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9. Social Interactions and Their Unwritten Rules

Social interactions are complex and consist of verbal exchanges, body language, and unspoken norms. For many of us, these ‘rules’ of engagement become second nature. Yet, for those on the autism spectrum, this realm of implicit social understanding can sometimes feel like navigating a maze without a map.

Why Social Conventions Can be Elusive

Human societies have built countless unwritten rules over centuries. From making eye contact during conversations to recognising sarcasm, these conventions guide our interactions. However, for individuals with autism, these unwritten cues might not always be instinctive, leading to potential misinterpretations or feelings of exclusion.

Understanding Social Dynamics

To truly understand these social intricacies, one must recognise the blend of historical, cultural, and even biological factors that shape them. While the flow of conversations may seem simple to some, for many it is very hard and can induce both stress, anxiety and a wish to avoid such situations.

Supporting Ourselves and Others

Support doesn’t just lie in teaching or coaching. It’s also about mutual respect and understanding that everyone perceives the world in their unique way. Embracing this diversity of perspective enriches our social fabric, allowing for more inclusive and compassionate interactions.

Practical Steps to Grasp Social Conventions

  • Visual Aids: Storyboards or illustrations can help visualise different social scenarios, aiding in understanding.
  • Practice Scenarios: Role-playing common social situations can provide practical experience and feedback.
  • Social Training Workshops: Structured workshops can provide tools and strategies to understand and adapt to various social situations.
  • Clarify Doubts: When in doubt, seeking clarification can prevent misunderstandings. It’s okay to ask questions about why certain social norms exist or how to interpret them.

Examples

  • Group Interactions: Participating in group activities like board game nights can offer practical experience in casual social settings, all while focusing on a shared hobby.
  • Feedback Loops: After social interactions, discussing the experience with a trusted individual can provide insights and areas for improvement.
  • Media Consumption: Watching movies or shows and analysing the social dynamics presented can serve as an educational tool.

Daily Change Summary

While the world of social conventions may seem vast and intricate, with patience, understanding, and continuous learning, it’s a realm that can be navigated successfully. As society grows more inclusive and understanding, we pave the way for richer, more diverse interactions that enrich us all.

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