Quiet vs. Shy

There are plenty of articles about the difference between being quiet and shy, but since this is Aspergersthemovie.com, we’re going to apply the concept to people with Asperger’s.

There is a difference between being quiet and being shy. The basic definitions are the levels of anxiety with socializing. Shy people don’t like to talk. Quiet people don’t need to talk.

It’s a common stereotype to perceive a person with Asperger’s as a person who doesn’t like to socialize because they are shy and don’t understand social rules. A person with Asperger’s isn’t automatically going to know the social rules, but they will be taught. Shyness is actual distress from the prospect of conversation, fear of judgment, or making a mistake. It’s a prison.

I am familiar with the frustration of wanting to talk to someone and not knowing what to do to make it happen. I’ve learned a few concepts along the way to help me overcome “conversation block” and shyness.

1)      You don’t need to care what people think

Not everyone is going to be your friend, and that’s ok. People with Asperger’s and quiet people in general tend to prefer developing a small number of very strong friendships. For the people that aren’t your friends or people in authority (teachers, bosses, etc.): do their opinions about you really matter?

2)      Find common interests

An easier way to make friends is to get involved in something you are passionate about. Schools have clubs and activities, and if those aren’t of your particular interest, look into starting your own. Also look around the community for clubs or groups. It’s a lot easier to have a conversation about a topic that both parties are interested in. When meeting new people, ask them about their passions and tell them about yours. Even introverts will enjoy discussing something they love with a person who expresses genuine interest in learning.

3)      Branch out – learn something

What if you don’t have any skills, any passions, and you just want to sit and play video games and watch Netflix all day? Well, any schlub can get a simple low  paying job, punching a timeclock enough to pay his internet bill. In another post we’ll explore expectations with employment, but for now, get out and do something. If you try something and don’t like it, you are allowed to quit. Try something else. There will be something you enjoy if you go in with an open mind.

Being quiet is ok. It’s healthy to know yourself and accept who you are. I’m not asking you to go dominate every conversation and be the life of the party. Hanging out with a friend or two is just fine. Getting more comfortable with socializing takes time.

How do you get better at something? You practice. Learn about socializing, practice with family or friends, or go talk to people. It might be fun or it might suck. But you tried. And tomorrow you will try again.

People with Asperger’s are determined to keep trying. The theory about introverts is that they get energy from being alone, and being with people drains them. But the notion of staying alone all the time is not the best idea, because what is the point of all that energy recharging if it never gets used? Do you keep your phone constantly plugged in to the wall or do you bring it around with you and do stuff with it?

Shy people struggle with “bringing their phone outside” because they tend to be angsty. A life of constant anxiety is not healthy or sustainable. Being uncomfortable and sticking with something is a surefire way to tell that there is growth happening. Shyness is a prison. People on the autism spectrum have commonly expressed feeling frustrated and trapped mentally, physically, or both. Push yourself to tear down the prison, even if you have to do it one brick at a time.

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