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5 Crucial Tips for How People with Asperger’s Can Make and Retain Friends

Regrettably, making and keeping friends isn’t always easy for people with Asperger’s (high-functioning autism). Meeting new people is often overwhelming for these individuals. But, with some effort and willingness to step outside of their comfort zone, “Aspies” can indeed make -  and keep - friends.

If you are confused about how to go about forging new friendships (or strengthening old ones), here are 5 simple – yet highly effective – ideas that are more creative and practical than the old “just be yourself” strategy:

1. For the Aspie who likes a specific topic, he/she should try searching for a location where he/she can meet people who share that interest (e.g., attending a church, Mosque, temple or other house of worship; joining a club, such as a science club; joining a band or choir; volunteering time at a local nursing home, hospital, or a non-profit organization).

2. Aspies can join a club or go to church, but they still won't make friends if they don't actually talk to others. By the same token, they don't have to be involved with an organization to be social.

As one 34-year-old male Aspie stated, “Any time I talk to someone, I have a chance at making a friend. Most conversations are a dead-end of sorts, and I may never run in to that person again. But, every once in a while, I actually make a friend. I make a point everyday to talk to several people, such as the clerk at the video store, the person sitting next to me on the bus, the person behind me at the checkout line at the grocery store - just to name a few.”

3. If Aspies have an unfriendly facial expression or body language, people are less likely to be receptive to their friendship. Squinting, looking bored, frowning, or folding one’s arms practically scream "don't talk to me." Such habits make Aspies look troubled or disinterested. Looking the person in the eye when he or she is speaking - and offering a warm, friendly smile - goes a long way in getting the other person to feel comfortable.

4. Learn a few “conversation-starters.” For example, give a compliment ("That's a nice car" or "I like your tennis shoes"), make a request for help ("If you have a minute, can you help me carry a few boxes?" or "Can you help me decide which one of these is a better gift for my girlfriend?"), or try making a comment about the weather ("At least it's not snowing like last week!").

5. Introducing one’s self at the end of a conversation is another great way to be friendly. It can be as simple as saying, "Oh, by the way, my name is John". Once one introduces himself or herself, the other person will usually do the same. Also, try to remember that person’s name.

As one 28-year-old female Aspies stated, “When I show that I remembered things from my past conversation with the other person, it kind of makes me look intelligent, and the other person knows that I was paying attention and am willing to be a friend.

Best of luck!

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Lessons from a Pessimistic Aspie

Hey all. My name is Max, and I’ve been asked to talk about “pessimism in adults with Asperger’s.” So, I will be using myself as an example here (see if you can relate):

Pessimism was part of a defensive posture I used to take to protect myself. It was usually triggered when I feel hurt by something someone said or did. Instead of dealing with the hurt directly, I would allow it to gnaw at me and blur my outlook.

To make matters worse, when I grew pessimistic toward one thing in my life, it wasn’t long before I became pessimistic about a lot of things going on in my life. Pessimism was like a cancer for me in that sense. Have you ever had something go wrong, and then that one event colored the rest of the day such that it felt like EVERYTHING was going wrong?

I’ve discovered that when I get pessimistic about something, I’m usually just indulging in a self-righteous attitude, and have formed some expectations that people “should” behave a certain way. Pessimism often surfaces when I direct my own negative perceptions that I have toward myself outward onto those around me.

Many of my pessimistic emotions come about when I’m feeling vulnerable. In those moments when I’m feeling disappointed in something or somebody, I’m far more likely to react by getting defensive (i.e., asshole syndrome). An increased vulnerability to pessimism is usually a sure sign that I’ve turned on myself. When I enter this mindset, I begin to view those around me through the same critical filter through which I see myself. 

This judgmental self-talk tells me that I’m not good enough or that I don’t “fit in.” Yet, this inner voice is projected outward onto the people around me. I start seeing others solely for their flaws - and fail to have empathy for their own challenges. When I’m in my pessimistic mood, I’m indulging in a "me versus them" mentality that pins me against a certain person (or group).

Ultimately, it’s always in my own self-interest to be open and vulnerable rather than to be cynical and write people off. The only person I can control is me. When I get pessimistic, I’m the one who suffers. Why make myself suffer over the flaws in others?

Avoiding pessimism is about alleviating my own suffering by dealing with emotions directly without letting them color the lens through which I view the world. Instead of getting defensive toward someone I feel provoked by, I can think about what is triggering my pessimistic reactions. Have I possibly slipped into a point of view that is not my own? Am I projecting my self-attacks? Am I experiencing hurt?

Fostering an attitude of empathy (in which I’m curious, open and accepting of myself) is crucial to fighting pessimism. When I’m able to feel secure in myself, I’m better able to have empathy toward others. I can start by recognizing that everyone has issues. Often, when people do something that hurts me, they are acting from a place of defense and hurt themselves. Some people may have worse characteristics than others, but everyone has weaknesses.

We each have independent minds that think differently, but at the same time, we are all in the same boat, and we are all hurt in our own unique ways. Empathy counters pessimism by allowing me to feel my pain and frustration without taking these emotions to a dark place that end up hurting me and those close to me.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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