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Is Jeremy not getting dates because he is on the Spectrum?


When Jeremy walked into my office as a 22-year-old college student who had never been in a significant relationship and rarely went on dates, there were a couple of things that stood out about him. He was a little overweight. His posture really needed to be improved. He had that total nice guy look about him, which unfortunately can make him be undervalued and dismissed as a just friend. And he also had a style of clothing 10 years older than his age. He really needed to become more aware of what his body language and posture were saying. And I was also concerned that he could be on the Autism Spectrum.

This is Alisa Goodwin Snell with the Lasting Love Podcast, where we feature Real Life, Real People, and Real Love. 

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(Full podcast transcript below)

This is Alisa Goodwin Snell, with the Lasting Love Podcast, where we feature Real Life, Real People, and Real Love. I have nearly 30 years of experience as a Dating and Relationship Strategist. And I spent 17 years of that career as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Check out the LastingLoveAcademy.com to learn more about me.

Let's dive into the story of Jeremy. So there were a couple of things about Jeremy that I really liked. He had this really warm and infectious smile. And he was just really sweet. And it added to that possibility of him being seen as the too nice guy. A couple of other things that were really important about his body language: he was sitting on my couch, his knees were close together, not spread out, which people who show more confidence tend to spread their knees out a little bit more, especially men. So his knees were close together, his elbows were tucked into his side, his hands were softly on his lap, kind of tucked in between his two legs, and his shoulders were rolled forward, his chin was down a bit. And he just looked really meek and mild and didn't exude that confidence that I would want him to show. And it seemed as if he was so kind as compensation as if that was the way he was going to win other people's love and approval through kindness, which unfortunately sets him up for the two nice trap or the just friends trap. These are totally things that we can work on and resolve. He just needs to be more aware of those behaviors and what it is that he's doing with his chin and his eye contact that are precluding him from getting the respect and the investment from other people that he was looking for. Most importantly, he wanted to be dating more. He wanted to get the attention of some of the specific women he was most interested in. And he wanted to feel like he was more social and successful, especially related to the experiences some of his friends were having. So the struggle with working with him is obviously that I'm not going to jump in right away and tell them all the things he's doing wrong. That would be very off-putting. He needs to feel safe and comfortable with me. And I need to have more of a history. So one of my primary concerns, in the beginning, was, "Could he be on the spectrum?"

I never specialized in my work. As a Marriage Family Therapist and counselor, on the Autism Spectrum Disorders, I never focused on identifying and diagnosing those disorders. So I don't want to present myself as an expert in identifying these issues. And it's certainly not my role as a Dating and Relationship Strategist to identify, diagnose or treat these behaviors. That is something that needs to be saved for a Mental Health Professional. There are some telltale signs, however, that someone may struggle on the Autism Spectrum. And as a Dating and Relationship Strategist and Coach, I don't want to miss those potential signs because it really sets him up for more pain and frustration if I don't see and help him to be aware of from an educational perspective the issues that may be there if he is on the spectrum.

Now I have worked with many people who are on the spectrum. And it is always more challenging, depending on their skills and their ability to receive feedback. But I have had some great experiences with people who are on the spectrum in helping them to get on dates and to make better connections, and to feel more confident and secure about the dating behaviors and social behaviors that they are using. So one of the first things that I wanted to do with Jeremy is to make sure, are there those telltale signs, and do I need to get him connected with a counselor that can identify and diagnose him for that and give him some specific help in addition to the skill development that I offer. And so I did a complete history with him. And as I did the history, I was looking for those signs of either developmental delays in terms of delayed speech or walking, a preoccupation with a specific toy or subject, something that he was more preoccupied with then other things. I was looking for the possibility of him having been bullied, or that he acted like a bully, or was accused of being a bully. Did he play with friends, or did he say he had friends, but he never really got together with them outside of school. And did he say, on his own, things such as, "There was always something different about me," or "I was worried something was wrong with me." One of the reasons why that is really common when someone's on the spectrum is that they are somewhat aware that they are missing those social cues. They're not understanding social behavior, or jokes, or they recognize that they're the butt of the joke, but they don't know why. So is looking for those early signs in his childhood, as well as the possibility of his parents being diagnosed or somewhere on the spectrum. And sometimes, when someone is on the spectrum, they also will show behaviors that are more consistent with being hyperactive or Attention Deficit or OCD in terms of needing a strict schedule or only having specific foods that they would eat, or a schedule that they were really uncomfortable if it ever got disrupted. And so unfortunately, for some people, because it can look like ADD, or behavioral problems, or OCD or depression, or anxiety, some people just don't get diagnosed in their childhood if they are on the spectrum.

Now, fortunately, in this case, I didn't see any of those telltale signs. There was still the possibility with Jeremy that he was missing important social cues. But for the most part, I felt fairly confident after doing a history, that this may not be an issue for him. So now that I've established his history, I understood more about his family patterns and backgrounds, his relationships, some of his fears, and past experiences in school and other dating experiences. Now that I had that connection with him, I was ready to let him know what I saw in his body language. I really needed to make sure that he felt comfortable and respected by me and that I was an ally, trying to help him to get the results he was looking for.

He was really a sweet guy. I really liked his smile and his warmth. He was very complimentary, which unfortunately can also work against him. Because when he gives a lot of compliments, it can make him look like the too-nice guy. And I wanted him to use other techniques to connect with people instead of playing that nice guy card. Also, one of the concerns I had with Jeremy was how he was dressing himself. He really did have an older hairstyle. It was very plain. There wasn't any real fun or youthfulness to it. It just didn't feel like he was doing his hair intentionally. He had more of a babyface. He would do a little better if he had some scruff. It would make him look more edgy and older and even more sophisticated. And I also wanted him to be dressing in clothes that actually fit what his friends and cohorts would be wearing. He really looked like he was shopping, maybe at Kohl's, and maybe mom was having to pick out his clothes or not. You know, I'm not saying moms can't have a sense of style. But I wondered if maybe he was getting some of the same clothes dad was getting. There just wasn't this intentionality to his style.

So deciding which of these issues do I address first, and how much can he handle is always a challenge because I don't want him to feel discouraged. He actually did a really good job as I offered to give him feedback on his body language. He was really appreciative of the feedback that I was giving him. His body language actually improved and straightened, and his confidence improved and straightened. And he even said, "Well, I'm really glad you're saying that. That's what I want from you."

So I gave him several things to work on. He needed to pull his shoulders back. Now pulling your shoulders back is difficult because if I say pull your shoulders back, it can look really unnatural. It's really more about straightening that upper part of his back, not about pulling his shoulders back, keeping his chin forward, and straightening that back. And that also helped with his weight issues because if you're slouching, it sure makes sure the middle section looks bigger. He also needed to start spreading out. So one of the key things I encouraged him to remember is if in doubt spread out. We do not want those knees tucked in the elbows tucked into his body. We want his elbows spread out and put on the armrest, and put on the back of the couch. And I really had to demonstrate these with him and have him practice them. It is impossible for me to teach and give you a visual of this as effectively as it was for me with him because he had access to the Lasting Love Academy at the LastingLoveAcademy.com. And in the Lasting Love Academy, there are audios and videos that he can watch as well as the books and materials so that he could be learning these techniques and have a real visual to go with it.

But while in my office, I wanted to see him in these behaviors. So I would demonstrate and spread out and then have him take on those postures. And I would point out when I felt like his chin was dropping. Unfortunately, when you drop your chin, your eyes tend to drop as well. And it looks less confident. He really needed to be keeping his eyes up so that he's looking me in the eyes, and it looks more confident. But also because I don't want him to be misinterpreted as looking at a woman's chest. Unfortunately, when the chin is dropped, it's a more natural place for his eyes to just look forward. And that means I'm looking down instead of looking at the other person's eyes. And having my chin lined up with the other person's chin is a really good way of knowing that my chin isn't too high, and it's not too low. I'm looking in a confident way that says, I like myself, and I like you, "I'm comfortable with you. And that's why I'm looking you in the eyes." And he needed to be working on those things. He tended to really default to dropping and rolling those shoulders. So this was going to take some time on his part to practice these behaviors. And so it was a big part of the goals; how is he going to remember to straighten his back and pull his shoulders back or, you know, straighten that back and make sure those shoulders are in good posture? How is he going to remember that and then I asked him to create a list of a couple of people that he could go to, that are friends or family, and have them go shopping with him.

And I also gave him the number of a man who is a barber in Salt Lake City, where I have my office, I gave him a number of a man that focuses specifically on beard and hair and helping guys to have a more specific type of style. He needed that in addition to the clothing. Now one of the great things was that as a 22-year-old man, his family was very invested in also helping him to get these skills. And so they had a little bit of a budget that they were willing to give him for clothing. And he went shopping with his sister, and he had a wonderful experience. So when he came back the next time for our session, it was amazing. I was so excited to see his hair. It looks so much more youthful. I mean, he just literally looked five or seven years younger and more relevant and confident it was just super fun. He was starting to wear a bit of a scruff. And he just looked so confident in his new clothes and in his body language, and it made it a lot easier for him. Because he was starting to get some compliments at work and school, it made it a lot easier for him to start pulling those shoulders back, straightening that back, and looking people in the eyes, and brightening up and smiling, especially because he was spreading out more.

So that was the first session that we were focusing on specifically that body language and his image. Now there were a few other things in that session that were noteworthy. Oftentimes, somebody who is on the spectrum has more awkward body language and movements. So I'll often have them walk towards and away from me so I can see what their manner and gait of walking and standing looks like. That can sometimes tell me if someone may be on the spectrum because of the body movement issues and fluidity of their movements. It can be off in that regard. I didn't see that in his body language. Again, none of these things are an absolute sign that he's not on the spectrum. For instance, some people who are on the spectrum have a really hard time with eye contact, and instead, they look more at the other person's mouth instead of their eyes. He was doing great with that eye contact. But that is not a guarantee that someone's on the spectrum. Some people have learned that social rule that you need to look someone in the eyes. And so they will do better with eye contact. It's interesting, however, that those who are on the spectrum will still consistently have different timing and pacing on their eye contact. They won't blink at the same rate. They will either blink a lot or have more jerky movements or ticks to their face that are a little off. But it's the way that they maintain their gaze and their blinking and where they are looking that can sometimes reveal that they're on the spectrum. Other things is that they can have a very strong monotone tone of voice or really loud or really soft.

He didn't have any of those indicators. He did have a soft tone of voice, and we were going to get into in a future session what he could do and projecting his voice. So please go to my website LastingLoveAcademy.com so that you can get on my podcast, and email updates and savings list so that I can keep you informed when more podcasts about Jeremy post because we will be talking with Jeremy in future sessions about his tone of voice, he did have a more nasal or higher tone of voice. And the problem with having a higher tone of voice is that it doesn't feel as masculine. And it's really important that we are playing more to his masculinity because he looks so much more and sounds so much more like the nice guy.

So please be sure again to go to LastingLoveAcademy.com because I'm going to be continuing to provide a lot more additional information as I continue to work with him on the things that he needed to do to become more relevant and to be taken more seriously. That being said, in Jeremy's case, he didn't have the typical vocal inflections that some people on the spectrum. They can struggle with being too loud or too monotone or too soft. Another thing that is particularly important when somebody is on the spectrum is I have to be more careful with someone who may be on the spectrum about the advice I give them because of some things they physiologically and neurologically can't change.

They are not neurotypical. And that's one of the things those who are on the spectrum prefer; they don't like to feel like something is wrong with them, just because they're not neurotypical. This is really important because one out of 68 children are born on the spectrum. Now, this is an issue that we cannot ignore, in terms of both social, cultural, and emotionally, you are going to have friends, you're going have family, you're going have grandkids, you're going to have nieces and nephews, and your own kids may be on the spectrum. And when we look at them as something's wrong with them, that stigma is going to only create more problems than it's going to be helpful and empowering. What I focus on with my clients is what we can change. And another point that's really significant is I'm teaching him specific social rules of engagement.

Many of us pick up on body language as we're growing up. And socially, we see these cues and subtle clues in body language and social rules. Just simply by watching other people, we just seem to tune into it, and we pick up on it. And others of us have to learn it almost more scientifically, as we get older, or someone else helps to tune us into it. That doesn't mean that we're on the spectrum. But it does mean that we're focused on other things. we have different strengths and weaknesses. In my case, I did not learn how to flirt until I was in college. So it's just really common for people to need to learn and be tuned into these subtle behavioral and body language cues and tone of voice cues, facial expressions, and mannerisms. And sometimes, as I teach these skills, people realize, Oh, I kind of knew this already on my own in a way, but I didn't know to pay attention to it. Or I didn't know I could feel more confident about this or the benefits of doing this. And so as I teach people these things, it can really boost their confidence. But for somebody who is on the spectrum, they need these social cues and information to make sense out of and create a rule or structure that they can follow in social situations.

The difficulty for those who are on the spectrum, however, is that oftentimes, they create this hard, fast rule. And then it doesn't apply in all situations. So there was a young man who was my son's age. And he was always smiling. And he tended to be more of a bully on the school bus. He was in elementary school. So he tended to be more of a bully. He wasn't really listening to people. People get really frustrated with him. People who wouldn't normally get frustrated and be aggressive or angry and critical. Those people were getting frustrated with him. Kids who weren't normally that way were getting frustrated with him. Then we found out he was on the spectrum. And everything started to make sense a little bit more. He wasn't doing these behaviors to be frustrating or annoying. He was just trying to do what he thought he was supposed to do when he was tuned into other things. And he wasn't really listening and tuning into the social behaviors around him. And so what we found is that unfortunately, because he was on the spectrum, he learned a rule of smiling. And so he would smile all the time. It was very off-putting because he always had that facial expression. And it looked sassy, or it looked belligerent in a way. So by helping him to recognize that actually smiling isn't a typical facial expression.

So if you're seeing somebody who's on the spectrum and they're smiling a lot, that can be a sign that they're not really reading the situation. And we need to help them to create a different role. When I'm anxious, I do this facial expression. Or when I'm just in general, I'm going to do more of a neutral facial expression. And then I smile periodically in short episodes so that my facial expression changes, and it helps people to understand me a little bit more. One other thing before we go, because in future episodes, I'll be talking about Jeremy and his transformation process. The challenge with that is because he is neurotypical, I'm not going to be talking about those who are on the spectrum as much. So there's a couple of other things I want to tie in for those of you who are listening. So one of the disadvantages of having a social rule is oftentimes, they will try to apply the social rule to every situation, and it doesn't fit every situation.

So somebody who would be on the spectrum, if Jeremy I was concerned was on the spectrum, I would typically reach out to a family member after our session that he gave me permission to talk to, oftentimes one of his parents, because his parents were often the ones who were paying for the sessions. And they would often tell me, oh, by the way, you probably realize that he's on the spectrum, which has been kind of fun, you know, to have that confirmation. And to realize that, yes, they had already got that diagnosis. And when I would talk with them, and like who in the family would be a good, positive person who could participate in the strategy sessions that I'm doing with him, so that they can be on dates, you know, they're close to his age, they can socialize with him and help him to understand the little nuances of when to do this and when not to. So it's a real challenge. But it's been one of the greater rewards in my career is to help people who are on the spectrum. They have oftentimes a great willingness to understand. And although their emotional expression of their emotions can be very blunted, and they can have meltdown experiences when they are stressed and overstimulated, and they're getting negative feedback, or their routine has been disrupted. Although they can have these emotional breakdowns that look like they're just melting down, and you can't really understand that they're actually very aware of their emotional state. And it's really neat to have them journal and share emails with me about what they're going through because they're intelligent and actually very emotionally aware. So it's like reading a book that you don't know what to expect when you open the book. And as you go deeper into the book, it just unfolds in all of these layers that are unexpected and really quite fun and surprising.

And in relationships, if they can get by in the first few contacts and interactions in a more confident way, where other people don't feel like they're immediately picking up on odd behavior that turns them off, they're able to do that for a few sessions. Oftentimes, the other people that they're going on dates with or interacting with tend to give them more credit value. And they tend to be more open-minded to them. And then, you know, three, four, or five dates in they can let them know sometimes I miss social cues. So if I do or say something that seems a little off, just ask me about it. Or if I don't seem to be understanding a joke is because I probably didn't understand a joke. And it's just one of the things I struggle with among my many strengths. And so by helping them to have confident ways to engage, it's really fun for me to see them start to get some positive experiences.

Okay, so again, Jeremy, we have some great experiences that we're going to be sharing. Moving forward with Jeremy, the funnest thing about the session with Jeremy, when he came back for the second session, was how great he looked, how confident he was, and the amount of progress he made in between sessions, especially with watching the videos.

So if you're wanting to get some of the same results that Jeremy experienced, and you want to begin your own Lasting Love jJurney and have a personalized experience, check out the LastingLoveAcademy.com we work really hard at the Lasting Love Academy to provide a variety of options. So depending on your budget and your needs, you can get Personalized Strategy Sessions that are specific to you and your needs, as well as a Lasting Love Action Plan. And all of the content material I shared with you earlier about the audios, and videos, and books that Jeremy was participating in.
So check out the LastingLoveAcademy.com to begin your Lasting Love Journey. And it was really super fun to see after he had been watching these videos and had been doing these behaviors that I was teaching him, and going and getting styling was really fabulous and so fun to see him walk in with so much more confidence. Confidence is so attractive.

We'll be talking about the attraction factors and what makes them be more attractive, and how powerful confidence is in making someone more attractive. So we'll be talking about that in future sessions. I look forward to you joining me. Thank you for joining the Lasting Love Podcast, where we focus on Real Life, Real People, and Real Love. This is Alisa Goodwin Snell, and please, if you have enjoyed this podcast, please share it with others who you feel would benefit from it.

Your support and encouragement of the work that I do to provide these audios for you really goes a long way in helping me to continue to take the time away from my busy schedule to meet the needs of people I can't reach otherwise. This is Alisa Snell with the Lasting Love Podcast. All rights reserved by the LastingLoveAcademy.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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