Sunday, 6 September 2015

Social Anxiety: How to Make Friends


Making friends...A terrifying prospect right? It doesn't have to be, or at least it doesn't have to be as terrifying and impossible as it may seem to you right now. I will begin to explain the ways in which you can make friends more easily, drawing on past experiences, mainly sharing with you, the things I would do differently if I went back in time to a few years ago (not that I want to relive any of my school years, no thank you).

The first bit of advice I have is obvious but often overlooked, and that is learning the art of appearing approachable. By this I mean, try to be more open with people, give others a reason to think you are interested in conversing with them, try to smile a little more, put extra effort into having open body language, showing that you are available (but do not appear desperate!) Take a deep breath and talk to those around you, share your interests and start a conversation-it can be about anything. The outcome will never be as bad or awkward as you think it may be, trust me. Remind yourself that people won’t judge you for wanting to talk, or at least they won't turn around and say "stop talking to me" to your face. You have the freedom to speak so use your voice and start sharing your opinions and opening up to those around you. Try not to fret so much about what people are thinking about you, we are all guilty of doing so and it is easier said than done, but try to really just be yourself and give less of a dam about others opinions. It takes time, I'm still working on it myself! 

Don't be afraid to use the friends you already have, I don't mean 'use' them in a negative way but ask them if they can introduce you to their other friends and perhaps any other social groups they might be a part of; this will help you to branch out and perhaps give you a chance to get to know some of their other friends. In social situations, be weary not to lie your way to the top: your true self will ultimately be revealed and you will have wasted all that time trying to be someone else, when people could have been getting to know the real you. Embrace having a silly side and relish having a sense of humour; now this doesn’t mean that you have to start telling jokes all the time and become the class clown, but you can laugh at jokes that other people make and have a sense of sarcasm and show others that you have a light hearted and fun side. Remember that you’re most likely funnier when you’re being yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. 

Leading on from this I want to emphasise the fact that it’s okay if you are in a different situation to your friends. You can be friends with people who have different opinions and ways of living to you. If you don’t have as much money as someone else in your friendship group or if you have to go to university at a later time than your peer group, or if you don’t know what a word means in a seminar or if you’re uncertain on what you want to do in life. You don’t have to have everything going perfectly in your life in order to impress someone. Most of the time people make friends with others because they feel like they connect through similar interests or personality and none of that can show through if you are not being your true self. Speak out about things you’re knowledgeable in- people who know things and can use their knowledge to help others. Confidence naturally attracts people, so if you seem sure of yourself, it makes everything else a lot easier. Even if you're not actually confident, just fake it... eventually, it will start to become a reality. 

Don't second guess yourself, and don't be afraid to speak up. In order to be both outgoing and social, you also have to be approachable. So going back to what I said earlier, always try to keep a smile on your face - people are much more likely to want to talk to someone who looks happy. Laugh at what others say if you find it funny and try to be nice and polite to everyone! Offer your help if you see someone struggling, don't spread gossip, and don't talk badly about people behind their back. That stuff gets back to people faster and than you will ever realise, until it's too late. One other easy way to come off as really outgoing is to give out a lot of compliments. Everyone loves being complimented, it makes them feel good, and it will naturally make them have a positive attitude towards you. Obviously don't just go around saying them out without meaning anything of it - you need to be sincere in order to come off as genuine. If you see a girl wearing an outfit you love, tell her. If you hear someone say something funny, tell them how hilarious they are. Little things like that! Why keep in good thoughts and positive energy? Share it! If approaching people is intimidating to you, try to approach others who seem shy and quiet. As someone who was incredibly shy, myself, and still is relatively, I can tell you that other shy people will most likely be really happy that someone is making an effort to talk to them. Sometimes shy people seem like they're not interested, but that doesn't mean they're trying to be rude!

Remember that most people are more interested in themselves, so pay close attention to what they’re saying and ask them questions about what they seem to be interested in. A classic and effective ice breaker is to ask someone about their recent adventures, ask them questions about their family, job, degree, interests etc but don't get too personal or invasive, as no one likes to be bombarded with questions. Talk about positive things, you don’t really want to have a heavy discussion with someone you just met about religion or politics-unless of course you’re at an event or social situation in which that is suitable. If you are in a club or a party you don't want to be talking about bad things that happened to you, or crying your eyes out sharing all of your deepest darkest secrets. Perhaps you can share a funny story or a just something with a relatively happy ending. Know the place and the time for certain conversations and just start off by putting yourself out there more. 

I hope this helped in some way! Lots of love and best of luck,

- Olivia Charlotte Alice

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