Dear Aspie: How to Handle Unexpected Conversation?


Dear Aspie:
?How do you cope with unknown people talking to you? I find all this very stressful. How do you know how to respond??


Read on for GroovyDruid’s response!
Dear Aspie:
?How do you cope with unknown people talking to you? I find all this very stressful. How do you know how to respond??


Boy, I know what you mean: a stranger talks to you out of the blue, and the anxiety kicks in. You feel like you?re under attack! Your mind is racing: ?What am I supposed to say? Is he really interested in my opinion of the weather?? Before you know it, the guy has told you his name, which two seconds later you cannot recall to save your life. It?s like falling deeper and deeper into a dark pit in the forest.

I will tell you the truth: I often do not know how to respond. I?m an aspie, and to my knowledge no amount of training or understanding will equip me to instantly deal with every scenario in a consistent NT manner.

The story-scenarios I discuss in my letter to hybrid are helpful to mitigate the impact of a small-talk surprise attack. You formulate reasonable stories about the states of strangers sitting near you in a venue. However, even with these stories, one gets blindsided, and the anxiety that follows a surprise attack stems from physiological and neurological changes, not cowardice or unpreparedness. These changes cannot be willed or trained away.

There are certain attitudes that assist you to survive a small-talk surprise attack. First, you should treat yourself with compassion and love. What I mean is, in any surprise attack, you are unlikely to come across as Cary Grant. Blunt but true. So give yourself permission to be that way, to be yourself. Banish all ?shoulds? from your mind: ?I should say something back,? ?I should start small talk,? ?I should remember her name,? ?I should make eye contact,? ?I should hide the way I am.? If you have prepared and are looking for a conversation, then you may use body language tools and small-talk techniques to overcome your AS deficits with some pleasure at the results. But in a surprise attack, it is just not natural. You will only make yourself miserable by giving yourself orders to be something you cannot be on such short notice.

If you give yourself the love and understanding you need when surprised, you are more likely to give the same to the person to whom you are speaking. You will relax faster. You will recover from the shock of being addressed cold by someone you don?t know from Adam. You will feel happier. All this will show. Granted, you will probably come across as a little strange. Well, so what? We aspies are strange to 98 percent of the population. Let it all hang down!

This leads me to another helpful attitude: honesty goes a long way to mitigate the awkwardness of a strange meeting. It might include blunt questions: ?I don?t remember names well. What was yours again?? It might include telling the person some small bit about your AS deficits, or even saying, ?Give me a second while I catch my breath. I?m a bit startled.? These sorts of statements will strike your conversation partner as odd: he was just small talking, after all. But very soon he will warm to your honesty. A human being who deals frankly on such brief acquaintance will intrigue him no end. NTs crave honesty as much as aspies. They expect far less of it than we do, so they are pleasantly surprised to find some, even if it means talking to a guy who doesn?t make frequent eye contact at first.

In sum, I recommend heading off stress above all else. Your body will become stressed during a small-talk surprise attack, but that doesn?t mean your thoughts must follow suit. Give yourself as much patience and understanding as you can, and deal honestly with your conversation partner. Who knows: you might even grow to like talking to strangers, like riding a roller coaster!

Send your questions to ?Dear Aspie?! Just PM your question to GroovyDruid or send an e-mail to [email protected] Questions of a personal nature may be submitted anonymously, though printing a user name is preferred. ?Dear Aspie? reserves the privilege of editing for spelling and clarity. Thanks for your submissions!

One thought on “Dear Aspie: How to Handle Unexpected Conversation?”


    • LevkaLevushka11 on December 16, 2015

      I hate working in public positions, such as customer service or retail positions dealing directly with the customers, trying to do my job was enough by itself without random customers asking me questions like “where is ___?” To which I might know the answer, but getting my mind and body ligned up enough to respond with an intelligible answer was like trying to swim in a lake made of jello. I often would freeze up, I must have looked like a “deer in the headlights” I get the feeling that some people think I am stupid… I am very smart… I am not very quick on the draw, as they say.

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