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Recently I've been reconnecting with an old friend from university and we've met up a few times in public locations for coffee etc. We've been getting along really well but I've noticed one aspect of his behaviour that comes across as very odd. Whenever he sits on a chair to eat/drink, he props himself up so that his feet are also on the edge of the chair and he picks at food rather than eating it "normally".

People around us have noticed and I've seen some people pointing and quietly laughing. One of my other friends even asked me why he "sits and eats like a monkey". Like me, he is on the autistic spectrum and can be a bit socially "blind" so I'm not convinced he even noticed. Nevertheless, I think this is something I want to bring up with him.

My question is how best to approach the topic. No one likes to be told that their behaviour is weird but I think it's better that he be made aware from someone meaning well than being made fun of. He was bullied at university due to some of his other behaviours (most of which he has been able to correct or subdue) which really harmed his self-esteem and caused him to withdraw, another reason I want to approach this carefully.

My intent more than anything is to make him aware of his behaviour. If he already is and the potentially negative attention doesn't bother him I'm not going to push it further. I just want to give him the chance to correct his own behaviour if he is unaware.

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The fact that you are both on the autism spectrum can work in your favor bringing this up because you can share a common point of view. You might ask him a more general starting question like:

I know that we have both had to endure strange looks or bullying because of some of our behaviors. I would hope that if you noticed something I was doing that might seem different to others that you would tell me. I'd rather know about it than have people making fun of me behind my back - would you do that for me?

The idea here is to not put yourself above him and say that you have all the answers and he needs to be more like you - it's to share in an agreement that you will help each other because while your behaviours may be different you both share something and you need to stick together.

This may be enough of a conversation starter to provide an opening to discuss what he does when he is eating, but if it doesn't, then you can transition to something like this:

Would you want me to tell you if I noticed something you were doing that may strike others as being odd?

Once you have gotten a positive response - the entire conversation may take place over a few different meetings depending on how open he is - then you can break the news to him in a way that shows you are truly trying to be his friend and both understand him and help him change something that would invite criticism. When he is open and ready I'd say something like this:

I've noticed that when you eat you often pull your feet up on the chair. Are you doing that for comfort? Does it help you relax? I understand if it does (offer an example of what you do that helps you be comfortable). In public, though, it comes across as being a little strange. Most people don't do that and I've noticed people reacting to it. I'm not trying to make you feel bad, but just make you aware that people notice it and may think it's a little weird.

The main goal is to establish a shared trust - i.e. we both have to deal with stuff that most people do not and we need to look out for each other. One way to do this is to point out when we are doing things other people might not understand. It's no different than the courtesy of telling someone their fly is down or they have spinach in their teeth.

Good luck!

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Just ask.

If he's an old friend from university, and you're noticing a new behavior, asking about it seems pretty reasonable. Just try to separate the judgement from the question.

Next time you're eating with him, and you see him perched on his chair, try something like:

I've noticed that you sit differently than you used to when you're eating. What's up with that?

Chances are pretty good that if you're just asking a simple question, you'll get a simple answer. But be prepared for an answer that may not make much sense to you.

I had a roommate who would perch when we were waiting in lines for concerts or just smoking cigarettes on the porch. His reasoning was a mix of stretching, keeping his pants clean, and personal comfort. Basically he had, what was for him, a resting position that allowed him to sit pretty much anywhere without his pants touching the ground or surface he was sitting on. Obviously this looked a little strange, because he was a rather tall guy who could fold his knees into his chest and comfortably rest that way with his butt sorta sitting on his heals. Looked painful to most people, but it worked for him.

I never bothered asking him to stop, he seemed aware that people thought it odd, he just didn't really care. That's how I would approach your situation. Ask why he's doing it, check for social awareness, and then leave it be.

Being aspie myself, I'm aware of my quirks, and I'm mostly aware of the ones that people find off putting, or humorous. Some things I adjust for, and some things I choose to ignore. My most off putting one is probably stimming with my piercings, freaks some people right out, but it's intensely satisfying for me. Sometimes I opt not to spin my lip-ring where people can see it, and sometimes I just say "screw 'em" and make myself happy.

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Simple answer: Be honest. Say what you mean. You're not hurting anyone by telling them the truth. You're actually helping a person improve. Each time you do it, you strengthen the trust between you, which is what really binds people together.

Why do I say this?

You know I guess I have always been lucky with friends because we have always been open to say things without fear of hurt feelings. In fact, we are brutally honest with each other and will often "rib" on each other all the time.

Oddly enough, me an my wife have the same relationship. We will insult, ridicule, and threaten each other but not in a mean or disparaging way. It's always humorous. We exploit the stereotypes of husbands and wives to our advantage. I believe it allows us to blow off steam and prevent bottling things up.

We get the message, but at the same time we are so accustomed to the delivery method that it doesn't bother us. In fact, I view it as the most honest love. Am I sadistic? lol I don't know, but after 26+ years we're stronger than ever. We were not when we were beating around the bush and holding back.

Of all the relationships I have observed, those that are based on humor, and allow open dialog and criticism have been the most successful.

Everyone's relationship with their friends and loved ones is handled differently. I'm not sure if you have a relationship with your friend that is based on humor and openness. If not, I'd recommend establishing one like that. It's just my two cents based on my experience and observations.

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Like me, he is on the autistic spectrum

I think this is key - does he know you are, and does he know he is?

If he is aware of both then it seems simple - sounds like you'd be bothered if you were doing something "weird" and would like to be told, so assume/give him the credit/ he has the same self awareness.

You know, one aut to another, that way you sit really gets comments from them, had you noticed?.

Maybe he says "Oh thanks hadn't noticed, damn its difficult to know what they are thinking right?" and maybe he says "So what, screw em!". Either way you did your duty as a friend. (And he might say "so what" and then adjust it anyway, or he might just not. But you did your part. for him. He knows, its his choice now.)

If he doesn't know you are, maybe it's a good time to bring it up. Again the plain approach.

I haven't said before, but I'm also... etc.

If he doesn't know he is... not sure how to handle that one. Will leave for other answerers.

Hope that helps. Personally I'm not on the autistic end of the spectrum but just somewhat. If someone said "I'm autistic and I notice you do this" I may or may not like it, but, I would appreciate their honesty.

protected by John Feb 10 '18 at 15:55

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