What is it that makes a good friend?
Particularly in middle and high school, friends seem to wade in and out of our lives. Often you gravitate toward people with common interests, or perhaps someone who is in two or three of your classes- or maybe on your field hockey team- and you become friends situationally, bonding over a certain project or event. Some friends you can just laugh and have a good time hanging out with; others, you can trust with your deepest secrets.
For some people, finding friends is as easy as getting dressed in the morning. For others, making (and keeping) friends can be a tremendous source of anxiety. Whether you are a person who thrives in social situations or someone who winces every time you have to “find a partner” in science class, we all have a responsibility to get to know each other, even those who you might think you have nothing in common with.
Why get to know each other? What’s the big deal?
The more people you reach out to, try to understand, and connect with, the healthier your school community- and society- will become.
In an age where bullying and school violence is sadly common, it can often be traced to feelings of alienation, rejection, and loneliness in teens. While there is certainly more to it than this, often the simple act of making eye contact and smiling, offering a few kind words, and sharing a story with a person has the ability to dissolve feelings of anxiety or isolation, breaking down social barriers and making a community stronger.
Why share a story? We all have a personal narrative- the story of where we come from, what our family traditions are, nicknames we have acquired, etc. Your life so far could fill a book! By opening up to others about who we are, we invite them to understand us, and in return, for them to be understood, as well.
When meeting new people, or being paired with a person you don’t know very well, or even if you see someone sitting alone in the cafeteria, start with a smile. Offer a little bit of information about yourself- maybe even a small story. You may be surprised what you learn about others when you share just a little about yourself first. You may even have something in common.
Have you ever learned something about a person you didn’t know very well that surprised you or even resulted in a new friendship? Share your story in the comments below.