Sunday, June 14, 2009

How To Lose A Friendship Before It Starts

Let me share with you an excerpt from my list of “No-Nos,” things I used to do that kept me from making friends with "quality" people. I've come a long way in my behavior over the last 10-12 years, so I don't mind sharing. Maybe you'll recognize yourself or someone you know in some parts of this list.

First, I'd like to mention we need to be careful of calling people "friends." I often used to consider people my friends then they were actually just being polite. Because I would never invite someone to join me if I didn't want them there, it's hard to for me to remember that people often act like they want us around when they don't. They're just being polite. We're supposed to pick up on the subtle hints and conveniently come up with other plans. Subtle hints are hard for most Aspies to catch, but I'm getting better and I'm sure you will too.

We have to remember that people won't generally tell us if these things are a problem. They will just avoid us in public and conveniently forget about us when doing things as a group, even if they like our personality and have no problem hanging out with us one-on-one in private. It is more important to MOST people to fit in than to nurture our friendship if our friendship threatens their ability to fit in with the group.

  • Dominating the conversation, turning every conversation to be something about ourselves or our special interest. Even when talking about "them" somehow our comments always insert *us* and our accomplishments. We think we are building a bridge by sharing what we have in common. Others take it as bragging, narcissism, or dominating the conversation. I still have to watch out for this.
  • Digging in eyes, ears, scratching scalp, or picking nails in public. Especially for women- you are not supposed to touch your face a lot, unless it is with a napkin or to push up glasses, etc. Good thing my mom taught me not to pick my nose, or I probably would have done that too.
  • Poor grooming- look disheveled, strong body scent (according to their standards), hair not done (according to their standards), visible dirt on body, clothes rumpled or dirty (remember, they don't have tactile issues and don't understand why we always want to wear that same soft outfit all the time), also, if the group is fashionable (clothing, style) and you're not- the members of the group are less likely to invite you along, even if they like hanging around with you one-on-one (in private)
  • Talking too loud in public
  • Lack of "discretion," talking about things that are not "socially acceptable" As an example: in the airport one day, an aspie friend and I were talking about her upbringing. She explained childhood physical and sexual abuse in explicit detail, and was quite loud and agitated. I noticed that other passengers were getting uncomfortable with our conversation and directed it to something less distressing for those who overheard us. I consider this a victory, because 10 years ago I wouldn't have noticed their discomfort, and even if I had, I would have thought tough- that’s their problem and been happy to shake them out of their idyllic fake reality! I wouldn't have realized that extreme abuse isn't the kind of thing you talk about loudly in the airport waiting room.
  • Always dropping stuff because of carrying too much or too unorganized; always fumbling to find keys wallet, etc
  • Always tripping, falling, stumbling, etc. This is tough to overcome because many Aspies have spatial/clumsiness problems.
  • Always causing "trouble" by too many special requests at the restaurant, or by asking too many questions when someone "hooks up" your group with a special deal (I always did this, because I was scared I was getting conned or they were going to charge me later)
  • Being too critical of others (because we're so perfect, this is easy to do, LOL)
  • Acting "weird," which is admittedly hard to quantify but basically most people don't like to stand out. And they don't want to be in a group with someone who sticks out like a sore thumb. Sometimes I have to be "true to myself" and stand out, but I have to accept the consequence that the people I'm with will be less likely to invite me along next time.

Like I said, most NTs won’t come out and tell you these things. And a lot of Aspies won’t either, because in most of the Aspie groups I’ve attended, much of the above doesn’t bother anyone. I guess we all carry too much stuff, and we’re all tripping and bumping into things. Or stimming in public. Or looking a little rumpled. I learned this stuff through trial and error and by overhearing what people say about me and others like me. BTW: If this looks familiar to you, it’s because I pulled it from another post I made to an anonymous aspie group I frequent. Hope it is of some use to you.


Anonymous said...

I'm also very poor at telling when an invitation is real and when it isn't. Not only do I show up where I'm probably not wanted, but I do NOT show up where it is important to "someone" that I DO! I've burned many bridges, especially with extended family, by both HAVING hurt feelings over not being included and CAUSING hurt feelings by not participating when it's expected. My timing's been SO unintentionally far off that I'm dumbfounded how NT people know at all how to decipher sincere invitations.

BUT, I also wonder if NT people don't hold those with AS to a higher standard. In other words, if I'm not as likable because I'm "weird" in subtle ways, do NT's use minor social mistakes on my part as amunition to cut me out of their lives? These same mistakes would surely be forgiven a more likeable, charming, "fun" friend or relative, wouldn't they? I've seen popular folks do some outright unkind things, and be asked back for more, while my boring, sometimes inappropriate personality gets me the boot.

Any thoughts? It's difficult to try so hard to do what's right by others and continually feel like a failure while more typical people react as they please, inconsistently, to social circumstances and seem to be forgiven their faults.

SavedAspie said...

Wow, I wish I had a better answer for you. I was just pondering that question today- why do the admin folks on my job bend over backwards to do things hinted at by my coworker, who is very selfish, always says he's going to do XYZ and then pawns it off on them or me, and then cuts us down in front of the boss when we are only implementing this co-worker's original idea. Yet, I'm sweet, don't ask much of anyone, try not to inconvenience anyone, and when I physically ask for help, I don't get it.

By example of my coworker's "hinting" about 4 months ago, he was complaining to me in a normal tone of voice how slow his computer is (all of us had old computers). 5-10 minutes later the admins (who sit a few cubes over) came around with a faster computer and an extra monitor. He just thinks out loud and they do it. I ask (sometimes even formally) and no one will do it. Or they'll say they will but never do. Frustrating.

It's as if people have already subconsciously made up their mind that we are "not worthy" and then they look for evidence to that fact.

And rather than say, "This event is really important to me, so please be there" we're expected to know and since we obviously didn't know then we're not worth their time.

Then again, I really do think there is some sort of "social sense" that Aspies don't have. I think it gives meaning and glues together relationships and we just miss it. And our missing it caues people pain or discomfort, so then they don't want us around.

Wish I had a better answer... anyone else out there care to contribute?