Greeting problems

Many Aspies have problems with standard greeting rituals and don’t always see the point.

Saying hello

Some Aspies find it tiresome to have to use their voice. Some are lost in their own thoughts and simply forget to say hello. Others are unsure how to greet others correctly, or may have difficulty recognising faces (see Prosopagnosia).

“This is one of my most long-term social problem. Ever since kindergarten my parents have kept reminding me to answer when greeted. Up until just one year ago (I’m 16 now) this was far from obvious to me. I simply did not reply if someone said hello, it didn’t come naturally. This might seem very odd to others. Now I’ve finally learned like a strategy to reply when greeted, but to initiate a greeting myself I’ve still not mastered”

– Oscar, adolescent Aspie from Sweden

“Most people that know me don’t get upset with just a nod of the head or a wave when I see them. Still, if they speak I will make the effort to speak back. Sometimes this will mean a conversation but it is just one of those things to endure when you have good neighbors and you want to keep it that way.”

William, Aspie from USA

“Saying hello is one of my biggest social mysteries. However, I am careful to answer if someone says hello.

“I’ve never understood how one should greet people in different situations. When to shake hands? When to hug? When to just say ‘hi’? Onad if you say hi, exactly what second do you say it? When the person I meet look me in the eye, or is it wrong to say hi when the person is not focused on me?

“I HATE greeting. Have started to minimise it… start talking to the person I meet directly. Then you don’t have to bother with that stressful greeting.”

– Hyper, Aspie from Sweden

“At random meetings with neighbours, I usually walk around in my own thoughts and tend to miss it if I meet someone, I simply don’t see people.”

– ‘mondo beyondo’, female Aspie from Sweden

“I’ve had similar problems with greeting, but now as an adult I’ve learned to say hi, but I only shake hands if the other person offers theirs.”

– vallesmamma, female Aspie from sweden

“As a child and teen I didn’t say hello back when adult neighbours greeted me. Ack, I’m ashamed of how rude I was.

“I don’t know why, it was as if I didn’t think they were any of my business and vice versa. I really lived in my own world. When I got my diagnosis I first didn’t want to accept it; I was perfectly normal, wasn’t I? But then I remembered this and realised I wasn’t quite normal after all.

“Now I always say hello back. But to initiate a greeting comes harder if I don’t know the person well. On the one hand I often don’t recognise people, and if they’re only vaguely familiar I’m not sure if the other person recognises me.”

– ‘Alien’, female Aspie from Sweden

Saying goodbye

Makes people happy, although a little wave might do the same job of alerting others to one’s impending departure. Some Aspies have an unnerving habit of quietly slipping away without saying goodbye. This may be due to not realizing that anyone would notice or care; forgetting that it is important (if one has been informed of this fact); not being sure how to do it right; being too shy and not wanting to make oneself conspicuous or interrupt anyone; wanting to avoid more enforced body contact and time-wasting fuss.

“I personally don’t find greeting that important, but it’s important to say goodbye when leaving. To suddenly be in a room is one thing but suddenly being gone is worse.”

– ‘mondo beyondo’, female Aspie from Sweden

Shaking hands

Illogical, outdated, habit that some of us think should be abandoned a.s.a.p. since it serves no practical purpose now beyond spreading germs. If you wish to show an Aspie consideration, don’t force a handshake on them, unless they offer their hand first.

“As I understand it, the handshake goes back at least to the Romans and had a very definite purpose. Before meeting an important person, the bodyguard would shake hands with the person, males anyway. The idea was to shake loose any weapons they might have hidden within their sleeve. The Romans used just a single “pump’. Later cultures either kept the single pump or had multiple pumps. The Chinese had something similar, but both parties would shake their own hands: clasping their own hands together and making the motion like they were shaking hands with someone else.”

“I don’t like shaking hands at all. Still it is one of those things I have learned to make myself do because it is expected. Mostly I just don’t like the feel of other people’s hands. Also, as mothers often tell their children, “you don’t know where that has been.”  Catching germs or some sickness from other people rather unnerves me.”

William, Aspie from USA

I dislike shaking hands, but it’s not out of germ-o-phobia (I am not afraid of germs) but simply because I don’t like the icky feeling of direct skin contact. If people wore gloves or were furry like animals, I wouldn’t mind it so much. Still, after my NT friend explained that it is a way of showing people respect, I do it if I necessary, but I’m not exactly sorry if that part is skipped.

Ing, site-author

“Shaking hands, ack euuw isch and uurrk!!! If I have to I try to twist my hand so the other person just gets a grip on my fingertips like, and I probably look very stiff and uncomfortable because most let go very quickly.”

– ‘aspiemelly’, female Aspie from Sweden

Hugging

Not appreciated by most Aspies, especially not enforced hugging with non-family members. Don’t take it personally if the Aspie refuses, or tries to escape the hug a s a p.

“Don’t hug those I am not on close terms with, it’s very intimate.”

Nancy, Aspie (from USA?)

“I do not like to be hugged (or at least not very often). I need to be mentally prepared and only with someone I know very well (e.g. son) or intimately involved with, i.e. partner/boyfriend.”

Julie, Aspie from England

“I find it unpleasant to hug anyone but my very closest family.”

“I don’t like hugging and kissing for greeting. I’d rather not hug friends (haha as if I had any) or relatives etc. It isn’t primarily something tactile, it’s that it feels arduous to try and figure out how to do and feel. Maybe a little tactile but not so that I recoil out of physical discomfort.”

– ‘Bror Duktig’ female Aspie from Sweden

“Sometimes (or often, or all the time, depending on how one works) one just doesn’t want that physical contact and no one really wants to forced physical contact, regardless of whether one has a diagnosis or not, right?

“Few things make me as uneasy as when someone says ‘hug granny now when she’s been so nice to you’ or go give grandpa a hug now’. My oldest girl isn’t much for physical contact, and some days she finds it outright unpleasant. The thought of forcing myself on her or trying to force her to be physical with others does not even exist. That would be a form of physical abuse as I see it. I know myself all too well what forced physical contact feels like. She comes and sits on my lap when she wants to – and I savour those moments as much as I can – because they are few.

“My point is that it’s not about her not wanting to hug me (mommy) but that she doesn’t want physical contact at all, with anyone. So it is nothing personal the days she doesn’t want to be close that way.”

– tahlia, Aspie mother from Sweden

Cheek kissing

I think anyone, Aspie or not, who is not from cheek kissing culture will agree that it’s a nightmare since it varies between cultures how to do it right.

Which cheek to kiss first to avoid head injury? (I’ve had reports that the right one often is an unspoken agreement in most cheek-kissing cultures.)

Real firm kiss on the cheek or just an air kiss simulation in its general proximity? (Go with the air kiss if unsure.)

Kiss everyone or just the ladies? (In some South American cultures cheek kissing is taboo between men.)

What to do with one’s hands? (No clue, watch how others do it.)

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9 Comments »

  1. AISIA said,

    In my country people always greet using the words hi or hello but i get it difficult to answer

  2. Karen said,

    OMG, the stress I have endured, trying to figure out the cheek-kiss! LOL! I finally allow myself to just do it “however,” and forgive myself for not getting it “right.” 🙂

  3. Adrian said,

    I have recently been saddled with a new psychiatrists [my 4th in 2 years] and she is always trying to shake my hand. I refused at first but she never seems to get the hint I dont want to. Well if only she was a bit more savvy… anyway I definitely dont like hugging hand shakes or any thing like that.
    I dont even see the point in saying Hello or Goodbye.. like why bother!

    • Irene said,

      Why bother? Because it’s very distressing for NTs if you don’t. Not saying hello or goodbye is like starting a sentence without a capital letter and ending it without a punctuation. These are important cues for NTs and without them; you leave them scratching their heads and not understanding your actions. Was it something they said that may have offended you or complete rudeness on your part? They just don’t know…
      Reading everything here has helped me understand my boyfriend so much better and the worse part is that he has no idea what Aspergers is…
      Posts like yours, Adrian, will help him understand.

  4. DIPEN PATEL said,

    I have mostly never even greeted anyone unless if I was greeted because I have always had a TOTALLY ISRAEL/JEWISH-STYLE NATURE–not to mention I have mostly never even looked them in the eye.

  5. JOe said,

    I dont like being hugged, or touched by anyone. family or anyone. people just look at me when i do not greet them back. and they keep staring at me. i am undiagnosed, and my counselor said i am socially awkward.

  6. in what i observe iz that,sweden famalez realy find it dificult to say hello to someone.. Male from Nigeria

  7. Bluestar said,

    Am from cheek-kissing culture and those who do not kiss cheeks are considered very rude. I try my BEST not to kiss cheeks but there are times where the person just charge in with his face.. I must say i find an extreme diffeculty in this matter no matter how hard i try..

  8. Micane said,

    My 7 year old (Aspie) doesnt greet people either, especially strangers or people he doesnt know well, e.g. neighbors. I remind him all the time, but the other day he simply replied: “What’s the point? It’s just a waste of my energy.”


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