Making New Friends

How can you make new friends?

There is an old song that begins with the words “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver but the other, gold.” It is good to remember this as we set out to make new friends.

If you had great friends that you grew up with, that you went to high school with, friends that you would like to keep as life-long friends, stay in touch with them. Email them from time to time (like once a month). Call them and get together when you are home for holidays. For many people, these are the friendships that last the longest.

Making new friends in college

But now, in college, you certainly want to make new friends. In the page Starting With Yourself, you were asked to think about what kind of friends you wanted. What interests would you want to share with your new friends? What beliefs, values or opinions would be important to share? What would you do with your friends? Are you looking for casual friends, best friends, or even a romance?

The page,  Meeting People , includes ways to to introduce yourself to others and begin meeting people. But this leads only to acquaintances. It’s a big step to move from meeting people to actually making friends.

The best advice I can give you is that most students are happiest if they have a wider group of friends that have different backgrounds and interests but a small group of close friends who share interests and values.

Meeting many people gives you better opportunities to find good friends

When I moved to a new state and was looking for a job, I printed up 200 resumes and visited 5-10 schools a day,  meeting the principal and giving them a copy. I decided that with 200 resumes, half of them would be read. Of the 100 people reading my resume, 10 people would call me in for an interview. Of these, 2 would offer me a job. I would then be able to choose the one I liked best.

When my son graduated and was looking for a job, I shared this image with him. He responded to one ad for a physics teacher. He was immediately called in for an interview. He was offered the job and accepted.

You might be lucky. You and your new roommate might end up as best friends. You might meet other people at orientation who become close friends. You might meet someone in your very first class, fall in love and marry them.

But none of these things happen very often. Let’s be realistic. I suggest that you meet and talk to 500 students.  (Keep a list and see if I’m right.) Try to meet both men and women with varied interests and backgrounds.

Of that 500, half will be people who are not at all interested or that you’d rather not talk to again.

Of the 250 that seemed interesting, you’ll be lucky to have a second conversation with half of them.

Of the 125 students left, you might find that only one in five are people you might really like as a friend.

With this group of 25 students, you should make a real effort to get to know all of them better. This includes doing things together and getting to know each other better. Introduce them to your other friends and get to know their friends too.

After a month or two you should have about 5 especially good friends (including 1 or 2 who could be life-long friends) and have another 10-15 casual friends.

Sure, it’s a lot of work. But you will need skills in meeting people and working with them for the rest of your life. Learn from the experience. Develop social skills and self-confidence. You’ll be glad you did.

Keep the conversation going

You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.                  — Dale Carnegie

After you have introduced yourself and learned the other person’s name, you can usually ask what they think of the event you are attending, what their first impressions are of the school, what they think of their classes so far.

Some people will open up and talk freely. Others will barely answer. You say ‘Nice party, isn’t it?”… “It’s OK.” “The school? It’s big, bigger than I expected.” “Classes? All right, I guess.”

They might be shy and uncomfortable but hoping you’ll keep trying. Or they might not be interested in talking to anyone. Perhaps they are upset about something. Try to judge from their expression or tone of voice if they are interested in continuing the conversation. You might try a few more questions or let it go for now.

Again, tell them you enjoyed meeting them (whether you did or not) and that you hope you will see them around. Each person you talk to is another person to greet when you meet them. I strongly suggest that you carry a little notebook and  write down their name, when and where you met them, a few bits of info that you learned and your first impressions.

But remember that first impressions aren’t always correct. Someone who seems very nice might turn out to be a real jerk. Someone who seemed uninterested might simply nervous. They might end up as a good friend.

Six rules for continuing the conversation

1.  Be a good listener. Don’t spend your time thinking about what you will say next. Pay complete attention to what they are saying.

Two blond women have a serious discussion. One shows concern

2. Show that you are interested in them. Ask questions about the topics they mention. Usually that means talking about them. And you do want to know more about them: where they grew up, why they chose this school, what they are thinking about as a major, what they like doing in their spare time, what they might be worrying about, if the two of you are in any classes together, …

As you listen, try to share their feelings. If the other person is talking about something  happy, smile with them. If they are sad, stop smiling. Look worried or concerned.

As the two women on the left talk, you can tell by the expressions on their faces that they are listening intently. The woman on the left is clearly sharing the emotions of her friend. It is obvious she really cares.

4. Offer sincere praise and appreciation when appropriate. Do not use flattery (insincere praise).

5. As you learn more about them, you need to share more about yourself. Share a little about your strengths and your weaknesses. While showing respect for their beliefs and opinions, let them know what you believe and think. While you show interest in what they enjoy, let them know what other activities you enjoy. You might express an interest in trying some of the activities they enjoy. It isn’t necessary to share all the other person’s interests.

Begin sharing your hopes and dreams. But, at  the same time, go slowly. They may not want to know everything about you right away. They don’t need to know about the stupid things you’ve done.  Do NOT share things you wouldn’t want them telling other people.

6. After a conversation or two, find something you might enjoy doing together. You might suggest going for a coke or cup of coffee together and continue the conversation. When it seems appropriate, you might ask for their phone number or email. Then you can keep in touch.Go to a school event together. Go for a picnic with a group of friends. Each person might want to bring something to share or you might get sandwiches at a snack stand.

Five suggestions for moving from conversations to friendship

1. Take it slowly. Do not try to go in one night from strangers to best of friends. Start by meeting many different people. Get to know all of them better. Little by little, you will have a better idea who you most want to be friends with.  An important suggestion came from a girl who met a boy she liked early in the year. They went everywhere together. Then, when he failed all his classes and didn’t come back second semester, she suddenly realized she had no other friends.  College is a place where people drop out or leave for a variety of reasons. Those with a larger circle of friends are less likely to suddenly find themselves alone again.

2. Expand your circle of friends. Once you have several friends, introduce them to each other. Get together to do something you would all enjoy, maybe watching a football game on TV, maybe a party or campus event. “I’m planning to go to the concert in the park tomorrow night with a friend. Want to come along?”

Two women have a good talk and a cup of coffee3. Schedule time to spend with your friends. Maybe you will study together regularly. Then you can take breaks together. Find other activities you both enjoy. Or you might join in an activity your friend chooses now, and he might join you in something you enjoy another time.

DO NOT let your friendship interfere with time you need fo attend classes and do your schoolwork. If you and your friend enjoy playing bridge or poker or chess or video games, you might schedule a couple hours one night of the week for that. Anyone who urges you to skip a class or not do your assignments in order to do something with them IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.

4. Email them or call them when you have something to say but do NOT call them or text them a dozen times a day. This can get to be annoying and interferes with study. If you meet someone who insists on calling and texting constantly, think twice before continuing the friendship. This seems to be obsessive and may mean this person lacks confidence and needs constant reassurance. Explain that you only read or respond to texts once or twice a day.

5. You might invite one or several friends to go home with you for a holiday like Thanksgiving, especially if their family lives a long way from the school. It is especially thoughtful to invite students from other countries to share a holiday with you and your family.

An outstanding website called ULifeline  polled college students and asked “Which of these aspects of college life do you find most stressful?” The results were:

Academics                               27%
Making friends/Fitting in   20.2%
Dating Relationships           20%
Finances                                 16.7%
Family                                    15.5%

If you put together Making Friends/Fitting in and Dating Relationships, this area is the most stressful for over 40% of college students. If you find ULifeline or this website helpful in dealing with this area, please let your friends know about it. Chances are, they will also find it helpful.

And, if you are concerned with other serious areas like stress, anxiety, depression,self-harming, eating disorders, bipolar, sleep disorders or suicide, take a look at ELifeline. Read some of the students’ stories. If you know others fighting with these problems, suggest they check it out.

Be Alert for Troubled Students

As you meet people in your classes and around campus, you should be alert for Troubled Students. Have you noticed someone who seems seriously depressed, who appears to have an eating disorder, who seems angry most of the time, who makes threats including suicide or harming others.
ELifeline has a goo  page on the subject.

If you notice a student who seems very troubled, tell someone. Tell a teacher or counselor or someone at your health center. By doing this you might help the student get some much-needed help. You might prevent this student from committing suicide, and possibly from harming other students. With a depressed person or one who seems to have an eating disorder, you might suggest that they visit the health center. You might even go with them.

But, with those who threaten suicide or seem angry enough to hurt people, you should NOT try to help them, by being a friend. You could be putting yourself in danger. Tell someone immediately and if nothing is done tell someone else.

On the other hand, when you see someone who seems very lonely, someone who always eats alone, who never seems to talk to anyone, you should make an effort to get to know them. They don’t need to be you best friend but they will probably appreciate having someone to talk to, someone who knows that they exist. If you meet several students like this, introduce them to each other. Then they will have other friends and you will feel free to spend less time with them. But certainly, you can afford to smile and greet them when you see them and occasionally ask them how they are doing. And there is always the possibility that they are wonderful people.

Link:  Male friendships and Female friendships  The next page describes how friendships between men are different from friendships between women, and not surprisingly, friendships between a man and a woman are still different.

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