Back in my early college days, I was very lonely.
I wasn’t popular in high school and starting fresh with new people was hard. I remember how impossible it seemed to impress strangers enough on campus to be liked and make friends.
Luckily, I had a friend in my roommate. He had his issues with shyness too. But for some reason we suffered through our social isolation separately, even though we lived in the same apartment. We just didn’t talk about it much.
Each too ashamed I guess.
Eventually, I got fed up being ignored socially and started looking for ways to impress strangers and “be liked” by them. And I was sort of successful. I got to the point where I could stand out more and make a good first impression.
This was nice, but for years I still felt cursed. Because even though I could make a good first impression, I was seldom able to turn that into deeper friendships. It’s like I was stuck in acquaintance mode with everyone I met. There was always someone else they connected with more than me.
What I eventually discovered is, I wasn’t doing the ONE thing most important to form friendships.
Are you missing out on friendships too by neglecting this one critical element?
Make More TRUE Friends by NOT Trying
I believe many of us look at making friends in the complete opposite way we should.
I know I did.
I used to think I needed to impress people and get them to like me to turn them into a friend. In practice, this usually drives people away. It seems like you’re trying too hard.
But still, many of us try to put on a good show, right?
We hide our flaws and weaknesses and fears. We try to seem perfect so others will want to be our friends. The truth is, it’s those very flaws, weaknesses and fears which often create the deepest connection to others.
The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.
– Brene Brown
Think how much more my roommate and I could have connected in college if we had discussed our pain on not fitting in.
How Vulnerability Helps You Connect: Insights from 10 Years of Research
There’s an amazing TED talk by Brene Brown you need to watch. I’ve included it below. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston who spent ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.
In this brief talk, she explains clearly the importance of being vulnerable and honest.
How to Use Vulnerability to Make Genuine New Friends
Quite simply, work to express more who you truly are to more people in your life.
Notice I didn’t just say, “be yourself.” Why? Because it’s crap advice, that’s why.
As you saw in Brown’s TED talk, she struggled for quite a while to be more authentic. That’s why you need to work at being yourself. You need to put consistent effort into being more authentic every day.
- Maybe this means you discover more of your opinions, feelings, preferences
- Maybe it means you find the courage to express these things more to others
- Maybe it means you try LESS to say the “right” thing or make a great impression
You’ll still make an impression, don’t worry. But it will be a genuine impression, not a contrived one.
And it’s through being authentic like this, vulnerable like this, that you truly connect with others. They see that you struggle sometimes just like them. They see you’re being REAL.
That’s something people respect much more than you putting on a show to seem “cool.”
And if you AREN’T like them, then no, they might not become your friend. So what? There’s plenty other people in the world. You’ll connect more deeply with those who share important commonalities with you.
Besides, by trying to fit in with all groups, you make it less likely you’ll fit in with any.
“Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.”
– Brene Brown
So consider some ways you can be more authentic in your life. Even by a small amount. Then give it a try. You’ll discover the truth…that not everyone will accept you “as you are.”
But many will, warts and all.
Those are the friendships you’re really looking for.
How to Build New Genuine Friendships, Step by Step
I’m currently putting the best of my knowledge and experience on making new friends into a step by step easy to follow guide. It will be a blueprint even introverted and/or quiet people can use to form genuine connections with new people.
But it’s not finished yet.
If you’d like updates on the progress of the guide and when it will be available, just enter your name and email below.
(Image courtesy of Ernst Moeksis via Flickr)