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.

What I Want

This is for those who ever wished upon a star.

Telling people what you want should be easy, right? Simply think about what you are lacking, put it into words in your mind, and then verbally describe your desires. Simple. Logical. Straightforward. So why is it hard for people to do?

Wants are more personal than needs. Needs are determined by what we prioritize at any given moment. We meet our needs because we try to be responsible over life’s important matters. A want comes from an inclination to be satisfied. The desire to be whole.

Is it possible to want what we already possess? Probably not with as much intensity. I am a man of deep desire and passion. I try to balance my life with discipline so as not to be carried away in my appetites. While some desire material things or the acknowledgement of others, I seek a more elusive prize. I don’t even know how to begin describing it to you.

Not often do people ask me what I want. Why would they? Everyone is so focused on meeting needs they forget that people have wants. Our society is designed to meet people’s needs. Something breaks; go to a shop to get it fixed. Someone gets sick; get them to a doctor. What happens when there are no pressing needs anymore? What do we focus on then?

No system is in place to give people what they want. That is something each of us has to strive for on our own. I’m not talking about happiness. Happiness is about feeling good and comes from trusting that things will work out. What I am talking about with want is more profound.

Ever wanted something for another? Wanting someone to live. Wanting someone to heal. To be safe. To be free. Truly, this is love. To meet the needs of others. To make them a priority.

People rarely say out loud what they truly want. It hurts to ask for what you ache for. I do my best to heal hearts. The pain I recognize in people breaks my heart. I wish they could tell me what they want so I don’t have to guess. We can’t expect to get what we long for if we don’t know how to ask for it.

To pursue what we want with patience shows maturity. Life isn’t about immediately satisfying our desires. Our wants will never cease. Life is about finding peace. If I can help one person to live, then that is enough for me. It’s enough.

Being Perfect

People ask me how I am. I tell them I’m perfect. They laugh.

I hear people say nobody is perfect. This creates a lot of misconception. Perfection is defined as being without flaw. I would agree that every person has flaws, but I refuse to think the word perfect cannot be applied to people in a meaningful way.

First off, people say nobody is perfect as an excuse. I suppose they think failure is acceptable as long as they feel no one can do better. Saying nobody is perfect allows them to lower expectations making their inadequacies seem not so big. I think this is a shame because we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others for a sense of worth.

What I find particularly irksome is when people try to use the line “nobody is perfect” as an argument against me. People assume I’m looking for perfection simply because I desire some quality in my life. I don’t understand why people get upset when I keep my standards. They’ll accuse me of being arrogant just for wanting to improve myself and my situation.

The word perfection is not something that comes up in my vocabulary. The only time I hear it is when listening to others. Everyone has their own messed up idea for what counts as perfect. A word is meaningless if it does not create understanding. I feel people should not say to others they can’t be perfect. It is like saying that improvement is meaningless.

Our behavior can be perfected. It is as real as change. I’ve seen people who were untrustworthy turn into people who are as good as their word and better. I’ve known people who were introverted to eventually become people who are outgoing. Actions, thoughts, and feelings can be perfected to the point where you don’t have to worry about them.

Tell people they can improve. You don’t have to constantly remind them to be realistic in their expectations. They can do that themselves. The greatest accomplishments in human history were due to men and women who did more than what other people expected of them. We will never improve the quality of our lives if we fail to recognize our own capacity to improve ourselves.

Learning How to Trust

Trusting people is risky. Trust me on that.

Years ago I posted an article about the different types of dumb in the world. There was another kind of dumb I could have mentioned, but I felt it deserved its own post. This article comes after years of thought and contemplation.

Being gullible is another form of dumb. I didn’t include it in my previous list because there are so many factors that go into gullibility. Determining the balance between trusting the information in front of us and questioning everything around us is not an easy thing to judge.

First off, consider your feelings. I’m a very calm person who likes to think things through before taking action. When new information is presented to me the calm is gone and replaced with uncertainty. A judgement needs to be made. Is this new information positive or negative? I consider the evidence, make a decision, and go back to being calm. The ultimate conclusion we are looking for is whether or not the new information makes sense. We want to be in a state where everything feels right. No uncertainty to bother us.

This process happens constantly in our lives. I received a letter in the mail recently saying I could get money from a court case if I just send them my social security number. Something doesn’t feel right about that. If the story doesn’t check out, then we either find out if there is more to the story or we walk away from the situation. When I was a journalist working in Idaho I would enter into government buildings or companies and simply tell them I’m a reporter and they would let me right in. My story made sense to them and they didn’t question it.

My worry is that people too often trust the information presented to them without testing it out for themselves. Not every source of new information is reliable. Many people seek to control the narrative by being persuasive and appealing. Skilled speakers can pacify a crowd of people tricking them into a false sense of calm. When calm we can mistakenly feel that everything must be alright because we feel good about everything. A healthy bit of doubt keeps us from being fooled by smooth talkers.

On the other hand, we have to trust someone eventually. We can’t just question all information presented to us. My image of how the world operates is based on all the reading I’ve done. I trust that the writers did a god job of telling the truth. If not, my knowledge is based on a false sense of reality. I don’t have time to see the world with my own eyes. I have to rely on other people’s eyes if I want to see it all.

My hope is that people will have trustworthy friends and family members to turn to. It’s frustrating when you don’t know how to feel about what you see around you. Good judgement allows us to find the bright side to our circumstances even when things don’t go our way. I choose to have an attitude of hope. If there are people I can trust, I will find them.