Advice on having better social skills…

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rache123
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21 Mar 2021, 7:26 pm

I want to stop being too scared to make friends and I want to stop having the fear of getting hurt again.

I’ve been extremely depressed since I was 12 and I’m in my 20s now. I’m so used to isolating myself and I think that set me back on honing my social skills, which is crucial to learn when you’re a teenager.

It doesn’t help that I was extremely bullied as a child as well, which led to further isolation.

Another thing, I have also used to go to my local autism support group but I haven’t been to it in a while due to COVID.

To anyone who has gotten over this hurdle: can you please give me advice on taking initiative to make friends? I am extremely terrified but I feel like learning to make friends again will aide immensely with improving my mental health.



MidnightRose
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21 Mar 2021, 8:24 pm

I had a whole mental-health crisis when I was about 18 which I will spare you the gory details of. I had never been social before, but after spending about a little over a year wasting away in bed and not going outside I had become pretty nervous around new people. I used to be paranoid and would start sweating just getting groceries because I thought everyone was judging me. I eventually felt a little better and got a retail job and had to talk to customers all the time. It was very stressful until I learned a couple pointers.

1) I thought I was a screw-up and I thought everyone else knew it too. But people actually can't read my mind.
2) People are too busy with their own lives to care much about you. The guy you see at Walmart doesn't think you're weird, he's just buying tuna or whatever.
3) You can get through 90% of social situations by smiling, nodding your head, and asking them questions about themselves. Let them do the talking.

I had to fake it until I got enough practice with social scripts, now I can talk to most people if I need to. None of these pointers help with making friends, I still struggle with that, but it helped me be able to talk to people in general.



Vito
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22 Mar 2021, 7:15 pm

Here is my take on the matter:

Some people here may disagree with what I’ll tell you, but I think that taking a technical approach towards this problem is the best approach. I always find that the best way to solve complex problems like this is to separate them into small chunks and dealing with each chunk separately. However, please treat is only as an opinion, as I’m mostly speaking from my own personal experience in the matter.

If I understand it correctly, your problem is composed of two interlinked parts:

1. Social anxiety which makes the prospect of going out and meeting new people extremely stressful and unappealing, thus greatly diminishing your ability to form new friendships.

2. Lack of social skills which prevents you from dealing well with social situations and consequently acquiring and maintaining friendships. Furthermore, it amplifies your social anxiety since it makes you unsure how to handle social situations.

In order to deal with your problem, you therefore need to do the following, in my opinion:

1. Acquire social skills, and thus be able to navigate through social situations well, make people like and trust you, and being able to maintain meaningful relationships will deal with the practical side of the problem and partially reduce your anxiety due to the knowledge that you’re in fact capable of handling social situations.

2. Deal with the remaining social anxiety by using the method of progressive overload.

Acquiring social skills

Here I recommend doing the following:

1. Book up. First, read How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book contains a list of simple methods how can you make people feel good to have you around by making them feel important and appreciated. I re-read this book every single year, to get reminded of how to operate around people, and actually believe that the content of this book should be taught at school to EVERYONE. The principles outlined there work in practice but you would be surprised how many people do not follow them. For example, owning up to your mistakes and apologizing for your errors without making excuses is one of the most important social skills there are, and you’d be surprised how few people actually utilize it.

Second, What Every BODY Is Saying by Joe Navarro can teach you about the body language. Now, don’t misunderstood. The point is not to try to learn how to decipher the body language of others, but rather to learn how to use the body language yourself to make people around you more comfortable. That means learning how to maintain a proper eye contact, utilize ventral fronting, avoiding aggressive or defensive body postures and hand placement, and managing correctly personal space.

The point of those skills is to make people feel important, appreciated and comfortable when having you around. Consequently, most of them will like you and try to have you around often and they will tend to reciprocate. Such reciprocity is a solid basis for friendships and long, solid relationships in general. Moreover, when people like you, they tend to be more forgiving of your insufficiencies and idiosyncrasies and will tend to complement you in things that you’re not good at.

2. Practice these skills. The essential thing to realize is that these skills work well both with strangers and with people that are already close to you. Therefore, you can start practicing them, even in the current COVID era, with your family and relatives. This will achieve two things. 1. You will get to practice those skills and consistently improve them in a relatively safe space where mistakes are more likely to be tolerated than with strangers. 2. You will, over time, improve the relationship with your family, as these skills do work within a family as well. You should also use every conceivable opportunity (interactions at work, in hobby groups, etc.) to practice those skills with people that you don’t know closely.

In terms of practice itself, do not try starting to use all of these skills at once. You’re sure to fail miserably. Focus on a one or two skills at a time and try to get a good command of them before moving on another one. For example, focus on a proper eye contact first. I, for instance, learned it by matching the duration of eye contact during the conversation with the other person. When the other person looks into your eyes, make a conscious effort to look back. When they look away, look away as well. Eventually, as you repeat this process over and over again, it becomes automatized and you will stop being aware of it. Personally, by doing this I managed to go from having “psycho-stare” and looking at people’s mouths when they speak into having a pretty normal eye contact. Repeat this process with majority of the skills listed in those books until you’re comfortable with all of them.

Also, don’t be a perfectionist. The point is not to do the right thing 100% of the time, but rather to do the right thing often enough. It’s sort of like learning a second language. Initially you can’t remember the words, phrases and grammar and you tend to stutter a lot, but the point is making yourself understood. With practice, then, you become smoother and more fluent, until you can speak more or less effortlessly.

Finally, when learning conversational skills and the related body language, remember that the objective of the conversation should never be sacrificed for the sake of performing all the social niceties and body language properly. It’s better to know what the other person is saying than just to perform the correct body language.

Anxiety

Learning and practicing the social skills and body language mentioned above should, in theory, remove a part of your social anxiety merely due to the fact that you will be able to manage social situations much better and you will begin to experience less faux-pas situations and far more pleasant outcomes.

Since you mentioned, however, that you have considerable amount of bad experience with social interactions (such as bullying) it’s likely that even with acquisition of social skills you will still experience crippling social anxiety at times. The correct strategy for this is, in my opinion, to deal with it using a concept of progressive overload. This concept, which I borrowed from weightlifting, basically states that you expose yourself to a stressor of considerable, though manageable, intensity, for a time that you can manage without being overwhelmed. After that, you rest and recover. Overtime, you’ll adapt and will be able to withstand greater and greater intensity of stress for prolonged periods of time. Finally, the events that originally induced in you a crippling anxiety will be easily manageable.

For example, as a teenager I was extremely afraid of public speaking and important social events, such as interviews. I still remember how every time I was supposed to give a presentation in front of the class, a cold sweat crept upon me and I experienced a strong feeling of panic and desire to get away. However, by doing a presentation after presentation, then joining a speech team during my year abroad, even though I was doing it in my second language, and finally working in a job that required handling important social events including occasional public speaking, I’ve reached a point where situations such as job interviews (which are stressful for majority of the population) are rather pleasant and intriguing for me.

In terms of dealing with social anxiety in your case, I would propose the following:

1. As soon as the pandemic situation allows, find some social group centered around some hobby or interest you have and join it. The point is to meet strangers and practice your social skills on them, with the common hobby or interest serving as a catalyst for social exchange. The point is, shared interest or hobby makes it easier to connect to the other person (as you have something in common) and it’s a good basis for a friendship. Chances are, you’ll make some friends there and thus solve the problem you were having.

2. Second step, after you’re comfortable with your social group, could be joining a public-speaking club. This could help you manage your social anxiety related to speaking to other people in a controlled environment where everyone will be supportive of trying to get rid of the fear of speaking in front of groups of strangers.

3. Final step could be trying to get a temporary job or getting yourself temporarily involved in some organization that requires dealing with people on regular basis, so you could learn to handle social situations that are not always controlled, supportive, or even friendly. However, this is entirely up to you and you should consider this step only if you wish to undertake the challenge.

Aside from the abovementioned steps, you could also try exposing yourself to social situations more often. For example, when having a question about a product from some store, do not ask it via e-mail, but go to the store in person and use this opportunity to practice the social interaction.

Final note on handling social situations

Please note that when trying to use the social skills, described in the books I’ve listed, with strangers, use them DEFENSIVELY. That means, you should always be cautious of not being overly active in situations you don’t understand! It’s better to be quiet, reserved and polite, than to risk committing social faux-pas or annoying people due to too much of activity.

I did that a lot as a kid, by means of being too socially active and imposing myself and my interests on people who weren’t remotely interested. The result was that I was universally shunned due to being perceived as annoying and obnoxious. Now, however, I try to be reserved, quiet and actively observant, especially in situations I don’t understand, and in consequence have much better relationships with people around me.

One last thing: Be very careful when dealing with personal space of other people, and especially physical contact! Invasion of personal space of the other person and/or initiating physical touch should be done only when you’re absolutely sure it’s appropriate, especially when dealing with opposite sex! Else you risk causing a significant social faux-pas and/or sexual harassment charges. It is why I, even though being reasonably skilled in social situations, never initiate physical contact with anybody except my wife. I only reciprocate such behavior.

For example, in my last job, when I was congratulated for my birthday, some of my female co-workers kissed me on my cheeks. I always reciprocated. However, when I was congratulating them for their birthday, I always only shook their hand. It’s safer that way.

Btw, I'm not a therapist or a psychologist, I'm just sharing what helped me. Therefore, take this advice with a grain of salt, but I think it contains some good points to think of.


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Mona Pereth
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23 Mar 2021, 7:10 am

To Vito:

I agree with you about the need to be careful to avoid invading personal space, and about the general need to be cautious in situations one is unsure of.

However, as for deliberately-adopted body language, especially eye contact: If it works for you, without any bad consequences for your mental health, good for you. But many autistic people find this to be extremely tiring or otherwise distressing, even if they have succeeded in making a habit of it. See:

- For Those With Autism, Eye Contact Isn't Just Weird, It's Distressing by Mike McRae, Science Direct, 21 June 2017. (The title is a bit of an over-generalization, but eye contact is certainly distressing for many, though not all, autistic people.)

- The costs of camouflaging autism by Francine Russo, Spectrum News, 21 February 2018: "Many girls hide their autism, sometimes evading diagnosis well into adulthood. These efforts can help women on the spectrum socially and professionally, but they can also do serious harm."

- Women 'camouflaging' autistic traits suffer severe mental health challenges, study finds by Christie Allen, Brigham Young University Medical Xpress, June 29, 2020

- The Art of Masking: Autistic Women who Mask by Charlotte Egeskov, tiimo, March 8, 2019: "Autistic women and girls are masking to such a degree that they risk late or missed diagnosis. Masking may help socially and professionally in the short term, but may also harm mental health and a person’s sense of self-worth in the process."

- Masters of Masking: Autistic Men Who Mask by Anna Fay Hermandson, tiimo, June 11, 2020: "Do autistic men and boys mask? What we know & what we need to find out about masking in autistic men."

My conclusion is that we need to create autistic-friendly social spaces in which we're not obligated to imitate NT body language. We also need more Autistic-friendly workplaces. Building the autistic community will help to bring more autistic-friendly workplaces into existence too.

Also, if possible, it is desirable to live in a highly multicultural neighborhood, with immigrants from all over the world. In such a neighborhood, people are accustomed to dealing with people with a variety of different kinds of body language.

On the other hand, in my opinion, we should work on developing what I call Autistic-friendly social skills, by which I mean the kinds of social skills we would need in order to get along with each other even if there were no pressure to conform to NT norms.


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Vito
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23 Mar 2021, 8:46 am

Thanks Mona for the resources, it was an interesting read. However, it sort of supports the argument I was trying to make:

For Those With Autism, Eye Contact Isn't Just Weird, It's Distressing wrote:

"The findings indicate that forcing children with autism to look into someone's eyes in behavioural therapy may create a lot of anxiety for them," says Hadjikhani.

Instead, she suggests slow habituation towards eye contact could be a more appropriate way to handle eye contact in the long run without causing stress.


This is what I was trying to say: to expose yourself to the stressor in an intensity and length that you find manageable and then set a plenty of time aside for rest and recovery. Eventually you will habituate yourself to the stressor in the long run. The point is in not trying to overdo it, as that could have significant negative consequences.

It's the same with physical training. Learning to deadlift 100 kg by repeatedly trying to deadlift 100 kg even though you can't WILL lead to a very bad injury with possible lifelong implications. However, if you will start at a weight you can manage, limit your attempts for few attempts per week and get plenty of rest in between the training sessions, you will eventually get to those 100 kg without the risk of injury and with plenty of additional health benefits to boot.

I believe that any of the social skills I've referenced can be practiced like that. Being extremely uncomfortable with eye contact? Set aside five minutes each Saturday for practicing it with a safe person in a safe place. As you get more habituated to it, extend the sessions slowly and eventually include other people in. The point is to find a length and intensity of the training that the learner can manage, without suffering short-term or long-term mental trauma. And most importantly, rest and recover sufficiently between each session.

This, I believe, is valid for the remainder of the "masking" behavior. In the end, the articles actually agree that "Masking can contribute to achieving socially desirable outcomes such as making friends, improving social status, and performing better in job interviews" by making autistic individuals "fit in".

The problems with masking, expressed best by the following quote from one of the articles: "These masking or compensation strategies are often very exhausting and come at a cost. Masking requires a substantial cognitive effort (6), which can be exhausting and may lead to “increased stress responses, meltdown due to social overload, anxiety and depression, and even a negative impact on the development of one’s identity”", precisely illustrate my previous point. If you create too much stress without improper rest and recovery, you are going to "mentally injure" yourself.

By the way, I work with the assumption that physical and mental health works in similar way and can be influenced by individual's conscious actions. I know some people will disagree with that.

The only issue I see is that so far, there is very little research done on the topic of increasing mental resilience (on the subject of physical training there's loads of research confirming what I've said). So it's hard to judge what the proper intensity and duration of the mental exercise should be for a particular individual, so there wouldn't be any negative short-term or long-term consequences. As a result, everybody has to figure that out for himself.

Finally, regarding the autistic-friendly environment, while I find that idea commendable and fully support it, in terms of the resolution of the problem identified in the OP, it is irrelevant. He's not going to deal with his desire to get friends and resolve his isolation by going around, convincing people to be more autistic-friendly. He needs to adopt a concrete strategy that is within his limits and that will help him resolve his problem without endangering his mental health.


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2021: Your broader autism cluster (Aspie) score: 106 of 200. Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 121 of 200. You have both broader autism cluster and neurotypical traits.
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23 Mar 2021, 11:56 am

Vito wrote:
Thanks Mona for the resources, it was an interesting read. However, it sort of supports the argument I was trying to make:

For Those With Autism, Eye Contact Isn't Just Weird, It's Distressing wrote:

"The findings indicate that forcing children with autism to look into someone's eyes in behavioural therapy may create a lot of anxiety for them," says Hadjikhani.

Instead, she suggests slow habituation towards eye contact could be a more appropriate way to handle eye contact in the long run without causing stress.

Yes, but the article also says, next:

Quote:
Understanding that eye contact can induce a physical discomfort and isn't simply a case of learning to fake it could also help others in society understand the cultural complexities of facial expressions, and accept not everybody is being shifty as they avoid meeting your gaze.

Back to your post:

Vito wrote:
By the way, I work with the assumption that physical and mental health works in similar way and can be influenced by individual's conscious actions. I know some people will disagree with that.

I think that's true up to a point.

Vito wrote:
The only issue I see is that so far, there is very little research done on the topic of increasing mental resilience (on the subject of physical training there's loads of research confirming what I've said). So it's hard to judge what the proper intensity and duration of the mental exercise should be for a particular individual, so there wouldn't be any negative short-term or long-term consequences. As a result, everybody has to figure that out for himself.

There's also the question of whether it is more rewarding, in the long run, to spend huge amounts of time on learning to conform to social norms, or, instead, to find other ways to improve one's life that also help to build a better world.

Personally I've always preferred the latter option whenever it was feasible. Making more room for people who can't conform, to one arbitrary social norm or another, has been a goal of mine throughout my adult life, starting with my early participation in what is now known as the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

Vito wrote:
Finally, regarding the autistic-friendly environment, while I find that idea commendable and fully support it, in terms of the resolution of the problem identified in the OP, it is irrelevant. He's not going to deal with his desire to get friends and resolve his isolation by going around, convincing people to be more autistic-friendly.

(It's not clear what gender the O.P. is, so I'll use singular "they" for now.)

Once the COVID era is finally over with, they can go back to the local support group they mentioned. If that group does not do enough to help its members make friends with each other, then they might even try to organize a local autistic peer-led social group of some kind. This would require developing leadership skills -- a challenge in itself, yet easier, for some of us, than learning to imitate NT eye contact rhythms.

(Anyone here who is considering organizing a group, of whatever kind, and who wants to work on developing leadership skills, is welcome to participate in online chats of the Autistic peer leadership group.)

I strongly urge people who have found that they can't fit in anywhere to consider starting groups of their own -- and to work together with other would-be leaders on developing leadership skills. By creating a group of one's own, an autistic person is not only benefiting oneself but also helping to build the autistic community, thus bringing us closer to a world in which we are better understood and accepted.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 23 Mar 2021, 2:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Mona Pereth
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23 Mar 2021, 12:26 pm

rache123 wrote:
I want to stop being too scared to make friends and I want to stop having the fear of getting hurt again.

I’ve been extremely depressed since I was 12 and I’m in my 20s now. I’m so used to isolating myself and I think that set me back on honing my social skills, which is crucial to learn when you’re a teenager.

It doesn’t help that I was extremely bullied as a child as well, which led to further isolation.

Another thing, I have also used to go to my local autism support group but I haven’t been to it in a while due to COVID.

To anyone who has gotten over this hurdle: can you please give me advice on taking initiative to make friends? I am extremely terrified but I feel like learning to make friends again will aide immensely with improving my mental health.

Unfortunately, the remainder of the COVID crisis is not a good time to be practicing in-person social skills beyond the basics of saying hello to your neighbors as you happen to walk by, and -- if you live with family -- practicing active listening and assertiveness (without being aggressive) with family members.

So, until then, you can try to make friends online, including here on Wrong Planet. To allow the possibility of an online friendship turning eventually into a real-life friendship, I recommend including your general location in your profile -- not specific enough to endanger your privacy, but at least your country, and, if you live in a big country, at least your province/state/region or your nearest major metro area.

For other tips regarding making friends online, see the separate thread Any tips on how to make online friends?.


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Vito
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23 Mar 2021, 2:10 pm

OK, first I apologize for assuming OP's gender. For whatever reason I thought they're male. Perhaps due to the fact that English is my second language and in my native tongue the grammar is gender specific (verb and adjective suffixes are different for each gender) and we use male form by default; but this is not an excuse.

Quote:
Understanding that eye contact can induce a physical discomfort and isn't simply a case of learning to fake it could also help others in society understand the cultural complexities of facial expressions, and accept not everybody is being shifty as they avoid meeting your gaze.


Indeed, but the fact that NTs should try to be more accommodating to the specific needs of autistic people does not mean that autistic people shouldn't try to be more accommodating to the specific needs of NTs.

Mona Pereth wrote:
There's also the question of whether it is more rewarding, in the long run, to spend huge amounts of time on learning to conform to social norms, or, instead, to find other ways to improve one's life that also help to build a better world.

Personally I've always preferred the latter whenever feasible. Making more room for people who can't conform, to one social norm or another, has been a goal of mine throughout my adult life, starting with my early participation in what is now known as the LGBTQ+ rights movement.


Exactly, it depends on the goals of the individual. You have preference, experience and presumably good results (with respect to your mental health) with the latter. I do with the former.

I managed to turn from a teenager, who in 8th grade (as the only one in his class) did not participate in a 2 week language exchange program out of social anxiety, and had serious issues with tasks such as going alone to a store and buying headphones, to a guy who was able to go alone for a business trip to China and conduct 4 hours long, but ultimately successful business meeting in his non-native language with total strangers in a state of sleep deprivation and a jet lag. From a teen who was actively shunned away from his peers when they went for lunch to a person who gets told by his coworkers "ditch the lunchbox and come for a pizza with us". So I try to point out how I got here.

I'm not saying I don't have social issues now (I'm still viewed as a peculiar character by most people - especially those who interact with me on regular basis), but the result is striking and my quality of life has skyrocketed. I also don't need autism to justify myself and thus don't feel inferior to other people (which I used to). In case of faux-pas, I simply apologize and most people accept it without question. Those who don't - well it's their problem, not mine.

The point is that yes, it required huge amount of time to achieve this, but broken down into very tiny fractions on day-by-day basis over period of many years (I'm 29 right now). The improvements were very very slight but consistent and sort of snowballed. And the effort was also exerted in small chunks, such when going to a supermarket, initiating brief eye contact with the cashier and saying "good evening" and "good bye". And in retrospective it was worth it.

Now, I'm not saying it's viable approach for everybody, because it depends on the level of the disability people have, or simply on having certain goals. My brother, for instance, who has approximately the same level of social disability as I have, (though he has actually got the diagnosis, primarily because of having rage issues as a child, whereas I suffered in silence), while being quite bright, in terms of IQ and not having the social anxiety I used to have, does none of those things and is not interested in working on himself.

As such still lives with mom, is obese, has no friends, no girlfriend, no education, very bad relationship with our step-father, who does not have the mental capacity to even understand what autism is, and spends his days solely by playing computer games all the time, and eating. If he's happy like that, fine, I will not tell him to behave differently or mistreat him because of that. However, if he would mentally suffer from his current predicament, I'd suggest that he needs to work on himself and his social skills, because the world is not going to reorder itself, just because he wishes it to.

But I feel like OP is not happy with their predicament and wishes to somehow work on themselves to get out of it.

I also try to be as accommodating as I can to others, being especially careful around the shy ones with low self-esteem, in order to make them feel comfortable and included. But I also like if it is reciprocated in one way or another.

To conclude, if we face some problem with ourselves (be it autism, learning disabilities, social anxiety, etc.), we can either accept it and try to rearrange the world around us so it would fit us better, or we won't have to accept it and can try to rearrange ourselves to fit the world, or, preferably, doing part of both. Each approach has its merits and its weaknesses and ultimately the choice is on us.

As a child and teen I used to be in favor of the first approach, but gradually drifted through the third into the second. Over time I developed a philosophy to be strong and hard-working in things I can influence, to not to bash my head over the things I can't influence and to try to be wise in determining which is which. Setting realistic goals was a great help too.

So I present my views here based on that.


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2011: Your Aspie score: 139 of 200. Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 67 of 200. You are very likely an Aspie.
2021: Your broader autism cluster (Aspie) score: 106 of 200. Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 121 of 200. You have both broader autism cluster and neurotypical traits.
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23 Mar 2021, 4:07 pm

To Vito:

You and I agree that it is highly desirable to work on oneself to improve one's social skills.

Effective social change advocacy requires social skills too, and so does building groups of fellow oddballs -- although these require a somewhat different (and in my opinion far less arduous to learn) set of social skills than being accepted as "normal."

I don't know your brother, so I have no idea what it would take to motivate him to work on self-improvement.

But I strongly suspect that at least some people would be much more motivated to improve themselves if they could do so in a context where they were also improving the world and could channel their rage at the world into something positive.

And, for at least some of those people who (like the O.P.) are more anxious than enraged, it may be both faster and less anxiety-provoking to join -- or to help build -- niche social enclaves where one is less likely to be rejected, than it is to have a longterm goal of becoming "normal."


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Vito
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23 Mar 2021, 5:50 pm

Mona Pereth wrote:
Effective social change advocacy requires social skills too, and so does building groups of fellow oddballs -- although these require a somewhat different (and in my opinion far less arduous to learn) set of social skills than being accepted as "normal."


Yeah, but here we differ in that I think it's not necessary to appear "normal" in order to get accepted into "normal" community. You can be a very weird oddball indeed, but as long as you're polite oddball and do not intimidate or annoy people, they tend to be generally accepting (or so I've found out), especially when sharing a common interest. The point is not to "blend in", but rather to "be accepted". Weirdness is then amusing and endearing. I am not very good at recognizing sarcasm and tend to take everything literally, but in my last job I wasn't mocked for it, colleagues just found it an amusing feature of me.

Mona Pereth wrote:
And, for at least some of those people who (like the O.P.) are more anxious than enraged, it may be both faster and less anxiety-provoking to join -- or to help build -- niche social enclaves where one is less likely to be rejected, than it is to have a longterm goal of becoming "normal."


Well, it will definitely be faster. However, don't forget that those people will have to deal with the world outside of those enclaves regularly. So it's not foolproof.

Mona Pereth wrote:
I don't know your brother, so I have no idea what it would take to motivate him to work on self-improvement.


Dunno. He seems not to care about anything except having food, electricity and a computer with an internet connection. I sort of think that the starting point would be for my mom to take the computer away, since he lives underneath her roof for free, eats the food she cooks and wears clothes that she buys and washes for him (though it's true he gets some disability support from the government; it's not much, but it pays for something for sure). That could motivate him to do something useful. But my mom says, she cannot do that since he's an adult :shrug:

My dad thinks that perhaps a temporary homeless experience could give him the incentive to at least try to somehow provide for himself (like getting some basic job and actually keep going there), but mom won't hear of that. He even provided him with an easy part-time job in one of his companies, where he could easily keep up with his studies, but my brother eventually stopped going there, locked himself up in the accommodation facility and stopped answering my parents' calls. Though when my dad terminated the internet contract in his accommodation, my brother was capable of actually go to the phone service company and sign a contract in his own name and only when his money was running out he showed up at my dad's footstep saying he ran out of money. :roll:

He was then still sort of studying in high school (on individual study program - but not turning in any work and already being overdue and threatened with being kicked out), so my dad told him to stay with him and helped him draft a study plan together with his teachers to finish high school. But my brother never turned in any of the assignments, so my dad kicked him out, telling him that when he'll be ready to expend some concrete effort towards anything, he'll be welcomed back again. My brother then ran to my mom and stays there ever since.

I'm not surprised my step-father hates him with such attitude and I will not try to actively help him until he shows some initiative.

I really wonder what is he going to do when she passes away (well, not really, my dad has a contingency plan even for that). But with his lifestyle (lots of Coke, chips, etc.) she'll probably outlive him.

By the way, I don't need an advice, I'm just expressing my exasperation. I'm glad to live well away and not having to be near this situation.


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23 Mar 2021, 8:21 pm

Vito wrote:
Mona Pereth wrote:
Effective social change advocacy requires social skills too, and so does building groups of fellow oddballs -- although these require a somewhat different (and in my opinion far less arduous to learn) set of social skills than being accepted as "normal."


Yeah, but here we differ in that I think it's not necessary to appear "normal" in order to get accepted into "normal" community. You can be a very weird oddball indeed, but as long as you're polite oddball and do not intimidate or annoy people, they tend to be generally accepting (or so I've found out), especially when sharing a common interest. The point is not to "blend in", but rather to "be accepted". Weirdness is then amusing and endearing. I am not very good at recognizing sarcasm and tend to take everything literally, but in my last job I wasn't mocked for it, colleagues just found it an amusing feature of me.

I think this varies a lot with the culture of the specific workplace and the area where it is located. For example, other factors being equal, highly multicultural environments are likely to be more accepting of oddball mannerisms than culturally homogeneous environments.

Also, cultural attitudes regarding eye contact vary a lot. Depending on where a person lives, imitating culturally mainstream NT eye contact rhythms may or may not be necessary in order just to be "accepted" (even as an amusing/endearing oddball). Eye contact is a bigger issue in some locales than in others. (My boyfriend, who grew up in California, tells me it's a much bigger deal in California than in New York.) I personally regard the imitation of culturally mainstream NT eye contact rhythms as one of the further extremes of trying not just to be "accepted" but to blend in as "normal."

Vito wrote:
Mona Pereth wrote:
And, for at least some of those people who (like the O.P.) are more anxious than enraged, it may be both faster and less anxiety-provoking to join -- or to help build -- niche social enclaves where one is less likely to be rejected, than it is to have a longterm goal of becoming "normal."


Well, it will definitely be faster. However, don't forget that those people will have to deal with the world outside of those enclaves regularly. So it's not foolproof.

That's true, but:

(1) Within the enclave, one is gaining social experience, of at least some kind, and learning to get along with one's true peers. Some of the resulting social skills can help one get along better with people in general.

(2) Once the enclave gets big enough to include a bunch of sufficiently large career-oriented groups for people who work or want to work in particular categories of professions / occupations / jobs, more and more employers will eventually reach out to these groups. (There already exist some corporations with hiring programs for autistic people.)

Vito wrote:
Mona Pereth wrote:
I don't know your brother, so I have no idea what it would take to motivate him to work on self-improvement.


[...]

By the way, I don't need an advice, I'm just expressing my exasperation. I'm glad to live well away and not having to be near this situation.

Yes this situation must be exasperating.


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24 Mar 2021, 9:03 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
Also, if possible, it is desirable to live in a highly multicultural neighborhood, with immigrants from all over the world. In such a neighborhood, people are accustomed to dealing with people with a variety of different kinds of body language.

This is a very interesting idea. Another added bonus is that, due to xenophobia, these communities are often super cheap to live in 8)



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24 Mar 2021, 12:39 pm

rache123 wrote:
I want to stop being too scared to make friends and I want to stop having the fear of getting hurt again.

I’ve been extremely depressed since I was 12 and I’m in my 20s now. I’m so used to isolating myself and I think that set me back on honing my social skills, which is crucial to learn when you’re a teenager.

It doesn’t help that I was extremely bullied as a child as well, which led to further isolation.

Another thing, I have also used to go to my local autism support group but I haven’t been to it in a while due to COVID.

To anyone who has gotten over this hurdle: can you please give me advice on taking initiative to make friends? I am extremely terrified but I feel like learning to make friends again will aide immensely with improving my mental health.


I think you were on the right track with attending your local autism support group. Personally I have found that most of the friends I have made in life have been undiagnosed Aspies. I do not need a thousand friends. One or two true-blue friends will do.

My next observation is that there are two types of people in this world. They are introverts and extroverts. When you think about social interactions, extroverts are masters of this trait. Most Aspies are introverts. We gain our energy by locking ourselves away from the noise and clutter of society. But the interesting thing is that around 50 percent of the people in this world are introverts. So the next group that may be good candidates for friendship are socially challenged introverts and not the socially expert extroverts. So it is important to understand that introverts do not hang out in the same places as extroverts. They are not party animals.

COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench in socializing. In your case you are 25 years old and even if you should get COVID, the chance that it will severely affect you personally is minimal provide you do not have some serious health issues.


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24 Mar 2021, 1:09 pm

Listen to your surroundings when you talk, particularly if there's a radio or a TV on, as most NTs have this skill where they can divide their attention on to different sounds and might sshh you. I for one hate being shushed, so I am very observant of people's body language and my environment.


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05 Apr 2021, 3:30 pm

Lately, many of the posts I've made here on WP addressing how to boost social skills and develop friendships are awaiting (much needed) responses (as of this writing) "hint hint!!" One of quite a few examples:

WP disc. thread 'Reassessing AS/NT Friendships' - viewtopic.php?t=395386