The Comfort of Familiar People

Like a fair number of people with Aspergers, I don’t particularly enjoy meeting new people. I do it out of necessity as the way the world works means that you have to meet new people now and again in order to progress in life but it’s not an experience I find pleasant. This is not because I am in any way “cliquey” or stand offish but because the fact that I don’t know what their personality is like or how they will behave terrifies me. 

I take a great deal of comfort from knowing how the familiar people in my life behave. Obviously I am aware that this is likely to differ on occasions due to emotional states but, generally, I know their personality and their boundaries. I have learned from the previous times I have interacted with them how they interact with people and I find this security comforting. I feel safer with these people. Meeting somebody for the first time takes me out of this comfort zone in a huge way. I know that lots of people out there, with and without Aspergers, get shy around people they don’t know but this process is a little more than that. When I meet someone new, my mind is firing dozens of questions that whirl around my head but are not spoken. “What is their personality like?”, “What will they think of me?”, “Will they think I’m rude?”, “Will they think I’m weird?”, “What should I talk to them about?” and even more questions similar to this. Even in the supermarket, I always try to use the self service machines unless I absolutely have to be served on one of the manned tills. Communicating with professionals is easier than communicating with random people because I have an idea of how the conversation will go. I know what I need to ask them and I have some idea of how they are going to respond but it is still very nerve wracking. Making small talk is what I dread most though. I can do it but I don’t like to. I prefer deep topics of conversation and fail to understand why talking to 15 or 20 different people for a couple of minutes each is seen as being more worthwhile than speaking to one person for an hour. 

I hope I am not giving the impression that I don’t see the point of widening my friendship circle. I envy people who can make new friends with ease and can chat to people who they’ve just met completely naturally. However, I know that that’s not the way my mind works. I rely on knowing how the familiar people in my life interact-it keeps my anxiety levels down. Once I get to know people, I socialise with them in a manner that is comfortable for me but it is the initial “getting to know someone” process that I find so nerve wracking. Please, if you know someone with Aspergers, don’t just assume that they are anti social and don’t like company-there are people with Aspergers who are happy being on their own but there are lots of us who do like company but need safe, familiar company free from confrontation and drama. It may take longer than usual to get someone with Aspergers to trust you but persevere and you will see that a lot of us do make good friends in the end. 

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3 Responses to The Comfort of Familiar People

  1. Noah Weiss says:

    As a fellow Aspie, I can somewhat relate. In particular, the preference of engaging in deep conversation rather than small talk. In some sense, I feel like trying to meet people is difficult because others may want to small-talk into friendship or acquaintanceship.

  2. aspiesooz says:

    Also a fellow Aspie and I am terrible at small talk. My partner knows this and we often have phone conversations where I’ll run out of things to say and go so silent he thinks I’ve hung up on him! I really dislike busy social situations and we usually hang out with the same 2 couples. One girl I’ve known more than half my life and the other is her best friend, who I have so much in common with it’s like we’re sisters.

  3. Then you sometimes get the best friendships from people you didn’t expect to meet.

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