You talk a lot about the friends you spend time with, & it seems like you know a lot of people. I have a hard time getting to know people, & having them like me. Any advice on it?
Oh, I feel your pain. Boy, do I ever. As full as my life is with my friends, it took me a long, long time to get to the point where I was comfortable meeting people & getting to be friends with them. It’s really only been in the last couple of years that I’ve really mastered this skill, so I’m happy to dispense any advice that I can!
Smile. It seems like such a simple thing! But you’d be surprised how few people smile when they’re just by themselves. I have found that my “neutral face” actually looks quite angry, so I work hard to maintain a little smile as I’m walking down the street. Make sure your smile reaches your eyes, too—there’s nothing creepier than a forced grin!
Maintain eye contact. If eye contact is difficult for you, start practicing with people you interact with every day—sales clerks, servers, your bus driver, your boss. Ease yourself into it. You don’t want to look like you’re staring, but you also don’t want to never meet the other person’s eyes. It’s a delicate balance.
Pay attention to posture & body language. Look alive, like you want to interact with the world, not like you’re completely wrapped up in yourself or distracted. Also, take your headphones out sometimes! (Especially you, cute boys on the bus reading Kafka that I want to talk to!)
Speak in a well-modulated voice. Record yourself if you think you might sound too shrill or too monotone, & if so, practice reading aloud with inflection until you correct it.
Your clothing carries a message. I think it’s crucial to know how you look & present yourself when you’re interacting with the world, & your clothing is a big part of this. I don’t mean get all new clothes, or that everything you own has to be the Best Things, but looking tidy makes you more approachable.
Start conversations. “Never talk to strangers” no longer applies. I mean, be safe about it, but if you are waiting for the bus with someone who looks interesting, a casual comment about the weather could blossom into an amazing friendship!
People love the sound of their own name. Make every effort to remember people’s names when you meet them (there are tons of tutorials online if you’re bad at it, & most people are so you’re not alone), & use their names in your interactions with them.
Shut up a minute. Don’t talk about yourself all the time, & don’t just wait for the other person to finish speaking so you can talk next. That’s my biggest pet peeve in conversation. Really listen to the other person. People will notice. Talk about what interests them. Lead the conversation, sure, but make it about them.
Ask questions of other people. Remember the five Ws—who, what, where, when, why—& use them. Let’s say you’re talking to someone & they mention that they’re really into collecting vintage straightjackets. Some questions you could ask are:
- Who first inspired your collection?
- What is the hardest thing about collecting vintage straightjackets?
- Where do you find them?
- When did you start your collection?
- Why on earth?!
From their answers, you can always jump off into more questions.
“Danger” topics (politics, religion). If these topics come up organically in a conversation, I don’t necessarily think they should be avoided. Just make sure that you are respectful of other people’s beliefs & ideas. Remember the old adage about opinions being like assholes—everybody has one. Don’t go looking for an argument, & know how to diffuse one if you see it coming.
Make people feel important. Sincere compliments go a long way towards greasing those friendship wheels.
Flirt a little. The keyword being a little. A coy smile goes a long way.
Put people at ease. Make appropriate physical contact, learn to feel things out. Take your cues from the other person.
Be nice. To the person, & about other people. If you complain about other people, the ones you’re trying to make friends with will think that you do it about them behind their backs. Talk about positive things & people will see you as a positive person to spend time with. It’s far too easy & sometimes fun to be cutting (which can also be mistaken for wit), but it’s not worth gaining the reputation of being a bitch.
Help whenever you can. Whoever you can.
Show sincere enthusiasm. There’s nothing people like more than someone who is genuinely interested & excited about life & the things that they are passionate about.
Make people laugh. I know, I know—easier said than done. But if you work on cultivating your sense of humour, you’ll find you draw people in. Start by finding humour in the things that happen to you. Make a mental note of something funny, turn it into an anecdote, & use these anecdotes when the conversation naturally could use them. It also helps to have a sense of humour about yourself & not take yourself too seriously, which can be very challenging. But learning how to laugh at yourself can be one of the most powerful emotional tools you have.
Relax. Being laid back makes you more approachable. Maybe keep all your angst, tears, & rage at bay around people you don’t know that well!
Bring people together. Organize things—parties, social events, casual hangouts. Get to know the people you already know better.
Love yourself, but don’t brag on yourself. It’s one thing to insist you be treated with the respect that you deserve (& you do deserve it!), it’s quite another to be boastful.
Know yourself. Be yourself.
A lot of these sound difficult, because a lot of them are about taking cues from other people, which you might not be great at. But practice, practice, practice, & I promise it does get easier.
I know this sounds like a lot of steps, but just pick one to work on every day for thirty days. That’s how long it takes to build a habit, then it will be easy as pie for you.
Good luck in your search for good, lasting, meaningful friendships!
I love getting e-mail questions to answer! If you have a question for me, please don’t hesitate to e-mail. I’ll be happy to answer if I think I can!