The 3 Keys To Making Friends

Growing up, one of my biggest challenges was making and keeping friends. I lived in constant fear that if I attempted to reach out to someone, they would immediate judge me for my differences and cast me out. I got to a point where I couldn’t stand my suffocating loneliness and decided to talk to others, despite my paralyzing fear of being rejected. I figured out years later that not only is this assumption not fair to me and my social growth, it’s also unfair to the person I want to reach out to. You see, by worrying that they will judge me, I am, to some degree, judging them. I am unfairly unassuming that they are some cold, unapproachable person without giving them a chance to prove me wrong. So I decided that my tenure as a social outcast was over. Over the years, there was much trial and error(mostly error) on my part, but as an incredibly observant individual, I picked up on some tactics that seemed to work. I still use these today, because I’m constantly  forming new bonds with the most incredible people.

1. Expand Your Interests

My mom always told me that the more interests I have, the more interesting I’ll become. I still don’t think I realize how true this is, but when I look back at the times I had explosive social growth, I notice a pattern. When I tried something new or expanded my horizons in any way, new people appeared in my life, people who I never would have met had I not stepped out of my comfort zone. Doing this terrified me, but looking back on these situations, I am so grateful I gave them a shot.

In my junior year of high school, I somewhat reluctantly joined the Tulsa Rowing Club, a small rowing team located in my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I remember trembling uncontrollably as I stepped out of my mom’s car in the parking lot in front of the boathouse, every bit of me screaming, “Get back in that car and get out of here!” If I had followed through with that panicked thought and dove back into my mom’s car, my life would be drastically different today and I would be missing out on knowing some seriously cool people.

So, what’s the moral of the story? Get out there and meet people! For someone with Asperger’s, it is all the more necessary to “transcend your niche,” so to speak, and try new things. It is going to be uncomfortable, even scary, at first, but think of it this way: What parts of your life will IMPROVE if you stick it out and do something that scares you? What do you have to GAIN from this? I know that for me, my desire to have friends was so strong that I joined that rowing team even though it was the scariest thing in the world.

And you want to know the cool part? I ended up loving rowing for that team. I had more friends than I’d ever had in my life, and I finally felt part of something. To me, that was the most rewarding thing in the world.

Get out there and do something fun and new. I promise it will be worth it.

2. Take Interest In Others

This may be the most difficult thing for someone with Asperger’s to even attempt, but it is absolutely necessary. Limited interests get in the way of asking others about themselves, but it is a skill that can be developed and must be developed.

Whenever I meet someone new, I pay attention to the flow of the conversation, and when the timing works, I ask things like, “How is your day going?” or “What are your interests?” If you ask something along those lines, it shows the other person you are invested in them with both your time and attention. They’ll open up to you, and often, a bond will form.

If you find yourself steering the conversation toward your niche, or fixation, be aware you are doing it and be prepared to change the subject at any time. Read the other person’s body language and look for eye contact. If they are interested, their eyes will lock with yours and they’ll often smile. If they are growing bored of the topic, they’ll fidget or avert their gaze. When you see this happen, redirect the conversation or you will lose their interest.

3. Install Your Filter

This skill is so incredibly vital to social success. People with Asperger’s often let things slip that should never be said to another person, but most of the time, it is not intentional at all. We lack the ability to make distinction between what is socially appropriate to say and what is not.

I struggled with this quite a bit up until very recently, and I still slip up occasionally. Now, to prevent myself from saying offensive things to people, I count to three in my head and ask myself, “How would I feel if someone said this to me? Would I like being told this?” If the answer is no, I keep silent and say something else.

If you need to, slip a voice recorder into your pocket and have it record while you’re having a conversation. Play it back to yourself later and really analyze what you are saying and if it is a good thing to say. If you are not comfortable doing that, use my method and implement the “Mirroring” technique I described above. If you put it into context with yourself and how you would feel if someone was saying those things to you, it’ll give you a better idea of how to improve.

I believe, with all of my heart, that every person with Asperger’s can have an amazing social network and can gain an understanding of themselves and love themselves for all that they are. Once you learn to love yourself, it’s so much easier for others to love you back.

 

23 thoughts on “The 3 Keys To Making Friends

  1. I am 25 male i have hf aspergers people’s advice is to talk to people and make friends but I am completely mute in the presence of others I cannot physically speak why would someone want to be friends with someone who cannot talk I am trapped in this silent lonely world.

    1. James, I feel your pain. I am 54 and I have suffered from this same problem. As a young man I felt hopeless and lost in the company of multiple people. This led me to avoid social situations. I always felt as if the things I needed to say were swirling around in my head but I just couldn’t grasp them to formulate a comment. Over time I learned to smile a lot and agree with whatever they were saying, and trying all the while to look at the bridge of their nose so I wouldn’t have to look directly into their eyes. I would have some topic on hand to fill a dead space, such as a sports event, etc. usually got me through it

  2. I have aspegers, and the biggest problem is trying to find people my age group that are interested. Is there a group for people with aspergers to meet up or talk? I am 23.

    1. hi Zach I’m 22 ive beeen looking to make new friends too sorry if this seems weird or akward I like play video games, like pokemon,star wars, civilization series, and other things. all in all I just wanted to say hi, because i have also been looking for people in my age group to talk to

  3. I feel so alone I would love to talk to people and have a life but I dont now how to talk to people at school and iwould love to know some good ways to start a friendship with sombody

  4. that was the most inspirational speech I ever heard. because see I have a hard being around people to and I have aspergers. from since the time I was little I was so mean to everyone who was a kid we’ll normal kids and I’m still that way today. we’ll and people don’t. like me because of it so I think might try what you said.

  5. Hello:

    I am a very bright person, and it is quite easy for me to get bored with those things that interest most people, last night’s game, current events, etc. I assume there are others out there with the same issue, and I would say, hold out for someone who has what you like. You can play the above game of pretending interest in someone who doesn’t either your disability or your interests (I’ve tried it) but it will almost certainly go nowhere. You won’t be able to continue pretending, though I suppose you may be able to “wing it” after some practice. And as far as showing interest in others goes, since for Aspies, the favor is rarely returned, I would stick with finding that one or a few people who accept your disability and forget the pretend game. If I was blind or unable to walk, no one would expect me to bear the entire burden of my disability, so why should this be the case with Aspergers? I have always been able to find someone who is interested in not only interesting, but also offbeat opinions that I have, though it may take a while to find someone like this. Certainly, the prescriptions above of being polite are helpful, but not if they result in a relationship which requires YOU the Aspie to do all the changing.

  6. Couldn’t “showing interest in someone else” also be interpreted in “being a creep”? That’s the way it’s always been with me. I can talk to someone new who seems interesting and after the conversation’s over they’ll say something like “It was nice to meet you” (BAD sign, if it WAS nice, that means IT ISN’T NICE ANYMORE!) and they disappear forever!

  7. Hello,

    My son is 19 years old and was diagnosed with ADD when he was nine years old. After reading the information on your webpage, I’m beginning to question the diagnoses because it sounds very similar to Aspergers. What is the true difference in the two? Thank you.

  8. These posts are not only helpful for me, I feel like they are written in a way in which I can show them right to my 12 year old son and he can begin contemplating his course of action. I want all of my kids to choose their own paths, and your information really helps me see how I can provide guidance in a kind and loving way without being too pushy on sensitive issues.

    1. Jessica, have you seen their video on the sensory funnel? Some behaviors that look like ADD or ADHD can stem from the sensory issues.

  9. I appreciate the post and I must say that you have described everything that the teenage ma has done and yes, I did make friends. However, upon reaching adulthood, I was torn out of my comfort zone and thrust into absolute chaos for 8 years before I was able to settle down. Even then, it was FAR from home and mine and my friends’ entire situation had changed. Now, I am married (I was fortunate enough to meet my wife WAY before this upheaval and she saw me at my best) and have a young daughter. Because of this, several individuals that share my interests avoid me like I am plagued and the ones who might be my friends don’t share any of my interests and would shun me (and worse) upon the discovery of my hobbies: video games, D&D, certain comics when I can afford them, Magic the Gathering, etc, which are considered anathema to anyone who would actually give me the time of day in this community.

    Someone, please help!

  10. My son has PDDNOS & ADHD. He is 13 and experiences social issues like mentioned above. I make him swim in the local swim club because he could be good, but refuses to put forth effort to show his true potential. I got him involved, not only for the exercise, but for the socialization of it. Almost a year later, I am still waiting for him to understand the significance. It’s hard to learn how to get him involved. He really doesn’t have anything to talk about except TV and Legos, which at 13 he should really know by now. Still working on him! You should expand your site to not only Aspergers, but also to PPDNOS, as a lot of kiddos with PDDNOS have the same socialization issues. I think that because it is the “other” category, it is hard to find support sites.

  11. I really love what you’re doing! As an educator, my favorite students are those on the spectrum. I like to work with these kids so much, and I love discovering the many beautiful qualities and takents they have.

    Thank you for providing so much valuable insight to your worlds!

  12. I agree. I would also like to add that people are more than their diagnosis. Keeping in mind these diagnoses are just clusters of symptoms and not some death sentence. We all do the best we can. People are people. good luck.

  13. Enjoying your posts so much, my son is 4 and has aspergers and your posts make me feel hopeful for his future. hank you.

  14. This particular topic seems to be the one that is the hardest to master for me. What do you do when you do take an interest in others, but they do not take an interest in you in return? Usually I do not find this out until after a few months of interacting with them. At that point I realize it is unbalanced because and I want to break off the friendship. At first I blame myself for not being mindful enough to control my conversation when I have gotten my turn to express myself so that is why I have not gotten the opportunity again. So I conclude I need to be more mindful to observe earlier in the relationship if this is the case, but then I feel bad for judging the relationship too quickly. Can you give me example phases to negotiate a balance conversation? This way I can find out if it’s me or they are incredibly egotistical.

  15. I watch my daughter struggle to join a conversation. At home she talks non-stop but when around others she doesn’t. She will answer a direct question but then the conversation stops. We practice and practice at home but then when we are in a real situation she doesn’t even attempt to talk. She tells me she doesn’t know what to say and becomes too uncomfortable. Hoping my reading more of your articles and watching your videos I can help her.

    1. I find that I am able to talk more in nonstressful situations with people whom or whose opinion I don’t really care about. That gets me talking . The conversation might not be beneficial in anyway other than letting it all out and then forget about those people , but it gets me started.
      Yes but once your daughter starts talking , you need to watch her closely so that she learns the right distance to mantain from people, and that’s a constant battle : what to say and what not to say

  16. Great post! Expanding your interests can be difficult, because as an Asperger, I have instinctively found myself going deeper into specialist interests, often down into the fine details, rather than having a broad range of interests. There’s nothing wrong with this, if this is how your brain works it is good to embrace it and fulfill your potential in your interest areas. However it is usually an unhelpful mindset when it comes to meeting people and making friends.

    I would encourage anyone with Aspergers to consider their specialist interests and think about ways to use these interests to meet new people. The best ways to make friends is to have something that’s highly valuable to them to offer, and thus meet their most sought-after needs. As a musician I have been able to do this myself by working with other musicians and singers and providing them opportunities to perform live gigs. It’s a lot to do with positioning yourself in the places where you have higher value. http://www.socialmazebook.com

  17. Loving reading your posts! They are informative and encouraging to me and wish I had more time to read more and watch the videos. I also want to print out so many posts for my son. He is 13 ADHD, OCD, Asperger’s.

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