After over a year of remote learning and social distancing, we’re all a little unsure of how to socialize now. But some of us are more shy than others. Some of us get nervous when it’s time to choose partners for a group project. Here’s how to make friends when you’re shy and after spending so much time at home.
How to Make Friends When You're Shy: Preparation
1. Recognize that you're not alone with your feelings.
When you’re at school, take a look around your classrooms and the lunch tables. Notice any other wallflowers, anyone who sits alone or looks really uncomfortable around other people?
It’s extremely likely that they feel exactly like you do.
Don’t think you see anyone who looks as shy as you? Ask people around you – if they weren’t shy at your age, they know someone who was.
And you’ll definitely find people on social media who can relate to your level of shyness.
2. Think about your interests, and what you might have in common with other students.
Our youngest generation is the most expressive one to date.
So, observe the people around you. Subtly listen to what they’re talking about, and glance at what they’re wearing or carrying around. Someone around you will have a common interest: maybe someone in your class draws, or likes a TV show you’ve seen.
If nothing else, you can talk about the classes you share, or any upcoming events in school. (You didn’t get this advice from us, but there’s always that one teacher that everyone can complain about.)
Note: If you have the time and ability to do it, take up some extracurriculars. Then, you’re guaranteed to find people with common interests.
Related: Extracurricular activities such as volunteering or getting a high school internship are a way to make friends and to improve your college applications before senior year.
3. Practice talking to someone in the mirror.
Hopefully, you have someone in mind that you want to talk to. And you also have something you can talk to them about.
Now, practice what you’ll say to that person. Carefully analyze yourself as you are speaking in the mirror. As you practice, you can also practice saying positive affirmations such as: “I am a likeable person. I deserve to have friends.”
If you struggle with making or reading facial expressions, which is a common characteristic of people with Autism, practice making facial expressions in the mirror.
Related: These are 12 Autism facts you need to know.
4. Practice making conversation with another person you trust.
Practice talking to others. It can be a sibling, parent/guardian, someone you know online, or another friend you already have. They will help you gain the confidence you need to talk to people you don’t know.
You can ask them for feedback on the conversation. That way they can tell you whether you’re talking too softly, or whether you are making appropriate eye contact, or if you start spiraling into random topics because you’re nervous.
The more you talk to others, the better you’ll get at it.
Make friends when you're shy: The Approach
1. Approach a potential friend when they're not busy.
If they’re busy, they might inadvertently ignore you, which has the potential to crush your confidence. If they’re in a group of people, you can approach the entire group. But that can also be anxiety-inducing, so evaluate whether you can handle being around so many people at once.
Instead, find a time where neither of you are actively engaged in conversation or schoolwork.
Then, take a deep breath, walk up to them, introduce yourself, and complement them. People usually respond positively to a compliment – just make sure it is a sincere one.
2. Bring up your common interests.
If you share any classes or are in any extracurricular activities together, then talk about that.
If you overheard them talking about something you’re both interested in, just start talking about that topic. (If they were talking quietly, then refrain from saying you overheard them. They might think you were eavesdropping, which is kind of creepy.) Try to fit your common interests into the conversation in naturally.
3. Stay long enough to make some level of connection, if you can.
You don’t have to make a best friend by the end of a conversation. And you definitely don’t have to linger in a conversation if you’re feeling anxious, or they’re ignoring you, or you just don’t seem to be getting along that well.
With that said, you should make a concerted effort to nurture a relationship with a potential friend.
If someone seems interesting after the first conversation, then have another conversation at a later date.
It's a monumental accomplishment to make friends when you're shy.
This is especially true, considering the fact that we all had to stay home for so long. Friendships are especially meaningful now, in an age where we know more about content creators online than the people closest to us. It will be hard – but you can do it.
Don’t forget that.