Some teens and young adults have no problem making friends. They are naturally outgoing, talkative, and confident. For others, the thought of making a new friend triggers fear, uncertainty, doubt, and reluctance. These teens and young adults fear rejection. They are uncertain of what to say or do to spark a friendly conversation and they doubt their efforts will have any impact, so they are reluctant to try. They start telling themselves they are “fine” without a friend and “don’t care” if they are alone at school or isolating in their dorm.
This isn’t true. Everyone needs a friend.
I’ve coached many teens and college-age girls in overcoming their fear of rejection and reluctance to make friends. What helps is teaching them specific strategies to build confidence and competence in building new friendships. This week’s list outlines five ways to make a friend. Share it with your teen or college-age daughter, or use it to guide her.
- Start the conversation. Questions are an easy way to get a conversation going. Ask about an assignment or something related to the class. Ask where something is on campus or for help dealing with a school-related situation. The first question may not lead to a friendship, but it will break the ice and provide more opportunities for future conversations.
- Offer a compliment. People love receiving praise and admiration. Find something about another person that you genuinely like or appreciate. It may be the way they do their makeup or how well they speak up in class. Compliments make people feel good and feeling good is always a solid start to a friendship.
- Show interest. When you’ve started a conversation or find yourself involved in one, listen. Put your phone down. Make eye contact. Nod and consider relevant questions to ask. Showing interest in another person sends a message of appreciation and shows that you value what the person is sharing.
- Express yourself. Consider the qualities you value in a friend and how you exemplify those same qualities. For example, if you value loyalty, be loyal. If you value fun and laughter, initiate fun plans and show your sense of humor. Also, allow yourself to be brave and vulnerable. Share your thoughts and feelings with friends. This will help them relate to you and build trust.
- Be positive. Smile often. Have a good attitude. Be kind to others. When you display friendly energy, you are much more likely to attract friendly people. Be intentional with your body language, facial expression, and tone of voice.
Making friends takes time, so in the process, encourage your daughter to practice patience and self-compassion. If she encounters an unfriendly, closed-minded person, encourage her to move on. Remind her, that someone’s negative response is not about her, especially if the person doesn’t even know her. Encourage her not to take their negativity personally and instead, to carry on and trust that she will find the right friend. Download your Five Ways to Make Friend list.