Friendship: A Handbook, Part 2

Trading Information to Turn Acquaintances into Friends for Young Adults with Autism

In Part 1 of the Friendship Handbook, I talked about the importance of having good friends and provided tips for finding good sources of potential friends. Spending time with the people in these groups will establish connections with whom you have at least one thing in common. That’s a great first step but how do you deepen some of these relationships to find true friends? You trade information with them!

Trading information vs. interviewing

Simply put, trading information is when you offer information about yourself after your conversation partner responds to your inquiry. If you just ask question after question and don’t provide any information about yourself, that’s an interview and not a conversation! Here is an example of what that looks like to be an interviewer from the UCLA PEERS Social Skills program. In this video, you can see that there is some trading of information.  This might not come as naturally to you if you are on the autism spectrum, but just like any skill, conversational skills take practice to improve

Trading information to deepen a friendship

You can trade information about the topic you have in common with the other person as a way to break the ice. Then, once you get more comfortable, you can explore other topics as a way to see what else you might have in common. Discovering more interests you have in common is an important step to deepening a friendship.

So, let’s say you are part of an Anime club and you have been trading information with someone else in the group about a particular Anime series. You can mention another genre of TV you like and ask the other person if there are any other genres THEY like. Trading information works best if you ask open-ended questions. These are questions that CAN’T be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Once you’ve talked a bit more about TV you can move on to another subject and see how that goes. Here’s some great open-ended question ideas:

  • What did you do this weekend?
  • What’s your favorite restaurant around here?
  • What is a place you hope to visit?
  • What’s your dream job?
  • What do you like to do with your free time?

Using the information you gather to make friendship decisions

What’s the point of all this information trading? To see if you have enough things in common to create and sustain a friendship. Can you only be friends with people who feel the same way you do about everything? No! But, it is definitely easier to find things to talk about and activities to do together if you have at least a few things in common with someone else. And that is the next step to forming a friendship: spending time (either in person or virtually) with another person OUTSIDE of the group in which you first met them. If you find that you have a few things in common with your friend from Anime club, suggest that you get together to do something else.

Good luck as you build friendships and stay tuned for Part 3 in this series:  Tips to Deepen your Friendships for Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum