By Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW —
Friends-finding, making, keeping and being one! A new school year gives opportunities for new friendships and maybe even a little stress about meeting new people. Whether you are intimidated or excited-we can always learn more about healthy friendships, how to choose them and how to be a better friend.
We often worry about rejection or embarrassment but really those are only uncomfortable feelings and not impossible experiences. Remember, most kids are making new friends throughout middle school and high school, even those people who already have their established group of friends. Almost everyone is in the same friend making situation.
So, what makes a good friend? How do you find a friend (or two or three)? And how do you be a good friend? Here’s a list of friendship tips to assist you on your friendship journey:
- First, be your own friend! Liking who you are is crucial! YOU are the first and most important friendship you will ever have. Self confidence, self esteem and knowing yourself goes a long way in making friends with others. When we have a good relationship with ourselves we are more likely to treat others well and find positive friendship in others.
- Know your interests and passions. When you know what you like you can look for others who share similar interests. Love to draw? Enjoy acting? Be ready to join a club or participate in a related activity to find a friend with similar interests. Great minds think alike!
- Stay positive. Being positive and having a bright and cheery outlook will help you to be more likely to appeal to another optimistic person. Not feeling so positive? Maybe it’s time to get some help to start feeling better.
- Understand social cues. Knowing what the general expectations are on how to act with others can go a long way. How to identify when someone is interested in getting to know us, being aware of the basic social norms of how most people behave is helpful. Understanding non-verbal communication is useful in guiding you on the friendship path. Pushing someone out of your way?-not so much. Eye contact?-yes. Making room at the lunch table-definitely!
- There are different types of friendships. Not every person you meet may not be best friend potential- that is OK. There are different types of friends; we have those people we know in passing (acquaintances), other people we might have fun chatting with before class (friends), other people might be in our inner circle of friends that we spend time with at school and/or outside of school (close friends), and other people, maybe one or two, who are our closest confidants that we share our most important details and connections with (best friend). Having a variety of friends is normal. Just because someone isn’t your best friend, they can still be part of your friendship circle.
- Smile. Yes, smile, it shows you are friendly!
- Know important qualities in a friend. What are the characteristics and traits that are important for your friends to have? What type of person do you want to be in a friendship? Upbeat? Interesting? Creative? Honest? Have common interests? It’s ok to be selective, especially as you make close friends and a best friend.
- Be curious. Get to know people. Ask questions. People usually enjoy talking about themselves and sharing their interests and experiences. This gives you a chance to get to know your potential new bud.
- Keep talking. Be sure that you talk to a trusted adult (parent, teacher, counselor) about what friendship means to you. Any concerns you have or questions you might be considering about new friends or yourself as a friend? Talk about it! The more you learn about friendship, the more you will understand it and l likely the better you will be at friendship.
- Keep a lookout. Potential friends can be almost anywhere! Lunch line, bus stop, Math class, dance class, chess club, sports team…anywhere!
- Think about new ways to make friends. Extra curricular activities? Clubs? A favorite class? This is a repeat of the last tip, it is that important. Be open to meeting new people, accepting and positive. New friend possibilities are everywhere!
- Know what NOT to do. Understanding what isn’t being a good friend and knowing what NOT to do is just as important as knowing what TO do in social situations. Usually if you go with optimistic, generous and kind behavior, you will be in good friendship shape.
- No drama. No, thank you! Avoid negative talk or conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable. Drama is not friendship. If the conversation is not kind, necessary or helpful stay out of it!
- Low expectations and lots of patience. Don’t expect too much of a new friend at first. Go slowly in having expectations of your new friend and be sure to keep communication open with them. It can take time to meet a true friend and it is worth taking time in getting to best friend status.
- Ask for help! Talk to someone you trust to learn more about friendships, social norms, and how to feel your best in social situations. Friendship is a skill we learn throughout our life. Ask and learn about friendship, lean on your trusted friends or loved ones as you learn more about friendship. Afterall…Don’t we all need a little help from our friends?
Making friends isn’t always easy but it is so important. Not sure what the next steps are in making new friends? Not sure if you are being a great friend? Find a trusted adult and talk about it. Feeling in crisis? Text the TeenCrisisLine at 741741 (text the word “home”), call them at 602.248.8336 (TEEN) or seek out the support of a professional mental health provider.
You got this, Girl!
Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW is an Arizona based private practice mental health provider and educator. She is passionate about assisting youth to learn life skills, gain insights and thrive!