Everybody wants to have friends. Friends make the school day go by faster. They can make the good days better, and the bad days more bearable. Unfortunately, building a close circle of caring, reliable friends is often easier said than done.
Making friends is not an exact science. All people are different, and there isn’t one general approach to winning over everyone. Still, there are some things you can do (and not do) that will make it easier to find potential friends, and build solid relationships. Ready to start socializing? Refer to these do’s and don’ts, first:
- Do be a joiner: You can’t make friends if you’re sitting home by yourself. So get out there, and join some activities! Most schools offer a variety of after-school clubs. Find out more about them by checking your school’s website, or talking with a guidance counselor. If nothing appeals to you, talk to your parents about finding classes or activities around town that suite your interests. It can be a little scary to put yourself out there and join a new group. But once you get past those initial jitters, you’ll be in a good position to start making friends.
- Do look for common ground: Sometimes, opposites attract, and two very unlikely people form a totally solid friendship. But if you’re nervous about making friends, it’s a good idea to focus on people with similar interests, hobbies, and senses of humor. The more you have in common, the easier it will be to strike up a conversation that flows. So pay attention to the people around you. Notice who’s reading a book you love, or wearing a t-shirt for your favorite band. Use these commonalities as jumping off points for a conversation. Talking to someone new can definitely be nerve-wracking. You just have to remember that all good friendships begin with a first, (sometimes, slightly awkward) conversation.
- Don’t close yourself off: It’s hard to predict who will end up becoming a good friend. So keep an open mind. If somebody wants to talk to you in the cafeteria, listen and be friendly. If a classmate wants to get together and study after school, consider making plans. Keep your expectations general. Don’t worry about becoming friends with someone who dresses a certain way, or belongs to a certain social group. Instead, focus on finding friends who are considerate, honest, respectful and loyal. The best friends may be people you haven’t considered, so make sure you give them a chance!
- Don’t expect immediate results: It takes time to take a relationship from an initial conversation to a close-knit friendship. Familiarity, trust and comfort need to develop along the way. Remember, a great conversation is just a starting point for a friendship. So don’t put too much pressure on the relationship too soon. Have a few more conversations, before trying to make plans. Get to know this person better before opening up, and sharing all your secrets. Don’t be offended if you aren’t invited to hang out this weekend. For now, focus on getting to know your potential friend. The rest will come in time.
- Do take the time to check in: Be proactive about building the friendship. If you know your friend has a big test, or a playoff game coming up, send a quick text to wish them luck. If it’s been a while since you spent time together, try sending a snapchat message asking them to have lunch at school tomorrow. Be careful not to bombard them with messages. That can make you look clingy. But make sure you’re checking in every once in a while to show that you care, and value the friendship that’s forming.
- Do be the friend you’d want to have: Remember, most people are looking for the same qualities in a friend that you are. If you want a friend who is loyal, then you have to be loyal too. If you want a friend who is a good listener, then you have to be one too. Do you find it annoying when someone else is bragging, or constantly repeating themselves? Then you need to be sure you’re not guilty of these habits! If you are, you might find that bad habits are getting in the way of your friendships. Think carefully about the type of friends you want to attract, and focus on building these qualities in yourself.
Even with these guidelines, you may find that some of your friendships just aren’t working out. Don’t become discouraged. In order to make friends, you’ve got to keep putting yourself out there, joining activities, and having conversations. If you still find that you’re ending up lonely, you may want to ask for help. Talk to a parent or guidance counselor. Someone who knows you well, may be able to guide you toward likeminded people. It can take some time and effort to build a lasting friendship, but once you form a really great connection, you’ll know it was worth getting over a few obstacles!