Writer, author, poet, and speaker, Nicholl McGuire writes about relationships, parenting, spirituality, and more.
An Antisocial Person Needs a Good Reason to Step Out of Their Comfort Zone
What exactly is the benefit of opening one's circle up to others, especially when he or she has a long history of being burned by parents, relatives, co-workers, church members, and more?
Too often, people who have more social personalities don't think about this question before jumping right in to "save" someone who would rather avoid others.
If you are the person who is taking the role of what you see as Good Samaritan, then you must realize that your efforts might be met negatively—and might make the person you are trying to help go deeper into his or her cave. If this is the case, try not to take the lack of appreciation personally. Remember, helping someone is not about your feelings and desires.
When you are trying to get someone to step out of their comfort zone, consider the following questions:
- How long have they been spending free time alone?
- What is your purpose for wanting to "rock the boat"?
- Has the person shown any interest in wanting to do some things differently, socially speaking?
- Have spoken to this person about their feelings? Have you gotten their permission to proceed with your plan?
After a short interview with your antisocial friend, you will need to do some things to help a willing participant on their journey toward a healthy and productive social life.
Is a Makeover Really Necessary?
Oftentimes we think that decorating people up like Christmas trees will help their situations, and maybe for many, a kind deed like this just might be a possibility. But an anti-social person who is stubborn about many things may not want you redesigning his or her wardrobe by making suggestions or worse going through his or her closets. So do watch his or her behavior and ask the antisocial individual before suggesting he or she make over face, hair and wardrobe.
Now if the difficult person is unwilling, then work with what you got if he or she is okay with going out with you periodically. However, if he or she agrees with your makeover attempts, then have some fun! Schedule a makeup, hair and/or nail appointment. But keep in mind, your idea might cost you, so check your bank account before you suggest going out on a makeover shopping spree.
Where to Go? What to Do? What to See?
Antisocial people don't usually have a clue as to how to get out of their routines and do some things differently. So you will have to learn their interests, find out what they always wanted to do or see, but never made time.
Whatever that person, place or thing is that excites an antisocial person, use it to build your case as to why you are concerned that your beloved should get out more, live life, etc. Once you know the key that unlocks your friend's communication lever, so to speak, do less talking and more listening.
Let the antisocial person formulate his or her own plan on what he or she wants to do with his or her life. Be sure that any advice or material thing you use to aid this person, includes one's deepest need acknowledged. When a helper overlooks an important need, and chooses to go with weak statements and less than satisfactory things that are supposed to help, he or she actually turns off the person he or she is trying to help which might make the antisocial person say, "See why I don't deal with people, they are worthless--all the same! They make no major sacrifices unless they stand to benefit." Then you will take the knowledge you have learned and get around those like-minded individuals who have similar interests like the antisocial person and hopefully you will ask questions and learn more about this person who you are trying to draw out of isolation. For instance, if the antisocial person says, "I always wanted to go to that store," while there, strike up a conversation with someone who seems to be quite interested in the store's items as well. Then use the information you have learned to find events, classes, or other things that might peak the antisocial person's interest.
Sometimes people learn by example, so you will have to demonstrate how healthy social behavior looks until he or she catches on. Remember, telling a person, "Get out more..." is not enough you have to show them!
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When Your Efforts Fail
Based on my personal experience, trying to make friends for others tends to fail sometimes because of the following:
- You personally don't know enough about the person you are trying to assist.
- You may not be the best assistant for the antisocial individual, because of the following: personality conflict, you don't do well making friends yourself, or you have a history of issues that trouble the antisocial person which makes it difficult for he or she to listen to "the new you."
- You don't bother to go out of your way to accompany this person on outings and don't offer to spend finances in order to assist him or her to come out of his or her box.
- Others have warned you that there is more going on with your antisocial relative or friend than meets the eye, but you refuse to listen and rather force your will on him or her—bad move!
How to Help Your Antisocial Friend
Some things you might want to do to help your friend become more social:
- As discussed throughout this page, be a friend to him or her first. Entice this person with good reasons as to why it is beneficial to be more social.
- Schedule some weekly outings; e.g., a fair, flea market or farmer's market event. Offer your assistance to help with tasks and bring along friends if that's okay with the antisocial person. You might want to get your friend to sign up for classes with you that he or she might be able to benefit from. This is a great opportunity to meet others with similar interests. Let's say a friend needs help moving and you know your antisocial friend would like checking out the house and the new neighborhood, so ask if he or she would mind helping you assist your friend with a move. Note: Sometimes an antisocial person feels less pressure to get to know people when he or she is offering service rather than conversation. Think about other ways to involve your distant relative or friend in servicing others.
- Create an online profile for her or him, with permission of course, on a social site that might peak his or her interest, then choose people with similar views, hobbies, habits, etc. Do this sort of thing together so he or she will feel comfortable navigating the site. Consider this, you won't be able to obtain accurate information if you don't interview your loved one first.
- Share photos of people, places and things that you know your antisocial relative or friend would enjoy ie.) your collection of photos of online friends that they might know for starters.
- Use your eyes when you are conversing with this person. Acknowledge him or her when he or she comes into the room. If your distant relative or friend should desire to talk about something, be sure to turn your face in his or her direction and show this person you care.
- Surprise the antisocial person with an unexpected gift and encourage this individual to talk about it the next time when you see him or her. Update this person on anything new you have learned about the gift since you last saw him or her--a great conversation starter is talking about things. For instance, I give you (the antisocial person) an Ipad because I heard you needed one. So the next time I see you, I would say, "Well, have you been using it? Could you show me some things you have learned how to do? I heard that there are some cool cases at this one store, would you like to come with me and pick one out? Then you just share some other news about the item. Then talk about some websites online that have forums exclusively for Ipad users and you would be glad to create an account for him or her. Then let's say there is a class coming up in the area for Ipad users, you would offer to take this person to the training. In time, you would have a similar conversation about other things, since it is easier to talk about things rather than people. In time, you lead this person toward the people by using the things--get it?
What to Think About When Trying to Help Your Friend
Sometimes we are so determined to get someone to change his or her ways that this person ends up resenting us. So don't try to make something happen that all the signs are pointing to "Not ready!" and "Leave me alone!" when interacting with one who is antisocial. Do take the time to step back and put yourself in this lonely person's shoes for a moment. After you have done that, avoid doing anything that will make the antisocial person take two steps back for every one you helped them make.
- Don't make a big deal when you see he or she is finally connecting with someone. For instance, no excited gestures and loudmouth statements or wisecracks. Your reaction might turn him or her off and actually run your relative or friend back into his or her shell.
- Don't force them to do any more than what he or she has already committed to doing. So if helping someone for a few hours is all your friend said he or she will do, don't encourage him or her to go with you to have drinks afterward. Take baby steps!
- Avoid lying or exaggerating a situation or event just to get your antisocial person to speak out about an issue or go out with you—your efforts might backfire!
- Keep the relative or friend's personal confessions to yourself, don't share with others so as to get them to help you encourage this person to talk or come around more.
- Avoid using guilt trips, name-calling, coercion, or threats to force the antisocial person to step out of his or her comfort zone.
- Stay away from tactics like using God, country, future predictions, and family to rouse the person to want to do something different; rather speak to the individual in such a way that gives him or her encouragement and solutions based on one's current situation. The future seems far off, family disappoints, politicians lie, and when one is void of the Holy Spirit, he or she feels hopeless. So focus on what you can do to help and less on what this person "ought to do" or "should do" ie.) You need to go to church. You need Jesus in your life. Instead of putting your hurt relative or friend down with a bunch of "you need to" statements, you say, "Would you like to come with me to a great musical event?" A person doesn't become antisocial overnight, it was a process to distance one's self from others and it will be a process to be drawn to them again. Sometimes an antisocial person is only distant from those he or she no longer enjoys being around for any number of reasons, but becomes a social butterfly when you least expect it around those he or she thoroughly enjoys. So be sure you have observed one's personal life well before assuming he or she is lonesome and doesn't like being around people.
- Avoid playing negative or offensive music and songs about heartbreak and other issues when you know your loved one is having personal problems. Also, don't visit any person's home or attend an event that you know the antisocial person would not be happy about attending with you. It's always best to keep an enemy's name out of your mouth if you are trying to get someone to come out of one's hole and become social again.
Are They Really Antisocial or Is There Something Else Going On?
Do they avoid being around people every chance they get?
Do they prefer gaming devices, animals, or other pastimes more than conversing with others?
When people come over to visit, do they avoid speaking to them, even when directly addressed?
Did this antisocial behavior just start or has this been ongoing?
Have they recently started a new medication, new exercise program, relocated, lost a job, had relationship difficulties with a significant, recently had a death in the family, or is doing something else that makes him or her often feel sad, tired and withdrawn?
These are just some of many things a person who doesn't like or want to be around people will do. Can you think of others? If the person is totally withdrawn and everyone seems to have the general opinion that there is a little more going on besides not wanting to be around people, then consider doing something that will lead this person toward some professional help especially if this person has been acting the total opposite of his or her personality for some time now.
© 2012 Nicholl McGuire