I want to talk about how to communicate with someone with SM. When I think back on my life and remember the friends that had the most impact on me, or at least the friends I thought “got” me, they were always the people who were the most comfortable with themselves. They were very accepting and non-judgmental.

It takes a special kind of person to intuitively know how to act around SMs. However, if you don’t know how, it is easy to learn, and it is a great way to act around people in general.

What should you NOT do? One thing you should not do is be nervous. When you are nervous, the people around you will feel that as well. On the flip side, when you’re calm and relaxed, other people will feel that positive vibe just as strongly. All humans empathize with each other and read subtle body language cues all the time (unless they are some sort of emotionless serial killer). Some people call this your energy, others call it your inner state or state of mind. The scientific explanation would be that your mirror neurons are firing. Whatever you want to call it, there’s no doubt that how you feel internally affects everything you do and the people around you.

For example, say you were in a forest with your friend. Your friend suddenly sees a dangerous bear, but you don’t see the bear. But you do see your friend running away with a terrified look on his face. When you feel his internal fear, you will automatically empathize and feel the fear as well, even though you haven’t seen what the danger is yet. That is how strong this mechanism is in us, however few people are aware of how it affects them every day.

When you’re talking to someone with SM for the first time, you can find non-verbal ways to break the ice. For example, playing thumb war, giving a high five, or making up a unique handshake together. Some SMs will be glad to interact with you non-verbally. Others will have difficulty even making eye contact. So you should use your use your own judgement to figure out how to get through to them.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to always be calm and relaxed throughout the whole interaction. If you go up to them and you belligerently say, “Give me a high five or else!!” they will most likely shut down. If you ask for a high five, and they don’t reciprocate, and you feel slightly annoyed, they will sense that as well.

There are basically two things to keep in mind if you want to befriend someone with SM. One, it’s crucial that you aren’t attached to the outcome. Rather, focus on having fun and having no expectations. Two, always be calm and relaxed. As soon as there’s a lull in the interaction or the “awkward silence” it’s easy to react and feel awkward yourself. But if you remain consistently happy-go-lucky and calm, it will help whoever you’re talking to to feel that as well. Both of these go hand in hand, and contribute to making you happy and comfortable with yourself. Once you are comfortable with yourself, the person you will talking to will feel that, and they will sooner or later relax themselves.

This is important for people who are working with SM as well. Professionals are taught to do this and to have patience. But parents have a gut reaction whenever someone asks their child a question that they don’t answer. There’s that awkward silence, and it’s a parent’s first instinct to rescue their child from danger. But this is actually harmful and keeps the child in a prison of comfort.

Sometimes the parents are just as nervous and anxious, which then transfers onto the child – a lose-lose situation. The first thing a parent is taught in these situations is to stay calm and relaxed, and give the child time to feel the adrenaline and the changes in his physiology so that he/she can get used to it. And because you are relaxed the child will pick up on it, and with a little work they can take steps forward and eventually learn to overcome it.