Friday, 30 August 2013

Musings on friendship

A week ago a friend of mine sent me the following list as a list of guidelines that she thought would be helpful for NTs to understand about having a friendship with a neurodiverse person (ND). My initial response was this: 'It's great. I wish more people were this understanding and respectful of different people.'

I believe it was inspired by this fantastic blog post by AutisticChick. Highly recommend reading it. It is an articulate and expressive account of what autistic people encounter fairly often. I think boundaries in friendships and relationships are so important. 

The following was written by the same friend who sent me this message.

Musings on Friendship (from NT perspective)

It has occurred to me that there is too much pressure in friendships all the way around. But especially so in the NT-ND friendship.

I believe that the NT should take the lion’s share of the social responsibility in terms of removing pressure and encouraging openness and honest acceptance.

I believe there should be guidelines within friendships:

1. Accept that each person is individual and unique and that your friend is probably completely unique.

2. Accept an answer of “no” the first time and don’t keep pushing. I liken this to social rape. Harsh? Yes. But what else do you call it when a person says “no” and the answer is not accepted. But...

· I know s/he really wanted it

· S/he just needed a little encouragement

· S/he needs to loosen up and have some fun

Can you see what I am driving at? A person, whether NT or ND can speak for themselves and their needs (as they see them) are valid even if you do not agree with them

3. As the NT person in the relationship, try to be considerate and give ample warning of any visits or planned/proposed outings, try not to put the ND person on the spot wherever this can be avoided.

4. As the ND person, please say no if that is what you mean/want to say. Within a true friendship this should be accepted without upset, irritation or another emotional penalty (see point 2. Above) and certainly no emotional blackmail!

5. Please do not try to “fix” your friend they are not broken nor is there anything wrong with them, they simply see life from a different perspective to you.

6. If an outing or visit is planned, please set a guideline on anticipated time and activities (e.g. I would like to go shopping with you for two hours on Monday or I would love to come over and see your new puppy, I only plan to stay for half an hour, etc)

7. If you have an outing with a specific goal, as the NT in the relationship, please leave time available in case it does not work out so that you can complete the goal another time (e.g. you need to buy a dress for a party coming up and something happens causing the ND in the relationship to need solitude – obviously not going to work being out in a crowded mall with parking time limits etc – plan that you may need to do another trip at another time alone) and do not make the ND feel as though they “owe” you anything as they do not and this will cause strain to the relationship through adding pressure and expectation.

8. Please foster a relationship with your ND friend where they will feel completely comfortable sharing their space with you without having to do anything other than... well share the space. So let them go about their day and just “be”.

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