Friendships take time. Making friends is a whole process! The good news is that you don’t need to start with having a best friend. You can begin with searching for “potential friends,” and then these people may become special to you over time.
What is the minimum requirement?
The bar is really low. The minimum requirement is somebody being friendly to you! That can be a person who smiles at you, or says “hi.” Look around in class, your sports team and the house you live in and identify a few “friendly” people.
Initiate small talk! Yes, you…
If you’re sitting or standing next to someone, smile and say “hi.” Follow up with, “How are you?” Then, if the other person hasn’t done it, start making small talk. Being good at small talk will set you up for life! I hear you saying, “But, what should I talk about?” Here are some safe topics: the weather, the activities you are doing together, Stanstead College, class, food and the weather… (I do know I said this twice!). You need a few conversations until people consider you “a friend,” so you need to start somewhere. Take an easy topic that you feel comfortable with.
You might feel awkward in the beginning, but just keep on going. Most people wait for the other person to start the conversation, but then two people are waiting, and you might end up in this weird silence. Take a deep breath, smile and break the silence. Everybody is SO happy and relieved if someone just starts!
Add something personal to the small talk subject
You could start talking about, you guessed it, the weather and make it personal. Say something like, “When it was raining in Germany, my brother and I would put on our gumboots, go outside, and jump into as many puddles as possible! We had so much fun and ended up completely soaked!” You’re still talking about the weather but telling them a bit about yourself, that way opening up the conversation.
It can be something you just did, you want to do or you’ve been thinking about. It does not have to be incredibly smart and articulate, just about you. Attention: you might feel weird, selfish and like you are talking too much at first. But what you do is give them a chance to comment on what you just said. If they answer, great! No answer? Maybe the other person is not used to small talk because of their culture or personality. If that’s the case, then be curious and ask them, “Did you do anything special in your home country when it rained?” The truth is, people LOVE talking about themselves because that’s the topic they know best!
Make it clear that you like the other person
Here’s a secret: we like people who like us. Or let’s put it this way: people like people who like them. Being friendly to someone is the easiest way to signal to the other person that you like them! (The bare basics: smile and say “hi”!) People need to feel that you have positive feelings for them!
Seeing people often is of great help
You see this person over and over again. Maybe they are your roommate, your classmate or in the same sports group, and you see each other regularly. Research shows that you need 6 to 8 interactions and conversations until people consider you “a friend.” And you’ll tend to get closer to the people who are physically close to you. Seeing each other frequently creates familiarity, and it automatically gives you the feeling of “knowing them.”
When you have exchanged a few smiles, had small talks and actual conversations, get closer. Maybe ask them if they want to sit with you at lunch, go for a walk, sit on a bench after class or do Physics homework together. Anything you feel comfortable with is great.
You want a friend that makes you feel good
People don’t want a perfect friend! Not someone who’s always confident and knows everything. People look for warmth, friendliness and kindness in a friend, someone they can trust. Someone that makes them feel good and appreciated. We don’t remember what people said to us, but how they made us feel!
It is also good to know that there are different types of friends. The best friend, the really good friend, the normal friend, acquaintances to name just a few... There are different levels of friendship, and we might change their status over time. Some will evolve into more, some into less. But at Stanstead College, there is a huge pool of students. These could be potential friends, perhaps from the same culture or a different one. Be curious and open to people you wouldn’t dare to be friends with “back home.”
You can do this. Be adventurous! Show up, share a bit of yourself, make it clear that you like the other person, and just GO FOR IT!
Andrea Schmitt is a life coach specializing in teens and a former Stanstead parent (Jessica Lozano Schmitt 2018). Find out more about her services at https://www.globalgirlcoach.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.