The Social Game

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Being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome doesn’t necessarily mean you are bad at making friends. On the other hand, having a behavioral disorder isn’t exactly going to help you in that department.

Starting any kind of relationship presents a unique challenge to each human being. Asperger’s syndrome won’t put you at a disadvantage, but it does need to be factored in if you want to play the game seriously.

All of us need to interact with other people at some point in our lives. The social game is about what you want in return. It’s not wrong to want friendship or companionship with someone. Just keep in mind there is a right way to go about getting it.

Winning Isn’t Everything

You can’t always get what you want. Your success in this game depends on the other players. Each of them has their own views and prejudices. Forces beyond your control will dictate the course of your social life and there is little you can do to change it.

It’s a roll of the dice that determines the people you will meet. You may get lucky and meet someone with an accommodating personality. You may hit a losing streak and encounter only unsavory characters for an extended period of time. Life sometimes deals you a lousy hand. Be brave enough to work with what you got.

Play to Win

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. You won’t be able to convince everyone to like you, but it’s not a waste of effort to be a friend to anyone. You can play this game by your own rules and be the one to determine what victory looks like.

Other people need you to be a player in the game. Nobody wins unless somebody tries. No rule exists that says we can’t all make the first move together.

Nice Guys Finish Last?

No one is cursed to be friendless. The universe hasn’t singled anyone out. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are diagnosed with. No category of human being has drawn the short straw; nice guys, mean guys, or otherwise.

It is a mistake to think if you were different, people would come to respect you. People who put conditions on showing respect don’t deserve to receive it. Aspiring to the lofty expectations of strangers requires sacrifice of the fundamental components of your individuality. If you changed to please each and every person on the planet, then there wouldn’t be anything left of the true you. The world needs you to be you. You’re the only you we’ve got.

This game has no finish line; it’s a part of life. As long as you have something to gain (or to lose) you will be playing the game. You might as well have fun in the process.

The blind leading the blind

Everyone has advice to give. Everyone has an opinion to express. Everyone has a solution to share. If only they would keep it to themselves.

Asperger’s syndrome isn’t a disease so much as it is a state of being. You either have it or you don’t. It isn’t something one is infected with, maliciously spreading throughout the brain over time.

However, many people mistakenly view Asperger’s as being threatening. They see it as the bane of human development. A problem needing to be fixed. A plague to be stamped out.

I’ll say it loudly so you can remember it: PEOPLE WITH ASPERGER’S DON’T NEED TO BE FIXED!

The most helpful thing you can do to assist with Asperger’s is to convince people to stop trying to help. Helping someone may be well meant, but it needs to be done for the right reasons. You wouldn’t help someone if you felt they didn’t have anything wrong with them. And you wouldn’t try to assist someone you felt was fully capable of taking care of their own selves.

Families of those with Asperger’s will have their own worries and fears about the condition. They’ll try to express sympathy and encourage their loved one with helpful tips for coping with their condition. They mean well, I’m sure.

You can’t help someone to live. Asperger’s syndrome has not kept anyone from enjoying a good hamburger or the company of true friends. People with autism know what they like. They don’t need someone to remind them of what they already know.

I have received dating advice from single guys. I’ve been the recipient of sympathy from people I have a great deal of pity for. I don’t think anyone is in a position to pull me out of any pit.

If someone wants to help a person diagnosed with Asperger’s, then they can do so by treating them as a human being. No one can fix Asperger’s. Neither should anyone try to fix each other. What people can do is recognize a person’s individual needs. People with autism don’t need help. They help others just as much as anyone else.

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I’m sure all of us wonder how we are seen by our fellowmen. Image is very important in society. We spend our lives trying to stage a convincing performance to guarantee others will see us the way we want to be seen. Well, you only get the part when you look the part.

Being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome may affect how you see yourself and it can affect the way others see you. It’s fair to say a behavioral disorder influences the way a person interacts with others. Does a person with Asperger’s have a choice in how others view him? Does he have a choice in how he sees himself?

The Truth

Having Asperger’s does not mean there is something wrong with you. It doesn’t automatically mean you struggle with anything whether it is schoolwork or relationships. All it means is you have a diagnosis. It is nothing more than a label invented for the sake of other people. It has no meaning to you because the label cannot predict who you are and how you will grow.

Other people have their own expectations and predictions about those diagnosed with Asperger’s. A man once asked me if having Asperger’s meant I was really good at math. I said, “Yes. I can also read minds.” The image most people carry with them of those with autism is of a sad person who doesn’t understand the world and the people in it. Many people try to ascribe value to me by looking at my talents and telling themselves Asperger’s gives me mental powers so that makes me an adequate human being.

Everyone struggles with something. A person with Asperger’s is just a man like anyone else. He has his own journey with its assortment of trials and triumphs. Each trial and triumph is his and is not to be credited to some label society has given him.

The Choice

How do you want to be seen? The image we have of ourselves helps us to feel valued. A specific image conjures an emotional reaction out of people. If you see yourself as a person with a disability, then you put yourself at a lower value than others. If you see yourself as a human being with talents and ideas, then you rate yourself a little higher.

We can help other people to see us the way we want to be seen. A person with Asperger’s can strive to represent himself well despite any personal struggles he faces. Most people want to see value in us and it begins by us being confident in the value we already see inside.

The power is in each of us to change the way people view Asperger’s. It may be a struggle, but I can safely say it isn’t Asperger’s that makes it difficult.

Taking the “Hell” Out of Hello.

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Making a good first impression can be a frustrating experience. One misstep can cause one to stand out in the worst of ways. So when is the best time to mention having a behavioral disorder?

Discussing with others the nature of your diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome does not have to be an awkward situation. A little preparation beforehand combined with tact is all it takes to keep the conversation in your favor.

This lesson is usually learned the hard way. I was once at a social gathering with fellow members of my church. The women were asking the men the usual questions of where they work and where they served their two-year missions. I was honorably excused from serving a mission due to being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. The woman who was asking me the usual questions followed my explanation of missing out on a mission with, “Asperger’s? What’s that?” I didn’t know how to explain it properly so I simply stated it as being a form of autism. The conversation ended right there and then.

I’ve learned from my experiences and worked hard to prevent the past from repeating itself. My hope is you will take my tips to heart.

1. Silence is golden.

You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. In fact, most of the time you can get away with not mentioning mental conditions in conversation. It is rare to hear people specifically requesting to know whether you’ve been diagnosed with a behavioral disorder. Most people don’t want to know about things like that. It is up to you to decide whether they need to know.

2. Be honest.

Let’s say you choose to tell someone about being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. The nature of the circumstances will determine the amount of detail you should go into. If you’re discussing this with a potential love interest, then you’ll want to describe how Asperger’s affects you personally. If you’re in a room of casual acquaintances, then you can simply use the textbook definition to satisfy any curiosity. People usually won’t probe for more information, but you are welcome to respond with humor if you don’t feel like carrying the conversation any longer than necessary. A woman once asked me if I considered Asperger’s a major struggle in my life. I said, “Not really. It’s mostly everyone else’s problem.”

The next time your diagnosis comes up in conversation, it helps to see it as an opportunity instead of a trial. A lot of good is accomplished by being open about your condition. It helps other people to understand you better and shows you are confident in who you are. And you may just find yourself on the other end of the conversation one day, listening to someone explain to you their diagnosis. You should make it easy on them. Good first impressions are hard to pull off.