The importance of reciprocal skills in achieving life goals and relationships for Autistic people

verityverity Administrator, Citizen
edited March 28 in Life Skills
One of the key developments in my twenties was the realisation I didn't really understand reciprocation. I thought I had the basic understanding of what friendship was from the outside, and what relationships were as a concept. But I haven't had true reciprocal friends, and I realise now this wasn't purely down to other people as people had tried to be friend with me growing up but this not retained due to my input.

The desire to have these was mainly based on a general expectations, I felt that you aught have friendships and relationships, and to some extent I was missing out from the lack of experience. My expectations and goals are different now but the whole experience was so valuable, that even in my fairly asocial lifestyle currently, I know I can make use of this knowledge

This is not about about having the emotional state necessary to socialise, that is a topic in its own right. This is more about if you have life goals that require social interaction either as a social goal or a necessary evil. This is topic about understanding what reciprocation means in practice and how to develop a rhythm for social interaction.

I had a good therapist who encouraged me to meet people though context based activities. Of the space of 2-years, and then I slower built up my skill independently over my twenties

If you are mostly happy with your lot and you level of social interaction then is not for you.

The skill that are important in all relationships are:
  1. experience of the full range of social relationships be it acquaintances, professional, context buddies fiend and romantic. Working you way up with small meaningful steps. All of these are important to understand even if you are not ultimately going  maintain all of them. Focus on the most difficult type of relationship at the exclusion of the other is not a good way to get off the ground, even if that is you ultimate goal
  2. the importantace of a focus of helping others as an aid to developing social skills, such as through volunteering, to practice focusing on other's need and wants rather than your immediate needs and desires, and how this makes a powerful impression on other relationships
  3. the importance of patience in accommodating other people's needs, and for the nurturing of relationships
  4. The importance of understanding progression of a relationship and why taking things slowly can be better for for stronger enduring bonds
  5. understanding how or when not to jump to conclusion or pre-empt failure
  6. understanding the "call and response" of reciprocation, both in person and through communication over the course time, with strategies like setting reminders.
  7. reciprocal conversational skills (formal and informal) that play to your advantages and using strategies such as humour, natural complements, balance of interests
  8. eye contact strategies that work autistic needs such as direct gaze aversion or overly fixed gaze, as well as eye contact myths such as "maintaining" eye contact
  9. strategies to make things easier, by being smart playing to your abilities rather than through total imitation of others
  10. how to avoid  being taken advantage of/exploited
  11. basic understanding of personality types and human behaviour
  12. targeted approaches to focus on specific groups or contexts that make thing easier for you, and in order to have time out for recovery
  13. techniques to help you get outside your thoughts/ruminations when you need to
  14. the importance of learning independent life skill such as planning, cooking, cleaning, washing, safety, first aid, supplies, utilities, maintenance,  finance and budgeting
  15. understanding the practical implications of long term relationships, and the implications of possible "alternative" relationships
  16. understanding that stable relationships, especially romantic relationships, are a creative process based on co-operation and continuous maintenance
  17. understanding that all experience is valuable especially the failures, and how to process that failure in a way that is not self-destructive.
  18. the importance of developing emotional maturity, but still being bale express yourself in a non serious way.
I plan to elaborate on this over the next month and add the list for anything I have forgotten, any contribution or equations I appreciate, and I will try to respond when I am free.


  • blazingstarblazingstar Citizen
    edited March 28
    Good topic, Verity. A deep dive into social skills is valuable I think. I had to learn much of this experientially.

    I would say I have found #2 and #3 of greatest importance in my life, overall. 

    For #16, I would say that I did read and tried to implement the "work of maintaining" a stable, long term loving relationship, but found this did not meet the needs of my partner or myself (multiple times.)

    A better frame for me has to do with ongoing revelation by both parties. 
  • I just listened to a fascinating description of conversation, the reciprocal nature thereof and how it works. By Malcolm Gladwell. In his Masterclass lecture. I often find clues on how the world works, pieces of the puzzle, like little treasures, mined from ‘normal” sources.
  • verityverity Administrator, Citizen
    Thank you @blazingstar will check that out.

    I think with 16 we are pretty much in agreement, you are not always going to meet every need, but it is a desire to to make it work that is indicative of a loving relationship. 

    I think there are always goign to the gaps in either partners capabilities and that is where understanding comes in, there is some workaround or compromise or at the very least acceptance.

    This is what I call the conscientious partnership.
  • I think with 16 we are pretty much in agreement, you are not always going to meet every need, but it is a desire to to make it work that is indicative of a loving relationship. 

    I think there are always goign to the gaps in either partners capabilities and that is where understanding comes in, there is some workaround or compromise or at the very least acceptance.

    This is what I call the conscientious partnership.

    I agree we are very close in the perception of a successful partnership. 

    My idea of it, and I am probably not expressing it well and for all I know this is already included in your words and I just don't see it, is that we are always learning one from another and progressively evolving in our understanding of each other. In Quaker speak it is called  ongoing revelation and would normally be used to describe one's relationship with God. So I am using it in the more narrow sense of just one relationship between two people. 

    Maybe what I am looking to express is that there is movement in the relationship.
  • verityverity Administrator, Citizen
    edited April 5
    Ah yes that could be a point in itself. I suppose from the perspective of a skill that would be the ability to mutually observe and learn form each others interactions and experience.

    I would say though, probably best for a new relationship give it some time becuase, I think early on the best way  to learn from each other not be to quick to jump to conclusions and focus on experiences. This learning you are talking about is something that can occur naturally if you are open to it, but I think might get confused with a non-multual form of learning. I would say make positive observation but not firm conclusion.

    In my experience the slowing things down was the best way to learn, this happen more due to circumstance, but in hindsight it was very helpful.

    In the dating mindset people a wrapped with all sort of preconception and assumption that don't really belong in relationships, and I suspect some might find it hard to transition to a mindset of what a long term relationship entails.
  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor
    I've found that properly reciprocating in conversations can be hard for me, or at least doing so in ways that other people expect. I think having ADHD compounds that, as I can think I am responding to the topic at hand, but my train of thought isn't organized so I sometimes respond to people by talking about something related, but something that is still not right on topic.

    A lot of my friendships so far have worked out because my friends have a similar train of thought and reciprocal skill set as me, so we both don't mind accidental rambling/info dumping or constant topic changes. A normal conversation for me and my current closest friend is basically a series of mini-conversations that go from topic to topic. lol
  • Verity, I agree with you that my points were geared toward relationships of greater duration. I don’t know how one can know ahead of time if that sort of movement, for lack of a better word, is possible.

    Hylian, I think that some good friends can tolerate, for lack of a better word, drifting, changing topics. For me, it reflects a level of comfort of each friend with the other.
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