Methinks there needs to be an Intro to Friendship class at every high school on what it means to be a friend. But since I don't know of a single school that has one, that's where I'm going to start. Before you skip this section because you think it's beneath you or not applicable to your life, let me beg you to reconsider.
Sometimes even the bestest friends in the world need a refresher on what it takes to be a world-class pal. Heck, I need one regularly and I'm writing this book. Friendship may seem basic and obvious to you now, but when you dissect it like that poor frog in biology, you'll see there is so much more to it than you first thought.
If you flat-out need to make new friends, this is of course exactly where to start. Know that you're not alone. Due to various circumstances such as a new school or job, old friends moving on and drifting apart or a plain ol' lack of the finer points of basic social skills, many, many girls are looking to start fresh on the friendship train. So with that said, all aboard . . . toot, toot.
(AKA the Fear of People!)
Being Open to New People vs.
Being a Loner
New people scare me.
My room is safer, okay?
But boy, am I bored
Want more friends? Want better friends? Of course you do, that's why you have this bright little book in your hands. If you can't be open to meeting new people, you can't achieve your goals of bigger, better friendships. So this is the A-number one lesson right here.
Don't get me wrong, being a loner has its perks: it's easier than making friends. You can be lazy and be a loner, because being in a friendship does take effort. And if you're a loner you don't have to waste any time on the phone, or out in the sunshine frolicking with others, or having meaningful face-to-face conversations with possible confidants. As a loner, you can be completely self-obsessed and all about you, you, you. See, perks.
That was sarcasm, in case it's lost on the page. Life is hard without friends. And not nearly as much fun.
Now, being open to new people, as I said, can take a little work. You have to ask questions. You have to pay attention to other people, you have to listen, you have to look them in the eye. This is hard stuff, right?
Do you like to talk about yourself? I do. I even talk to myself by myself about myself. I know what you're thinking right about now: "She is loony." But everyone, for the most part, enjoys talking about themselves. Which is exactly how you get new people to talk to you.
You ask them about themselves.
For example, say you have spotted a new person somewhere--school, work, a class or club. You think, "She looks nice," or cool, or whatever. So you approach her and you ask her a question. You could even start with a compliment and then follow up with a question.
* "I love your bag--did you make that yourself?"
* "You have awesome hair--who cuts it?"
* "Haven't seen you here before--where are you from?"
See? Not so hard.
But here's the tricky part: you have to actually listen to what they say! This is where I used to go south--I would check out and think about other things, like I'd be trying to read her body language to see if she was receptive to having a conversation, or I'd be thinking about a new question rather than actually listening to her answers, which--duh!--(a) would let me know if she was interested in talking to me and (b) would provide me with a lead-in to another question.
So to recap, the first step to making friends is to ask questions and then listen for the answer. You already know how to do this; you learned back in grade school. We all just need a little reminding sometimes.
And Another Thing . . .
Even if you're thinking, "Hey, I'm just here to make the friendships I've got stronger, I don't need to meet new people," well, you're wrong. Because bet you five bucks situations will arise (new college, new job, new town) when you will be meeting new people, and wouldn't it be great if you were armed and ready to greet them with friendship from the get-go?
There is one more component to this "Meeting New People" exercise. You have to hear, use and remember their names. And don't even try telling yourself, "Oh, I'm not good at names, I have a bad memory," because that is phooey. Remembering people's names is not a skill you are born with, like the ability to curl your tongue. It's something you have to work at. And here's how:
The best way to get someone to tell you her name is to introduce yourself. "Hi, I'm Clea Hantman"--ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the other person will then say, "Hello, I'm ______." Right? If you don't hear the name clearly, or the other person said it fast, or it's unusual (like mine), feel free to ask her to repeat it--that shows you care enough to get it right. You can say "Pardon?" Or "What was that again?" Or ask her to spell it for you, and as she does, visualize the letters across her forehead.
And now here comes the work--it's a four-step process that I think will help you remember names:
LOOK (at her face)
LISTEN (to her name)
PICTURE an exaggerated, silly image of her in your head
Let's start with the look. Look at the person's face for a moment and try to find a particular quality that stands out--is it her eyebrows? Her eyes? Her ears? Her face shape?
Listen to her name; then say the name again to yourself in your head.
Then visualize. Can you turn something about the name into a picture? Does it sound like something? Or does it rhyme with something that can be a picture?
Let's take the name Michelle as an example: "Michelle" might make you think of a shell. If Michelle were in front of us, we could ask ourselves if her eyebrows look like a shell, or her nose. If so, imagine this Michelle with a shell replacing her eyebrows, or her nose. Michelle also makes me think of that Beatles song "Michelle," and the next line is "ma belle." So I would think about a bell, and maybe I'd picture Michelle with a big cowbell around her neck. It's these kinds of ridiculous and exaggerated images that we remember. Or perhaps you already know someone named Michelle. So how does this Michelle in front of you look like the Michelle you already know? Or you could imagine them sitting together having a conversation about being named Michelle.
The last step is to repeat the name out loud. Try to say her name two more times in this first conversation. "So, Michelle, where do you buy your yarn for those knitting projects?" and "It was nice meeting you, Michelle."
So what is your activity of the day? To go out there and meet someone new and really, truly learn her name. Use these name tricks today and as often as you can. Can't find any new people to meet today? Try this out on the Starbucks barista or a waiter. Once you get in the habit, it will become second nature. And you'll be meeting new people in no time. Lazy loners be damned!From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Finding and Keeping Sassy Sidekicks and BFFs by Clea Hantman. Copyright © 2009 by Clea Hantman. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.