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?

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Out of Touch

Dear pen pal.

Maintaining long-distance communication takes talent. Different rules apply to it compared with face-to-face interaction. Personally, I try to keep all my relationships face-to-face. What kind of a person prefers to keep their friends at a distance?

Circumstances eventually force us to not see the people we know. I go to work and leave my family behind. I leave my friends to go on a date with a woman I like. The more time I spend with one person, the less time I have with all others.

Clocking In

Some of our social life is left up to scheduling. My regularly scheduled social life consists of the people I see at church on Sundays, the people I see at work each weekday, and the people I see once a week for religion class. I was sick recently and missed church because of it. I had to wait another week before I could see the people I like.

Leaving our social lives up to the schedule is lazy. I want to see my friends more than once a week. I want to talk to people more often than my set schedule allows. I was at college for four years and I can count on my fingers the number of times people made a point of dropping by my place because they wanted to see me. It’s not fun being the only one who makes an effort.

Tick Tock

People will say to me we should do something sometime. I have yet to experience whatever this something is. It makes me wonder where I rank when it comes to them scheduling visits with friends, work, going to the gym, and finally getting around to reading that book.

My friends don’t specifically tell me how often to contact them. What is too much or too little? Do people expect me to just naturally pick up on how often they want me around? Most people don’t know what their friends think of them until it’s stated out loud. I can’t just assume every person I know wants me to be featured prominently in their personal lives.

The longer we go without contacting the people in our lives, the more it changes the nature of our relationship with those people. Good friends who don’t talk to each other become fond memories. Family members that don’t talk to each other become distant relatives. A timer starts when you say “see you later” to your friends. Don’t make them wait long. You may lose your opportunity.

Talk like You Mean It

I mean to mean what I mean.

Being a Communications major comes with a lot of responsibility. The bottom line is you better know how to deliver a message. Connecting with an audience requires you to fully understand the message you’re sharing as well as fully understanding the audience you’re reaching out to.

Don’t think communication is just sharing information. Communication is about creating understanding between you and another party. You know them and they know you. The more you understand about something, the less you have to explain.

A Failure to Communicate

You can’t blame the other person for not understanding where you are coming from. It takes two to communicate. I remember seeing two other students in a math class working out a problem. One of them got frustrated when the other didn’t see the solution. I remember him saying, “I’m trying to help you. Why aren’t you getting this?” He apparently didn’t get it.

Yelling does not get your point across more clearly. If anything, you destroy your chances of clear communication when you belittle the person you are talking to. Communication is work and you need to work together with others to make it happen. If you can do that, then everybody wins.

One More Time

Sometimes we miss what somebody said. “Could you repeat that?” A lot of people have a hard time repeating or clarifying what they previously communicated. Communication is work and people don’t want to create more work for themselves. “I shouldn’t have to repeat myself.” Actually, you do.

Communication is not a one and done job. It is a continuous pursuit. I am willing to do everything I can to create understanding between me and others. If understanding ever falls short, then I will come in with renewed communication to ensure understanding is reestablished. I’ll repeat myself if I have to. I’ll use new words and new concepts if it helps. If something is worth communicating, then it is worth the time it takes to communicate it properly even if it means continuing to repeat the same message till the end of time.

Hints and Tips

Hidden meanings don’t help anyone. Just say what you mean. You can’t expect to create understanding if you are purposefully holding back information. Implying things can be good in a mystery novel, but it is counterproductive in the real world. “I shouldn’t have to say it.” Yes, you should.

Important subjects that are difficult to communicate deserve more than a halfhearted attempt at being communicated. Want to share something embarrassing? Own it. Want to express something personal? Embrace it. Need to explain a complicated issue? Break it down. People deserve a straight answer. A truth is only of worth when you have all of it.

What I’m Really Trying to Say

All communication has a point to it. The information we share is only part of the message. We must also ask why we are sharing a particular message. Are we talking simply to pass the time? Are you talking to someone because you hope they will like you? Are you trying to learn something specific about someone? Think about the purpose of your communication with the audience and you will have less trouble getting your point across. Know what I mean?

Social Health Class

“Doctor, doctor! I think I’ve got a social disease! Can you help me?”

A common response I get from people is, “I would never have guessed you have autism.” I assume this is because people expect those with autism to barely be able to function in public.

I don’t have anything wrong with me mentally. It’s the social part I admittedly have trouble with. You wouldn’t notice this about me unless you took the time.

A social life is considered healthy when you have a good number of meaningful connections with real people. According to that definition, I am socially dead. Most of my days are spent not talking to anyone. And the number of people I consider myself close to can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.

I would like to focus on two components to having a healthy social life:

  1. Communication

Those who are able to express their ideas in a clear and interesting way are easy to interact with. More work is created when one person in a group does not know how to effectively share their thoughts and feelings. The goal of communication in our social lives is to get across to others what makes us an individual. If we are not an individual, then what do we really have to say at all?

Being socially awkward isn’t limited to those with behavioral disorders. Place anyone into an unfamiliar social setting and you will definitely see room for improvement. Some people are better at one-on-one conversation while some excel at talking in group settings. Wherever you can talk like yourself is where you communicate best.

  1. Relationships

Social skills are useless unless you have someone to use them on. The skills we can use in a given situation depend on who we are currently with. A different approach is necessary when in public compared to personal moments or even online interactions. You could say we become different people with different people.

Simply interacting with another person doesn’t mean you have formed a meaningful bond with them. Relationships are formed by people’s mutual needs. We find playmates when we need someone to play with. We become coworkers when we need each other’s work ethic and abilities. The most meaningful relationships are forged when we find people who need us to be ourselves.

The Prognosis

You can’t say your social life is healthy if you are not doing anything with it. It’s kind of like exercise in how your work is never done. We need to improve the quality of our communication with people and be constantly forming new relationships to consider ourselves socially fit.

I’ve had people suggest to me I should make friends with some of the other Asperger people I know. How can that be good? I can understand a common background provides for conversational topics, but putting two people with social issues together and expecting magic to happen is ridiculous. Do people think combining Asperger’s with Asperger’s will cancel it out? I don’t have any desire to “be with my own kind.” Try using that reasoning with anthropophobia. Do you think people with social anxiety should get together and form a club?

I’ve worked hard to find friends I can depend on. I try to be polite and cordial with everyone I meet, but the bonds that matter most are the ones that give back. The best people you can find for a healthy social life are the ones who consciously care about your social health. No point in curing Asperger syndrome if no social life is waiting for you afterwards.