Building Friendships

Friends provide status, support, fun, advice, and much more.

Friends are often the first people we turn to if we need practical help, advice, or information. Friends form a very important part of your social network, as you receive and give support. People with good social support have been shown to have better emotional adjustment; conversely, people who don't feel they have adequate social support often report more anxiety and depression.

Many college students experience loneliness as they leave their old friends at home and move to a new place where they don't know many people. Making new friends involves taking a risk that you might be rejected, which can feel scary, especially if you've known your old friends since you were very young. It's important to understand that rejection is not necessarily a reflection of someone disliking you. One of the reasons people reject the possibility of forming new friendships is that they already have a social network that meets all their needs and they're not looking to make new friends. Another reason a person might reject forming new friendships is that they don't see any mutual interest; we all like to spend time with people who are like us, who have similar values, goals, and interests. This means that some people you meet are not going to be like you, and you won't want to continue pursuing a relationship with them- nor them with you. Even if a relationship doesn't work out, you can learn a lot about yourself and others that might help you in forming other new friendships! Remember that making friends takes time! Think about your other friendships; just as these relationships developed over time, forming new friendships will also take time and effort on your part. Perhaps you are an extrovert and enjoy being around many people, or perhaps you are in introvert and like to spend time with a few close friends. No matter what your social style, the following ideas can help you form new friendships.

Making New Friends

  • Remember that everyone who finds themselves in a new environment goes through an adjustment phase, and in time you will make friends.
  • Don't isolate yourself; the only way you'll make new friends is to meet new people!
  • Practice your social skills by making an effort to always sit beside someone in classes and say "Hello" to them.
  • View your early attempts at getting to know people as "practice sessions" for your social skills. This will take pressure off of you to form an instant connection with others.
  • Get involved with organizations and activities on campus. These are great places to meet people and strike up conversations about your mutual interests. These small, ice-breaker conversations are the building blocks of more intimate getting-to-know-you conversations.
  • Be positive, enthusiastic, encouraging and thoughtful in your interactions with new people. People enjoy being around others who are positive!
  • Make same-sex and opposite-sex friends, but be clear about the nature of your interest and your own boundaries. Having both male and female friends will feel more balanced, and give you different perspectives!
  • Find a good balance between solitude and socialization. We all differ on exactly what that balance is; extroverts prefer to spend more of their time around people more than introverts do. However, everyone needs some alone time and some social time to be balanced.

Deepening Friendships

  • Ask open questions! Open questions are those kinds of questions that cannot be answered by a simple "Yes" or "No", and require longer responses. Open questions usually begin with the words "How", "What", "When", "Where", or "Why." Some examples of open questions include:
    • "How did you spend your summer?"
    • "How did you decide on attending CUA?"
    • "What kinds of music do you like?"
    • "What did you think of the lecture in class?"
  • Try to listen to people first and talk later. If you listen to what people have to say about themselves and their interests, you'll be given many opportunities to get to know them. Easy conversations about films, books, sports, etc provide important bridges to more important interesting stuff!
  • Ask questions that are specific to the person you are talking to, rather than just general questions. A question such as, "I notice you sometimes wear a shirt from an animal rescue organization. How did you get involved with them?" shows that you already know a little bit about this person and are interested in finding out more.
  • Share information about yourself as well! Give people a chance to know more about you. When someone asks you a question, elaborate on what they asked you. However, don't spend the whole time talking about yourself!
  • Understanding yourself can help. A great place to get to know yourself better is through individual or group psychotherapy. With the help of objective therapists, you can learn more about yourself and your relationships. CUA's Center for Academic and Career Success also offers the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is a popular personality inventory.You can find out more about the MBTI here.

Maintaining Friendships

Having friends is like growing a garden- you cannot expect much out of a garden that you let go to weed because of lack of attention! Different relationships require different amounts of attention, however. Some friendships may need an occasional "checking in", and some friendships may require more frequent attention. Know how much you are willing to give to relationships; set limits when you are asked for more than you are willing to give. If you would like some help in addressing some of these issues, or you feel that your social skills are not improving, the staff at the Counseling Center is available to help you identify and work through concerns. The Counseling Center offers several therapy groups every semester, which can be good places to learn more about yourself in social situations and to practice social skills in a safe environment. The Counseling Center is located on the first floor of O'Boyle Hall and appointments can be scheduled by calling 202-319-5765.