Sunday, 15 January 2012

Review of an Organised Social and Approching More Girls

Last night I went to an organised social, the first for several months now. Everyone there was between 18 and 29, with an equal mix of men and women. I only decided to go on the day. Having not been to any social like this for sometime, and after having had a new haircut, with a more fashionable style, I just couldn't face staying in on my own again.

The place was very busy when I arrived but I settled in quite nicely. It was mainly the men who were there at first, the girls seemed to arrive all at a similar time about 20 minutes later.

One unfortunate dynamic that occured in the first pub was that the girls ended up sitting all round a table, and the guys were standing around mingling beside the other table. I mean I was quite happy to mingle with the guys and as always do my best to be socialable and take an interest in everyone. But what seemed to happen at one point, and I can never pinpoint easily how this happens, is that the guys were split into a couple of groups and I somehow found myself shut out of both conversation. Solution - toilet time!

Back from the toilet things got a bit better as the guys started sitting down on another table. In the meantime I introduced myself and shook hands with the girls, along with some other men there, but the combination of the loud music and the positioning of the girls in a circle made it virtually impossible to have any proper conversation with them.

Soon after though, we moved to another pub. I'd already mentioned to the guys after I came back from the toilet that "I'm not happy with this dynamic, with the girls all around that table and the guys standing around, we need to go somewhere else to break this dynamic!" This did seem like the worst possible dynamic because when your somewhere sitting round a table it doesn't really look noticable if your not really engaged in the conversation, whereas if you are standing up mingling and you're and the converstion of the people closest to you are talking ahead of you, you can look rather like a 'loser.' That said you don't want to be stuck at the same seat all night. You need a mix of standing and mingling and sitting.

As we moved to another pub I managed to interact with the girls more. Prior to the night and on the train journey there I had done my usual brainstorming. This was for both possible topics to disucss, and also conversational techniques and opinion openers to use. I largely feel I succeeded with this.

I had more social success in the second pub. I managed to get sitting on a stall opposite a couple of girls and got them engaged in a conversation, using some of the techniques I have learnt in the past year. I tried out a new opinion opener on them (although I wasn't making a cold approach). Later on I managed even to use an ice-breaker, with one man and one girl, that I actually learned unwittingly from my parents to get a couple of people talking, and to get the conversation to become more interesting. I feel really proud of this moment because I actually managed to lead the conversation for a time. However I may also have unwittingly got those two into some type of 'us' zone, as on the second time round, they both agreed to do it again, and have the loser by a drink. When he suggested this I said I wasn't prepared to play such a game as I didn't have enough cash left, so the two of them did it between them.

Eventually we went into a third pub but by this time the group seemed to be dissembling, probably due to the crowds of people. So I decided at this point I would slip back to the station, but not before going into a favourite pub in the town and making a cold approach with my new opener. I found a couple of girls and a suitable moment to approach them, keeping an eye on my mobile whilst pretending I was recieving a text whilst looking for my window of opportunity. This time I seemed to hit the mark as far as this went. The girls seemed to be engaging with me, one of them even asked me what I do, thus investing something herself into the conversation. Mind you, they said they had to leave by this time. So mixed feeling about this one!

I bumped into a girl I had been speed dating with coming out of that pub. She recognised me, though I did not recognise her. And I managed a fifteen mintue interaction at the train station sitting down in the waiting room. I found an excuse to give that girl my number, though I don't think I liked her enough to want to ask for hers. A man from work was also entering the station and saw me chatting to the girl. She said to him "we only just met." I hope I impressed him somewhat.

Overall I am pleased I was able to put some things I have learnt recently into practice, and perhaps one thing I have learnt is to take a more chilled out approach to approaching girls. That said I still feel I have some social deficiency that I cannot quite pinpoint, but that seems to prevent me from actually making real friendships and bonding with people, particularly women. I hope to continue practicing doing these kinds of interactions.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Being Secure in Your Insecurities: A Challenge for 2012

A couple of months ago, I was definitely feeling like I was quite poorly grounded, and this was showing itself somewhat in my Facebook status's. The reason was to do with my uncertainties. For a start I am studying accountancy in my spare time but I really don't know when and how I'll be able to get a job in that type of work. Also socially I'm feeling somewhat poorly grounded. Of course there's always organised socials but that is very much an artifical context, and what I am lacking is any kind of close group of mutual friends of both sexes and my age range that I can hang out with, and get to know girls through. Sometimes it looks like something is about to take off that will change that, but all too often those thing don't materialise due to other people's circumstances. It means it's hard to know from one week to the next, or one month to the next, what social opportunities there may be. I have a number of friends that meet up with me for a cup of tea or something, but thats mainly older single guys, and all too often on my Saturday evenings I'm left with a choice of a social in an artificial context or being on my own.

I feel quite insecure about the fact that I am always seeking out new people. I don't really want to have that identity. At the same time I am very much a political person and an 'issues' man. My interests are quite specialist in a way and not everyone wants to talk about them. Politics by nature is something that divides people rather than unites them. So I feel awkward about on the one hand being political, into my own interests and views etc, and yet also feeling insecure socially and wanting to make new friends, regardless, really of their opinions on everything.

Being socially in need is not an identity that I really want, yet I am socially in need and don't want to be on my own, without opportunities to meet women.

To add to the mix, there are things that make me worried, and things that make me angry.

I am very much aware of that fact that a man who is well grounded and secure in his identity is far more attractive to women than one who poorly grounded. And I definitely want to be well-grounded, but how is that possible when life is full of uncertainties?

Being Secure in Your Insecurities

I think that over the past year, I have steadily learnt from one of my closest friends how to be secure in your insecurites. My friend has been through a divorce this past year, and the issues around visiting his son whilst going through the divorce. On top of that he is living with another couple and isn't likely to ever to be able to afford to buy his own property.

My friend has uncertainties and issues. But he is very much an alpha male. He comes across as well-grounded despite his issues. He is very much a leader of men. Other men, including myself will call him when they have a problem, and he is very good at helping guys get out of their rut, who probably otherwise would not have any way of breaking out and fulfilling their potential.

I meet with this guy and a group of other guys every few weeks. One thing I have identified about my friend is that he is secure in his insecurities. This is something I hope to become this year.

Usually as I start a new year I will begin with a degree of optimism as I determine to make a fresh start, hoping all my problems with go away and brainstorming how to expand my social circule. However, most people have some kind of issue which won't disappear overnight. As I've thought about this, it seems that in order to be secure in your insecurities, you need to first know yourself well and know exactly what your insecurities are, and to in a sense, contain them all into separate boxes.

If its an uncertainty about your social life, then its good to identify what your issue is, and what it is you all looking and hoping for. If it is a struggle with your identity or who you are as an individual, it is good to be able to pinpoint what is causing you to be insecure. If it is about an ongoing worry or anger issue, it is good to be able to pinpoint precisely what it is you are worried or angry about, identifying the issue. Put the issue in a box, so it doesn't get out of hand.

It may not always be possible to eliminate a certain problem entirely, however there should always be ways to manage the problem to avoid it escalating and getting out of control. Identifying the problem is the first step to tackling the issue, because by identifying it you made it seem smaller - it's not as big as you first think it is. And it then enables you to go and talk to someone about the problem and seek the precise help you need.

Often when a person is in a panic or in a fit of rage, much of the reason for this is because something has just occurred that has put that person into 'shock' mode, and there hasn't been time for that person to digest the issue they're worried about, so the problem seems a lot bigger than it is. Once the person has had time to compose themself and break down the issue and identify what aspect is causing worry, anger, stress etc, they are far better equipped to address the issue.

A soldier, full of energy, will be far more effective when he can pinpoint who his specific enermy is and target them, than when he faced with his opposing enermy territory that is too much to handle, and find himself in a panic about it and not know which part of enermy territory he should target.

Its the same principle with dealing with personal problems. Identify the insecurity, then try to be comfortable with this insecurity, knowing that is part of who you are, and then with a clear understanding of the problem, work on addressing the problem. That's what I call being secure in your insecuritites.

Friday, 30 December 2011

The Right Way to Address Another Persons Negative Behavioral Traits

A very minor incident that happened today reminded me and helped me to clarify in my mind something I've been thinking about lately, to do with dealing with bad behavior, or negative behavioral traits, that may occur in people with Aspergers, but also applies to neuro-typicals.

I know a man who is in many ways very helpful, but has a number of undesirable traits that he seems to be somewhat aware of himself. Those traits are firstly, that he can quckly change his tone from being friendly to being somewhat aggresive, after something he sees that irritates him, and secondly, he is easily able to see the negatives in people, and can find a bone to pick with anyone he knows.

On several occasions, he has had to point out to me a few technical mistakes I make occasionally, sometimes when he has seen a pattern. These are not fatal errors or especially numerous ones, but the type that everyone will make from time to time. He has often accused me, when pointing out these errors, of sighing and groaning at him or over-reacting or even taking offence at them, and has said he finds it 'rude.' He's accused me of trying to pass the blame onto another person. This is led to us almost falling out once or twice.

Now when someone tells me I've done something wrong or made a mistake. that's bad news. It doesn't really matter who the messenger is, although how the messager delivers may impact my impression of the seriousness of the error. But it's bad news because I want to get things right, I want to be regarded as competant, I want to progress in life an in my career, and anything that says I'm not up to standard is bad news. How do we normally react to bad news? With a sigh or a groan. That's our natural reaction!

So you've just had a tickling off over a basic mistake, perhaps some errors in a spreadsheet or walking too fast, you naturally sigh and groan, the the same person moans at you for a sigh or a groan and tells you you're being rude, then guess what - you have compounded the problem. You are now faced with two pieces of bad news - you've made an error and your behavior is sub-standard and rude. What's you naturally reaction? An even bigger sigh, and on, and on. It can go round in circles.

Now this type of situation happens all the time. It happens in schools when a telling off over a sub-standard homework assignment is followed by a a telling off over a bad reaction to the teacher's displeasure. At least that's how I see it.

Now my question is, do we learn better when we are in a good mood or a bad mood? Sometimes it appears the only times we're taught how to 'behave' is by being told off when we get it wrong. As autistic speaker Ros Blackburn has said, there is a difference between being told how to behave, and being told off about how you behave. I would like to suggest that after facing a rebuke on two different accounts, it is a bit much to expect one to walk back to their desk with a happy smile on their face!

It is important that we distinguish between what is 'rude' and what is a natural reaction to bad news. I strongly object to the charge of 'rudeness' simply because I'm displaying my natural reaction, and the fact I happen to have a nervous and reactionary disposition and a tendency to panic. One must be careful in their use of words. If we say 'it may appear rude' is better than 'that's rude' it helps to shows we recognise that they are not being malicious.

The main point I wish to make is this. If someone, after facing a ticking off over one thing, is reacting badly, and has a behavioral trait that needs to be addressed for whatever reason, the time to address it is not when that person is being told off for another misnomer. No, the time to address such traits is when a more calm, controlled and positive situation arises, such as their annual review, which will most likely begin with a few 'well dones.' If more urgent, organise a one-to-one meeting several hours or days later when that person is in a good mood, and at that kind of meeting start off with something positive, and just gently mention the negative trait or issue that needs addressing, and explain calmly how that person needs to be aware how their behavior is impacting others. That way, it will also help ensure that what you are saying is accurate depiction of the person's behavior and not a 'reaction' to it. A few positives will assure them that their misnomers do not make them incompetent or a failier, and that in itself will mean that they will be less likely to react badly when the next one is brought to their attention.

In short, don't bombard you child, pupil or work colleague with more than one rebuke at once. Address behavior when that person is in a good mood in a planned and organised setting, and do it all carefully and sensitively.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Social Shields and Avoiding Awkward Conversations

For as long as I can remember, I have adopted various 'social shields' as a way to get out of an awkward conversation. By awkward conversations I am talking about when someone asks me a question about an issue that I wish to keep private, not because of any kind of bad behavior I've done, but when it relates to a matter of personal preferences that for some hard to explain reason is a sensitive issue for me - often because there is some kind of pre-concieved image tied into my preference whichever way that I am embarrased to associate myself with. My main social shields used to be my watch, and being concerned about time keeping, and needing the toilet. These days, it tends to be my mobile, and its use is not in such obvious situations as it used to be, as I am better prepared and able to handle more questions.

One thing I am sensitive to is knowing what personal things certain people know about me and what I keep private from them. Now sometimes I may have very mixed feelings about whether I want to tell someone I know, such as a work colleague, certain things about my life, preferences and beliefs. On the one hand if I do tell them, it will open myself up to some more interesting conversations and enable me to discuss things that I definitely do want to talk about, but won't make much sense unless I explain the sensitive issue first. On the other hand, revealing the sensitive issue has the potential to give rise to more awkward questions and conversations with that person, and there may be future occassions when I may be concerned as to what that person is thinking about me when a certain situation arises (i.e. if you tell someone you fancy a certain girl and then three months later you're all out together, that's just one general example of the sort of thing I mean). On the basis that you cannot undo information you have given to someone, I generally play safe, and if telling that person something about me is just going to make life harder, I just choose avoid to avoid that topic.

What makes life very difficult, is when someone, whilst not necessarily asking you direct, tries to engage you in a conversation about something that just so happens to be a sensitive issue for you. Sometimes the conversation will start on a 'safe' subject, and then in a way that cannot possibly be anticipated, the other person veers the conversation off into what happens to be your senstive area. Sometimes they may feel very strongly about an issue, and I strongly disagree with them, and they try to engage me into a topic, and when this happens, the only form of defense I can use is to pretend to be having to concentrate on whatever I'm doing a bit more, or look at the clock. If I express my views on the matter, I feel it could lead to a whole host of awkward questions, and potentially awkward situations in future - so it is safer just to keep the whole subject private.

When it comes to how open I am on a certain issue, I am often wanting to be all or nothing with people. Either that person knows the full story, or much of it when it comes to my views or preferences on this subject, with all the whys and that, or I just keep quiet about it. Because that person only knowing half the story is likely to make me feel most uncomfortable and leave me wondering what that person is thinking. Besides 'coming out' as such (I'm not gay) on a subejct and explaining everything at once provides a necessary shield against potential awkward questions that may arise in due course. Its like answering them all in advance so you don't have to face them unexpectedly later.

What If They Find Out Through A Third Party

Unfortantly, a recent incident occured by which I appear to have discovered, that a certain person does know after all something about me that I intended to keep private. I have a number of ideas about how that person may have found out. This is surprising in a way, in view of the way they had been talking to me about this subject. I have to say I have absolutely no respect for someone who knows your secrets, and then tries to engage you with a conversation topic you haven't opened up about to try to get you t reveal more, when revealing with could make life more difficult in future. Now the issue I wish to address is: How do you deal with this type of issue with a person with aspergers?

In short I would say, when a person has found something out about another, and has become apparent to both parties, that really that person would rather not have had them know, but its out there now anyway, the best way is to try and reveal in gently, away from others, that you happen to know this, and give the person time to ask questions about what they know and explain their position, and 'come out and reveal all.' Basically revealling everything necessary to avoid awkward conversations in future. Give the person time and space to adjust to the fact you knew about this issue, and if necessary allow them time out to wander and think it through.

I am of course beig very vague in this post, this is necessary to protect my own and other people's identities among those I know. How exactly one will deal with this will vary upon the individual situation. But I hope readers will understand the general principles here, in terms of why some issues will want to be kept private, and have to sensitively tackle a sensitive issue with someone, especially one with aspergers, when unwanted things have become revealled. 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Problems of Understanding Jokes

At work, one person recieved a present at the Secret Santa that had a joke attached to it. I cannot elaborate online, for the sake of people's identities. Nevertheless, this incident has helped me to explain better the two-fold difficulty of understanding jokes.

This incident helps me to explain that there is often not a one but a two-fold difficulty for someone with Aspergers to understand a joke. The first difficulty is to do with the fact the Aspergers people tend not be broad and balanced thinkers and do not have a wide general knowledge. They tend to instead go much deeper into their own favourite subject, looking into the tiny details, which can make life lonely as there is no-one who will engage with their distinct interests. It also means that whilst they may appear highly intelligent when discussing a favourite subject, they will also lack a lot of more foundational knowledge, some of which is rarely taught and expected to 'picked-up' such as many innuendos, and as a result some situation may make an Asperger's person appear 'stupid.' Often jokes are based around some assumed piece of common knowledge. If you don't have that piece of knowledge you have no chance of getting it.

The second difficulty is to do with the fact that jokes involve connecting two or more unconnected dots in the back of your mind all within an instant. Now recently I have watched a bit comedy and paid some attention to the structure of jokes I have heard. By chance I even thought of one, albeit a crude and possibly offensive one, but I found it funny, and I'll explain those dots that need connecting. Here's the joke in the format of a conversation between a mother and son.

Son. "Oh I can't stand being overweight many more, I've really got to something to lose weight."

Mother. "Well if join the Army you'll be losing large chunks off your weight when your on the front-line in Afrghanistan"

Perhaps this is both a bad constucted joke and a potentially hurtful one for wounded ex-servicemen and their families, so I apologise if I caused any offence. The joke is that if you get deployed to Afghanistan you may lose weight, by having your legs and arms blown by hitting hit by an IED. You'll lose weight but in all the wrong places!

The thing is to get such a joke you have to both be aware of what is happening in Afghanistan and then quickly remember this and connect the loss of limbs to weight loss. You have to mentally jump over a bridge in order to make sense.

Another issue with jokes is that the answer is not always logical. Here's an example of a joke that I was told has been popular recently.

Q. What is the Capital of France?

A. £2.50.

The joke is based upon the word Capital, and the answer is in relation to the current economic crisis in the eurozone. But why pick £2.50? Why not £1.50, or £3.50 - they're all small amounts of money? This is what I mean by the answer not being logical. Any small figure would do, and there's no logical reason to pick any particular number - unless one can improve upon it of course.

With all these complications in jokes I find it incredible that at least 95% of people regularly get them, and someone like myself, who is quite intelligent (at least I give off that impression) and academic, dosen't. Its like walking into a party - one of the most complicated things for the human brain to deal with, and yet somehow everyone is expected to be able to do it confidently or else look like a 'loser.'

Saturday, 26 November 2011

I Just Cannot Trigger Attraction. Is There Any Way I Can Bypass This Phase?

I sometimes think that the more I read or hear about the things that attract women, the more I realise that my whole persona is one that is simply not geared towards it. I have heard it said that the three key qualitites that attract women are, firstly benig supposedly 'pre-selected' by other women, secondly, being a leader of men, and thirdly, a protector or loved ones. I am by nature none of those things. I do have many good qualities - I am well organised, hard-working, mature, loyal, reliable and independent, I managed to get a a mortgage at age 21, but none of those characteristics triggers a woman's attraction switches. The things that cause a woman's attraction are my weak areas. I have been feeling that I really need something tantermuont to an arranged marriage, because it would enable me to find a relationship with a girl who would appreciate the qualities I do have whilst bypassing the attraction phase.

That said, I am working hard to develop those areas that trigger a girl's attraction. I try to use stories about things I've done which may demonstrate an element of those attraction qualities, and can hopefully sub-communite that I have those things. I often find that when I am at home I brainstorm the various natural conversational techniques I have learnt that can help to improve my communication with women, but when I am actually in a social situation talking to a girl I find myself forgetting much of it

A good case in point would be this past Thursday. It was my uncle's birthday and he was hosting drinks at a local pub. I decided I would come along. I didn't know who would be there, though I suspected there would be people I knew present. Now whenever I find myself arriving at an organised social or walking into a party, I cannot help but appear a little apprehensive, for the simple reason that I don't know exactly what the logistics will be like on arrival. Who's going to be there? Will they be standing, mingling around or sitting in a circle round the table? Who will be the first person I know who will spot me arriving? These were all uncertainties I had on Thursday. Now I wasn't worried about any of these things, I was actually very relaxed about it all. Nevertheless, when I walked into the pub, these were the things I was looking for when looking to see my uncle and his friends. So I entered in, turned round the corner and sure enough I saw my uncle and some friends sitting around a table. I then had to spend a minute or so digesting the situation - OK, so this person's here, that person's here, is that so-and-so? are these people part of the group? All these little things. Whilst I am digesting the situation, trying to say Hello to people, an attractive girl who was in the group who I'd met a few times before said Hello to be, and said "are you OK?" or something of that nature and I said "yes, I'm justy taking a minute to digest this, see who's here" or words to that effect. The point is, in having to digest the situation, it seems that I cannot help but display slightly uncomfortable body language, which can be misinterpreted. I wish I could go up confidently to everyone and say 'Hi' making good eye contact, but I just can't do that in this type of situation.

Now as I chatted to the girl I mentioned and to other people, I did get some things right. I managed to incorporate a few conversational techniques I have learnt which help the interaction, but I often feel frustrated that I can never say anything that will trigger attraction, or make the girls laugh. Girls may think I'm a nice person and consider it a decent conversation but I just cannot create any sparks or make it feel special in any way. And I find myself forgetting so many things that I've learnt and can remember when I am at home on my own.

I wasn't trying to target any patricular person at this social, and I am trying to move away from targeting certain girls and focusing on displaying attractive qualities to everyone. My aim is to be able to come across to everyone as confident and socially attractive and for girls to be able to look upon me as potential boyfriend material rather than I guy who lacks a bit of confidence and may need a bit of a boost.

How does one find a relationship if they cannot display such characteristics, or appear nervous? I think of certain older married men who display a shy, retiring, personality, and think "How Ever Did They Find Their Wives!?"  It seems strange to me how the majority of men are able to find relationships and can trigger attraction with at least one woman and have an interaction that is more than just a 'nice conversation.' It leads me to the question sometimes - is there such a way I can find a relationship with a girl that would bypass the attraction phase?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Speed Dating

Last night I went out speed dating. There were fourteen girls there and I spent about three minutes chatting to each one. Prior to speed dating I had an hour's coaching with Alan who runs the attraction academy I've been involved with. I had previously brainstormed a few ideas for how to approach the dates, one who the use of assumption stacking rather than just questions, and a list of a few things I should say about myself and subjects that may be useful to discuss.

I arrived at the venue with another guy from the academy, we were directed to the room where speed dating was going to take place. It felt slightly awkward seeing the girls around who you knew you would be speed dating with in a few mniutes, so I tried to make a good impression by chatting to my friend from the academy and a few other guys around. One guy who was new to the town I spoke to was very helpful, in that my conversation with him enabled me to practice takling to the girls.

So speed dating commenced and it started off fairly smoothly. Having not done this before I did not know what to expect from the girls, or how they might want me to approach the conversation. I found early on that the girls were going into 'interviewer' mode with me, they all asked me basic things like 'what do you do?' etc, and I tried to give an attractive answer. On the one hand this made things a bit easier as it wasn't me doing all the work, but at the same time it makes it harder for me to stimulate a more fun and attraction-building conversation, when a q&a frame is being set. It was a contrast in some way to the ways girls respond when you approach them cold in pubs and bars.

I tried assumption stacking and second guessing things about them, as this is something I was trained to do in attraction coaching, but also asked questions. I don't think I quite managed to build a deeper connection with anyone or create any solid attraction. It is frustrating because when you're actually interacting with girls you forget much of what you've been taught.

One embarrasing thing though. I realised later that I had accidently used the girls toilets, with their not being clear signposts at the club and thinking that they were unisex. Over the break I went into a cubicle and could hear the girls talking abuot the guys they interacted with, and I fear that someone may I have said something negative about something I said to them. Oh dear!

There was also a moment when there was a bit of a mix up with the order of girls I should be dating - apparently that's quite normal.

One thing that was trickly was trying to hold a conversation which creates attraction whilst handling the practical matter of writing each girl's name and number down on our cards and making sure I get it right.

Well I am really hoping I will have some new contacts after this. I definitely want to do it again soon, and next time I will be much better prepared, because I will know the place, know the set-up, know the way that girls approach each interaction (interviewing), knowing in practice the length of time I have with each girl, and thus I will be in a better position to prepare myself better for the occassion.