“hi Abigail it is Katie and i don’t really have a lot of friends and i think it is because i am very shy and not so social and i was wondering how to be more social in high school....i also don’t really dont know how to first talk to people and how to make friends?”
First off, I know that so many other can relate to this question. No matter your age or gender making friends can be difficult and the answer can be complex.
So it’s officially story time with yours truly.
Criss cross apple sauce (Translation: cross those legs Indian style)
and lets get down to business.
“Nerves are vanity,” said my long time acting coach Gregory Berger-Sobeck. I scrunched my nose and furrowed my brows silently chuckling at his obvious confusion. “Being nervous doesn’t make me vain! I’m nervous because I care,” I thought.
Care about what?
“I care that you like me. You do like me, right?”
“I care that you think I’m enough. Pretty enough, talented enough, funny enough.”
“I want to be worth your time”
“You laughed. You think I’m funny! Right?”
You see, when we are nervous we are often worried about how WE are being perceived. The focus is on ourselves. Hence, vanity.
Now, no need to judge yourself harshly, hide away in a corner and comfort your ego with oreos and Taylor Swift on repeat. (Not that I would know anything about that.)
You see we all get nervous. And yes, we are all vain.
Now for the remedy…
I then started applying this knowledge when approaching auditions and meetings. I used tools to get my mind off of me, myself, and I.
- Music in the lobby? Works like a charm. I found myself instantly relaxing as I focused on...the beat...the lyrics...the singer. (Anything other than yours truly)
- I try and keep this outward focus as I walk into the room and would see the person I was meeting with. I would often give myself a simple task.
“Ok Abby find three interesting things about them as you are talking.” (Please don’t verbalize these though you weirdo.)
“Make them smile. Be a light in their day.”
“Actually ask them how they are doing and care what the answer is.”
This often would lead to thoughts like:
“I wonder why he likes yellow so much?”
“They look sad.”
“Wow, that window is beautiful”
“Does she collect elephants?”
As opposed to:
“Do I have something on my face?”
“I hope this tank isn’t too trashy looking”
“Crap. She officially hates me.”
Now is probably the point in my long run on of a paragraph in which you say, “Abigail what does this have to do with my social life?”
Brace yourself for one more story.
(Suck it up and get a snack if you are bored.)
Years later I walked into my church (as I often did) and I noticed I felt off. No, not off more like I wanted to shut off. The service ended and I dialed my phone as if the president himself were on the other end. (Made complete with a furrowed brow & brisk walk.) I swiftly located the nearest exit. The anxiety I was experiencing got increasingly worse week after week. I felt isolated.
Why? I had been going there for years. Personal events in my life had tied up my time and emotional energy. I knew that this played a part in my isolation. But it was time that things changed.
I decided that it was time I did what any other person experiencing social anxiety should do, I joined the connections team to greet people as they walked in. (It seemed like the non obvious choice.)
It was odd. I suddenly felt beyond comfortable again. I felt useful. I felt free. I started saying “hi” (complete with squeals and booty bumps) to old friends and offered fist bumps to new ones.
The age old lesson came back to hit me upside the head. Of course I felt anxious as I walked in and left the church. I was uninvolved and beyond concerned with myself.
“Does my outfit look OK?”
“I don’t know anyone anymore.”
“Should I say hi to them? They probably don’t remember me.”
But when I dove in and focused on enhancing the experience of others, I found myself more concerned with solving other’s problems rather than worrying about my own. And as a result, my anxiety dissipated. (#truestory)
So (to bring this full circle) don’t be crippled by the fear of rejection (hence not knowing how to first talk to people and being shy) and instead find someone who looks like they could use a friend, and be that friend.
Make someones day.
Ask someone a question, and really hear their answer.
I guarantee you there are tons of kids in your school experiencing pain, rejection, and heartbreak. Be that person whose goal is to make them feel valued. (Even if it’s just a genuine smile) And I promise that you will soon find you have more friends than you know what to do with.
Remember we can’t do it alone,