Many friendships occur when you’re placed in new situations. At school, you didn’t ask to be put in class with those other kids. But you made the most of the situation and found friendships among the people you were placed with. This type of thing happens throughout life, at university, in employment, and so on.
But you needn’t limit yourself to the people you’re forced to interact with. There are billions of other people in the world (and on campus!). The more you interact, the more you can network and the more you can develop relationships that will make a positive impact upon your life. Who knows where they could take you?
Some people seem to find building new friendships effortless. Their charisma and charm guide them to success from nothing. If you’re already at uni, you probably know at least one person who seems to know EVERYBODY! Maybe you hope that one day you could approach others with just as much ease and success. Well, I’m sure you already can. With a few conversation ideas and the tips below, you can improve the interaction with whoever you choose to engage with. Let’s explore 11 ways to engage positively:
- Lower your perfectionist expectations – By first meeting someone, you’re simply dealing with an introduction. Don’t expect to be best buddies after five minutes. It doesn’t work like that. Some of my best friends came about after initial meetings that weren’t particularly warm and fuzzy; simply acceptable. Give it time and be realistic about initial outcomes. Strong friendships don’t appear like magic…They develop.
- Don’t fear rejection – Relationships have to start somewhere. If you’re starting with nothing in the first place, what’s the harm in stepping in and making yourself known to someone? If they don’t want to know, it’s their loss. Move on and find others. You can either sit around doing nothing and never knowing what could have been, or you can start talking to 10 people and fire up some new friendships. Even if you find 8 people unwilling to get totally stuck in with conversation, that’s still 2 people you’ve made a positive impact with.
- Mingle - When you’re out, don’t just stick with the usual crowd. Be prepared to say ‘hello’ to others. Ask your current friends to introduce you to their friends. You’ll already have a link that way.
- Turn smalltalk into bigtalk – There are many ways to find things to talk about. Don’t get stuck on talking about the weather. Instead, get stuck in with questions and thoughts. Be interested in the other person. Beginning the communication is sometimes the hard part, but people like to talk about themselves and their likes/dislikes. Discuss musical tastes, TV and movies, sport, something you read in a newspaper or magazine…anything to spark common interests. If you are interested by someone for a particular reason, try to find out more about them and see if things click. If you don’t find success on a particular subject, simply move on to another. You’ll soon work out if you’re going to hit it off, or if you’re as different as chalk and cheese.
- Listen - It surprises me how many people seem to rush through life with their ears covered. They just don’t want to engage. When you are introduced to new people, listen out for conversation that ignites your own interests. At university, this is pretty easy, especially in communal situations and during events like Fresher’s Week. There’s no harm in joining in, especially when the situation expects mingling. You should find most people are happy to make new acquaintances; especially if you’re an active listener.
- Get involved in local activities, uni clubs & societies, and your Student Union – Sure, you can sit indoors on the Internet and make virtual friends on forums, chatrooms and the like, but if you crave face-to-face encounters, you need to walk out the door! Focus on your interests and find out what clubs and societies are taking place locally to you (both on and off campus). That way, you can get involved in something you enjoy and introduce yourself to many like-minded people at the same time.
- Smile – I’ve been told many times that I shine with positivity. When I ask what they mean, people usually mention the smile on my face. A smile instantly makes you more approachable and shows a confident approach. This alone takes you a lot closer to engaging with others with ease, so practice smiling!
- Turn ‘bad’ into something good – Nobody likes a constant complainer, yet there’s scope for humour in our pet hates and annoyances. Guests on chat shows like to talk about the things they dislike, while some stand-up comics make a living talking exclusively about what annoys them. Rather than simply whinge, find a bit of embellishment and comedy to make the most of the things you don’t like, just as you would with the things that you love.
- React to the situation and the people – When you’re with good friends, you act and talk differently to when you’re with your grandparents or your doctor or your tutor. Similarly, you would change your disposition if you went from a quiet room with two people to the middle of a crowd at an exciting sports match. We take situations and people and change our personality accordingly. By recognising that we do this, you can take greater control of your situation and work the setting and personalities to your advantage. Think to yourself, how could I adapt to make the best use of this scenario?
- Mirror… – Moving on nicely from the previous tip, it’s effective to mirror the actions of the person you are talking with. See how they move and express themselves. Try to respond in a similar way (stand tall when they do, sit down when they do, put your hands behind your back if they do the same, and so on). But don’t mirror them too much, otherwise it will look a bit strange and quite off-putting! With a bit of practice, you should be able to mirror others at key points without them noticing at all. All the while, they will feel pretty comfortable and relaxed in your presence.
- …but do be yourself – While you may be able to mirror the actions of another person, you still need to act naturally and take each scenario in its stride. No need to put on a front, or put on a show of mock confidence. A more natural air shows off more confidence than a false act. Enjoy the process of getting to know people and, after you get used to making your approaches, you’ll take to it with a natural confidence anyway.
Finding ways to build new friendships can open doors to many wonderful experiences. In isolation, it won’t go toward improving your study, building a portfolio, or pumping up your CV. However, the more you strive toward creating positive relationships, the greater the chances your future can be just as fulfilling.
What is the most unusual or surprising situation you’ve been in that resulted in a blossoming friendship?