Ask Jono: Making New Friends
So I have an unusual problem. I'm in college, and I'm too much of a wimp to make friends. You see, back in high school I only had two close friends, but we were really close, like a second family. I could literally talk with them about anything, we helped each other through things, and they know things about me that my family doesn't even know. It was the three of us for four years, and we were in IB, and thus separated from the rest of the "regular kids" and stuck with the same group of about 100 kids (in a school of about 1,000) for four years. So I knew coming into college making friends would be an issue; however, I did manage to drag myself out of my shell long enough to make a few friendly acquaintances that I think could be friends.
The problem is now, even though I'm pretty sure the friendly acquaintances wouldn't mind hanging out with me, I'm too scared to try. I always think "this will be awkward," "they were just being polite before," "who am I kidding? I'm basically made of losersauce and fail." The truth is, I don't know how to start a friendship, my friends in the past have always made friends with me; I feel like my friendly acquaintances waiting for me to make the next move but I can't do that! Also, I really want to find the kind of friends I had in high school, but I know I'll have to get to know them for a while before I can safely pour my heart out. I just don't know what to do. It's like I just got out of a serious relationship and now I have to jump back into the dating scene. Seriously, how can this be done?
For starters, this is like getting an e-mail that says "I like a boy but he doesn't like me back! It is a highly unusual problem! Am I gross, like a fat octopus??"
In other words, your problem is not that unusual, and you are not a wimpy disaster. It's just a problem you never tend to see other people having, because you only run into the people who have already overcome it, as the others are eating lunch alone in their rooms and observing that they are apparently God's gift to failure. But this is false, as is most of what you're worried about, except the fact that making new friends can be as confusing as a pile of Riddlers. Here are some things that might help.
1.) "So what are you up to this weekend?"
At various points in my life, I have, like you, based my interactions around the assumption that I was a pathetic dingus. "I can't just presume these people would want to hang out with me!" I said to myself. "Surely they would pelt me with vegetables for my hubris!" Well, the weekend question is a safe way to circumvent this thinking. If you run into your semi-friends, asking this question will prompt one of the following responses:
- "Oh, we're all going to this event that is awesome, while still being wholesome enough to reference in a SparkLife post! You should come!"
- "Pfft, what even is there to be up to around here, stand in a cornfield and cry? This place is awful!" (Then you commiserate about how everything is boring, and one of you can suggest something that is better than nothing, which is anything.)
- "What hubris! You are a sewer creature, and you belong in the sewers!" (Pelts you with vegetables.)
The third one rarely happens. What might happen is that they'll bring up an event without explicitly inviting you to it, in which case you'll have to suck it up and actually ask if you can come to that (or just whine pointedly about having nothing to do, moaning and rolling your eyes until they finally invite you to make you stop).
2.) Contact them if you don't see them around.
If you don't actually see these folks around campus, you'll have to take the initiative. You've already come out of your shell enough to get to meet them in the first place, and unless you meant that literally and you are some kind of snail monster, they totally will not mind a Facebook message or some other form of contact. People like that; they like when other people voluntarily want to hang out with them. If they pelt you with anything, it will be friendship.
3.) Hang out as the awkward stranger until you're not one.
Here are the reasons not to go to something to which your acquaintances have invited you: it is creepy, it is illegal, you are dying of Brain Disease.
That's about it. If you go someplace and it feels sketchy, by all means, hit the road and call the Justice League, but don't skip anything just because it might be weird that everyone else is close friends and you're not. You are basically an adult now; everybody starts as bumbling, awkward acquaintances before they're friends. I personally have two good friends who initially concluded that I was a serial killer because I was writing in a notebook, and now we're close enough that they recently invited me on a road trip to Elvis's house with their other frequent traveling companion, who is a cardboard cutout of George Burns (every word of that sentence is true).
The point is that it will take a while of you being a wallflower before you feel genuinely friendly with these people, but you should leap at the opportunity while you can. You're surrounded by acquaintances who could be friends; soon you will be at a Real Job, surrounded by old people who could be mummies. It's never again going to be this easy.
Any other tips for forging friendships?
Related post: Can Guys and Girls Be Friends?