It's been almost a year since my last blog post -- yikes! While the blog has fallen silent, I've been working hard in a lot of other areas. I've finished my second year of graduate school (whew!). And I published my new book Level Up Your Social Life which is a great accomplishment.
I've also been spending a lot of time answering reader mail. See, when I first started Improve Your Social Skills, I made a commitment that I would response to everyone who wrote me for help. Over the years I've replied to thousands of readers all over the world, giving advice on a variety of topics. And I've found that many people have similar questions, and struggle with similar problems.
With that in mind, I'm starting a new series on the blog called "Reader replies" where I publish an email that someone has written to me, along with my response. (I get the writer's permission first, and change details to protect privacy.) Over time, I'm hoping this series will become a great resource, and it will also help me keep the blog updated!
The inagural email is about a very common problem -- making friends in college. I hope you enjoy G's story, and my response.
I am a student soon to begin my third year at university. I also have Asperger's Syndrome and making friends is something I have still not found my feet with, and despite a few sincere attempts, I still don't really know a soul at the university. (It's worth mentioning that I live with my parents, so I don't have flatmates or the like).
First off, your advice on body language, empathy and conversation has been very interesting and helpful and I have begun noticing lots of new things when talking to my parents and my sister (and even my dog!). However I would welcome some advice on making friends in a university setting.
What I really want is someone I can talk to between lessons, have lunch with and perhaps meet up with outside university every once in a while - the university is still a lonely and intimidating place for me, cut off from the rest of my life, and even after two years I still don't really feel like I belong there. Thanks in advance,
Thanks for writing! (And thanks for becoming a member!) I definitely understand why you might be struggling -- universities can feel like lonely places sometimes, and it's easy to feel alone in the midst of a crowd of people.
I think my biggest advice to you is to look at the places that you're spending your time, and ask yourself "Am I spending my time in ways that are likely to lead to friendships?" Your university likely has a variety of clubs and social activities that you could participate in. And I'm guessing that you've visited a few clubs or attended a few social events, but it often takes a sustained effort for social success to happen.
Usually you won't make a friend the first time you visit a club, but perhaps on the fourth or fifth time, a friendship will spark. This is especially true because you are much more likely to feel comfortable and be yourself after you've visited a club a few times -- and that comfort will make it easier for you to connect with others!
Note that choosing the right group or event matters quite a bit. You might not find a lot of kindred spirits at a loud drunken party, but you might have much better luck at a book discussion group, or a theater club, or an athletic team. Keep in mind that you don't necessarily know what kinds of groups will fit you until you try them, so it's wise to keep an open mind and experiment. Although I studied business, I found many of my best friends in college by joining the group of English majors that would discuss literature over lunch.
Also keep in mind that sometimes the best way to find a good social group is to create one. When I started graduate school, I found that there were no real clubs or social groups in my area. So I invited my classmates over to my house for a Dungeons and Dragons party -- the more adventuresome classmates played the game, and everyone else enjoyed eating snacks and watching the role-play. Not only did my Dungeons and Dragons party turn into a regular event, but it also started several new friendships for me.
Of course, you don't need to do anything elaborate. You might try to invite a few classmates to see a movie together, or decide to host a game night at your parents' house.
One final thought -- you are not the only person at your school who wants to have someone to talk to between classes and hang out outside of school. So keep an eye out for other people who seem lonely or isolated, or who seem hungry for connection. And then hang out with them!
I met my best friend in high school because I noticed we were both sitting alone at lunch and went over to talk with him. Don't wait for someone else to ask you to lunch or invite you to hang out outside of class -- take the initiative! People might say no, but they might say yes, too. And if you keep meeting new people and keep seeking out friendships with them, you will find someone who would love to be your friend 🙂
Do you have advice for G, too? Leave it in the comments!
And if you have a question of your own, send me an email and you might be the next reader reply 🙂