Being socially awkward



I have it down to a fine art, being socially awkward.

Mostly I cover this side with the role of Friendly Person. I'm sure some of you know this role. You change your face, your voice, even what you might talk about: you are Friendly.

This doesn't mean making new friends, it's just a way to get by, especially if small talk is involved.

I am a temporary Queen of Small Talk. My favourite is the weather because I like talking about the weather anyway. And if I also like the person wanting to talk small, I slot in other little subjects good for tiny chats.

Chitter-chatter when I am feeling on top of things is fine. I can do it, the pretence lasts long enough for me to be a Friendly Person. And then...

The times when the Friendly role won't fit. It's like waking up and being two clothes sizes bigger overnight. I get up, do what I always do, and it won't fit. The small talk that worked yesterday doesn't work today.

The words I normally use, sentences well-worked and easy, they come out all wrong. I can hear them, the tone, the muffled feeling of not having it quite right. And my smile, it doesn't work either. I can tell my face is doing something else, though I have no idea what.

Oh for the ability to just be socially apt for a couple of minutes at a time! But no, it isn't that easy. Those days when socially awkward will not be hidden, mistakes happen.

Easy conversations are suddenly hard. As my phrases fall apart, so the conversation wavers like a heat haze. I am in the middle of it, trying to make it stay still, watching the other person to see if they notice I'm doing it wrong (I do recognise this behaviour makes me no less awkward).

Invariably I will say something kind of stupid - not fully stupid, just stupid enough to make me cringe. And then I'll try to cover it up , which of course is like putting make up on a pig.

Good grief, why do I bother?!

Well, mainly because I have to talk to people a lot for my work and it's best to come across as nice and friendly. And usually it's fine and social and I don't mind. Then on the days I do mind and it isn't social, it's awkward because I am awkward. The whole thing becomes awkward.

One lucky aspect is that my work means seeing lots of people in small-ish time slots so if I show myself up it is over quite quickly and I can move on to the next person - and do it all again. Though I might have to cringe at myself every single time, other people only have to suffer it the once.

So the next time I see them I am hopefully back to 'normal', with no weird smile that was only half-born and no stupid comments either. Back to desperately covering up the fact I am totally, irredeemably, socially awkward.

Bliss for those times when I meet someone worse than myself! The empathy is palpable and so is my relief that, for a small-ish amount of time, I don't have to worry over odd comments about the weather and wrong smiles.

Like minds aren't just about being able to talk about the same things; sometimes it's about listening to someone else make a hash of it and knowing exactly how they feel.

Amanda



 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
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The bad days...



Some days it's so easy. I think to myself, Why do I ever think things are difficult? This is fine. If it's fine today, then it can be fine on every other day.

It's a kind of soft-focus logic where I judge each day to come by the one I'm living right now, as if it didn't matter how I was feeling or what was happening around me. Today I manage, therefore if tomorrow is much the same, I will also manage. Or even excel!

And then there's the yesterday I just had.

The sort of day where everything around me is normal, just as it should be. I have what I need, I set off in time for work, I walk there and that's a healthy, good-for-me act. Afterwards, I walk into town.

At some point in the middle of town I realised this was not the kind of day where soft-focus logic would help. Who cares what I managed on other days? Who cares how I felt then? Who on earth cares?

It was a long walk out of town, much longer than going in. On the way in I joked with a lady at the crossing as we dodged over between traffic. On the way out I crossed the street so I wouldn't have to walk near a stranger who had no interest in me - just the being near someone was too much.

Suddenly, somehow, in the middle of a normal morning, my fear-calm ratio tipped all the way over and the little weights scattered across the metaphorical floor. I was alone in town on a busy Saturday morning, surrounded by people who made me feel like hurting just because they were there.

I scuttled past market stalls, along the pavements I've walked since I could walk, hurtled past the social smokers outside the bar, down the quiet street that made me halfway home.

There are moments for those of us with too much thought where the very air around us seems to close in and, with almost gentle insistence, suffocate us at the same time as giving life.

Taking stock I knew I wasn't in danger, that the feeling of fear was general - all-encompassing, but general. There was no actual danger, nothing waited for me, nothing prepared a place in a darkened room for me. There was only me, on my way home, alone.

Yes, melodrama, but when you have this feeling of being trapped in open spaces, in peril from indifferent, ordinary people who mean you no harm, when every step home is a stepping stone over deep waters; those days are not melodramatic to you, they are just very hard.

I finally came to my street and saw the tree on the edge of the garden where the gate hides. I crossed the road where our old dog always liked us to cross and hurried the last few yards so I could close the door.

By the time I got inside I felt twisted out of shape, pliable like soft metal; my sharp edges still there, it was only their direction had changed.

Safe, I looked at my morning and breathed the open air of home. It had been a triumph all the same. I walked through the fear, saw it clear, took it in, softened under its harsh impulses and made it home.

Much, much later I went out again to the lake and tested the air. It was still open, the storm had lifted and I was able to look at the world again, a little at a time.

Every day is never the same. Managing now is proof you can manage again but not proof that you should be able to manage all the time.

When they say 'take each day as it comes', then that is what you should do and be glad of it. Someone with far too much time to think came up with that phrase, and then came back out the other side of their day to give it to us.

And feel triumph when you manage, be it melodrama or the quiet street.

Amanda



 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

In celebration of oversharing



Oversharing is one of life's fundamental shortcuts: why spend weeks, months and years getting to know someone when you can find out most everything in the first half an hour? You don't have half an hour? Well, you'd be surprised (and pleased!) to discover how much can fit into a few minutes.

It's not confined to Aspergers but oversharing is definitely an aspie super-skill. It's the beautiful love-child of brutal honesty and naïve chit-chat. Springing up when there is a need or desire to be social, it exists most in aspies who have worked hard to be able to hold conversations with others.

You see, if you have to force yourself to talk to people then the difference between normal social chatter and deeper, more revealing words becomes very blurred. It's not that you want to share everything - and you had no plans to share anything when you opened your mouth - but once the words start it can be hard to stop.

If the conversation is about the weather then you talk about the weather, global warming, natural disasters (and eventually Space); if it is about puppies,  it becomes kittens or mongoose or snakes - the narrative flow is like a hillside stream, it stays connected but goes where it likes.

So it is that an innocent conversation about the other person's house becomes a slow-reveal about your own house, and by slow I really mean you take a few sentences to describe your living situation instead of just one. Startled by oversharing the other person, depending on what they are like, will either tidy up the conversation and leave, try to change the subject (ha!) or be interested/confused enough to ask more.

Then you can overshare as much as you like. They asked the question! They want to know and you know the answer too, which is all the temptation needed to reply in full detail. There is sometimes a part of you looking on which wonders if this is the right thing to do, but mostly this part doesn't stir until well after the event.

At the time you are glad to share, with varying success at holding back anything personal. Someone who shows a vague interest in your life had better be ready for knowing rather more than they expected. And, of course, this is where you can leave yourself open to unscrupulous people who would rather use what they know than make a friend of you.

The times I have left somewhere and realised even as I walked away that I overshared again. Mostly I shrug it off, there are too many agains to worry about all of them. Sometimes I wince all the way home. A lot depends on the nature of the person who found themselves in the flow of that hillside stream, hopping about in it as it followed their every move.

So why am I celebrating oversharing? Categorically, it is worth celebrating. Trust me! For every wince, every moment where you know you have done it again and shown yourself up and might as well have held up a sign saying Different - for every one of those there are many times when the other person gets over their surprise and ends the conversation with a smile.

Blurt it out, readers. If it has to be out there, let it. Conversations are often going to be winceworthy and with a tendency to replay. But the other times, when oversharing works, they are what makes it all worthwhile. The people who respond to this are the ones worth keeping.

They may know far more than expected about me but often I come away knowing more about them too. There are quite a lot of people out there in this cynical world of ours who react well to oversharing. By being too open and overly honest with them you often find they repay the compliment. A fresh breeze springs up, the air is clear, the sun is bright and the honesty is there between you.

Truth, like oversharing, can be catching.

And the next time you meet, you don't have to talk about the weather.

Amanda



 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!