't feel like paying attention to the messages, or the emails, or whatever.

MEGAN NEFF: That I'm going to put boundaries around how I'm going to engage with you, yeah, yeah.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah. Like your email response is pretty perfect about that. Your automatic response that you have built-in.

MEGAN NEFF: Oh, right, you've seen that now. Yeah, see? Building boundaries.

PATRICK CASALE: Building boundaries. That's right. Yeah, really, really good point. How about we diverge to another set of questions? So, last week, when Donna was on, we were asking about context, Megan, and like context clues. And what was the example you gave, in terms of context clues? Something about a neighbor conversation? I can't-

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah. So, it's, like if someone asks what's your favorite book? And Donna was saying how it would depend who was asking. Like, for me, I'd be like, sifting through trying to figure out like, it'd be so hard because, like, what does the person mean my favorite book, what genre?

So, first of all, I just like, can't answer that questions to context-dependent. But what Donna said, which just kind of blew my mind was like, well, if my neighbor asked, I would say this book, if a colleague asked, I would say this book because I know that like, that's kind of what they're asking. And then what Dr. Henderson was saying is how those context cues are all interpreted subcortically. So, like, outside of our, you know, prefrontal cortex, all of the labor that goes into that. I feel like I heard some of that when you were talking about small talk as well. Like, how quickly you're picking things up and then putting them into buckets, if this is a business connection, this is a friendship connection.

MEGAN NEFF: I think you're absolutely right. And I'd do the exact same thing. If somebody asked me what book are you reading? It depends on who they are, and what context I'm seeing them, and I immediately know which category I need to go to and which ones I definitely don't tell them that I'm also reading either.

PATRICK CASALE: I've heard too much of those.

MEGAN NEFF: Oh, so you also know, like, what filter to apply?

JENNIFER AGEE: Yes.

MEGAN NEFF: Oh, wow. And again, it's this is not like an analytical process, it's intuitive to you.

JENNIFER AGEE: It's very intuitive. I don't think about it. And again, this goes back to things that I noticed spending this much time with Patrick is, I see that he has to think about it, I see that he is intentionally filtering things that I am not intentionally having to filter.

MEGAN NEFF: Sounds so nice.

PATRICK CASALE: I just got like weirdly emotional on that. I don't know why. But, yeah, I think it's exhausting. Megan and I have talked about how exhausting it is to have to constantly like, try and prune information, and categorize it, and place it where it needs to go. And that's probably why like, sorry, that's probably why like, a lot of the times I have this look on my face where I'm like, maybe feels vacant or blank, but it's really just like, really inside my head trying to figure out the scenario, or how to categorize, or compartmentalize, or answer specific questions. So, it's really interesting. Like, I really wish that it would be completely intuitive, or it was just like, "Oh, I know exactly how to respond to this without having to think about how I'm going to respond to this." Sounds nice.

JENNIFER AGEE: I don't know any other way. So, you know, our brains are our brains and they just work the way they work, I suppose.

But you know, another part of this conversation, and if you don't want to go into this category, we don't have to, but because Patrick is my friend, I have talked to him before about sometimes the different costs to our system just in relationship like with partners and closer friendships and relationships. And in part because I know that it's harder on my spouse's system to do some of the things than it is mine. I find that I very often will default to the highest sensory needs person in the room. So, because I know it will not cost my system as much no matter what we do, really. If I know that if we choose X restaurant, that it's really noisy, or it's this, or it's that, and it's going to probably be uncomfortable for them even though I might really want to go there I won't even bring it up. Like, I make a thousand tiny internal pivots to try to make space comfortable for the people that I love and care about.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah. First of all, I love that. When I work with parents who aren't neurodivergent themselves, that's something I'm often like, encouraging like, because they'll be like, "Why does my kid not want to go to the restaurant with us?" It's like, "Whoa, let's think about their through sensory lens."

So, first of all, I just love that you are doing that, that you're thinking through what I would call a sensory lens.

But to the other thing that's interesting that I think I hear your analytical brain, right? Like, for me, that's intuitive. Oh, I don't want to go that restaurant. And this is that double empathy problem, you have to analytically think through, okay, is that a high sensory restaurant? What is my spouse's experience going to be about that? And I think that is at the heart of the double empathy, which is, when we're in a cross-neurotype interaction, we're just not going to intuitively understand the other. But you're doing the labor, you're doing the prefrontal cortex labor of thinking through what would this experience be like for the other person?

JENNIFER AGEE: Yeah. And full disclosure, I've been with my husband for 30 years. So, I can tell the way his eye slightly moves a lot of times, you know, how that's affecting his system whether he says it or not, you know? And I think proximity is helpful, right? The longer you're with someone, the more you know how to pick up on their non-verbals and can adapt. And I think we all do that for people we love, right?

So, I'm sure you both have put yourself in situations that you don't necessarily really want to be in. But you know that your partner would really enjoy it, or it's important to them, or, you know, going out to a Happy Hour with coworkers you don't know or whatever. Like, that's not how you want to spend that day but you love your partner and you make accommodations for it. And I think you know that we just do that.

But I have noticed that I'm more aware of the fact that I'm doing it and I think it's because I'm getting older and I'm asking myself the questions like, how much am I doing that? Or how much am I doing that is accommodating other people? Kinds of questions, but I've been more aware of it. And, you know, I've kind of come to the conclusion that I really don't mind like, because I've asked like, do I feel resentful about that? Should this tick me off? You know, and when I thought about it, it doesn't because when my partner is happy and is flowing through the world in a better way, that helps me in our home and in our life low better, too.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, right. Like, you're going to get a more present version of your husband at a lower sensory restaurant, so if your thinking about the quality of the dinner, it's like, okay, I could go here and maybe get the food I want, but I'd have a dissociated husband or depending on if he goes up or down.

So, I love how you think through like the nuance of that. And I think this is so important for neurodiverse couples, is a love Esther Perel's work in general with couples. But one thing she talks a lot about with couples work is like the importance of not always looking to our partners to get our needs met. And I think, especially, for the neurotypical spouse, when there's a neurotypical spouse, like, take yourself to the restaurant, go there with a friend. Like, make sure you're getting that need met of like, I love this restaurant and it's a high sensory restaurant.

And I think when I see neurodiverse couples get stuck a lot, is they're not giving themselves permission to meet their needs outside of the dyad. And then that resentment builds up.

JENNIFER AGEE: Absolutely.

PATRICK CASALE: That's a great point. And you know, I'm very thankful that my wife is very intuitive about that, and also analyzes the cost because she knows that if we go somewhere where I'm just very uncomfortable, it's not going to be an enjoyable experience, and it's not my intention. But she also knows, like, there are like six restaurants in town that I will go to consistently. So, if she really wants to have a date night she's like, "Do you want to go to one of these six places?" I'm like, "Yeah, that's fine. Like, that's okay." "Do you want to try this new place that's really loud, or, you know, really crowded, or really busy?" And I'm like, "Not really. No, I don't want to do that."

And Megan, you and I have talked about, like family obligations, and familial obligations, and the cost that comes with saying yes sometimes to going, right? Like, my wife's family and my in-laws are big, loud family, and they're wonderful, but it's overwhelming. And the cost that comes with that is something where I will have to kind of give myself months of time to mentally prepare to say, like, "Okay, we're going to go on Christmas Eve, and I'm going to, like, sit in this room for six hours." And like, I know what that means in the long run. And I just think that is an interesting way to put that in perspective, too.

MEGAN NEFF: The other thing, and like, I'm feeling the controversy in my chest before I say this. So, I want to give it some context. But you know, after my diagnosis, and, Patrick, we've talked about this on this podcast, like, there were aspects of being autistic I needed to grieve like the limits I have. I think my biggest grief is around my sensory limits because I have such a hard time being present anywhere in the world, outside of nature and my house because I'm shut down, my nervous system shut down.

But I've encouraged my spouse, like, you get to grieve this too. And that's tricky for him, that's not intuitive. But like, the other day, a concert came up, and he was like, "You know what, I had a moment of like it'd be nice if, you know, Megan Anna would want to go to something like that with me." And I am encouraging him of like, "You get to grieve that you don't have a spouse who can enjoy concerts with you."

So, I think that's a tricky line, but I think it is important, especially, if this is later in life discovery for both partners to process and grieve elements of what it means to be a neurodiverse.

And likewise, like, there might be elements where I grieve that my spouse doesn't intuitively get me in the same way that neurodivergent people do.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah.

JENNIFER AGEE: I love that you guys are having this conversation. I really do because I just think of how many people that have been in my office over the years, where there's an undercurrent of all of this going on, but in people's politeness are not wanting to hurt their partner's feelings. They don't also own the parts of them that are true that may not feel great to say out loud, and I think healthy relationships gives space for both partners to feel those feelings.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah. And I think that that's important to any couple but especially, in a neurodiverse couple where we are working on that across neurotype, double empathy issue of like, we have got to create space for there to be complex emotions and for us to hold space for our partners to have complex emotions.

PATRICK CASALE: That's definitely an episode in the making. I think just having conversations around neurodiverse couples, and partnerships, and communication styles because that's what comes up a lot is missed attunement, and communication, and interpretation of communication.

JENNIFER AGEE: That is going to be a huge episode. You all don't even know, buckle up. It is going to be big. I want to compliment you guys, one of the things I really enjoy about your conversations is that you very clearly and articulate the felt experience of being an autistic person walking through the world, where just like you're asking me questions as, you know, ask the neurotypical day, you know, kind of thing, it gives me a peek behind the curtain too, to what's actually happening in your system. And so I just really appreciate and value what you guys are doing. I want you to know that.

MEGAN NEFF: Thank you. I'm going to, like, not to totally deflect but I'm going to deflect. First of all, like those words mean a lot, but I also noticed myself retreating with the compliment coming in. How do you experience compliments as a allistic neurotypical?

JENNIFER AGEE: I think, for me, how I experience compliments has changed as I've healed my own childhood crap. So, you know, when I was younger, it was definitely not something that I accepted or received. And now when somebody says something nice, I just say, "Thank you." Or I hear all, you know, a lot of times, "Oh, my word, your life looks freaking amazing. Look at all the things you're doing. You know, I just wish I could, you know, have a life like that." And I'll just say, "Thank you. Yeah, it is pretty amazing."

And so I can receive it now. But that was not easier when I was younger. And I think that just had more to do with childhood junk than anything else.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah.

JENNIFER AGEE: But I'll make my husband stay in there and take it sometimes. I'll just be like, I'll warn him, I'll say, "I'm about to say something nice and you just need to take it." That's exactly what I say.

MEGAN NEFF: I love that.

PATRICK CASALE: Well, and I can see that being true because that's kind of how our relationship goes sometimes. And two, I could see you retreating Megan. Like, I saw your body like do this.

MEGAN NEFF: Even though, like, I loved I loved those words and they genuinely mean a lot. I think it's the positive emotion. And again, this is on the big five, there's a whole facet of positive emotion. It's often low for autistic people. But it's both like, how much we generate positive emotion, but also how we experience it coming toward us. And for me, it can mean a lot but positive emotion coming toward me it feels like a sensory demand. I don't know how else to say it, which is that-

JENNIFER AGEE: Because of the titter tat, like, of like a give and take. Like, because I'm saying something nice to you now there's an internal expectation something's supposed to come back.

MEGAN NEFF: That's part of it. So, part of it is energetic, just like, but then part of it is I'm supposed to have a nice response to this. And I just typically have an awkward response to compliments. So, also, I guess, there's social demand around and now how do I take this in, and then respond to it? And it's also the like, okay, like, teenage era, it brings me back to like middle school and high school. Like, someone complements your shirt, then you compliment their shoes. Like this exchange. Yeah.

JENNIFER AGEE: There's a lot of, you're tapping into something that's completely accurate, which is there's a ton of nuance around relationships, which is where, I think, you know, the two of you would just prefer to cut the bowl and get right to the meat and potatoes. I'm from the Midwest as well. So, like, there's a ton of politeness that goes around conversations because coming-

MEGAN NEFF: I grew up in the Midwest, yeah.

JENNIFER AGEE: So, coming directly at someone with like, "Hey, saw you messaged me, tell me what you want, what you really, really want. And then like, we'll get out of here."

MEGAN NEFF: I love So the Spice Girl reference just there, by the way.

JENNIFER AGEE: All right, random brain. But anyway, so if someone came at me that way, I'd be like, "Well, okay, then Mr. so and so." You know?

MEGAN NEFF: It will put you off.

JENNIFER AGEE: But I know enough now to be like, they're just being direct because they need me to cut to the chase but I will tell you that is a more recent development. And you will be on my suspicious list as to whether or not you go in category, transactional. Like, I'm already starting to make categorizations based on that directness now.

I will tell you the first time I met Patrick, and I had already hired him to talk at my first retreat, I told my husband I said, "I don't even know if I should go up and say hello to him based on the look on his face." Like, I'm like, "I don't think this dude likes me at all."

Anyway, because he's like, "Well, it's the truth. You tell stories about me, I'm going to tell him about you." Anyway. So, just the way, you know, his presentation and all this stuff is, as soon as he was diagnosed, it was like my brain re-categorize every interaction we had, and I was like, "Oh." And I didn't feel some type of way about them anymore because I understood that was just him being genuine in that moment, his face didn't want to make a fake smile face, which my good Midwestern parts were like, "Put a fake ass smile on, I'm here, come on." You know?

So, and he didn't want to, and he didn't. But now that I know that I'm like, okay, he was being genuine in that moment, and my brain re-categorized that.

MEGAN NEFF: And this is one of the potential benefits of relational self-disclosure is then we have an accurate narrative to, like, encode those interactions. I got this a lot from my life, too. I think, Patrick, you have too, probably, a lot of autistic people. Like, you seem distant, aloof, like hard to get to know, disinterested. Whereas like, I might be the person in the crowd, like, trying to find someone to make talk with so that I don't awkwardly stand in the corner. But most people are reading me and have read me as disinterested. So, I think it's so helpful then when there's this narrative of like, oh, okay, I understand this interaction, I can categorize it differently now.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, absolutely. That's so spot on. I think those adjectives or description words would be the ones that people would use for me most often. And when I'm connected with people, I'm really connected with them. Like, I can talk, and be very social, and very engaging. But yeah, those would be the words that I think come to the forefront for most people.

And I think a diagnosis helps, like you both said, re-categorize, in a way, or at least reshape a perspective, which I think is important, too, if you're open to reframing the perspective, right? Because people can also interpret the diagnosis is like, so what? Like, you're still acting this sort of way. I'm from New York. Like, even if I wasn't autistic, I think there's still a level of directness of being from the Northeast, where like, that is how people communicate. And then moving to the South, were people who are like, "Bless your heart." And like, we got to put all of this fluff into all of the conversations. And I'm like, what is happening here? I don't understand it. So, that's very interesting, you know, in general.

But I agree that those are the words that people would describe me with in terms of like, getting to know me socially. And I think that's strange when I am the face of a business where we're hosting people all over the world and if their perception is like, Patrick, is unapproachable, and distant, and really mean, that just doesn't feel great for my brand. But it doesn't seem like that is the case. It just seems like people want to get to know me more because of how distant I present, I guess. I don't know, that's what I'd say.

JENNIFER AGEE: I've told you 1000 times it is a part of the key to your success because the, I want to be liked parts of us, freaking love a good aloof person because we're like, "Why don't they like us? Maybe we can…" I mean, like, so all those parts kick in for us, too. I think when we see that we go into all of those spaces within ourselves and yeah, I think it's been a part of your success, to be quite honest.

PATRICK CASALE: I appreciate that.

MEGAN NEFF: I think it's part of why my spouse married me was because I was like, the aloof in college, right? So, like, that plays really differently. Like, being an autistic girl who was like, hard to get to know, like, in the dating world, that kind of works, actually.

JENNIFER AGEE: I could see that.

PATRICK CASALE: Can we talk about dating real quick? Because this is something we did not talk about last week and that is something. I just want to check our time too. Do you have your meeting, Megan?

 

MEGAN NEFF: I don't but I don't know if you all have anything. I also have a couple more questions I would really like to-

PATRICK CASALE: Okay, cool. We've got like-

MEGAN NEFF: …have conversations on-

PATRICK CASALE: …20-ish more minutes, so I am [CROSSTALK 00:49:21]-

MEGAN NEFF: Are you okay Jennifer for time?

JENNIFER AGEE: I'm good.

PATRICK CASALE: Last week I didn't have the same buffer, but so dating, right? You just made a good point, Megan. And we've never talked about dating on this podcast as neurodivergent people. I struggle so much to pick up on social cues. I think I'm better at it now. But during that span of my life, it was really hard. And like if people were interested in me, I definitely did not know. So, if someone came over and just talked to me randomly, or like, put their hand on my leg or like, gave me a certain look, I would just not really be able to absorb that or take that in or make sense of that. I definitely had a lot of those interactions where someone was definitely hitting on me and I was probably like, "Oh, did you need, like, direction somewhere? Or like, do you need recommendations for a restaurant?" And I just, like, got up and walked away.

My wife is like, "You definitely missed out on a lot of relationships because the first date." I didn't know she wanted to kiss me. I didn't know. She said, I gave her like an awkward side hug, like, goodbye. I probably like ran the hell out of there. I was like, "I got to go." Anyway, Jennifer and Megan, how do you experience that and picking up on social cues?

MEGAN NEFF: Jennifer, I'll let you go first.

JENNIFER AGEE: I mean, I picked up on it just fine, and then, look, I think if you're cute enough, and you like the person enough, any stupid line will work is kind of my theory. So, I never had a problem with it. And then based on the cues, I would, again, immediately categorize in my mind, do I see this person as a potential anything? And if the answer is no, I would politely you know, hahaha, and exit the conversation. And if I thought they were a potential, I would lean into it. But I was able to tell and really intentionally make a decision if I was going to navigate that interaction one direction or another.

PATRICK CASALE: I'm thinking of a situation right now that while I was in Charlotte, before I moved to North Carolina, with some friends, and a friend of their friend, and she kept putting her leg on my legs while we were sitting at a restaurant, and I kept moving and being like, "Oh, my God, you must need space. Like, you clearly don't have enough space in this booth." Anyway, sorry.

JENNIFER AGEE: Yeah. You misread that one.

PATRICK CASALE: I misread that one.

MEGAN NEFF: Definitely. I hear that a lot. Patrick, that's not been my experience, but I hear that a lot from autistic people, especially, more so, I think, cishet men. Like, just totally missing. And, again, talking like in kind of heteronormative spaces, I wonder if many girls are more subtle in their… Because like, we live in this patriarchal culture where it's typically like, the man is supposed to initiate.

So, like, yeah, I didn't really relate to that. Also my dating experience happened in this really weird bubble of evangelicalism. And so my dating experience was more like I get into a really deep kind of philosophical, existential conversation with someone, we end up talking late into the night. Like, it would become pretty clear. And it would start with kind of a emotional intellectual connection, typically.

So, I do think that I have had like, I think I interpret all banter as flirting, so I do think I have difficulty and in the workplace, this has confused me when I've had male supervisors, banter with me, of it feels flirtatious, but then I'm, like, confused by that. So, I've definitely had that experience actually work. But it's more, everything feels flirtatious versus nothing feels flirtatious.

PATRICK CASALE: It's very interesting. I definitely think we have episodes to do off of some of these conversations because it's just interesting to hear these different perspectives and how we interpret and move through the world. So, Megan was there [CROSSTALK 00:53:53]-

JENNIFER AGEE: They're so fascinating.

MEGAN NEFF: They really are. Jennifer, well, this is a strong pivot. I don't know if we're done. It seemed that fluid, I have to explicitly ask.

PATRICK CASALE: This actually feels more fluid than last week. So, pivot away.

MEGAN NEFF: Oh, I'm just saying I'm not fluid. So, I'm like having to explicitly ask, are we done with that conversation? Can I-

PATRICK CASALE: Can I transition?

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, sensory, we haven't talked about that. So, I know, we've talked about small talk, we've talked about context cues, what's your sensory experience of the world?

JENNIFER AGEE: I literally don't think about it.

MEGAN NEFF: I was actually guessing that might be what you say, of just like, because it's like a fish in water not experiencing water. That's so interesting. So, like, you'd have to think about it to think about what your sensory experience is.

JENNIFER AGEE: Exactly. And now it's 105 degrees. So, if I go outside, I'm going to have a sensory experience of being hot and uncomfortable. I mean, it's just being a human in the world, right? But in general, I don't filter or anticipate anything in terms of thinking about my sensory needs at all because this is kind of, I hope that didn't make me sound bad. But the truth is, I know my systems got it. So, if I walk into a situation, I know that my system will pivot or adjust in whatever way it needs to, to be okay. So, I just really don't think about it.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah, that doesn't sound bad. That's like literally one of the core differences is something I talk a lot about is how neurodivergent people have like ice thin window of, like, window of tolerance because we can't take in incoming stressors in our body adapt as easily. Same thing with sensory, you're saying your system can take in new input, and adapt, and be okay. And that is like precisely one of the huge differences between allistic and autistic systems.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I'm thinking about, like, the one-degree temperature difference that I sometimes need to make me feel more comfortable in my house. And if my wife uses the air fryer, how I can't sleep at night because I can smell the smell of like the air fryer all night, and I'm so uncomfortable, and how I so often default to certain clothing items because of comfort. And it's just amazing how much energy and intention has to go into like sensory soothing, and really having to be really aware and vigilant about it pretty constantly in order to be comfortable.

JENNIFER AGEE: So, this is a great example, actually, you mentioning the temperature of how my system, I will just kind of take a lock and just get on with it. So, when we traveled we would often stay in Airbnbs because we packed basically in a backpack for a month, you know? Then we always had to do laundry. He likes it like a freaking icebox. I mean, it was a meat locker in there. I keep my house at 77 degrees.

MEGAN NEFF: 77?

JENNIFER AGEE: Yeah, and I feel amazing, right? So, at night we'd get in, we'd both kick our shoes off at the door and go to separate rooms. And he would have it set to icebox temperature. And I literally slept with my head under the covers almost every night because I was freaking freezing. But I knew I could wake up and be like, all right, let's go to coffee, you know, it's going to be a good day. And if that affected his sleep, if that affected you know, all of these things, I was thinking of those things, too. I know you made accommodations for me too. But I'm just talking specifically about the being physically comfortable in a space. I was just like, it's not worth it because it's going to cost him sleep, which is going to cost him a lot, lot more the next day.

PATRICK CASALE: 77 degrees sounds miserable, first of all. That's what my dad keeps his house at in Florida. I go down there and like, go into an Airbnb, I can't do this. But too, I appreciate that.

So, that's a great example of friendships throughout different neurotypes. And being intentional about the things that we know are going to impact the other. And I knew you did that while we were there. Like, I knew you were definitely like Jen is a verbal processor. And I had to tell Jen, like, "If you're going to say all of these things to me every day, I'm going to take them literally. So, if you need me to do something now, then tell me. But if you are just processing your thoughts, please, like, give me context that that's what's happening. Otherwise, the conversation of like, 'Okay, we need to do this, we need to do this, we need to do this.'" And I'm like, "Fuck, are we doing that right now? Like, what's happening?" So, that was very helpful.

And also, like, I know, Jen wants to talk in the morning and I am not a morning person. And every morning that we went and got coffee she'd be, like, holding it in, and I could see it in her face where like, I wasn't even talking, I was just like, pointing direction sometimes because I was like, so tired or like, out of it. And I just want to say that I appreciate that, so it was helpful.

JENNIFER AGEE: I got you. Thanks for not letting me get run over because he did pull me in a few times when I was distracted by the beauty of the world.

PATRICK CASALE: True story.

MEGAN NEFF: I just want to say, like, I love kind of, you're all… Oh my gosh, words, do words stop for me after an hour? Is that what's happening? I love your dynamic and I love getting this inside perspective on Patrick of, and I really appreciate seeing your dynamic. I think it's a really wonderful model of what good cross-neurototype friendship. Like, I wanted to say business but it feels and sounds more like a friendship when you all talk.

JENNIFER AGEE: It's a friendship that turned into business, for sure.

PATRICK CASALE: And it all started with both of us not liking the other person based on certain stereotypes.

MEGAN NEFF: Based on the double empathy problem? Was it because of assumptions you were making about each other?

PATRICK CASALE: Yes. 

JENNIFER AGEE: Yeah, Patrick.

PATRICK CASALE: I would talk about what I was assuming on air because it sounds unbelievably discriminatory.

JENNIFER AGEE: Yeah, Patrick.

PATRICK CASALE: [CROSSTALK 00:59:44] from the Midwest, they're having their first retreat in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I assume this person is just a terrible human being. I don't want to say associate with this person. Why did I say yes to speak at this event? All the things that are going through my head. And then we met in Hawaii at a conference and like then we spent the next five days together, her and her husband and me and some other friends. And the rest is history. But that was definitely my initial impression, which unfortunately is very often my initial impression is like, I'm already assuming I'm not going to like the person, and I really have to experience them to then change my opinion or perspective. I don't go into a lot of social situations assuming the best, I should say, socially. So, that is a difference in our styles, for sure.

JENNIFER AGEE: And I'm the exact opposite. I go into every situation and assume that it's going to be awesome. And if it turns out not to be I just adjust.

MEGAN NEFF: I think that's what makes me think you're an EO. Yes, I abbreviate personality assets or factors because the high extraversion, high openness, when you look at personalities, if you were to line up 100 people they are the most optimistic forward thinking people in the world. So, it is interesting to me how well you all gel because that's typically not the autistic person. Like, we're maybe on the other side of the spectrum, often, not always, but…

PATRICK CASALE: I think that doing some of these events together that we do, and then having that 30 days…30 days I don't want to travel with anybody, I'm just going to be quite honest. Like, I don't want to travel with my wife for 30 days, I want to travel with anyone by like, halfway through, I was just like, "Oh my God, I'm so done."

But it gives you a good glimpse into someone who is very extroverted and optimistic because I think some people in society can also misinterpret that as like, this doesn't feel real, this doesn't feel genuine, this feels really artificial. How can you put this face on every day? I got to see for 30 days that this is just every day. And I thought to myself, "This is wild like that someone can move through the world optimistic all the time." I cannot do that. I feel like I'm optimistic 3% of my life, and that might be generous.

So, it was just a very interesting experience. I really wish we would have documented more of it either via writing or video to give different perspectives into the different neurotypes in terms of moving through the world, and traveling, and experiencing all of these places, and transitions, and sensory overload, and stimulation, and everything that went into those 30 days because it was so vastly different.

Like, if you can imagine Jennifer in Italy, opening her window, seeing the mountains, and like I imagine there were like bluebirds singing and all sorts of stuff. When I opened my window, my view was of old Italian men arguing with each other every morning. Like, we had very different experiences in every sense of the world. And I almost feel like that is like a good glimpse into actual inner world and inner working.

MEGAN NEFF: [CROSSTALK 1:02:46], oh, go ahead.

JENNIFER AGEE: Go ahead.

MEGAN NEFF: I was going to… Go ahead.

JENNIFER AGEE: No, you.

MEGAN NEFF: Oh, I was just going to clarify is that because your perception of what your, "I gravitated toward." Was different or because you actually had different…

PATRICK CASALE: We actually had very different locations in the hotel we were staying.

MEGAN NEFF: Okay.

PATRICK CASALE: And she had a really beautiful view. Like, I imagine if I looked at it every day, I also would have been more happy than the view I had, which was just an alleyway, and a coffee shop, and these two old Italian guys every morning arguing with each other in Italian about who knows what, and I would open it not having slept the day before or night before, and just be like, "Oh my God." And she would come and be like, "Did you see this like, amazing image that I have?" And I'm like, "Fuck."

JENNIFER AGEE: Do you want to know, honestly, my initial thoughts if I were to open the window and saw two little Italian mints arguing on the street? I would have been like, this is freaking awesome. I wonder what they're arguing about. I would have made up a whole story in my head, and it would have been really good. Like, and I would have been like, "Can you guys believe? I got to see these two people having this argument in Italian and their hands were going in." Like, my interpretation of my of our realities, we really literally do walk through the world in very different ways. And it's so freaking fascinating. I think it's fascinating.

MEGAN NEFF: I love that.

PATRICK CASALE: That's a good ending point. And I'm ending it even without doing it awkwardly because I have a meeting in seven minutes, so…

MEGAN NEFF: Okay, can I ask one final question? I want to start asking people this.

JENNIFER AGEE: Yeah.

MEGAN NEFF: When I say it's raining cats and dogs outside, what do you see in your mind?

JENNIFER AGEE: I just see that it's raining hard.

MEGAN NEFF: Like, you see it hard, right?

JENNIFER AGEE: Just hard rain. Hard rain with [CROSSTALK 1:04:37] on the street-

MEGAN NEFF: [CROSSTALK 1:04:36]. Patrick, what do you see?

PATRICK CASALE: I think I also see hard rain.

MEGAN NEFF: Wait, you're not autistic.

JENNIFER AGEE: This whole thing is a farce.

MEGAN NEFF: Sorry to be the one to tell you this, Patrick, [INDISCERNIBLE 01:04:52].

PATRICK CASALE: I'm glad to hear it on air just like this, too. That's perfect.

MEGAN NEFF: You see hard rain? I see cats and dogs like coming down and umbrellas and they're popping off of umbrellas and-

JENNIFER AGEE: That sounds horrifying.

MEGAN NEFF: That's right, it's terrible. I know that people mean it's raining. But what comes in my mind are cats and dogs coming down. Patrick, I actually got this from Joe Short in a consult I did with him. He was saying how autistic people are visual processors. So, often we'll see that and I was like, "Wait, what? Not everyone sees cats and dogs." So, I asked my spouse. He was like, "I see rain." And I was like, "What do you mean you see rain?"

PATRICK CASALE: Well, I guess I failed the test and life is a lie.

MEGAN NEFF: Well, you failed. But Jennifer passed the allistic test.

PATRICK CASALE: I do see and interpret most things visually. I will say that but I don't know it. We live in a temperate rainforest in Asheville. It rains all the damn time. And I'm so sick of the rain. And that's all we see. But yeah, that's actually a very funny question. All right, we got to wrap up, sorry y'all. This has been fun. Jennifer, thank you so much. This is a really good conversation and I'm glad we're doing this series. I would like to do it with more people, Megan, if we can start figuring out that that process, for sure.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah.

JENNIFER AGEE: Thank you guys for having me on. I've totally enjoyed my afternoon with you two.

PATRICK CASALE: I'm about to see you again in like an hour or so.

JENNIFER AGEE: Yeah, I know. And I am probably happy about it. And you may feel some type of way but will show up anyhow. I'm wishing you both an awkward goodbye because I hear that's your thing.

PATRICK CASALE: We try and end this episode. And Megan will sometimes be like, "Are you trying to transition?" "Yes, I'm trying to transition."

All right, so thank you to everyone who was listening to the Divergent Conversations Podcast. New episodes are out every single Friday on all major channels and YouTube. Like, download, subscribe, and share. Goodbye.

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