Social Tips for Aspies – From an Aspie

I am by no means an expert at social things. However, after 24 years of life on this planet, I have picked up a few skills here and there regarding social interaction. So here they are:

  1. It helps tremendously if you can develop some kind of small grade obsession/interest in the life details of the people you interact with on a regular basis. That way, it’s easier to remember to ask what’s going on in their lives.
  2. In conversations, only return to a topic one time, and twice if you absolutely can’t stand it, but no more than that.
  3. Find things about people that you like and complement them on it. But stay away from the really strange remarks like, “Oh, I love the way your shoes match your nose hairs.” Not good. In fact, don’t mention hair at all–except that which is either on the face of men or on the top of the head for men and women.
  4. If a thought passes through your head and you have time to think to yourself, “Should I say that?” Don’t. If you have to think about it, it’s probably a sign from beyond that it’s a bad idea.
  5. Watch out for signs of boredom in a conversation. Easy ones to pick up include: constant checking of the watch, looking over their shoulder away from you, and answering everything you say in monosyllabic grunts that sound more or less like “Uh huh.”
  6. Never talk on a subject as long as you want. Pick some major features and discuss those.
  7. Pause in conversations and ask the other person their opinion.
  8. Listen to their opinion. If they say something like, “please go on.” Then you can continue on. If they say something like, “That’s very interesting,” and then do something like look away from you, you should do one of two things: Ask them to talk about themselves or give them an escape — “I don’t want to keep you from what you need to be doing . . . “
  9. If you’re looking at them, don’t stare incessantly and remember to blink. If you have problems with eye contact, look up occasionally, but do what I used to do – look at their nose. It’s really close to a person’s eyes. It’s hard to tell that you’re not looking at their eyes.
  10. Pick at least one detail from the lives of every person that you interact with a lot and then make sure that you ask about that when you see them. This one’s a little tricky. It works best for people that you know really well, but don’t see every day.
  11. If you’re hyperverbal like me, remember this: You don’t have to talk incessantly for people to remember that you’re there. Sometimes it’s really interesting to hear what people are talking about while just being quiet. And as silence goes, remember something else: Silence is not a bad thing. Sometimes it’s good just to take a moment and look around you and see what’s there.
  12. Smile when you greet people. Especially if they’re nice to you usually.
  13. Stand up straight, don’t slouch. If you cross your arms, that’s a defensive pose; instead try putting your arms behind your back. It’s a stance that promotes openness and a willingness to listen and communicate.
  14. Practice empathy. As always, I quote my professor here on what empathy is. As she puts it, “Empathy is not defined as feeling the same as another (as she pointed out, that’s codependency), but rather the ability to hear what another is saying and to tell them that you heard.”
  15. Ask people how they are and listen to what they have to say. If they say something like the babies kept them up all night and their boss chewed them out, think about what that means. Babies = screaming = annoyance and exhaustion. The phrase “chewed out” means that they got yelled at/criticized. Think about how you feel when someone does that you. Especially when you’re short on sleep. Then tell them what you think of that. A lot of people – NTs and aspies/auties alike often respond with, “Oh wow; that sucks.” This is an example of a LOUSY answer. As I said, think about what they said and think how you would feel if it were you. I’d probably answer something like, “Wow, and you didn’t kill him/her?” (Him/her refers to the boss that yelled at them). Or, “You must feel really cruddy. I’m sorry to hear that.” Or you could suggest something that they should try doing to feel better. “Maybe you should try and listen to some soft music and just veg for a bit. That always helps me.” Think about it and respond with genuineness. I hear enough fake politeness from the NTs around me on a daily basis. Don’t add to the shit pile.
  16. If someone is obviously upset and you have NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY, try this. Offer to sit with them. It will be uncomfortable emotionally, but often this is how true friendships are born. This way they know that you’re concerned, but are unsure about what to do. Ask them if there’s anything you can do (and mean it when you ask this – unless they want you to murder someone . . . ). Stay away from the “I know how you must feel” motif. Bad idea. People who say that to me never know how I must feel. But you can use something like, “I’m really sorry you feel so bad. Sometimes I get really upset too and it sucks.” Emotional problems can’t just be fixed like objects. It’s like trying to disarm a nuclear war head with silly putty. Rather than have it explode in your face, just don’t mess with it.
  17. If someone has a problem one day, ask about it the next. It’s strange how many people assume that problems just go away with a good night’s sleep. This is another good way to show that you were listening.
  18. If you’re excessively shy, smile and nod. Don’t just retreat into the corner because you think that people don’t want you around. Usually shy people don’t get talked to because they won’t talk back–and it’s frustrating on the part of the other person to talk to someone who won’t respond. When you don’t respond, it gives the impression that you’re either not interested, you don’t care or you just don’t want anything to do with them. NOT GOOD.
  19. If you talk about your special interest, try in some way to connect it to the previous conversation in some way. I’ll go with the stereotypical example here. If people are talking about the price of travel or something to do with travel, and you have an extreme interest in trains, then use that moment to talk about the fuel efficiency of trains or the ease of travel or something. If you want to talk about your special interest, wait for an opportune time and make connections!
  20. Don’t drag out a conversation.  This is one that I have to fight for control over with myself.  If a person is up and walking off, don’t keep talking.  Just say bye/see you later and let them go.  This is one of the most potent ways to piss people off.  So don’t.
  21. To sum up this portion of our broadcast 😛 – here are a few things to remember: Make connections; listen and respond that you heard; offer to help; approach each situation with genuineness; take interest in the people around you (after all, how can you expect them to have interest in you unless you have interest in them?); and never talk as long as you want to. Always cut off before you think you have finished the discussion. If they say, “please go on,” do so. If the conversation changes, then don’t try to pull it back your way. Just go with the flow.

I know that many of these are hard to do in practice. I have problems with them all too. And as you might have realized, that whole thing about how empathy problems exist only on the spectrum is total bunk. There are plenty of NTs out there who don’t listen or give a damn about anything you’ve said.

And every time you encounter someone like that who goes off on an unending rant about subject X, think to yourself, “Do I really want to be like that???”

Conversation isn’t one-sided. It’s about balance between the two people. It’s like using the front crawl stroke in swimming. You go across the pool switching off between your face in the water and gulping air on the fly. Back and forth. Like in a circle.

Besides, if it wasn’t something maintained and built between 2 or more, then why not just talk to the wall? When you don’t let someone else talk, that’s how you are treating them – like a wall.

So remember to breathe.

~ by lastcrazyhorn on June 12, 2008.

24 Responses to “Social Tips for Aspies – From an Aspie”

  1. This is GREAT! Very useful, even for people like me, who are not Aspies. :mrgreen:

  2. I like that – remember to breathe!
    This should be a list for everyone!

  3. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  4. And practice, practice, practice! Good conversation is a skill that needs to be worked on. Now let me tell you all about the 17 different types of diesel locomotives in use in the UK at the moment: #1 The…, Oh, maybe not… How’s the weather over there?

  5. Thanks!

    Amen to the practicing. Preach it. 🙂

    Warm. 😛

  6. Wow, you put a lot of thought into this post. However, if you want a long term relationship (I’ve been married for 10 years), be sure to be yourself. Otherwise, it will all break down on you eventually and the feelings you thought the other person had for you turns out to be for the person you never were. One day when I turned 30, I decided enough with “not being myself” and that is when I met my wife. I was honest with her in the beginning, I was myself, and when she accepted me for who I was I knew I had to marry her.

  7. Oh yeah, I understand that. My best friends in the world don’t mind me as me, but it does help to try and listen to what they’re saying, regardless.

  8. I love this list.

  9. Mmmmmm …..not quite as straightforward as it seems. Once you’ve experienced crap at starting primary school it never lets up, only gets worse. None of the above would have helped me in my schol years. Perhaps my school chums were particularly obtuse, backward and illmannered. My ideal world is no people at all, yet recently I met Sheila who is a Godsend. I’m lucky in that I meet dog walkers and around here they are quite chatty and will listen to my standard premeditated run through of our difficult dog, I even occasionally get balanced conversations! I have it fine honed. I’m fifty now, for twenty five years have worked alone, I was going to say thro choice tho its because I’ve no choice. Most people give me the creeps, too manuy memories of bullying and humiliation to be otherwise. Its not all black for me, there are occasional positive encounters (usually with strangers) and the dog ones are 95% pleasant. Having to go into the world of work after shitty school experience resulted in me hoping to commit suicide. I never did try it. I am very wary of people. I don’t trust ’em. Hardly ever have I met anyone on my wavelength – my interest /self education are advanced, not obscure. Uh oh I’m going on…. see….I’m Sheilas friend. Oh yes, I’ve never wanted kids even tho I’m married – not after what I had to endure.

  10. This list ROCKS!!! It works for everyone, not just Aspies. Great job! 🙂

  11. sheila’s friend – I’m sorry to hear that, but I understand what you mean about various lasting effects of bullying . . . These things wouldn’t have helped me in regards to my peers back in the school days, but they would have helped me in my interactions with other people outside of school.

    As for everyone else – such nice comments! 🙂

  12. My best advice is to move away from where you were schooled once the schooling is over, then the above list can be put into action. Sheilas friend.

  13. Good advice. I have to remind myself often, to just let the person talk about themselves and offer genuine compliments when they occur to me….obviously, I can’t lie but when I really do like something I heitate to say it because it feels “to personal or invasive”…why is that?

    I am guilty of just about every “don’t do” on this list, especially saying something even after I get a “should I say this” feeling…It is almost a OCD like “purging”, to just say what I am thinking to keep it from circeling in my head. I guess no one likes being vomited on….imagine that.

  14. Oh trust me, just because I wrote them down doesn’t mean that I’m perfect or even good at them. But I just wish that I could clarify to people that I generally understand what I did wrong; I just can’t make it right automatically.

    Vomited on. That’s a really good way of thinking of it!

  15. These are great tips. I am not an Aspie, but my social skills are not always super. I have a brain-to-mouth filter malfunction going on somewhere… I have a lot of those moments where I wonder whether I should say something, say it anyway, and regret it. There is some Aspergers in my family, as well as schizotypal personality disorder (which I have read is sometimes misdiagnosed when an ASD is underlying), so I often wonder if I’m at the far end of the spectrum, far enough away from a diagnosis that I can easily pass for NT, but still confused by a lot of aspects of common social interaction. For example, gossip confounds me. I just don’t understand it.

  16. […] How often do people on the Autism Spectrum get told they’re “interacting inappropriately with others?” In my (limited) experience, one of the most common ways for a rift between an NT and an Aspie to happen is a compliment from the Aspie considered inappropriate or rude by the NT. That’s even tip #3 on LastCrazyHorn’s list of Social Tips for Aspies– From an Aspie: […]

  17. How much trouble this could have saved me!
    How much trouble it WILL save me!
    Thanks for writing this out–it was funny and helpful.

  18. Nice page.

    i feel fairly confortable about conversations, but if i check this list have a lot to improve.

    Strange thing is that informal/commecial talk is the hardest for me. I got no trouble with leading debates at the uni or speaking infront of students. But ordering food ? i nearly die when talking to shopkeepers. Any tip ?

  19. Thx.

    Actually, that’s one of the worst things for me as well. My suggestions are as follows:

    1. Remember that the people behind the counter see lots of people all the time that vary in all different sorts of ways. They’re not really listening to you, but rather for key phrases in what you say.

    2. It’s also their job to help you, so if you don’t know how to ask something or say something, it’s likely that they’ve seen that before and will generally help you along.

    3. Ultimately they just want your money. So as long as you have that and a concept of what you’re going after, you’re fine. Just be as concise and direct as possible, and remember that it is supposed to be their job to help you.

  20. Couple of these would not work for men — like 16 and 3, those would make NTs think he’s a psycho stalker and have him arrested on a false rape allegation…no I don’t get it either — but for the most part, solid list!

  21. Excellent blog for Aspies and others who might be sketchy on non-verbal clues.

  22. […] Reference: […]

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