As someone who has struggled with making new friends as a kid, I wanted to share some tips from my experience. Remember it’s okay not to be friends with everyone. Keep these tips in mind when pursuing new friendships.
ONE: Good Friends Help You Feel Good
In my elementary school years, I faced a lot of toxicity both online and in school. It was painful because I had no one to share my pain with, and no one to help reduce my loneliness. What I learned from my experiences from elementary school is that friends reduce the amount of loneliness in life and knowing how to make good friends is a valuable skill to have. Don’t hang out with people who make you feel worse about yourself, find people who you actually like and who show you they enjoy your company too. This might take longer than you think it should.
TWO: Learning the Balance of Kindness
Contrary to what I first thought, I discovered it is wiser to not be100% kind to people all the time. No one likes needy people pleasers. Through trial and error, I learned when to be nice and when not to be so nice. I also figured out when to stand up for one’s boundaries and principles, even if it seems offensive or hurtful to some people. It’s good to be kind, but always stick up for yourself and those in need, even if it means it might upset others. For instance, I refuse to be cruel or hurtful towards someone just because others bully them. Some people might try to pressure you to act a certain way or be rude to others to feel included, but don’t forget how bullying harms others in ways you can’t predict.
THREE: Avoid Trying to Befriend Large Groups
In 5th grade I met a kid who I would be best friends with for the next two years. He was the only friend I had in 5th grade until I decided to try to fit into a larger group and intended to make more friends by 6th grade. Bad decision. If you can’t make friends one-on-one, it’s only going to be harder approaching a large group. I tried to fit in by asking the group if I could join their games, but they either ignored me or said that there were too many people although in fact it was clear there was room for more.
After that, I tried sharing my snacks and helping them out in class. They accepted my food and talked to me a little, but then I started noticing that they were beginning to use me. I wasn’t their friend, but more like an assistant robot. I wanted real friends, not to be used for my brain. Next, I tried to be funny, however, that didn't turn out great. I wasn’t able to make them laugh and only embarrassed myself trying. Finally, I tried to talk to them about a game that was trending in school, only to be called an addict. I was not an addict. I was just trying to fit in, but it seemed like everything I tried to discuss to connect with them just made them more confused and disinterested in me.
After I got my first smartphone, I was then somewhat included since I was able to easily follow the trends that my classmates talked about. When it came to general friendships, I still didn’t fit in. However, I still made one more friend before going up to middle school, where friend-related things took a brighter turn for me. Seeing a big group of friends seems nice, like what you see in movies, but it’s best to work on finding one friend at a time and building your friend group from there.
FOUR: Be Aware of What Kind of Friends You Have
In spite of having no friends at the time, by watching other people with lots of friends I learned the importance of filtering the types of friends one has. I learned it’s very important to have at least one close friend who I can truly trust. Someone I can turn to, both to give and receive emotional support from. As well as a few casual friends for things like doing homework or socializing with. Those casual friendships might become closer, but don’t force them to. It is more important to have a few quality friends over many disingenuous friends.
FIVE: Don’t Overthink the Conversations
I learned that I must not go too far with what people are talking about. Leave them wanting more of your thoughts, opinions, and stories, not wishing you would be quiet. Explaining too much might make others think you like talking about yourself all the time or that you only like talking about certain things. Stick to what they are talking about in the present time and try not to overthink it. Conversations should be fun and interesting.
SIX: You Don’t Have to Be a Clown
I learned that while laughter is fun and welcomed, I do not need to always try to make friends laugh. I can be funny, but more importantly, there is a time and place for humor, and it should never be at the expense of others. Don’t laugh at someone’s weakness, race, body, personality, or status. It’s good to show appreciation when others are appropriately funny too. Being funny should happen naturally, don't try to make mean jokes for quick laughs, you will wind up hurting others this way. Good friends will joke with you and also kindly tell you when your jokes are not that funny. Usually though, with real friends, you can make a joke about anything and it will be funny regardless if it makes sense or not.
SEVEN: Remember Socializing is a Skill
Most of all, I started to realize that as I got older, I wanted more friends and to have more company. It was then I started to feel the importance of making quality friendship connections even more. I know creating friendships is a valuable skill to have, and will only become more important as I get older. Making friends can be challenging at any age so do your best to figure out your interests and what qualities you appreciate in a friend. It hurts to be rejected from someone you thought could be your friend, but remember there are a lot of people in the world that would be happy to meet a new friend! Keep trying and don’t give up if you don’t instantly find your friend group.
With these tips, I have learned to be more confident in my approach to making friends. I hope you find them helpful.
Seonbeom Joshua Kim can be found tinkering with robotics, in a corner reading a good book or taking a nice scenic walk around Northern New Jersey. When Joshua isn't writing, he's playing clarinet or moderating his friend's discord server.