Learning to be Flexible

     Learning to be Flexible 

When my turn rolls around for writing the blog, I inevitably face writers block.  What do people want to read about?  What would be helpful?  One of my colleagues suggested that I write about something that I spend a lot of time focusing on with clients, so I have opted to go in that direction this time.

One topic I spend time discussing with clients is the concept of “flexibility.”  Flexibility is not “anything goes” but it is being willing to manage, handle, and accept those things that happen in our lives that we have no control over as well the ability to handle not necessarily getting what we want, with grace and acceptance.  Demonstrating flexibility does not mean that we have to “like” all those changes, or doing activities with others that are not our favourite things to do, or being happy about the behaviours of others that are annoying to us.  Flexibility means “accepting”, not necessarily “liking” and these are two very different feelings.

One can accept that we have to take turns without actually liking taking turns.  I can tolerate politely sit through a movie, even if that particular genre is not my thing, because it’s a friend’s turn to choose an activity.  There is the possibility that going to the Reptile Expo with me was not really the way my friend would choose to spend an afternoon (even though I can’t imagine not loving this activity :)).  Taking turns is one of the hidden rules of friendship and one way to authentically utilize social thinking.

Being flexible does not mean that we are masking our “true” selves. We hear and read a lot about “masking.”  Masking is about hiding the characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  All too often I hear people say that they do not want to mask, but instead of saying I want to be free to show that I have ASD, they use not masking as a reason for being selfish, rude or inflexible.  Masking does not really need to enter into the discussion of whether or not we can be flexible.  Learning to be flexible does not mean that we are covering our neurodivergency.  Encouraging authentic flexibility, even if it is learned later in life, is not hiding who we really are.

There are many ways to demonstrate flexibility.  This is not a complete list, but for example: we can recognize that some things are outside of our control, change our plan and accept the change; we can compromise (take turns, or do win/win types of compromises were we each get some of what we want and combine that); we can wait; we can ask instead of demand or tell (and be alright with the answer); and we can think about situations in terms of “not yet.”   If you need to flick your fingers, wear your fuzziest socks so you can squeeze your toes or wear no socks at all, to make being flexible easier, go for it!!!

Flexibility is not ease for some of us.  The good news is, that regardless of our age, it can be developed.  Sadly, flexibility is not always (for some less often than for others) easy.  If you are like me, and have to work at it, know that you are not alone.


Blog Post by: Tara Garratt, Registered Psychologist with Wildflowers

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