I'd like to draw your attention to yet another aspergers article;
How was your day?
on Asperger Square 8
I can really relate to this one. It's the bane of my existence.
My wife and I have discussed this question over and over. It's the subject of a lot of pain for us - and silent resistance.
Problems with the Question
There are a lot of problems with this question. For a start, how do you describe a day. It wasn't my day... it was everyone's day. We all shared it. Then of course, there's the problem of "what answer could actually fit the question?". The best one word answer I can find is; "Good."
The problem with this answer is that it often provokes further open-ended questions; "oh..., what was good about it" or even worse, it encourages the initial "how was your day?" question to be asked several more times during the course of the afternoon, or dinner.
Problems with my Day
Most days, are unremarkable for me. I go to work, do mostly dull work and come home. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my job. It's just that the things I find interesting or funny (an unexpected pattern in computer code, a silly comment by a Microsoft reviewer or a passer by whose umbrella blows inside out) aren't funny or interesting to most other people.
Sometimes I'll say something about my day, expecting it to be dull and lifeless and my wife will give this little excited response. I'll look at her quizzically (not so that she'd notice) and then expand on what I've said, realising that she actually found something interesting. The problem is, that I really don't know which parts of my day are interesting to people and which aren't. All I can say for certain is that most of what I find interesting - isn't and some of what I find uninteresting - is.
Then there's the bad days. If I have a bad day, I just want to shrink inside myself and forget about it. The last thing I want to do is talk about a bad experience. The problem is that I can't reply "terrible" if I've had a bad day. That will only invite lots more questions.
There's a myth around that says that aspies can't lie. We can. The problem is though that lying preys on our minds. We can't do it well because we're always conscious of the conflict it causes.
So... on the one hand, I've had a terrible day and I'm really depressed about it. It's the sort of problem that will take me days to analyse, rebuild and recover from. I certainly don't need any more mental stress and in fact, my mind is churning away on it but in the background. I'm trying not to think about it directly.
On the other hand, I've been asked how my day was. If I answer truthfully, then I'll be badgered to provide all the details (and it will come back to the front of my mind again). If I answer dishonestly, then I'll be adding stress to my mind because I'll be creating a "lie complex" which will torture me for days. Whichever answer I give will cause pain.
So I just grunt...
or I give a non-committal answer... "oh... same toilet different sh***" (this answer doesn't go down particularly well).
or I pretend the question wasn't asked and try to change the subject...
and hope that the question won't be asked again today.
Conversational Keywords versus the Chronological Discussion
If I've got something to talk about or something of interest, I don't need a trite phrase to convince me to say it. I just blurt it out (usually regardless of how off-topic it may be). Sometimes when my wife is talking to me about something, she'll say a key-word which trips a memory. She could be telling me about her day at the shops and mention a washing powder. This will remind me to tell her about a funny incident that happened at work with the photocopier toner spilling (and hence washing being required).
I'll hold up my hand to interrupt her for a second and tell her to ask me about toner when she's finished and then I'll apologise for interrupting and let her continue.
Ten minutes later, she'll ask me about toner and I'll tell her the story. It will be good that she'd asked specifically because I'd have forgotten that I was going to tell her by then.
If she'd asked how my day was, the incident wouldn't have been mentioned because it was an afternoon incident and my memory is strictly chronological (unless I have a keyword to jump to). She'll ask how my day was and I'll often start thinking about getting up, showering, catching the bus etc... (not saying anything because I know that stuff is all boring). I'll often get to the point of making my morning coffee at work - which is where my first social activity occurs. I'll telll her all of the conversations that occurred and then stop.
There's too much to review, and most of it's boring. So, my wife never hears about the afternoon.
Expectations of Counter-Questioning
The flip side of all of this is that I'm often told in argumentative tones... "You don't care because you never ask how my day has been". That's right. I don't.
Just as I blurt things out when I've got something to say - I don't expect to have to invite anyone else to say things. I shouldn't have to ask how her day has been. After all, if something interesting happened, then it should be a "given" that it will be "blurted out" at me.
Similarly, since being prompted to talk about my day is so uncomfortable, I don't see why I should be trying to make other people uncomfortable by asking them. It certainly doesn't come naturally to me - so there's no chance that I'll think to ask about someone's day without prompting.
These days, I have a rule that says. "when asked about your day, respond as briefly as possible then ask about their day because that's what they really want". It's kind of like when someone asks how your meal is, not because they care but because they want you to offer them some. (and that's a whole different discussion).