People can be really intimidating. And if you’re new at your school, you may have trouble making friends. Or even if you’ve attended the same institution for years, that doesn’t necessarily mean that things are going smoothly for you, especially if you are shy.
Perhaps you’ve come to realize that being a loner is not for you. You want to expand your horizons and build real, lasting friendships. Great. But where to start? How do you go from being shy, and perhaps introverted, to being surrounded by lots of cool people you can call “friends”?
Not feeling confident in your teenage years is very normal, especially when your body is changing and you are experiencing new and sometimes extreme emotions. It will get better, but in the meantime, don’t beat yourself too much. Instead, try to have a positive self-talk by telling yourself that you can do it.
The truth is, people can get intimidated by you too. Body language speaks volumes, so if you constantly put on a grim face or cross your arms over your chest, other people may mistakenly think that you are not very friendly or that you don’t like them. Instead, adopt an inviting posture with your arms down, your head up, and a smile (it doesn’t have to be a big one and you don’t need to smile all the time either, just enough to let people know they can approach you without risking getting attacked).
If there’s one thing people like to talk about, it’s themselves. But that’s great because it can be a very helpful conversation starter. Ask them open ended questions (instead of “yes/no” questions) about their interests, their hobbies, or what they want to do in the future. One subject that gets everyone (or mostly everyone) excited is animals. So ask them if they have pets, how many, and so on. You can also look online for more ideas by typing “conversation starters”.
Asking questions is one thing, but you need to pay attention and remember what people tell you so that they know you really care.
We all have passions, and meeting people who share ours can be a great way to connect and build friendships. Do you play music? Do you like sports? Or do you prefer drawing? Find out what organizations exist at your school and try to join one of them to meet people with similar interests.
Going back to point one, recall that you are not the only with timidity issues. Use it to your advantage. If approaching groups of people is daunting to you, try to target someone who may be eating alone at lunch. Or who doesn’t seem to have many friends in general. Who knows, you may discover that you have many things in common.
Don’t try to play a character in hopes that it will attract people and help you make good friends. It might work for a while, but eventually they will come to realize that you are faking and might not stick around. Be yourself, and let people get to know the real you.
Good friends should lift you up and make you feel appreciated. With them you know that you can laugh, have fun, but also share deeper conversations because you are comfortable with them and trust them. On the other hand, if they only want you to help with homework (or even do their homework for them!), if they constantly put you down in private or in public, don’t take your feelings seriously, or just don’t treat you with respect in general, run. They may be fun and popular, but they certainly haven’t gotten the “how to be a good friend” memo yet. You deserve better.
To make friends you will certainly need to get out of your comfort zone at least a little bit. But you don’t need to go overboard and say yes to any harmful activity that people want you to do. So if they only want to be friends with you if you drink, smoke, or do drugs with them, take it as a red flag. In the same way, don’t buy into the idea that you need to have sex to be popular. Friendships are important, but what’s even more important is your health and safety.
You are now equipped and can go make friends, step by step, without pressure.
One last thing though. Wanting to have friends is normal and desirable, but you don’t need to have a thousand of them. Only a few on whom you can count on.
Written by Elodie Takamiya.