Care

Some people I meet who struggle with behavioral disorders have a tendency to ramble on in conversation. I lend them an ear and they give me an earful. It’s almost as if they have this prepared monologue ready to unload the moment someone gives them attention. Sometimes I wonder if they’re actually talking to me or just thinking out loud.

After someone goes on like this I try to contribute something to the conversation to remind them I’m still there. Most of the time they won’t respond to what I’m saying and just continue on with what’s on their mind. I don’t stick around for that.

Many people I talk to do this same thing. They want to talk to someone, but they don’t necessarily want to be part of a conversation. This can be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. Take a moment to notice if people wait for your response in a conversation. Do they ask you questions? Are they interested in hearing your opinions? If not, it’s possible they haven’t learned empathy.

I find that anyone who struggles with their behavior is benefited by caring about the people around them. The sign of a mature adult is one who can meet the needs of others while also taking care of their own needs. If you can’t do that, then you’re just a child who needs to be taken care of.

People with behavioral disorders need to learn how their behavior impacts those around them. Their own lives will improve if they seek to improve the lives of others. I can’t think of any better way to spend your time than in the service of your fellow men. Live for others and you will learn to live.

In Like

You’re going to like this blog post. I’m sure of it.

A scientific definition for social skills might be the talents allowing us to work well with other people to accomplish an intended purpose. I prefer to define it like I see it: How to not look like a complete fool in front of other people.

You won’t get an opportunity to develop social skills if people won’t give you time to do it. These aren’t skills you can study about in a book, do some homework, and then apply the knowledge later. It’s learned on the job.

Child Like

Kids don’t like to do what they don’t think they’ll enjoy. They won’t eat their vegetables, won’t clean their room, and won’t go to bed on time. It was tough for me as a kid because it seemed like the majority of my peers didn’t like me. I don’t think anyone particularly hated me, but they made me feel like I wasn’t fun to be around.

I was picked last for teams of any sort; sports or class projects. It’s not that I was weak or unintelligent. People just prefer to be in the company of those they enjoy to be around.

Every now and then I would do something people liked. I would give a great performance, make people laugh, or show off one of my talents. I’d have the spotlight for a bit and people would treat me well. But the show doesn’t always go on. Most people don’t stick around if you’re not going to continue entertaining them.

Life Like

Transitioning to adulthood has been interesting. People now like me for a variety of reasons. I had to wait till I was a grown man before a woman told me she found me to be handsome. My social life has drastically improved when people started to like the way I look.

The majority of people who continue to stick around me do so because I said or did something they liked. Sometimes I’ll say something smart or interesting or thoughtful when I’m in public. If what I say happens to resonate with someone they usually end up waiting around to see if there is anymore to discover. I’m no different. I flock to those who house the traits I admire.

It can be frustrating having to worry about whether people like you or not. We all deserve respect and kindness, but people tend to prioritize the ones they like first. I often despise having to do a song and dance before people decide to be a friend to me. Getting the opportunity to socialize shouldn’t be a reward for being likable. I’d rather just be myself and take the few people who like what they see. Now that’s a social life worth living.

Make Them Laugh

I’m not funny.

Believe me when I say that wasn’t easy to admit. I love making people smile. The moments when I can get someone laughing are moments I look forward to experiencing. It’s simply a shame I can’t do it on command.

Some people just got that talent. The way they speak and move just exudes funny. They know how to entertain people. I’m so jealous of that. I would love it if all people found they could enjoy themselves just by being around me.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not boring. Not if you take time to get to know me. But comedy is all about timing. You have to hook people in with the few seconds they are willing to give you. That’s a lot of pressure.

As a kid I would copy the comedians I listened to on TV. I wanted to make people laugh the same way they did. That wasn’t such a good idea. Tell one Denis Leary joke at school and you’ll end up visiting the guidance counselor for the rest of the year.

The things I do that make people laugh the most is my blatant confidence. They find it funny when I talk big. It’s kind of like when people hear a child talk like an adult. They probably think I am punching above my weight.

A lot of people I meet find my way of speaking to be entertaining. It can work against me quite often. Sometimes when I am talking with someone they begin to smile because they think I am leading up to a joke and they get disappointed when I finish my thought and it turns out to not be funny at all. You can’t be normal and funny at the same time.

I just don’t do jokes. Jokes are so hard to get right. I’d rather just point out what is funny in the moment instead of preparing the funny for a future time. Want to hear one of my prepared jokes? “The best thing a person with anger issues can do is become an astronaut. They just need a little space.” See what I mean?

It’s okay that I’m not funny. I can still make people smile when given the chance. Being accidentally funny isn’t so bad either. As long as I have a crowd of people around enjoying their time with me, I’m happy.

Répondez S’il Vous Plaît

I invite you to accept my invitation.

We all send out many invitations, most of them unconsciously. My words, actions, and even facial expressions can let you know that it is alright to engage me. On the other hand, refusals also come in the form of words, actions, and facial expressions. How do we figure out which is which?

Sometimes I see a person sitting down and I think about whether or not they would mind if I joined them. Before I even ask them I try to determine what kind of mood they are in. If it looks like they specifically chose to sit alone, then I have to decide whether that is a refusal to let most people in or an invitation for specific people to join them. For me, I try to be inviting in a way that draws company to me while at the same time making it clear that I refuse the company of certain people I don’t want close.

Using our words doesn’t always make our intentions clear. If I ask if I can sit next to a person they may say it is alright but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am welcome. Ever talked to someone and got the impression they didn’t truly want you around? They never smile, they give you one-word answers, and they don’t ask you any questions in turn. This happens a lot. Instead of refusing you they would rather invite you to leave.

I’ve missed invitations people have sent me. I can’t even count all the times a woman liked me and I didn’t pick up on it. People seem to prefer to make their invitations small. A smile here, a laugh there. You would think a lady saying they want to spend more time with me would be a big enough clue. Not to me, apparently. Instead, I pick up on the refusals. Their refusing to get to know me on a personal level. Their refusing to spend time with my friends. Should I focus more on the invitations or the refusals?

I don’t care for grand gestures when inviting people. Simply being honest and straightforward will suffice. However, I occasionally feel the need to make the invitation match the feelings behind it. Having said that: Come to me, you cowards! Show me what friendship looks like. Bear your hearts and I will let you break mine. Grant me a chance to take away your pain. How is that for inviting?

Know Them

It happens a lot. Someone will start talking to me about their life, their likes, and their dislikes and I end up asking, “Who are you?”

A coworker started talking to me about how fast their facial hair grows. That’s it. No build up to that. Just started talking about his beard (or lack thereof) out of nowhere. I told him you really ought to get to know someone first before you relate all the minute details of your life. I then introduced myself and told him my name. I don’t think he really cared about what I had to say.

I rarely see people trying to get to know each other anymore. Most people just stick with casual conversation and talk about nothing more than their interests and general opinions. Having people to talk to is a privilege. Not everyone has that opportunity. I wouldn’t want to waste time with an interesting person by talking only about my own interests.

Here are some things you should try to get to know about the people you are interested in.

Favorites: What a person likes determines how they spend their time. Asking someone what they like gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of person they are. Many relationships begin by just spending time together doing what both people love to do.

Opinions: You can’t say you know someone if you don’t know how they feel. Knowing their opinions allows you to avoid touchy subjects and to relate to them on important issues. You wouldn’t want to find out the person you’ve been spending lots of time with actually disagrees with you about the things that are most important to you.

Stories: Everybody has a story. I’m not saying you need to know every detail about the person. Details alone don’t make a story. You can say you know their story when you know how they got to be the person they are today. Ask about their adventures. Ask about the crazy characters they met along the way. People appreciate when you listen.

I could go on about all the worthwhile things to learn about the people we meet. Everyone has talents, hopes, and dreams. It would be a shame to live among people you know nothing about.

Someone recently asked me what my best friend’s eye color is. I couldn’t think of it. Years I have spent with one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and loving individuals I have ever met and I didn’t know what color her eyes are. The same eyes I looked into as she told me how much she loves her family. The eyes I saw light up when she explained all the great things she wants to accomplish in one lifetime. I felt ashamed for forgetting those blue eyes.

Knowing people comes with time, but also requires care and attention. Relationships don’t just happen. They are built. It starts by caring about the person you are with. You can’t care about someone if you don’t know who they are.

Likes and Dislikes

I like people. Believe me.

One of the characteristics defining autism is difficulty in social situations. Talking to people, making friends, and working with others proves a challenge. So how is this any different from just being unlikable?

Being difficult to work with is not unique to those diagnosed with a behavioral disorder. All people have hang ups. You can’t expect the average human being to automatically get along with everyone they meet. It’s like in cooking. Some ingredients go well together and others don’t. You can’t force it to work.

I was never liked growing up. Nobody really hated me or anything like that. They just didn’t think I was worth the time. I’d watch everyone else pair up and form their own little groups. Not me. I’m still waiting for an invitation to be part of a group.

People treat you different when they don’t like you. Bullies targeted me at school because they knew no one would defend me. Would you defend the well being of someone you didn’t like? Rumors would spread about me because no one cared about getting the facts right concerning an unlikable person. If you’re not liked, then you don’t get to see the best parts in people.

I’m perfectly fine with this. Not everyone can receive the same amount of respect as another. Take my necktie collection, for instance. I have one of every color in there. The reds, blues, and greens see the light of day more often than the orange and brown ones. I can’t help it if I don’t like the way I look wearing orange. I don’t owe the color orange anything. But I still won’t throw the orange tie away. I save that one for special occasions.

We all should pursue the things we like. We should also open our minds to things we may learn to like. I have a few special friends who take an interest in me. I know they like me because they make time for me. They ask me questions, try to get to know me, and care about what I think. And I like them. Not because of any one thing about them. I like them because they are mine.

Let It Flow

Turn and face the change.

All of us are an influence. We all leave footprints. Every environment we enter into becomes altered by our mere existence. This can never change. The only thing we can change is whether the influence we have is positive or negative.

Those like me with a behavioral diagnosis can be particularly vulnerable to outside influences. Bullies at school for some reason get a say in how much self-esteem we have. Manipulative people who make us happy end up controlling our behavior. Even wholesome things can become obsessions if we fail to recognize their influence on us.

I try to not be controlling. When I was younger I was frustrated with the way people treated me. I’d try to fix the problem any way I could. It started with just trying to talk to people. When things began to look hopeless it lead to using guilt and eventually fists. A need to fix my problems became a problem.

I realize now there is a flow to life. Every person has their way of doing things. It would be nice if more good things would flow in the direction I want, but I won’t force them to. I respect the flow. If I try to fight the current I could potentially get caught in it and the waves would eventually crash over me.

The relationships I have now consist of people who naturally gravitate toward me. I didn’t have to win them over. They see me for who I am and they like what they see. I don’t try to control them and they give me the same courtesy. That respect ends up creating more positive change than anything else.

Anyone who seeks to influence me with negativity is going to be disappointed. Manipulations, peer pressure, and threats are going to wash past me. I’ll meet their force with calm resistance. The only one who will have say in how I conduct my life is going to be me. No behavioral diagnosis is going to give anyone permission to tell me what to do. My mind remains immovable.