It’s almost always easier for me to talk to strangers than to people I know well unless the person I know well is also Autistic. It’s an act of self-care for me to socialize (or not) in ways that are comfortable to me whenever possible.
Talking to strangers instead of people I know well can sometimes cause hurt feelings if someone I know is expecting me to talk to them, but I’m not feeling up to it. It’s more understandable to others if I go off and don’t talk to anyone (which I also do), but sometimes a stranger will fascinate me so I’ll talk to them.
I recently made a list of things that contribute to this phenomenon:
1. I struggle to recognize people, which means I forget what I’ve told which person already. This adds a decent level of stress to any conversation with someone I know I’ve met before. Most people won’t straightforwardly tell me if they’ve heard something before or are bored, which is discouraging.
2. I only have a certain number of “small talk” scripts. Surface things that I can more-or-less-easily recite to anyone new I’ve met. These are things that aren’t oversharing but allow the other person to get to know me a bit better. The longer I know someone, the more likely I’ll get to monologuing for hours on end about fascinating topics such as the history of trash, thus probably looking a bit like a conversation monopolizing asshole when really I just want to share the awesome things I’ve learned with people I care about.
3. New people don’t seem to read as many lies and assumptions into my words and actions. They don’t often take things personally because they don’t know me and I don’t know them! I can generally be more myself (seeming distracted and forgetting who people are is worse when the people expect you to be paying attention and know who they are), which is a great relief.
4. New people have amazing treasure troves of information and life experiences stored away in their brains. People frequently like to talk about themselves, their beliefs, their interests, and their life stories. Given that I find those things to be utterly fascinating, I’ve learned many new amazing things by talking openly to strangers and encouraging them to talk to me about what’s in their minds.
5. I get bored with most people after getting to know them well. I get to know most people quickly because I’m truly interested in what they have to tell me, but I’ve found that other people don’t frequently learn new interesting things, which is what I like most about people — the new and interesting things that they can teach me from their own unique perspectives.
I’m certain there are other reasons I haven’t examined and managed to put into words yet, but that’s a pretty decent beginning.
I’ve gotten to be pretty free with sharing information about my neurology and I’m done trying to fit in when it’s harmful to me. The people who are worth my time and effort reciprocate my time and effort themselves by asking for clarifications instead of sitting with and letting the assumptions grow into misunderstandings.
It’s an act of self-care for me to ignore what others might be reading into my actions and I will continue on with socializing (or not) in the ways that work best.
Sometimes I can manage decent socializing with allistics I know already, but not all the time and that’s okay.