Aspie socialising

When I read the excellent anthology Asperger’s and Girls and found Lisa Iland’s description of NT Socialising Rules – those confusing unspoken rules which many of us Aspies never, or only later in life, manage to figure out! – and went to an Aspie meeting only days later, I realized that we Aspies have a very different set of ’rules’ (or lack of rules) when we meet and socialise with each other (at least on the meetings I’ve attended here in Sweden):

Aspies in general (and perhaps Scandinavian Aspies in particular?) often tend to be extra democratic and usually don’t have any given leaders or hierarchies, even if some individuals may temporarily emerge as initiators of this or that project and may get appreciated for that particular effort.

For joint ventures, anyone who feels like taking an initiative is welcome to make a suggestion and the rest of us discuss it until we reach a consensus which everyone involved is happy with. If we can’t reach a consensus, we scrap the project altogether.

Examples of how Aspies socialise:

* Someone suggests a day, time and place to meet. If someone can’t come that day, another day is chosen so that as many as possible can come.

* If we meet at somebody’s home, everyone either brings their own food (usually the best idea since many have strong preferences and sensitivities) or the food is agreed upon in advance and the host is reimbursed for his/her expenses. If we meet at a restaurant it has to be one where the food, price and location is acceptable to everyone.

* Unless specifically stated that you can drop in anytime during the day, everyone usually arrives more or less on time, or communicates via cell-phone if one happens to be late.

* No one cares one bit what the others were wearing – everyone is immediately accepted ’as is.’ Some are fashionable or well-dressed, others wear whatever they feel comfortable in.

* Greetings with handshaking is optional. Some do it out of learned habit but if anyone doesn’t want to, nobody minds. Eye-contact is also optional.

* Requests about avoiding things that other participants may be allergic to, sensitive to or scared of (e.g. perfume, animals, noisy kids) are respected to everyone’s best ability, if one communicates the wish in advance.

* Within minutes after meeting for the very first time, Aspies usually gets along splendidly, feel perfectly at ease and are talking as if we had known each other for years, although some may be more shy than others and take longer to open up – which is fine too. (With non-Aspies many of us may feel anything from mildly uncomfortable to frantic for the first 5 years or so of the acquaintance…)

* No time is wasted on talk about the weather or other meaningless chitchat, but we do sort of chitchat about relevant Aspie things and make lots of jokes about things we think are funny – often word-play or about ourselves – and then we crack up again after remembering that Aspies are supposed to lack irony and sense of humor!

* We are usually direct and pretty much say what we mean and mean what we say – if we say anything at all. If we give a compliment we really mean it – empty flattery is alien to us. Adult Aspies (without Tourette’s or ADHD) often moderate their degree of honesty somewhat, to a level somewhere in between AS and NT.

* Unlike non-Aspies who (according to Lisa Iland) have strict unspoken rules that govern degree of appropriate intimacy according to degree of closeness and passage of time, sharing personal things after having only just met is appreciated and encouraged among Aspies. Someone may for example talk about their relationship with their family, favorite obsessions and worst fears or describe their morning routine, eating- or sleeping habits, and everyone who feels like it chimes in and tells what theirs are.

* As most of us don’t have the energy to meet more than a few hours once a month or so, we don’t want to waste any time on superficial or irrelevant talk that doesn’t lead to anything.

* No one is interested in any fake persona that is not who you really are – we want to get to know each other for real and being open about intimate things is the quickest way to achieve this with the least amount of effort. Both good and less flattering attributes are shared freely and dispassionately; one is, after all, only stating facts. This makes it easier to make choices about potential friends or mates; what you see is what you get and no unpleasant surprises later.

* Discussing philosophy, sex, death, politics and religion is no problem. No subject is taboo and very few behaviors are frowned upon. Having tics, an anxiety attack, crying spell or falling asleep is also met with understanding, even if it happens to be in public. The only thing Aspies may be sensitive about is if someone talks too loudly, too much, or if too many are talking at the same time (due to sound sensitivity and auditory processing problems). Background music can also be a problem.

* Being constantly attentive & participating in a group is not required. At a weekend Aspie-meeting at my place everyone was free to take time to themselves whenever they needed to, without having to ask to be excused. One read a book throughout the whole meeting, one sat on the back porch watching the trees and birds some of the time, a few took a nap, one went for a walk etc. No one minded or even noticed when this was done neutrally out of need to just avoid overstimulation, but when someone went outside because they were upset over something, one of us would go and see if they were alright and talk about the issue to sort it out.



  1. CB said,

    Join an ASAN meeting someday. This is usually what goes on there, and I love it!

  2. jose said,

    i am not diagnosed, but i do have aspects of aspergers.

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