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OPINION

Does Your Child Find It Difficult To Socialise?

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I walked into a meeting of one of the finest people ever yesterday. As I put my bag down to secure my seat, I went over to other seated ladies and in a warm smile and a friendly handshake, I introduced myself and they reciprocated.

As the evening went by, I heard one of the finest commands of spoken English from some of the ladies. I observed nice hair, beautiful attires and inspiring messages. As soon as the event was over, I went ahead to compliment the ladies with something I admired about them. It was a beautiful evening and within a few minutes, I had struck new connections.

One of the areas parents show great concern in their children is the ability to interact with others and make friends. Many people struggle to talk to new people. Meeting new people doesn’t have to be scary. Breaking out of your “shyness shell” takes a lot of courage. But, the possible rewards – new friends – are great!

You can learn to meet new people by acting friendly so that people feel comfortable approaching you. It can also help to build up your confidence around other people. After that, keep your new friends around by being positive and kind!

I will share 5 quick ideas parents can teach their children (and even add to their personal skill set) to help start building new friendships at school, in the mall, on the playground, at worship centers or wherever life finds you.

1.  Act Friendly. The simplest way to do this is to smile at others. Smiling is the most important thing you can do to look friendly and approachable. When you catch someone’s eye or someone talks to you, smile – it lets the person know that you’re glad to interact, even if you don’t know what to say! Of course this is not saying you have to walk around wearing a grin all the time. That would be so unnatural! What you need to practice is to keep an open, pleasant expression on your face most of the time. Again, you don’t have to wait for others to initiate a smile. Take the lead. Don’t be afraid to make brief eye contact with people and to show your warmth.

2. Go out of your way to greet people you’d like to be friends with. If you don’t know the person at all, introduce yourself and ask what the other person’s name is. Talking to someone you don’t know well might feel awkward if you’re not used to doing it, but guess what? Most people will be happy to have someone walk over to initiate a friendly chat with them!  Have some things to talk about in mind – you may decide to talk about the weather, a class you’re taking, sports, and other “safe” topics. That way, you can gauge their interest before moving into deeper conversations. For example, you might say something like “Hey, what did you think of that homework assignment last night?” Or, “This weather has been great. I love the rains, don’t you?”

3. Giving a compliment is another great way to strike an interaction. Saying something nice is always a good way to break the ice with a person you wants to befriend. If you don’t know what to say, consider complimenting someone on their contributions to class discussions, their handwriting, or their outfit. For instance, you could say to your neighbor in class, “I love your pencil case. Where did you get it?”

4. Most people do not ask questions. Asking people questions about themselves works wonders. It shows interest. One of the surest ways to make friends with someone is to be interested in them. Show that you’re interested by asking genuine (but not nosy) questions about your classmates’ hobbies, families, and favorite subjects at school. As an added benefit, you won’t have to talk so much when you encourage others to talk about them. You will be fine playing the active listener role.  So how about asking a classmate you want to be friends with, “What kind of books do you like to read?” or “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

5. Practice talking to lots of people. Joining an extracurricular activity like a sports team or drama club will give you lots of opportunities to practice talking to people. If you feel comfortable, ask your family or friends to practice with you. Pretend that they’re strangers, then strike up a conversation and try to keep it going. The more you practice, the less nervous you’ll be to talk.

Meeting new people might feel scary now, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. Set a goal to talk to one new person every week or every day. Every skill is about practice, practice, practice till it becomes as natural as breathing in and out. So, as you widen your social network and have more positive interactions with people, you’ll feel less nervous.

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