Do you ever feel like you can’t relate to your peers? Do you find that the thing everybody’s talking about just doesn’t interest you at all? Maybe it’s celebrities, or dating, or fashion. Maybe it’s sports, or the new reality show that all your classmates seem to find so addictive. Whatever it is, you probably feel like you need to know all about it if you’re going to fit in with your peers. But what if you don’t know about it, and you don’t really even want to?
When you don’t share the interests of your classmates, making friends is a big challenge. Trying to join in on conversations can be exhausting. There’s also a lot of frustration that comes from not having anyone to discuss your own interests with.
To help you overcome these challenges, we’ve put together some advice on finding common ground with your peers.
- Listen. Even when others are talking to you about something you don’t know much about, or have never been very interested in, the courteous thing to do is listen to what they’re saying. What they’re talking about is important to them. They may be hurt if you change the subject. So listen for something that sparks your interest. If they say something that sparks your interest, ask a question about it. Take the opportunity to learn from them, and you may find that your interests connect in a way you hadn’t thought of before.
- Don’t Lecture. Keep in mind that a conversation requires at least two people to share thoughts and ideas. One person speaking on and on is a lecture. If someone is having a conversation with you, they want to engage you and be a participant in the conversation— not just be your audience. If you have an obscure topic of interest, others may not know how to respond to what you’re telling them. But that doesn’t mean that you should turn the conversation into a lecture on your chosen topic. Instead, introduce information in small doses, and gauge the response. If your classmates are making eye contact, asking questions, or prompting you to continue speaking then it’s okay to go on. But if they’re turning away and becoming distracted, it might be time to let the subject change.
- Keep an open mind. Maybe your favorite thing to talk about will not interest your peers. But just because your peers can’t relate to that topic does not mean that you won’t be able to share other interests. Be open to letting conversation flow, and allowing the topics to change naturally. The more you’re able to learn about others, and their interests, the more things you will have to talk about.
- Find an outlet for your interests. Just because your classmates can’t relate, and don’t want to talk about the same things as you, doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to explore your own interests. It just means that you need to find the right setting to do it. Try joining or starting a club, participating in an online forum, or keeping a journal on your unique interests so that you’ll always have a place to share your thoughts or save them for later.
Keep in mind that school shouldn’t become a place where you have to totally suppress your individuality. If you don’t share the interests of your classmates, that’s okay. Spending time with them will simply call for a bit of give and take. Be attentive and engaged in what they’re saying, and they’re more likely to show you the same respect.
To help you see this in action, we’ve put together an example of the right way and the wrong way to deal with a topic you’re not interested in. Check it out here.