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I am 18 year old male, and I have PDDNOS (a form of autism). I don't feel comfortable with most social interactions around strangers. I am struggling with the choice of forcing myself in social interactions.

I am an introvert, so I have some difficulties with interacting with other people. I am fine with talking to a small group of people whom I know, but if I'm in a busy place (e.g. a party), I have the habit of being very uncommunicative.

I don't even like going to those places. So most of the time I am staying at home and do something I feel comfortable with, but I also think that it is unhealthy for me (not for my body, but for my social life) to do that.

How do I engage socially and be comfortable doing so?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking "should I". Questions of this type have been determined to be off-topic – Rainbacon Apr 20 '18 at 18:37
  • @Rainbacon can i reword the question so that it is on-topic – Termatinator Apr 20 '18 at 18:43
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    The problem with questions asking "should I" is that they tend to attract opinion based answers. We aren't here to make a decision on what you should do. If you decide whether or not to put yourself into social interactions we can help you with the skills needed to do that. So yes, it can be reworded into something on topic. – Rainbacon Apr 20 '18 at 18:46
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    @Termatinator You already have 5 answers on this post. Instead of editing this question and invalidating the existing answers, it might be a good idea to ask another question, instead. – sphennings Apr 21 '18 at 0:38
  • "How do I become comfortable being social?" is more of a intrapersonal skill than a personal skill and as such is off topic for this site. "How do I engage socially?" is a very broad question, If you decide to edit or ask another question try to make it more specific. – sphennings Apr 21 '18 at 0:40
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I have ... similar issues.

In my experience, no matter how often you force yourself into uncomfortable social environments, you won't start to like them. You'll probably never be a party person, and when you don't enjoy the activity, you'll probably only resent having to do it.

What I found helps me out tremendously with practising social interactions is to attend social activities where you want to partake in the activity. So instead of practising at a party, find a board game club you like. Or find a hobby group that does something you enjoy.

This provides a nice conversation starter, too and it is much easier to socialize with people you share interests with.

So my recommendation would be to avoid forcing yourself to go to activities you have no interest in just to learn social interaction. Instead, find something you like that has social interactions in it, and partake in that.

All that being said, it's worth mentioning that being alone often in and of itself isn't unhealthy behavior. As long as you don't become a complete recluse, do what makes you happy and don't feel forced to adhere to whatever is "an average number of social interactions" or somesuch. Everyone is different, and as long as you have some contact with people, that's okay and you don't need to force yourself to be uncomfortable.

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    Furthermore, if the OP is like me, meaning being bad in smalltalk, you usually really don't have anything to say with people you don't share some interest with. – Walfrat Nov 9 '17 at 12:53
  • Solid answer @Magisch, and I upvote! Best part: "What I found helps me out tremendously with practising social interactions is to attend social activities where you want to partake in the activity. So instead of practising at a party, find a board game club you like. Or find a hobby group that does something you enjoy. This provides a nice conversation starter, too and it is much easier to socialize with people you share interests with." – English Student Nov 9 '17 at 18:49
  • @Walfrat you're absolutely right, I don't know what to say to them. – Termatinator Nov 10 '17 at 12:09
  • +1 for the board game night suggestion. When you go to one of these, you have plenty to talk about as you learn the rules of new board games and have to talk about them. There's little to no social pressure to start or maintain lengthy conversations. – Eric Nov 11 '17 at 6:54
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I used to be in the same shoes as yours. In fact, I'm from the Netherlands as well. I was always VERY awkward and disliked public speaking. Because, and only because, I used to stutter immensely - and I still stutter today (but not as bad as back then) - so I avoided verbal communication as much as possible, because the whole stuttering-thing made me never enjoy talking. I do not have autism, though, so my answer would be on the being-social-shy-part of the question.

I would answer your question with another question. Do you need or want to become more socially active? Like, for example, do you have a job where that is pretty much your day-to-day activity (this is an example of where you need to become socially active to be able to perform well), or do you feel left out, or like you're missing out on what others do have, like being able to hang around a group of people in comfort (this would be an example of why you would want to become more active socially).

I don't know about your scenario, but I can say what to do if you do decide that you want to become more socially active:

  1. First of all, don't worry. Don't feel intimidated by those people. They're just people. I'm sure that if you get to know them, they would be pretty alright to hang around with. And know that you're not the only one who feels intimidated to talk, or just hang around people you might not even know. It's very common.
  2. Practise your social skills. You might be socially awkward today, but that doesn't mean that you will still be this way tomorrow. Just practise your social skills. One step at a time. First practise with family members. If that becomes easy, then move to just one stranger. If that becomes easy, then multiple people. Then a group, etc.
  3. Being an introvert is part of your character. You can still be an introvert, and STILL be social. The reason why I'm stating this, is that you don't really need to change this part of yourself. I myself am still an introvert, but I don't mind talking to people now, in fact, I'm pretty skilled in giving lectures and whatnot and public speaking. That could be you too.
  4. If there are activities that you don't want/like to do (like going to a party), then don't do them. Don't let the social pressure get to you. I don't like to go to parties either. My definition of a party would be a Xbox Live party, playing games with others who feel the same! Yes, on the weekends! Who cares about what people call you.
  5. Finally, social skills actually have many advantages. You're more charming, confident, open and it opens the door to many oppurtunities (like a promotion at work or something like that). Why am I saying this? Because you could make this your motivation! It IS worth it to be more social. It really is! But you can still be yourself!

And I would like to end with one of the best advices I've ever heard:

No matter what you do... there will always be someone hating on you, and what you do, and who you are, and what you stand for... So, therefore... DON'T CARE about what people have to say about you, because you can never please everyone in the first place!

Hope this helps.

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  • luckily I don't feel intimidated and I don't stutter. (did you ever feel intimidated?). I just like to be alone, but I do think that it may be unhealthy. I do not want to be more socially interactive, but I just think that it is unhealthy. Also thank you for your kind words, I am also lucky with the fact that I don't know anyone who hates me. – Termatinator Nov 8 '17 at 20:33
  • Intimidated? Without any doubt. It's like being put in a boxing ring where you have to box with the world champion. That's how I felt talking to someone who's great at talking, and I'm not. Not just that, but the reaction they would have after hearing me stutter is not the most motivating thing to see. It only makes you want to talk less. But in your case, you should ask yourself; is it BETTER for me to become socially active, or not? If it is, then why not go for it? Self-improvement is always important. Train yourself to become a winner, and then... win. – The Stranger Nov 8 '17 at 20:39
  • Do you have any advice on how to do it? And how to handle being uncomfortable? Family and friends (and known people) are easy for me, except when in large groups. That's also the main problem with me, the large groups. Let's just say that my mind can't handle it, even when they are not looking/speaking to me (even when it's completely silent). oh and the party is, in my case, a birthday or a wedding day. I'm going to those parties but also leave very early (except when I have something for myself to keep me busy(like a laptop)) – Termatinator Nov 8 '17 at 20:49
  • How many people are we talking about? A group of 10 people? – The Stranger Nov 8 '17 at 20:59
  • it varies, 5 people is already many for me. I think between 5 and 10 people – Termatinator Nov 8 '17 at 21:03
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TL;DR -- It is good to push your boundaries, just a little

Hmm...

I'm going to suggest that you examine your motivations.

Are you worried about general mental health effects of isolation? That's the sense I get from your question. Not an expert, but I will suggest that contact with others does help to "pull us back" toward the mainstream so that we don't get too eccentric. The deal with that though, is that you don't really need huge amounts of associates or parties to get that level of interaction. As you already have your group of "known people", you likely have enough in terms of not being the weird recluse.

Are you worried about being lonely? Only you can answer this, because you are the one who knows. If you feel like you don't have enough social contact, that's your answer right there.

Are you worried about impact on your professional life? Like it or not, bonhomie and general chitchat ability do have an impact on business success. If you're personable and likeable, people will like you more, and this can be the feather that tips the scales when favors, promotions, and so on are in the balance.

Do you just feel that you should get out more? You're probably right. I'll ask you this, though ... does it have to be these 'large parties' you're talking about? That is, there are huge amounts of places and situations you could pick for your socializing, many of them quieter and lower-stress than these parties you speak of. Here are some thoughts...

  • You could volunteer for Second Harvest or the like. You will meet people, but fewer at a time, and there is a built-in "something to do" so there's not so much just awkward standing around

  • You could check out ToastMasters club. It's a fun activity, and they are pros at handling people who are a little socially insecure.

  • Whatever your hobby is, there's a club for it. You could check out their meetings, again have a built-in something in common, and probably have a pretty good time.

  • Heck, you might just call up your regular "known people" a little more often and invite them out to dinner.

Point is ... it doesn't hurt you, and probably helps you, to nudge yourself into a little more social activity. The key is to pick something you actually like doing, and don't stress yourself out over numbers or frequency.

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  • "Do you just feel that you should get out more? You're probably right (...) there are huge amounts of places and situations you could pick for your socializing, many of them quieter and lower-stress than these parties you speak of." __ very true and I upvote. I am highly introverted myself and get quickly exhausted by social interactions, especially with personally known acquaintances. Believe it or not, I enjoy going to the supermarket or a restaurant, and like the necessary interaction with relatively unknown people who are not interested in me but only doing their jobs @akaioi! – English Student Nov 9 '17 at 18:54
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Small answer that only applies in the case that you have Social Anxiety. (To check either look it up or ask a doctor/therapist, I'm not listing symptoms)

Now, there are a lot of treatments for social anxiety and I'm not saying which is best, or if it even applies to your case; but one of the treatments is relevant to your question. If the prospect of a particular type of social interaction scares you then entirely avoiding it may bring momentary relief but would also make it harder and harder as you continue the pattern. One of the recommended treatments in this case is behaviour therapy. Behaviour therapy for anxiety relies mainly on 'graded exposure'. ie. slowly pushing yourself to engage in the social activities that make you feel uncomfortable.

You may not have social anxiety but I figured this was important enough to mention just incase; since if it is true then forcing yourself into at least a few of the social interactions that make you uncomfortable could be significant for your health.

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    I don’t have social anxiety, should I mention this in the question? – Termatinator Nov 9 '17 at 6:18
  • @Terminator I think your question is fine without, although I will leave this up for people reading who might have it. – Jesse Nov 9 '17 at 6:22
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I know your issue, I have pretty much the exact same issue; I am from The Netherlands as well.

My advise:

  • Try to search places of your interest (In my case (As a gamer and developer) I like LAN Parties and IT studies).
  • The people are just.. people. They won’t bite necassarily but be careful too.
  • Just have some fun, maybe people join you!

Goodluck with your issue and have fun! :)

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  • do you think it is a good idea to leave very early on a pary (if I don't like it), but still show up for at least half a hour – Termatinator Nov 10 '17 at 16:34
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    You can go, look around and leave whenever you want. Just comfort yourself. You choose for your life! :) – Azoraqua Nov 10 '17 at 17:29

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