DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I have a new friend from work. He has Asperger syndrome, and although he is one of the most brilliant men I have ever met, he just does not get the kind of humor prevalent in our office. This has led to coworkers thinking he is stupid, or being purposely dense, but I have done some research on Asperger’s, which has helped me understand where he is coming from. I feel like I get him, and we have started hanging out more outside of the office.
Because of all this, we have gotten close, and I sometimes have a sense that he sort of wants to fit in more at work, and yet I also see how hard it is for him to do so. He knows he is different from many people, and he is actually very funny in his own way, with his own brand of humor. And he does indeed feel things keenly. He just is not able to display his feelings the same as other people do.
I do not get why people seem determined to remain so ignorant and cruel at times. Everyone acknowledges how brilliant he is at his job. They just cannot bother to get to know him better, as I have.
Should I be happy with knowing that at least he has one good friend at work, or is there any value in trying to convince others to give him a chance? --- PROUD OF MY FRIEND
DEAR PROUD OF MY FRIEND: I applaud your taking the time to learn about how your friend and others with Asperger’s process their surroundings. That makes you sound to me like the kind of friend we all need. And, I believe your mutual acceptance of each other is a good thing for you and your new friend. Being close to someone who sees the world through very different lenses is a way to enrich both people in the relationship.
Before making any grand gestures at work, however, I think you should speak with your friend to see how strongly he feels about being more socially popular at the office. Even though you indicated he wants to fit in more, that may not mean he’s all that into getting closer to those who take little to no effort to get to know him better. If it appears he is in fact interested in being more “one of the gang,” then it may help his cause the most if you simply continue setting an example for your coworkers to follow by letting them see the kind of successful interactions you have with him around the office.