an inadvertantly creepy thing a lot of autistic people do


Sometimes autistic people want to hang out with a group of people and can’t tell if it’s ok to talk to them or not.

And then, they try to watch for a while to try and pick up on signs that interaction would be welcome.

This is generally a bad idea. The problem is that people find it…

This post confused me, I’m going to assume that watching is not staring here since staring is creepy but how is watching a group for signals creepy? That’s how social interactions are, non-autistic people do the same, perhaps less consciously but still do. Social interactions are about picking up signals from others. There is also a difference beetwen a group that doesn’t want you there and a group of people that isn’t aware that you are there and wants to join, if they don’t want you there obviously you should respect that. I don’t understand why is this wrong except when it crosses certain lines as staring and knowing you are not wanted but insisting anyway. The advice is probably not very useful for those with social anxiety or in some settings.

realsocialskills said:

The reason it’s creepy is because people you’re watching can’t tell whether you’re watching in order to judge receptivity, or just staring.

I don’t know how to explain where the line is, because of course everyone checks receptivity in some way. But there’s a way that sometimes autistic people watch for an extended period, or don’t explain their presence when explaining presence is expected, and that’s perceived as creepy.

I’m not sure how to explain where the line is, because I’ve been struggling a lot with this lately. But I think it is important to be aware that this dynamic exists.

atreeisatree said:

I wonder if a factor here might be whether/when the group (or individuals in the group) notice that someone is watching? I think there have been a couple times when I was in a group, or even just talking to one other person, when I noticed someone was watching us and kinda glanced at them, trying to figure out what they wanted. There might be some faltering in the conversation here if the people talking pause to evaluate you. Especially if there’s a little pause/falter where one of the group members is glancing at you, that may serve as acknowledgement that they think you’re waiting to speak, and a cue for you to cut in. If you’re wanting to try to join a group, that might be a good time to ask, because they are expecting you to jump in. But if the watcher doesn’t say anything at that point, and especially if they keep watching, then it becomes strange and feels like staring.

Or if one person in the group is in the middle of saying something when you are noticed (either by the speaker or another group member), they might watch you and try to evaluate whether you’re waiting to speak, so they know whether to pause the conversation for you. But if you aren’t really indicating that you want to jump in, it also starts to seem like you’re just staring or eavesdropping. It might be good advice to go ahead and make a decision about whether you want to try to join a group pretty soon after they notice you watching, especially if one or more people has been glancing at you: either come closer and try to cue that you want to speak, or stop watching. (If you don’t want to jump in right then, or are still working up the courage, it might be okay to just look away and try again a little bit later.)

On the other hand, if people glance at you, see that you’re watching them, and go right on talking, it might be cue that they don’t want anyone else to join. (Depends.) I think there are other factors too that might indicate whether the group is really open to you coming to talk, because sometimes people might try to give a watcher an opportunity to speak even if they aren’t really receptive to talking to them. (I feel like that’s sometimes the case when a couple of girls are talking and a guy wants to join in: I might give him an opening while also trying to give cues that I’m not receptive.)  

I’m not sure if that is what you’re thinking about? I wasn’t sure how close to the group you were imagining the watcher being. The closer you are to the group, the more watching them silently makes it seem like you’re waiting to say something, and it will become weird if you don’t say anything when they give you an opportunity to do so.

realsocialskills said:

A lot of that sounds right, yes. I think I need to think about it more.

I think this also might be the kind of situation in which neurotypical sighted people negotiate interactions nonverbally using eye contact. So, if you aren’t able to use eye contact that way, you have to find some other kind of workaround.

(Also, there are different kinds of eye contact, and some people who can’t sustain conversational eye contact can learn to use eye contact to initiate interactions. Not everyone can, but some people can, and it can help to know that eye contact isn’t just one thing)