From Survival Guide for People living with Asperger's Syndrome
by Marc Segar
Body language doesn't just include gestures, it
also includes facial expressions, eye contact and tone of voice
and is sometimes affected by what you are wearing.
Some people may have body language down to a fine
art but many people find it difficult.
Many people constantly feel paranoid about their
own body language, including those who are extremely good at it.
Showing the wrong emotion or laughing at the wrong
time can be embarrassing. You may do this if you're thinking about
one thing and the people around you are talking about something
else. If someone reacts to this, tell them that your mind was else-where.
If someone talks to you about something they find
emotional and you don't respond to their body language with your
own, they might think you are lacking empathy or that you don't
If someone tells you that you do not give enough
body language, you might have to exaggerate it in order to emphasize
what you say, but not too much. This will at first feel artificial.
Part of body language includes courtesy, things
like "'scuse me", "please", "thanks"
, "cheers" , "see-ye" and being the first to
say "hi". It is often an effort to say these things but
then perhaps courtesy is supposed to be an effort. I have given
informal courtesies here (not over-polite) but the politeness of
the courtesies you choose may have to depend on the people you are
We all have to be careful about standing behind
someone when they can't see us, because if they turn round they
might get a fright. This is especially important if you are large
or tall. In a densely crowded bus or train, however, you might not
be able to help it.
It can often be an effort to have a shower or
a bath three times a week and to wear deodorant but it is much easier
to talk to people if you feel you are clean and if you cannot be
smelt. Remember, if you smell you might not be aware of it.
If you are too good at body language, or you look
too cool, people are less likely to make exceptions for you if you
do something wrong without knowing it.
If you are an adult, and especially if you are
a large one, it is better to avoid running in the street unless
the street is practically empty. Running for a bus or a train is
all right if it will save you having to wait for another half an
hour or you are in a hurry to get somewhere. On the other hand,
if you are going for a jog then wear shorts or track-suit trousers
so that people can see you are running for the purpose of getting
exercise and hopefully don't feel intimidated.
When you see someone in the street who you know,
it can sometimes be awkward; but to exchange glances, smile slightly
and raise eyebrows to each other is usually enough.
Misunderstandings other people might have about you
If you have difficulties with your eye-contact
or body language, some people might mistake you for being shifty
or dishonest. If they think this they are probably wrong.
If you don't react to other peoples body language
with your own, they might mistake you for being unsympathetic.
Many people might make the mistake of thinking
that you are unintelligent. If this is because you rarely get a
chance to show them signs of intelligence, there may be little you
can do except to let them accidentally see you doing something you're
good at, whether they like it or not, just as a one off. They might
decide not to comment even though they have seen your talent.
If you try to come across as being cooler, wittier,
tougher and more confident than other people then whenever you break
an unwritten rule, people might mistake it for nastiness. In this
case, it might be in your best interest to drop your pretence.
Boundaries are all about not getting too close
to someone yet not being too far away.
The correct boundaries will depend on the person
you are talking to and also the time and place.
If there is a physical attraction between you
and someone else you will need give off AND read the correct signals.
To do this, the simplest rule to work by is that open gestures and
gestures turned towards someone tend to mean attraction whereas
closed gestures and gestures which are turned away from someone
tend to mean avoidance.
There is something to be aware of called the approach-avoidance
trap. Quite often we need to be decisive about whether we are going
to approach someone, walk away or do neither.
Also, there is the problem of recognizing other
people's territory. If, in some one-off situation, you unknowingly
encroach on what someone else considers to be their territory, this
can sometimes get you into big trouble. For example, at one time
I lent a listening ear to a woman living in a house full of children.
She was distraught because her over possessive and just out of prison
boyfriend had just stormed out for no particular reason. I didn't
realize that from his point of view it was his territory. Fortunately
my personal safety was spared because he didn't come back until
the next day. If after you make this kind of mistake, you later
have it explained to you, it can all start to look so obvious.
to proceed to the next chapter.
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