Introduction – Someone To Show Me “How"
I don’t know if you’re like me, but I like someone to show me how to do some things before I try them.
For example, as a therapist, I know how important deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation is for helping people reduce physical and mental stress. (see here and here for scientific research about the benefits)
I had read about how to these exercises, but nothing quite helped me as much as watching a couple of videos of psychologists teaching these exercises to kids.
The psychologists, from the University of North Carolina, had received lots of training and guidance in these exercises.
At some point in life we all struggle to find friends.
A big thanks to my friend Marc who gave me a book by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, PsyD, author of The Science of Making Friends: Helping Socially Challenged Teens and Young Adults
Dr. Laugeson and her colleagues show us how to find friends.
She and her team of researchers at the UCLA PEERS groups have studied social skills and “what works" in creating friendships.
They have broken down seemingly complex social skills from what people call an “art" to more of a “science."
Here’s what Dr. Laugeson says:
Although it may be true that some have a natural knack for conversational arts, it’s not necessarily true that all social skills are hardwired or fixed. What if conversational skills, and more broadly social skills, were not an art but a science? Our research in social skills training for teens and young adults with social difficulties is based on this premise.
And my premise for you, if you are a middle or later aged adult on the spectrum, is that you can learn these skills as well.
#1 Know Yourself
Friendships often form around shared interests. Therefore it’s important to know what your own interests are.
The reason that identifying your interests is so important is that friendships are based on common interests. It’s your common interests that give you things to talk about and things to do with your friends. If you don’t have things in common with your friends, it may be harder to socialize and get close.
Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, page 43 The Science of Making Friends
Want a list of interests to jog your memory?
- Autism and Aspergers (learning more about it)
- Dog Training
The list goes on!
Once you know your interests, you can find other people who share those same interests. It gives you something to talk about.
#2 Find Friends Through Social Groups
Once you know your interests, it’s time to think of social groups who share the interests you’ve identified.
Where can you find social groups?
Read about these social groups from Thrivers members
Here are some social groups where people in the Thrivers’ community have found friends:
- Running Clubs
- Adults with Autism/Aspergers support group meetings
- Volunteer Organizations
- County Women’s Association
- Library Committee
- Book Clubs
Dr. Laugeson lists groups that high schoolers and young adults have identified-
Jocks, nerds, stoners/druggies/burners, cheerleaders, computer geeks/techies, rockers, popular kids, gamers/video game geeks, hip hop group, student council, science geeks, gang bangers/taggers, drama club, comic book geeks/anime geeks, artists, choir/chorus/glee club, math geeks/mathletes, musicians, greeks (college), band geeks, skaters, groups by major (college only), chess club, surfers, partiers, goths/emos, hippies/granolas, preppies, scene kids, ROTC/military groups, brains/smart kids, hipsters, ethnic/cultural/religious groups.
Dan “googled" gaming and dance groups to help him find places to get to know people after he moved to a new city.
In the words of Alex Generous,
When in doubt, Google. When googling, question the reliability and truth of everything. Look at the people who make claims, and ask yourself if they have a sufficient amount of knowledge to make such a claim. The more proactive you are in your education, the less you have to rely on others for answers. You can find all laws, licenses, addresses, and criminal records within a simple click. This is something you should do in regards to everyone involved in providing accommodations for you such as counselors, doctors, and tutors.
Meetup.com is another site that you can check out to help you find or start groups aligned with your interests.
#3 Commit Yourself To Finding Friends
Earlier this week I was listening to Mark Mason and Ray Edwards talk about achieving goals and breakthough growth in 2017.
Ray Edwards talked about being unsuccessful with meeting two goals over a several years. He wanted to lose weight and get out of debt.
But year after year he would fall short.
Finally, he set some very specific goals in these areas and committed to meeting those goals.
In the last year he’s lost 60 pounds and has paid off all his consumer debt!
A very important part of commitment and achieving goals is your Why.
According to Gail Hyatt, people lose their way when they lose their why.
Write down your commitment to follow these 6 action tips to Find Friends.
Then write your WHY – Why is it important to you to find friends?
List all the benefits of finding a couple of good friends.
Then list all the negative consequences of NOT finding good friends.
Keep this list in front of you every day to remind yourself of your WHY.
#4 Adopt A Growth Mindset
The idea of a growth mindset comes from education researcher Dr. Carol Dweck.
Dan Wendler explained it this way.
Consider learning to play the piano, or improving your current piano playing performance.
If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that you have a very limited ability to play the piano.
However, if you adopt a growth mindset, you shift from thinking about limited ability to believing that you can improve whatever skill you work on.
Does this mean that you’ll be a concert pianist?
But it does mean that you can get progressively better in comparison to where you were!
Read my article, Try These Top 3 Tips To Improve Your Growth Mindset.
These tips include: Understanding What A Growth Mindset Is, Challenging Your Fixed Mindset, and Breaking Bigger Goals Into Micro Goals.
For example –
I might think, “I’m autistic/Aspergian, and I just can’t make friends – the textbooks say so.”
That’s a fixed mindset.
I can then challenge my fixed mindset by saying,
“I know of plenty autistics and Aspergians who make friends. I’ve read about them, I’ve heard them speak, and some of them even have written books about how they have improved their social skills. If they can do it, I can do it. At the very least, I can get better and better at finding friends.”
I can then break my goal of finding friends into smaller goals by asking, “What’s one next action I can take to find friends?” I might decide that I’ll spend a half hour writing down my interests and Googling social groups with those interests in my local area.
#5 Assess Peer Acceptance
This is a tough subject.
But it’s real.
Either people are going to accept us, or they are not.
Dr. Laugeson’s put together a table to help us understand whether we’re accepted or not:
Signs You Are Accepted Versus Not Accepted
|Signs You Are Accepted||Signs You Are Not Accepted|
|They do not seek you out to do things|
|They talk to you and respond to your attempts to talk||They ignore you and do not respond to your attempts to talk|
|They give you their contact information||They do not give you their contact information|
|They respond to your text-message, instant messages, e-mails, or phone calls||They do not accept or return your calls or messages|
|They text message, instant message, e-mail, or call you just to talk||They do not text message, instant message, e-mail you, or call you|
|They invite you to do things||They don’t invite you to do things|
|They accept your invitations to do things||They do not accept your invitations to do things|
|They add you to their social networking pages||They ignore your friend requests on social networking sites|
|They say nice things to you and give you compliments||They laugh at or make fun of you|
#6 Get Feedback: Learn Forward
I don’t know where I’ve read this, but I do like the idea: “Treat failure as temporary feedback.”
When we’ve dealt with rejection of whatever kind, it’s hard not to think that it’s permanent.
But remember that it’s those that increase their “failure” rate that succeed more.
You can’t learn to ride a bike without taking off the training wheels and falling over a few times.
In the same way, every time you decide to go to a social group and get to know people, you’re succeeding, even if you make mistakes along the way.
Join a group like the Thriver’s group, or join Reddit social skills anonymously. If you make mistakes along your social journey, ask for help. There are supportive people waiting to help you along with their own experiences.
How To Find Friends: Putting It All Together
First, identify your interests. Friendships are most often built on shared interests.
Second, seek out social groups based on those interests.
Third, commit yourself to finding friends by going to a group or groups of your choice consistently.
Fourth, shift from a fixed to a growth mindset.
Fifth, check for signs of peer acceptance or rejection.
Sixth, get feedback from people you can trust.
Finding friends is an art, but thankfully Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson and Dr. Carol Dweck are paving the way to making art into science through their work and research.
I wish you the best in your friendship journey!
Join the Conversation
What topics would you most like covered on the show? Who would you like me to interview? Share you answer in the comments below or Ask me a question via my Contact Page.
Do you enjoy this podcast?
Please leave a review on iTunes! Your positive reviews will help drive awareness of the podcast so that many more can see it!