Make Connections in College by Making Friends with Yourself
Mental health expert Sandy Ruggerio spoke with my 17-year-old daughter last year about connecting. Her answer was the same whenever I asked, “What’s your idea of real connection?” When I said my research suggested that real relationships are made based on two things: trust and flexibility. Once my daughter turned to her study and said, “Trust has to be earned.”
We all know “real” relationships are not always “Facebook friendly.” It’s not about having tons of mutual friends or a bevy of mutual friends or girlfriends — though we’d all like that, too. What we’re talking about is standing out in your group of people, and making the other person feel special.
Sound simple? It can be.
One hour ago my daughter called me with a story about the friend she’d called yesterday from class that night. She went up to the friend’s house and kept leaving her a voice mail. When the phone rang a couple of times she figured it was her dad calling.
Then the friend told her, “Well, Sandy, you know, my dad is an extremely controlling man. So when he likes me, he’s very enthusiastic and enthusiastic and ecstatic about me, but if I don’t win a skydiving competition, I’m the punch line in his eyes. And so this morning he was yelling at me through the phone from the kitchen: ‘Hey, you gonna win that skydiving competition?’ I went to the door because I could hear him yelling, and he was basically saying, ‘Yes, Sandy, you will. Yes, you will.'”
Hah. Now we get it. Sometimes we feel the need to over-connect.
The first order of business is to really relax. When this is difficult, ask yourself: How do I stand out in the class, and what am I trying to prove to others, and when all I want to do is just enjoy my friends, how can I make that happen?
Keeping your own thoughts away from your friends’ thoughts is even harder. Remember: Your friends will share more about what’s bothering them if they know they’re not talking about you to each other.
Here are three ways to stop comparing yourself to your friends and make your world a little bit bigger and better:
1. Break up with your tablet and laptop. We all love our mobile devices so much that we feel like we’re missing out. Because we’re locked into our devices, we always feel like we’re competing with our peers. But what if we broke up with our devices and just focused on ourselves? Try it for three days, and then try some other things, too.
2. Don’t find out how your friends are spending their free time until they tell you about it. You might think it’s helpful to check your phone or read a book on your coffee break — or you might not think so. Trust me. You will learn something you didn’t know about the people you associate with. Trust me again.
3. Don’t look at posts about what you ate or what your friends did that day. Instead, spend the time doing something that you’re really excited about. Spend the time playing sports. Have a party with your new girlfriends. Swap memories of high school with your friends. Get your life in order. And maybe that will help you reconnect with people you see every day.
Yes, I know that adults do too. But most of us use our phones and tablets like there’s no tomorrow. It’s nice that we get a screen to kind of crack up. But we take them with us. And then when we crack them up with our friends and family, we keep going in circles of ourselves. We keep talking about what we’re listening to, what we’re wearing, who we’re with and how our friendship is going.
When you’re trying to connect, you start talking to yourself.
I’m here to help.
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