One of the most commonly referred to traits of someone with Aspergers is that we have poor social skills. From my observation, this varies by the person. Some aspies seem very good at blending in with crowds and are comfortable speaking with everyone. Some, not so much. Myself, I can be perfectly comfortable in a crowd of people I know. However, in a crowd of people I don’t know, I prefer to stick to myself. Sometimes, when I’m with a crowd of people that even I know, I get sensory overload issues and my body tells me to leave. I’ll discuss sensory overload issues in a later post, but I’m starting to think they occur when I’m nervous. Another thing that happens when I’m in group gatherings is that I’ll very suddenly feel isolated, especially when I don’t really know or have an interest in the major topic at hand. In cases like this, I just thank god for social media and youtube. One time, I was shooting a video for the company I work for, and the group I was shooting with started a sing along. I had no idea what was going on, therefore, I completely shut down. I was horrified to see the video footage of everyone having a great time and I looked like a deer in headlights. This was a wakeup call to see how I may appear to people in social settings.
Another aspect of poor social skills it that social norms don’t really mean anything to me. Over the past few years I’ve learned more social norms, but it’s still hard to remember to implement them. Greetings have always been an issue for me. An immediate example that comes to mind is that one time I went to visit a friend. His mother, whom I see regularly, opened the door for me. I nodded and walked in. Apparently, this was a big mistake as she was so upset she called my friend to let him know how upset she was. This is a common pattern for me. I’m completely fine walking into a room full of people, even that I know, and not say hello. Apparently, this is inappropriate. The weird part is that I’m very aggressive about letting people know I’m leaving. It just feels easier to tell people goodbye rather than to say hello.
I also have issues with personal space. I generally don’t like people near me. The only exceptions are people I feel completely comfortable with. If I can stand next to you for a long period of time….we’re good friends. One time I was doing another group shoot and one of the guests tried to give me an embrace. I immediately rejected her hug and took a step back. She seemed taken aback, but it was a reflex.
One of the more common traits of aspies regarding social skills is the inability to understand non-verbal communication. This means I typically don’t get the non-verbal communication of others and also am not aware of what I’m sending out. This means it’s generally hard for me to tell when people are lying about things and also makes it pretty hard for me to lie as my face tells the truth. One of the main issues I encounter is the fact that it’s very difficult to look people in the eyes. There’s perhaps 2 people in my life that I can easily make eye contact with. Everyone else, even if I’m consciously trying to do it, it’s still a struggle. In part 2 of this post, I’ll get into the heart of the matter. Aspies and friendships.