Connecting With People
Social distancing has been hard for school life especially when it comes with making friends. With the return to in-person learning, we need to dust off our social skills and find new ways to connect while staying safe.
“I’ve forgotten how to make friends”
Everyone wants friendships that last a lifetime. Friends that are there for each other, spend quality time and connect on a deeper level than simple acquaintances. The first step to that is making friends and that has been difficult for many over the pandemic as we were no longer able to visit each other in person. After the zoom meeting was over, we returned to our isolated lives. It was difficult to make friends to say the least. Now that the vaccine is available, restrictions have eased, and we can begin the return to normalcy. Even though we’ve returned to physical classes, I’ve retained the habit of simply going home to my isolation. I’ve forgotten how to make friends.
It was the beginning of high school, and I was in a similar situation.
As nearly three months have passed, I realized that I had an issue and decided to tackle it. How have I made friends in the past? I asked some of my closest friends how we had met and while some simply said, “I can’t remember.” One friend’s eyes sparkled with nostalgia and recounted the details clearly. “We met during lunch break in the 9th grade!” my friend told me. The memories started flowing back. It was the beginning of high school, and I was in a similar situation. I had no friends in a new semester and was wandering school alone. I peeked into a large room and found the band room. Inside, I saw a student on his laptop, playing the beta release of the video game Minecraft. I was curious and had never seen that game before. “What are you playing?” I asked. “Minecraft. It’s like Lego but way cooler,” he responded. I pulled up a chair, and the daily routine of watching him play games during lunch began.
Tip #1: Find a common activity
A common activity, interest, hobby or sport is a great way to make friends. Clubs are amazing for finding people with similar interests and SJSU has countless ones to join. SJSU has a link for finding all the registered SJSU student organizations.
A lot of students also use the free voice and texting app called Discord with organized servers. You visit the Discord student hub for San Jose State University by connecting your SJSU email and find Discord servers for clubs and interests. https://discord.com
A common activity every student has in common is taking a break. The student union and campus are full of students in between classes. While there are many who don’t want to be interrupted, there are also many who are just like you, returning from a life of isolation and looking for friends. Be straightforward about your desire for friends. Introduce yourself. If you’re genuine, they will feel that and be open to talking if they’re free. Remember to always keep your mask on when meeting new people.
Having frequent activities together will maintain the relationship. Talking and texting counts as a common activity but seeing people face-to-face, their expressions and body language, is better. Getting lunch together is another great idea. San Jose is a wonderful city with nearby places to visit like the cat lounge Dancing Cat, the board and video game lounge Guildhouse and a variety of boba shops and bars.
Tip #2: Address your social phobia
We’ve all felt nervous at some point in our lives. However, it may be social phobia that is the reason that we find it difficult to make friends. After all, social phobia is the third most common anxiety disorder. It’s the avoidance of social situations for fear of humiliation and embarrassment. Acknowledging the problem is always the first step towards dealing with it. Signs of social phobia are having increased heart rate, breathing and possibly sweating before social situations. Practicing proper slow, deep breathing along with proper posture by straightening your back may help.
1. Sit up straight and relax your shoulders
2. Take slow deep breaths through your nose
3. Hold for 2 seconds then exhale slowly for 6 seconds
4. Repeat the process for a while
If your fear is not knowing what to say, a few conversation techniques will help you.
Start with a compliment
Be a good listener - Ask open ended questions like “how do you feel about ____” and continue with short questions like “how come?” People love to talk about themselves.
Often social anxiety is caused by negative thoughts stemming from certain thinking styles. Recognizing them as bad is key to overcoming social anxiety:
Mind reading - assuming you can read the minds of others.
Personalizing - assuming everyone is watching you and that everything people say has something to do with you.
Catastrophizing - assuming things will go horrible if not according to plan
Emotional reasoning - assuming things will go horrible because you feel anxious.
Mountains and molehills - focusing on the cons and risks while neglecting the pros and realistic odds.
We cannot predict the future and it’s bad to assume. The Japanese anime Komi Can’t Communicate is a great TV show about a student facing her communication disorder.
Tip #3: Face your fears
The truth is a lot of attempts to make friends will fail. That’s okay. We must face our fears and overcome them. If you see a group discussing a TV show you enjoyed like Squid Game, go over and talk to them. If you reveal that you are a big Disney fan and they aren’t, that’s okay. If there’s an awkward situation, acknowledge it and move on. We will meet people we have little in common with or even very different personalities, but there’s always the possibility that they will still want to be friends. They could simply enjoy talking to someone with a unique perspective. We will also meet people who have tons in common and are easy to get along with. As you interact with more people, socializing will become easier. Everyone is rusty at connecting with each other and that’s something we all have in common.