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So I've known this girl as a stranger for years and this past week we actually interacted and chatted for an hour. She told me a lot about herself, and expressed interest in hanging out the next time we're at the program that we see each other at (which meets once a week). I could see this person becoming a friend that I won't regret the time I spend with her, except for one thing.

As it became relevant to our conversation, she told me that she was ADHD and had "some Asperger's". She was very open about these things, which I was glad about because it allowed me to ask some clarifying questions about how the conditions affected her. When I got home I did some research on Asperger's and found that a lot of what she told me about herself and the manner in which she said it was represented in the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome.

The only thing that I found hard to work around about the interaction was that she rarely asked questions of me and when she did, she did not give me much time to fully answer before she interrupted with a (long) comment of her own. (I asked a lot of questions about her because I was genuinely interested to learn about her life.) But aside from this, I think she's decently socially aware. There are pauses in our conversation and I usually ask a question related to what we were talking about or one about a different subject.

I'm also not sure how well she does paying attention to and discussing deeper and more involved topics (e.g.* how people work/their motives, psychology, the theory behind personality types, highly sensitive people [HSPs]). If she can't talk about stuff on that level, then I question how well my time is being spent and will probably rather do work on my laptop which I will have to get done anyway.
*All of which I am extremely interested in and like to do research on in my free time.

Still, I don't think that this is a good way to establish a mutually satisfying friendship. Ideally, a mutually satisfying (rather than sufficient) friendship would consist of both parties discussing topics that they both enjoy exploring and both representing about 45-65% of the words spoken.

Other Relevant Details

  • She is deeply interested in Minecraft (I read that people with Asperger's tend to be deeply interested in narrow topics) and I have never played and have no interest to begin. So our topics of common interest are sparse.

  • She also has stomach problems, so she spends most of her day on the couch (doing school or playing Minecraft).

  • We are in high school and I am a senior and she is a freshman.

I would like to pursue a friendship with this girl, but I would like to talk about the things that interest me as well, not just about her. QUESTION: Is there a way that I can get her to let me talk during our conversations and steer it towards less superficial things?

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Problem of being interrupted

Since she is Asperger, she probably has a hard time figuring out when it's her turn to talk. I would suggest using hands signals to help with that. Hand signals are really easy to see and hard to misinterpret.

  • First, have a discussion with her where you tell her that, sometimes/often, she interrupts you when you haven't finished talking which makes you feel frustrated.

  • Then, tell her that you would like for the both of you to find a solution to this problem.

  • Finally, suggest using hands signals.

(this follow the pattern of: "When you do X, I feel Y, what about we do Z instead").

Since she has Asperger, be very direct, precise and to the point. Otherwise, she might get lost in what you are saying and miss the important information.

Hand signals

For the hand signals, I would suggest having one for the person who talks and one for the person who wants to talk. The hand signals can be anything but I personally like these ones because everyone tends to understand them (I'm Asperger myself and use them often, especially when I want to talk):

For the person who wants to talk:

  • The person opens her mouth and takes a big inspiration. At the same time, he/she raises one finger (like in school but at shoulder height).

You actually have two signals here (the mouth and the finger). I tend to use the mouth signal first and, if the other person doesn't let me talk, the finger one (with a little bit of waving if the other person really don't let me talk).

For the person talking:

  • As soon as you detect that the other person wants to talk but you aren't finished, raise your hand, palm open, to symbolize a stop signal. You can even add a slight "no" head signal.

  • When you are finished talking, do a "go ahead" signal (let the stop signal down then, with your palm still open, point to yourself than to your interlocutor). You can also add a slight "yes" head signal.


The asking question problem

For the problem that she rarely asked questions of you, you need to know that she probably doesn't know what question she should ask you and that having a conversation with anyone might be stressful for her. As an Asperger, when in a conversation, I tend to use the "and you?" trick but, sometimes, I'm afraid that this would be inappropriate and I don't ask (which might lead other people to think I'm rude).

I only say this to help you understand her better. I won't suggest any course of action, however, if you decide to talk to her about that, be direct, precise, to the point and tell her what she should do to improve things. If you only point to what she is doing wrong, you will stress her because she won't know how to do better. I hate when people do that, don't do that to her.

And, when you tell her how she can improve things, be extra precise, the more precise, the better (having example will help). If you are too vague, you will only stress her because she won't know what to do with what you have tell her.


The superficial problem

If you find that you only have superficial conversations with her, maybe find what she was interested about before Minecraft. She might still be interested about it and you might like the topic too.

You can also try talking about things that aren't Minecraft but that are related (like video games, construction stuff, etc...).

Finally, many Asperger people are interested by the topic of injustice, social justice, veganism, activism, etc... I don't know if she will be interested in that but, if you like one of those topics, it's worth a shot.

If none of this work, you can try to find a list of discussions topic on the internet and ask her to give a grade to each topic depending on how much she is interested in them. I would even suggest that you do the same and, when each of you is finished, each show the result to the other one (you can even talk about it, telling each other why you love/hate this topic and why she loves/hates this other one).

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If she has asperger's and ADHD, she may not realize that she interrupts you to keep talking, because it is fun to share your interests and her mind races as you talk. One of the many challenges of having aspergers is understanding social interactions and the element of give-and-take while talking to someone.

I would suggest letting her know that you would like to finish talking before she interrupts you, such as: "I've noticed that you often interrupt me when I am talking; I would like to finish my sentence first. Is it OK if I remind you when you do that?".

You will also have to adress the fact that you would like to talk about subjects that are a little less superficial, but depending on her personality, she may not want to do that at all. It is going to require a discussion between the two of you to figure it out.

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    Lots of people on the autism spectrum will welcome respectful suggestions to change their behavior, since they have difficulty figuring out how to interact with people. – David Thornley Sep 28 '18 at 21:42
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Is there a way that I can get her to let me talk during our conversations and steer it towards less superficial things

From my personal experience, the only way for a teenager with Asperger's to "let you talk" and listen is when your topic interests them. For such people, getting into something new is a long and windy road filled with setbacks and uncertainties. Ultimately, the topic will need to start "making sense" to them and become a "missing puzzle piece" that will neatly sit together with their previous interests and hobbies. While it's impossible to force them to like something, you can try advertising your topic in a way that will logically "click" for them and make them willing to explore it at their own pace.

For instance, if your friend plays Minecraft on a multiplayer server and has trouble communicating with other players because of her introverted and self-focussed tendencies, you can broach the idea of how knowing psychology and personality types could help her convince other players to build that giant Death Star replica she's been drafting plans for for the past few weeks. Expect it to fail however, in which case don't press it further. The more pressure you apply, the greater chances are she will loathe the topic for the rest of her life.

(Honestly though, the psychology-related topics you listed could not be any worse for a person with Asperger's whose only handicap is precisely in understanding other people. Do you have any other interests which don't have something to do with psychology, such as natural sciences, art or literature?)

Similarly, if you want her to take interest in programming (assuming she isn't proficient in it already), you both could fantasize about various cool Minecraft mods you could make together if she learned how to program. Or add math and physics to the mix, and you could team up and make your own Minecraft-like game from scratch!

Overall, if a "mutually satisfying" friendship means to you that you get to talk about your problems and hobbies as much as she talks about hers, I don't think that will ever work out, even if they both coincide (though that helps immensely). While I firmly believe you can make fantastic friends with people with Asperger's and autism, such friendships need to be truly selfless and asymmetrical. A kind of friendship where both people accept each other the way you are, recognise each other's strengths and special needs and use those differences to your mutual advantage.

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    I think you have an interesting answer and I would just like to point out that some person with Asperger really like psychology-related topic (sometimes because it helps them understand other people). But yes, if she isn't interested in this topic, she probably won't be any time soon. – Ælis Sep 30 '18 at 17:26
  • @Noon Thanks, and you are absolutely right that many people with Asperger's become interested in psychology sooner or later, as it helps them learn a good deal of social skills that others acquire naturally. The real difficulty here is to convince that person that psychology could make all their other hobbies more enjoyable, even if they're not interested (yet) in socializing for the sake of socializing. If OP succeeds in this, however, they may get an ardent(if not somewhat opinionated) conversation partner. – undercat Sep 30 '18 at 17:45
  • It might be worth adding the content of this comment near the "(Honestly though, the psychology-related topics you listed could not be any worse for a person with Asperger [...])" section. Maybe you should edit your answer to incorporate it? – Ælis Sep 30 '18 at 18:20
  • @Noon I want to keep my answer the way it is. Regardless of whether a person with Asperger's does take interest in psychology or not, they will be at a significant disadvantage talking about it, especially at first. Considering OP's seeming attitude that all non-psychology related topics are not "deep and involved" and generally not worth their time, I'm worried that even if their friend does take interest in psychology, her initial lack of knowledge and common sense may only reconfirm OP's misled belief she is a simpleton not worth their time. That paragraph is an attempt to convey this idea. – undercat Sep 30 '18 at 18:45
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    @Nadeshka Also, if you really don't want to talk about something such as pets, it is usually fine to bluntly convey your feeling of boredom with the topic, e.g. "I'm happy you love your cat and it's a real cutie, but I'm tired of this topic. Let's talk about something else, shall we?" People with Asperger's do get carried away sometimes, especially when stressed (and socialising is very stressful to them), and will usually be OK if you speak out your mind, as long as you stay factual, avoid any accusations and offer constructive solutions. – undercat Oct 1 '18 at 5:46

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