My son asked me recently, “How do you make a conversation keep happening?”
A few suggestions for topics like the weather, or strategies like taking turns, didn’t cut it. He was searching for what gives momentum to a connection; the mysterious essence that makes others want to engage with you in that lovely upward spiral of mutual interest.
Of course, I couldn’t give an answer that was likely to work, much less teach him the formulae he hoped might exist.
Social impairment (or, as many prefer, social difference) is a feature of autism, and despite having a very busy life full of people who care about me, I can’t deny that it’s something I have to work at. I can forget the simple things that others need in order to feel valued, which can bring on shame and inadequacy, often followed by massively over-compensating in order to soothe any hurt feelings (including my own). So I could hear the tremor in his question, and badly wanted to help.
I’ve been on the lookout for resources I can share with him, rather than passing on my wonky strategies of masking, people-pleasing, or isolating.
This month, Action for Happiness are offering a “Friendly February” calendar, with a suggested activity each day to help build connection. They all look nicely achievable. And much as I hate taking instruction, or admitting I need help… some of these hadn’t occurred to me. Time to put on my humility pants and take some good advice.
I could pretend that we’re doing it for my son, but hell, I need to get better at this stuff, too.
So it’s going on the fridge. Let’s see who scores a full house, and where it takes us…