Being shy at any age can be hard, but it is especially difficult as a teenager. It's a time in life when you're trying to establish your identity, and at least a portion of that comes from the feedback you get from other people. I believe the whole root of shyness is when people try to guess how others are going to respond to them without giving others the chance to actually respond.
When you assume that people are going to reject you, you aren't very friendly. People may want to get to know you, but your body language and quietness makes them think you want to be left alone. Other people are a lot like you, and they're not going to risk you rejecting their offer for friendship either. You then look at how other people are leaving you alone, and that just validates your thinking. It's easy to get trapped in a cycle of that.
I was shy until I was around 16 or 17 years old. I got tired of it. It took me a couple of years to really figure out things that helped me, and I want to share them with you:
- Get your mind off of guessing what other people are thinking. A majority of the time, they're thinking about their own daily problems and worries. Look at how you think. Are you constantly thinking about who you don't want to be friends with for no reason? Neither are other people.
- Start small. I remember my junior year I met a guy who had been home schooled his whole life and wanted to finish his last two years in public school. His mom had taught him well when it came to people. On his first day, he took the time to introduce himself to everyone and ask how we were doing. Everyone was his friend by the end of the week.
Sometimes it's really just as simple as saying, "Hi, I'm -. How are you?" As you get more practice at talking with people, conversations will get easier. It's also all right to be a little nervous at first. That will actually diminish in time.
- Get around people who share your interests. That always makes things easier. People like talking about things they enjoy. It's nice to find common ground, and you may find yourself talking more than you usually do.
- Read a few books about people-skills and personality types. Ever wonder why some people react to things the way they do? Having a general understanding of personality types and people-skills can help you carry a conversation better and longer.
Here are some tips to help shy teens make friends:
- Smile and try to be at ease.
- use association to help remember names or information once they have spoken to someone new.
- Be ready to talk about areas that are familiar: music groups, shopping, movies, etc.
- Be prepared to listen, not just to speak.
- Ask appropriate questions to get this potential friend to provide more information.
- Be positive, avoiding negative attitudes and remarks.
Teens can focus energies are people and causes that are beyond themselves. Joining a civic group or helping a particular cause or goal can help teens come outside themselves .
When energies are channeled into a shared effort, personal barriers and fears can be overcome, allowing the teen to move forward in forging friendships and possibly new interests.
Here are some suggestions for such places to pursue interest, causes, and goals:
- community environmental groups
- fundraisers such as walks, bike rides, etc.
- church youth groups
- music and art groups
- recreation centers
- YMCA, YWCA, etc
- walking and riding bikes in neighborhood
- school-sponsored activities such as plays, concerts, festivals, fairs
As a parent, it can be difficult to figure out how involved to get with the teen's making new friends. You can't do it for them any longer, but you can provide the resources to make some of these suggestions happen. Providing transportation, spending money, and leads can help the teen overcome those initial fears and excuses for not wanting to step outside their comfort zone to make new friends. Adults can also work at showing their teen that the teen is valued. Show your teen that you enjoy his or her company. That alone can make the biggest difference in your teen's self-esteem. Equipped with that renewed confidence and some interests to share with a new friend, the teen will be open to getting to know other teens and making friends based on shared interests.
The Identity Trap: Saving Our Teens from Themselves
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