A church leader once invited my wife and me over for dinner. Her son, whom I had never seen, was about 5 or 6. He walked right up to me and said “hi, what’s your name?”
Making friends was that easy for him.
But doesn’t it seem to get more complicated as we get older?
Instead of feeling bold, we feel awkward or insecure. We question ourselves and worry about what the other person might think.
Still, we need friends and some of the greatest friendships are made in college, so how can we overcome the awkward first impressions without embarrassing ourselves?
This requires a changed mindset, one that has the boldness of a child while also using some more tactful strategies. The following few tips will help you get started.
- Be the First to Break the Ice
One of the biggest mistakes people make when looking for community is expecting others to come to them. We think we’re the only ones fearing the awkward introductions, but the truth is, everyone does.
Don’t get me wrong, taking the first step is risky. You make yourself vulnerable to a total stranger. The questions can overtake you:
What will they say? What if they think this is weird? What if it is weird!?
But when you take the first step, you offer a gracious gift to the other person. Now, they don’t have to feel that sense of anxiety or fear because you bore that burden for them. They only need to respond. Christ even modeled this for us. He came to us instead of waiting for us to come to him.
This doesn’t mean you have to approach the situation like my community group leader’s child. “Hi my name is… what’s yours?” It might not be terrible, but you can also ask questions that feel natural in the context. Ask about the person’s major or courses. See if they know anything specific about your professor. If you have another class with them, bring it up.
People on campus want friends just like you do, but they likely won’t come up to you and say so. Taking on the burden of breaking the ice allows you to extend grace while ensuring that a conversation gets started. You can start with basic, contextual topics and see if the conversation leads to more. Sometimes it will; sometimes it won’t. Either way, you at least got a conversation started and broke through some of the awkwardness. That alone is worth celebrating.
- Be Where People Are
You’re probably not going to meet new people if you make it hard for them to find you.
I’m not saying you have to go to a bunch of parties or that the introverts need to completely change their personalities, but hanging in your dorm room all day, sitting in the back of class, and avoiding social gatherings won’t work. You gotta get out there!
Try starting with some on-campus events or clubs that appeal to you. Search for a campus ministry or bible study. The earlier in the year you can start, the better. They usually spend more time on introductions and games that help you get acquainted with one another.
Classes also provide you with a great place to meet people. You’ll spend hours sitting in the classroom with the same people; you might as well get to know them.
Being physically present isn’t quite enough, though. You want to make sure you’re approachable, too. Airpods in, arms crossed, and head down isn’t a very inviting look. Our body language can say a lot, so make sure it’s saying what you want it to.
- Be Who God Created You to Be
You’re not going to hit it off with everyone. Meeting new people sometimes causes us to question ourselves, especially after rejection. Resisting the temptation to change yourself can be challenging, but no matter how people respond, it’s important that you continue to be the person God has created you to be.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for opportunities to grow, but you don’t have to join an ultimate frisbee league if God did give you a desire to play sports or start a book club if novels aren’t your thing. And you definitely shouldn’t sacrifice your spiritual life for the sake of friendship.
There are a ton of people on campus, and you will find the right group of friends that appreciate you for who you are. It may take a little more time, but the wait will be worth it.
- Embrace the Awkward
Look, being uncomfortable isn’t always bad. You can actually learn a lot by overcoming awkward situations. Plus adult life is full of awkward situations. Job interviews, first dates, visiting churches, it’s all a little uncomfortable at first. As you continue to embrace the awkward, overcoming it will become second nature.
Making new friends is going to feel strange, but I promise you’ll get over it. When you learn to overcome the awkward, you’ll realize it was never a big deal anyway, and you’ll be much more comfortable when making new friends. Some of the best friendships come from within a Christian community. They also provide you with a great, safe place to start as you learn how to overcome the awkward.
Have you ever #overcometheawkward? Or has someone #overcometheawkward for your sake?
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