I have a confession to make that I’m sure is completely shocking to everyone reading this (/s). I’m not very good at socializing. It’s a struggle, it really is. I don’t know how to make plans with people, I don’t know how to socialize in groups (do you have any idea how COMPLICATED group dynamics are? Because they are VERY), I don’t know how to initiate conversation, and it is immensely difficult for me to connect with people. There are probably other things that I’m not thinking of because I just don’t even know what they are. What even is socializing?
I mean, unlike the incredibly wrong stereotype of all autistic people not caring about or wanting friendships or connections with other people, I do WANT them. I just don’t know how to do them or how to form them, and I am sufficiently introverted that I can still find a lot of joy in me-time.
ANYWAY. That’s not quite the point of this post. The point is that those things have, in the past, led me to have some pretty flawed ideas about how to do human interaction. It was actually a pretty straightforward concept that I maintained for years until I started to realize just how messed up it was: that if someone has something to say to me, they’ll say it; and if someone wants to know something from me, they’ll ask.
Just to be totally clear – this is a TERRIBLE way to do human interaction. Absolutely awful. It’s terrible for the exact same reason that it was appealing to me – it puts all responsibility for literally any interaction on other people. As a person who just doesn’t know how to do these things, being able to justify to myself just not doing it and making other people responsible for all of my conversations was pretty nice. I was and am fortunate enough that I have people around me who have been willing to do that work to reach out to me to form connections, and I am deeply appreciative of that.
Still, it’s not fair to other people to place all the work on their shoulders. Because even for NTs, it IS work. It’s work they happen to be better at than I am, but it’s still work.
As my friends and I slowly emerge from over a year of tiny social bubbles, I have decided that I want to try to change the way I approach interactions and be more proactive. And I gotta say – it is NOT being easy. Not only have I always been exceptionally bad at this, but my hard-won social skills have gotten quite rusty after sitting barely-used for over a year. It helps a little bit that I am extremely open about being autistic and my limitations, but still. It’s difficult.
Difficult or not, though, it matters. It matters a LOT. Taking it on myself to reach out to people shows that I care. Passivity may not be indifference, but it can be really hard to tell the difference from the outside, and I appreciate that. The end result? A roughly 40 year old dude metaphorically stumbling around trying to figure this out.
Still, I think it’s worth it. I’m still learning. I hope to never stop learning. The learning process can be awkward and difficult and even embarrassing sometimes, but that’s no reason to stop doing it. All I can do is my best, but I can make sure my best improves over time.
Passivity in socializing is tough to give up, but it really is a problem. So I’m working on it.
Now I’d like to hear from you – what ways are you proactive in your socializing? What Things do you Do to maintain your connections with people? I LOVE comments, and the more ideas out there, the more ideas we all have to try!