Jan 10, 2011

Tatiana's Twelve Tips For Making Friends

The discussion that my title links to, (well... a particular comment from it), has caused me a great deal of rumination over the past several months. This hit me hard, when I read it. And I'll be utilizing it, probably reading it, memorizing it over these next few months.

I don't make friends easily, and reading this list, I realized why: it's hard work. And I don't ever do it... I expect friends to come to me, without any effort on my part. I realized, after reading Tatiana's Twelve Tips, that this is a ridiculous expectation. As with anything else in life, good only comes after hard work. So... I thought I'd post this for myself, but also for anyone else who is struggling or ever has struggled making friends. So, without further ado:

Tatiana's Twelve Tips For Making Friends

1. Don’t let the fact that you’re alone stop you from doing anything you’d like to do. Go to restaurants, movies, concerts, art museums, whatever you find interesting and fun. This may take courage at first, but gather your courage to do it a few times, and you’ll soon find it easy and natural. You actually meet a lot more new people when you’re alone than in a group, because you’re so open to others when you don’t have companions who claim your whole attention.

2. Enjoy yourself. Whether you’re alone or with others, be interested in your surroundings and open to new impressions and experiences. Think of life as an exciting holiday or adventure, and be willing to engage with it.

3. Be interested in people. Lose your fear of strangers and learn to see everyone as a potential friend. Notice things about them. Imagine what it’s like to be them right now, what they might be thinking and feeling.

4. Try to look nice when you’re out in the world. It’s not that you must be beautiful to make friends, but groom yourself enough not to look scary. The Charles Manson look isn’t conducive to meeting people.

5. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t think only people of a certain age, whose clothes are a particular style and whose hair looks right, are potential friends. Look at kids, old people, people of all ethnicities and cultures and in every profession and walk of life, as potential friends. After all, even if you’re more interested in people your age, kids have elder siblings and babysitters, old people have dear nephews and grandchildren, etc. All people are connected. And all people are interesting and worthy in their own right, too. If you’re a shy person, could it be that it’s really you who are snubbing everyone else’s overtures?

When people are in high school, they usually separate into groups like nerds, freaks, preps, stoners, band geeks, partiers, etc., and don’t often make friends from other groups. In college, most people abandon those categories and realize that there are interesting cool wonderful people under all classifications. The people who are the least like you are the ones from whom you have the most to learn. Be a xenophile. There are whole worlds of interest out there of which you may be unaware.

For instance, the forestry majors had awesome impromptu bluegrass concerts around the fire outside at their parties. (Forestry majors don’t go inside unless they have to.) The astronomy majors have cool star parties once a week, and you get to look through all their awesome huge telescopes. The socialites often have a lot of wit and interesting humor. They value sparkliness a lot. Stoners are often very sweet and placid people. They’re lotus eaters, and often have very gentle spirits. (I don’t recommend you share their recreational substances, though. Just say no thanks and/or pass it along. =)) People from other countries are fascinating for their totally different cultures and worldviews. Definitely cultivate their friendship!

6. If you’re very shy, one thing you can do is make friends with someone who makes friends easily, and you’ll likely find other friends among their many friends and acquaintances.

7. Be helpful. If you see someone struggling with something, be willing to offer your help. Don’t be pushy, of course, but be willing offhand to assist people if they seem to need it. “You look lost, can I help you find something?” “Let me help you pick those up,” (if someone drops something.) Hold the door for someone who has their arms full. (Here in the south we hold the door for everyone who comes behind us, but I know that’s not the custom in other parts of the country.)

8. Smile. (In an offhand way.) If you take too much sudden interest in a stranger, you’ll put them off, but if you seem friendly, but not particularly eager, you’ll put them at their ease. The smile you want is one in which you smile with your mouth, but not so much your eyes. The eyes should show benign friendliness only.

9. Ask questions or comment offhand about things of immediate mutual interest. If you’re waiting for your plane you might ask someone if they’ve heard if it will be late. If you are at a concert ask who is the opening band. If you are in line you can ask how long the person in front of you has been there, how fast the line is moving. If you can make a funny remark about something happening in the vicinity, that’s even better. You can’t launch instantly into talking about things that matter. You have to talk about inconsequentia first. Anything that’s minor, and of immediate passing interest will do. There’s a reason why the weather is such a perennial topic of conversation.

10. Be friendly to all who serve you. Appreciate the people who wait on you at restaurants, check you out at stores, and so on. Particularly when you’re traveling, they can be very kind and helpful.

11. It’s not about you. Don’t ever be offended, or hurt, or put upon in any way, if a person ever snubs your friendliness. They are a stranger. They don’t know you. Whatever their reaction, it most likely has a lot more to do with how they’re feeling today, and what they have going on in their life, than it does anything at all about you. Be blase about rejection. After all, with strangers, you have no expectation that they’re good people, or kind, or polite. They could be afraid of strangers, or too busy, or in a bad mood. They could be anything at all. Accept that and don’t be worried or put off by it, but respond according to how they act. I’ve found that almost everyone is decent, kind and good.

12. Don’t get discouraged. It takes a lot of tries to get one hit. Don’t expect instant complete success. Cultivate friendliness as an attitude, an overall approach to people, and you’ll begin to make more and more friends. It’s a snowball thing. Give it time and be persistent. With practice and consistent effort, you’ll eventually get results.

I just want to add that I’m a painfully shy person by nature. Because of my job, traveling a lot, and other things that have happened in my life, (mother’s insistence, for one) I just happened to learn this skill. Anyone can learn it. Like anything, you try and then screw up sometimes, and then you try some more, and get better at it. The most important thing, rule zero, I guess it should be, is just to have courage to try and keep trying until you figure it out.

The most important concept of all is “To Have a Friend, Be a Friend”. Look out for people whom you can help in any way. Be willing to pitch in and help. Reach out to those who seem discouraged or disheartened. Think of friendship being about what you can do for others, and approach it that way. Think of it not as something you have, but rather as something you do. Write thank you notes to people who’ve contributed to things. Remember people’s birthdays in little appropriate ways. Offer to help them in whatever way you think could be useful. Offer to babysit, pick up something at the store, give someone a ride, bring them a meal, etc. Find needs and fill them.

Shared work makes a great bond between people. Pitch in and help with whatever work needs to be done, and you’ll feel a connection grow with whomever you work beside. Shared food is another bond, so bring treats! Shared laughter is great, as well. Be funny as often as you can, and cultivate a humorous outlook. Laugh at other people’s jokes. Encourage silliness, and don’t take yourself too seriously.

So I realize now that if I make an effort, I can make friends anywhere. Even in Relief Society!


Anonymous said...

you probably didn't know that i was a foresty major also and i never , no never go inside<><><>i talk to chimpmonks snakes weasils furry critters from alien spheres and to remain friends with me you have to get down and d--- right close to the ground with me<><>thart is the sure way to retain my friendship>><<>you are so funny sarha, i will always treasure you so maybe our friendship has a chance< but always remember i am from the planet zorn and to be my friend you will have to be more zorn like over the next few months,.,.love you putz sorry for my son's daniel's jhandle but i have not the smarts to change it<>><<>againe it is PUTZy dearf

merrilykaroly said...

Which comment was it that you have ruminated over?

I remember hating wards, single's wards specifically, for so many years because I had a hard time making friends (well, let's face it, there are lots of things to hate about single's wards, but I won't go into those :) ) And my student married ward after getting married took me a long time to get used to. Nobody talked to me, even though I felt like I was making an effort to talk to others. Looking back, I think a lot of people felt the same way I did. Lately I have made friends through playdates for my kids when I get to know their parents, which is something I never had before having kids.

Good luck in Idaho! People are going to love you.