Help! Poor social I'm afraid to volunteer again

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by MidwestMom, Sep 22, 2013.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I am trying really hard to read about social skills and realize, as I read, how many mistakes I make and how many of the unwritten rules I either didn't "get" or didn't think were useful. The thing is, socializing is a game, and if you don't play by the rules, you get booted, no matter what your age. In my younger years I was so busy with the kids that I didn't care if I fit into groups or not, but I'm older now and there are things I love to do, like volunteer. That requires working with a group of women because I am also kind of social. I LIKE goofing around with people and having them around, even if I don't really understand what makes the human race tick. Regardless of never having gotten the diagnosis, I know I am very Aspie-ish and I do have a non-verbal learning disability (documented) and I want to fit in just enough to not get "fired" from my next volunteer job! (It would be funny if I wasn't almost crying). Ok, so it IS funny :) I so feel for those children who struggle so badly with social problems and get no help. Anyway, about the volunteering...

    I am supposed to visit a thrift shop to volunteer tomorrow. It is similar to the other place but it isn't a place where everyone who works there has been in jail, like the other I don't know if that will help me fit in or make it even worse because they are probably all neurotypical. Now I could take time off, but that will probably result in my never trying it again. I really don't want to be isolated.

    Do any of you have any thoughts? Anyone else have poor social skills, maybe suspect they are near or on the spectrum? Anyone have any suggestions for fitting in "just enough" with a group of ladies who are all volunteering? I think that reading Jane wrong and making a joke about something she did that she was actually serious about was what may have set off Jane. Is it better just to be quiet and observe at first? Is it EVER safe for somebody who has trouble reading body language to speak much?

    It's really sad that I'm this nervous about volunteering at this thrift shop. It is a wonderful organization that helps kids with Downs Syndrome, Autism and other developmental disabilities and I would like to participate and help.

    I would appreciate any feedback at all about how to best do this. Sitting in my house, spending my wonderful golden years in solitude, is not my idea of making the most of my life. On the other hand, it's bad enough getting fired from a job, although I still have no doubt that THAT had nothing to do with my social skills...the bus driver was nuts. The volunteer job WAS my fault, although not deliberately.

    Who gets fired from a volunteer job? LOLOLOL. Help!!!!!
  2. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I think that in any new situation, the best advice for the new person, regardless of level of social skill, is to sit back and observe to get the lay of the land. I don't have social issues although I do tend to be introverted. At my current job, we have weekly meetings where we go over the next week's calendar. Everyone is supposed to report on their cases. For the first few weeks, I just sat quietly and responded with a very brief statement about a specific case. After a few weeks, it became clear that there were a couple of jokers in the group of 20 who would whisper together about case names, etc. I moved my seat next to them and, 5 years later, we have laughs and jokes in whispers when the boss is not looking. There are other people that you simply can't joke with and you have to figure out who they are. I suggest watchful waiting. Appearing to be quieter and more introverted than you are gives you the opportunity to find your place to fit in.

    Good luck.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thank you. This is helpful. I tend to try to jump right in before I check things out. I won't this time.
  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    MWM, I feel for you. My sister and a friend of mine both have Aspergers and other issues so I am familiar with what you're talking about. Svenghandi gave you good advice, I do that very same thing in all new situations and I don't have those issues, but it is just so helpful to observe things before jumping in..........every workplace or environment is unique, like a whole new entity where folks interact in different ways. I'm not anymore, but when I was younger I was painfully shy, so I learned to do that observation as a survival mechanism and it served me well.

    One thing my friend did when we first met was to let me know, after a period of time, that she had Aspergers and had trouble "reading" people which made social situations challenging for her. As time went by, what she did was to ask questions, seek guidance in areas where she felt uncomfortable or in the dark. She often did not 'get' humor or statements folks made that were obvious to the rest of us because of body language or other 'clues' we learned that she didn't. We, (her buddies) explained stuff to her. I don't know if you would feel comfortable sharing that info with those you work with, but for my friend, that greased her social situations because for the most part, people wanted to help her once they were aware of her unique issue. People around her became allies. Just a thought.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thanks, RE, for your nice post. I did share it with this group and they didn't really care or help or even get it.
  6. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    MWM...given that this new job is helping with kids with Down's Syndrome and Autism, I would think that this group of volunteers might just be a little bit more understanding of your "quirks" if you gave them the heads up early on. Maybe you can find someone who you can ask to be upfront with you when you aren't cuing in to social situations, kind of like your Leonard (The Big Bang Theory), LOL.
  7. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    I don't have a lot of advice because I'm in the same boat.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi again and thanks to all.

    I guess I was not clear about the volunteer group. This is a thrift shop that is church based and centered towards helping fund causes that impact children who have developmental disabilities. There are no children actually involved. I'm so nervous right now, as I am supposed to be there at one, that I'm shaking, literally. After a major rejection, I am often really scared to go back out there. Yet if I don't, I won't. And the longer I don't, the longer I won't. And, unlike some loners, which I basically am forced to be, I do need people contact.

    I have looked for a group around here for adults who have Aspergers because I'm close enough to having it to qualify, but there is none and, if there were, my guess is that most would be very young.

    IC, I just lol'd at your post. We'd probably get along famously :)
  9. Californiablonde

    Californiablonde Well-Known Member

    I don't have any advice but I just wanted to wish you luck and let you know you are very brave!
  10. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    How did it go, MWM?
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Went very well. Totally different kind of volunteers. Older, stable, no outward drama, no felons (lol), and I did catch onto it. Not as much fun as the other place, but I can drop in and work whenever I feel like it and I get to see all the items that come in before they are put out there (terrible for my pocketbook!). Since I lost so much weight I seriously need new pants and haven't gotten many pairs so for $3.49 plus a 25% volunteer discount I can get some new ones in my size and stop having to pull up my waist every time nobody is looking! I was quiet and friendly when spoken to. I watched to see who was in charge and who to ask if I had questions.
    I am still depressed over the rejection. I guess that will take time. It always does. On the up side, at my age I have to learn social skills or I will be lonely, so it's not a terrible thing that I had the wake up call. It's just never easy to be rejected.
    I swear I have Aspergers. Moms, teach your differently wired kids appropriate social skills as soon as you can. It socks to learn them at :)
  12. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    MWM, I'm late to this, but I have to tell you... I hoover at social situations. I don't do well at all. Rose is a HUGE help there. I'll explain...

    Last year - when I was pregnant - Pat's softball practices and games were mostly up to me, since husband was working and working and working. There were several other obviously pregnant moms there. I wanted very badly to talk to them, as I saw them talking to each other, but I wasn't good at starting conversations - and when I finally got the courage up to walk over to one of them, another came up and they started chatting - and walked away, never noticing me. Hardly their fault. I did this several more times, and, well... One or two comments, and that was it. Even the day I brought snacks I was mostly ignored, even by the kids!

    Fast forward to this year. Rose was with me when I was there. EVERYONE wanted to say hi to the pretty baby, and talk to her and her Mommy. I was still uncomfortable, but feeling far more included...
  13. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I have encountered similar reactions but not at volunteer jobs. Well, I take that back, there was one volunteer position years ago that left me feeling confused and unwelcome. I looked at the people involved and didn't want any part of their snobbery and felt they did not deserve the pleasure of my company.

    I think my town is odd because here if you come to help and behave reasonably, people ignore your quirks and gaffes. Of course we are a college town and in my opinion most people here with time to volunteer are either with the university or the hospital and are also more than a tad odd. College towns seem to bring that out in people, in my opinion.

    Is it possible to realize that the problem at the job was a vicious whacko and at the other volunteer place was the caliber of people there? in my opinion you are WAY better than those people (felons, etc...) and their treatment of you was more about their own self loathing. I don't think anything you could have done would have helped because they didn't want another volunteer, they wanted a victim. I have seen this in more than a few people caught in the revolving door criminal life cycle and they are so far away from normal behavior that it can be incredibly hard to interact with them. THEIR behavior is more predatory and difficult to handle unless you are more self confident than most people. SO maybe the problems lately are not with you but iwth the groups that you have been around. You may have some social awkwardness, but you are one of the sweetest, most loving and caring people around and many people just don't know how to handle that with-o taking advantage and/or trying to make you feel bad. I have gone through this and have no clue why people are that way, but they can be. When a groups seems to be vicious like that, I pack up my cookies and leave to find another group that will share the cookies rather than greedily snarf them all down and then get angry because I didn't bring a limitless supply of cookies. Some groups are not worth the effort to fit in because the dynamic is a bad fit.

    That does NOT mean you are awful, it means something in the group is not compatible with what you bring to the group. I do think getting the lay of the land before becoming greatly invested in the group is a very good idea. So is letting them know that you have some quirks IF and WHEN you feel the time is right.

    The problem at the other volunteer job is with them, not you. They seem very territorial and possessive and that speaks far more about their insecurities and problems than about you. Some groups just are strange and insecure and not a good fit for some people. I have endured that and while it isn't fun, it is helpful to realize it is largely more about them than you.
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Annie and Susie, thank you. Annie, it's interesting but not surprising that sweet little Rose finally got you attention!!! I'd go up to anyone with a baby as cute as her. Of course, I try very hard not to exclude anyone either because I know how it feels. Good for you for trying. It's embarassing when others just walk away from you. Have been there too.

    Susie, you are right. Since I am so socially awkward I feel the most at home with the world's misfits and crazies and it gets me into trouble, now that I think about it. Thanks for bringing that up. I expect unstable people to act stable and they usually are ok for a while than implode and often it is on me because I am quiet and passive and look like a pushover. Can a person look like a pushover? YES!!!!

    I remember making a friend that I had an instant connection with. We really bonded fast. But she told me she hated people, had all sorts of mental disorders, and liked to be alone. We did some animal rescue together, which was out bond. I soon found out she got very tired of the animals she rescued and would hand them out to a lot of her acquaintances just to get rid of them and many of her acquaintances were problematic, such as ex-felons or possible drug users. She didn't use drugs or ever go to jail, but she liked people who did. Finally, she imploded on me and I felt horrible (again). When she was nice, she was a doll. When she forgot to take her medications, she screamed at everyone.

    Susie, you made me feel better. Although it is not the entirety of my social issues, I do tend to pick unstable people to trust and to break bread with and then I am devestated when they act their part. It occured to me that maybe Jane thought I was a goody-two-shoes because I've never been in jail, don't smoke (everyone else there did) and have never been a substance abuser (almost everyone who volunteered there had been). The head of the place did tell me I was a good, sweet, compassionate person but that I just didn't fit in. Maybe it was a good thing?

    My worst problem now is that that volunteer place was a lot of fun and now I'm kind of looking for a replacement. I still have some activities going on and I did join a Bible Study (I could use a little religion right now), but that particular volunteer time was three days a week and nothing else I'm doing right now takes up that much time.

    Susie, I have to say your words have helped me more than anything I've read or heard, even from my therapist. I thank you with all my heart. I wish I could give you a real life hug. But I'm grateful to every single person who took the time to listen to my whine and to answer and every single post helped me out a little bit. I will still struggle a bit longer, but I am used to weird stuff happening. Eventually it won't hurt anyone. Head Start no longer does. Sending prayers and love to those who believe and good vibes and warmth to those who are just good people hanging out here :)
  15. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I personally don't think it's a bad thing to be told you don't fit in with a group of felons and/or substance abusers. They probably are more fun and exciting than the new group of people you volunteer with because people with no inhibitions or boundaries can be more exciting than those who have them but, in the long run, it's not easy to deal with.

    Good luck at the new volunteer place.
  16. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am glad I could help. Sometimes things come out more harshly than what I mean, and I am glad this didn't seem that way. I tend to be a bit more blunt than many people can handle.

    I TOTALLY understand what you mean about it being easier to join a group of less than stable people, and have fallen into that trap myself more than a few times. I was raised to see and respect all sorts of people and intelligence levels and not to refuse to be friends with someone because they seem odd or not traditionally intelligent. My folks always had friends who were rich and/or well educated and friends that were blue collar or below, and they enjoyed them all for who and what they were as long as they were not terribly unstable. But for many years the people I have met seem to have more fun looking down on others than being who they are. It has led me to pretty much stay out of groups for the last few years. My migraines really interfere with any and all plans I make, and when you add the ohter health issues, it is hard to meet anyone on a regular basis. But sitting back a bit has allowed me to realize some things about myself and those who claim to be friends and/or family. Mostly they cannot be bothered if they don't want something from me, or if they cannot get that from me when they want it (babysitting, help remodelling/painting/wallpapering, some craft project for their church or group or whatever). So I have really come to see who my true friends are, and are not. It has helped me see that it is not me most of the time. It is the nature of them wanting something from me and not being willing to have anything to do with me if I ever want any help with anything or don't want to do what they want.

    I find this makes me more selective about making friends, and those I do make are far, far better friends. I think that is what you are in also.

    Many areas have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore that always needs help. Your church likely has many programs they would LOVE to have you help with - in the nursery, bible study for kids (even if you cannot teach it, you can help as an extra pair of hands to keep the little ones out of trouble!) or iwth other projects. You probably also have a food pantry in the area that would appreciate help, as well as senior programs like meals on wheels or things at a seniors center, or you could help in some way at your hospital or even a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. You can also go directly to the local schools and ask if any of the teachers could use a hand on Monday mornings or Wed afternoons or whatever. If you have regular time available, many elem schools would be THRILLED to have you help the kids with the alphabet or during lunch/recess or in the library or whatever you would enjoy. Some require you to be fingerprinted and have a background check, but it isn't a big deal and the whole Head Start thing should not enter into it. If Head STart people pokes their noses in, threaten to sue them for spreading slander and for defamation of character. As your former employer, they are not allowed by federal law to do anything other than to confirm the date you started and the date you stopped and that you worked for them. ANYTHING else, even 'she was a good worker' can be grounds for a lawsuit - been there done that iwth an employer who ended up having to pay out serious money because he described a server as a good employee and the hiring company said that because she was not a 'great' employee and the employer didn't gush about how great she was, they refused to hire her and my direct boss and the company both had to pay her. The real reason she wasn't hired was she was unable to get into the very small places to do whatever the job needed (factory job that she had to fit itno a certain space to run the machines) but the company didn't want to say that she had to lose 200 pounds before she could even try to do the job.

    I learned then to not say a word other than to confirm employment dates and have worked with large and small businesses who advise all supervisors that they cannot say anything else. You cannot pass on info because it is seen as 'blackballing' someone if what you say isn't exactly what they are looking for. Hogwash, but even hogs need to get clean and ten the hogwash comes in real handy, doesn't it?

    I wish I could give you a hug right back, MWM. You truly are one of the nicest, most truly caring and sweet people I have known. You almost always worry about others first, even when helping them could/will/has hurt you in some way. Maybe it is time to reward yourself for being a truly kind and lovely person by forgiving yourself for your social stumbles (most people will not notice them, and esp won't notice them to the degree you do, I promise. Those that notice and make a big deal? Are sooooooooooo insecure as to make their opinion not just worthless but none of your business. It can be lots of fun to tell them that what they are saying about you is not your business, so could they puh-leeeze at least have the courtesy to not babble on about it in your presence. Of all the things I have told people in this situation, that works BEST. They don't have a CLUE how to handle you.

    You will find a niche. I can help with more specific volunteer ideas/suggestions if you PM me your city, county and state. It wouldn't be a big deal to do.
  17. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thanks again, Susie. I am thinking of working with kids and am going to be I applied to volunteer at our school district :) We'll see how it goes. I am also maybe going to volunteer at a church that has free clothes and shoes for anyone in the public. It is very similar to the other place only the volunteers are church folks and not felons and drug addicts.

    Your right about how the ex-felons and ex-drug addicts do seem "fun" but that's only when they are on their medications (nothing against medications...I take them, but I don't skip them and I don't lace them with pot or worse). And when they start drinking again, it's not pretty, and we never know if they are. So...they are lots of fun until they implode and they always do.

    I think I'm becoming attracted to boring. My life is pretty run-of-the-mill and peaceful, at least at home, but I've always found these different type of people fun. But they're no fun at all when they decide to bully you. And, since so many had been in jail, they have no problem bullying out in the open. Then...they stop being fun. Some of the volunteers at the other place were doing their community service there (sigh). And some started out that way and hung around afterward.

    Some of the folks there were really nice, but, looking back, it was basically high drama.