Making Friends in College: A Guide for Introverts
Many of us had a group of friends in high school, especially senior year. For example, my senior year consisted of putting off my studies and staying out with friends until two in the morning on weekends, much to my parents’ chagrin. A problem many of us run into is becoming complacent, and not realizing that it has been an eon since we have made a friend outside of our primary clique. If that is your case, you probably did not have the easiest time adjusting to college. I had been hanging on the coattails of my old friends, trying to justify my isolation at college with “I have friends at home anyway”. Being that I have gone from reticent interlope to social animal, I felt that it may be helpful if I gave those still struggling some tips for breaking away and creating a new life at college. Here is some of my advice:
Recognize your own worth. There are some ostentatious people in college, and if you do not recognize your own worth, it is easy to become a doormat to them. I strongly recommend exercise and meditation. Exercise (specifically running) does not allow for self-deprecating thoughts; mental energy is far too valuable during exercise to waste it on self-pity, so you are inclined to feel good about yourself in order to complete your physical activity. If you keep at it, these feelings will permeate into your everyday life. This will allow you to leave when you realize that you are not being treated fairly. Furthermore, meditation teaches you patience, contentment with yourself, and an overall awareness of your mind. Do it for five minutes, and then build your tolerance from that point.
It’s all about the small victories. Self-congratulation is essential for breaking through your reservations. Whenever you hold a good conversation, flood your mind with personal accomplishments such as introducing yourself successfully, maneuvering the conversation well, or even sitting down with a group of strangers. Success breeds success.
Recognize when you have a limiting belief. I forgot what website I was on, but it was one that gave insight into limiting beliefs. One of the best pieces of advice from that article was to realize that there are other interpretations of your self-labeled “awkward” experiences. Think about it as if a friend were there, watching the conversation. What would he or she say? I would imagine that they would look at it completely differently. Next time a limiting belief resurfaces, examine it from a completely objective perspective. Look at the sequence of events in as logical a manner as possible, and you will likely find that your emotional triggers are blowing it out of proportion.
Get involved.“Oh, thanks Scott, my mother spouts that nonsense all the time.” Um, maybe because it works. If you are a musician, look for someone with an instrument and talk to them. If you know biology, but the person next to you does not, help them out. If there is someone who you have a friend-crush on, think of where you have seen them and talk about that. The possibilities are endless. “I’m not a great conversationalist.” You do not have to be. Ask people questions about themselves and they will happily oblige. How do you do it? Try not to anticipate what you are going to say while they are talking. Instead, pay particular attention to what they say and generate a question based on that. More often than not, you will end up on a topic that you both like. Of course, ask them out of genuine curiosity, not as some sort of bribe for friendship.
Stay off of social media. You will depress yourself even more because you will compare your life to your friends’ lives at college. If you do find yourself going on it, give yourself a limit or attach a condition such as, “After this, I will go to the clubhouse and talk to at least one person.”
Wave to people! People are not as callous as you think, I promise. I went out today and made an effort to wave to as many people as I knew. The result? 100% success rate. This will help to desensitize you to the feeling of discomfort around people and make them seem less distant from you.
Get people’s numbers. This creates opportunities for you to go out and have fun with them.
Do not take yourself too seriously. Ever seen that guy who is on the outskirts of the conversation, fearing that his next word could cause Atlas to drop the sky? Make your best effort to not be him. Laugh at other people’s jokes, go on adventures with them, be stupid, and find humor in your mistakes. I call this “floating on air” thinking. Try not to pre-plan any dialogue. Just say whatever comes to you first. You get better at it.
Stay out of your dorm. Ah, the most obvious yet most neglected rule. In order to socialize with people, you need people! Find the places in your school that are the most conducive for small talk (especially study groups, clubs, and intramural sports).
I hope this helps!