Since we are still the “new people” in town, I have been having quite a few discussions with the children about how to make friends.
It seems that it comes more naturally to some than to others and I have been stressing that, no matter how nervous you are, appearing friendly – even if you don’t feel comfortable doing it – will show people that you are willing to make new friends.
I have pointed out more than once that sitting alone on the back row of your Bible class does not give off that super friendly vibe and people might just draw the conclusion that you are snooty instead of shy.
I was in my 20’s before I learned this lesson and it happened in a bowling alley.
When we were first married, my husband thought it would be fun for the two of us to join a bowling league, so he signed us up at the local bowling alley.
It turns out that he happens to excel at near Olympic proportions at all things athletic, and I, well, am ball impaired. (It’s even worse if the sport involves an implement with which to strike the ball.)
I am a good sport, though, and enjoy spending time with my husband, so I was determined to see it through.
Even though I was the worst one on the team.
And cigarette smoke gives me a headache.
And beer stinks.
And those shoes are creepy.
Basically, I spent every Tuesday night that year marking down my gutter balls and doodling on the score pad while I imagined the other players were scoffing at my bowling skills.
I was sure they wondered what in the world I thought I was doing joining a bowling league. I just knew they were talking about my grip and my release. I was positive they didn’t like me because none of them ever came over to talk to me while I kept my head down drawing doodles on my score sheet.
One night, as I was walking back to the score sheet to mark down my (pathetic) score, I was about to walk past two of the ladies discussing something very seriously, with their heads close together.
As I got closer to them, I heard , “… because she thinks she’s better than we are. She’s a snob!”
I don’t know what made me do it, but I stopped right in front of them, and it was only then that they realized I was there and both lifted their heads.
Their eyes met mine and I saw that stunned look that comes when people realize they have been caught doing something they wish they hadn’t been caught at.
They both looked at me and then at each other, and back at me.
I guess I was emboldened by their discomfort, because I said, “Were you just talking about me?!”
The tough one, I’ll call “Laverne”, looked at her compatriot, nervously took a long drag on her cigarette, and said something like, “We… I … ummmm… it’s just that… I didn’t mean…”
I interrupted with, “Did you call me a SNOB?!”
At this point, Laverne must have thought I was ready to take our little discussion outside to the parking lot of The Pink Poodle next door, because she took on a very apologetic tone and repeated, “We ain’t tryin’ ta start nothin’! We ain’t tryin’ ta start nothin’!
All at once I felt bad for all those Tuesday nights I spent talking only to my husband and no one else. All the time I spent with my head down instead of joining in on their conversations.
I had imagined that they didn’t like me because I was a poor player, but I was wrong. They didn’t like me for a better reason.
I was unfriendly.
I had rationalized my exclusive behavior by telling myself I was shy. They already knew one another from playing on bowling leagues for years. And besides, they wouldn’t want to talk to me anyway because I knew next to nothing about how to bowl. I could barely keep score!
And all the while, they were interpreting my behavior as snobby.
I ended up apologizing for giving the impression that I was being a snob, and I made two new friends that night.
More importantly, though, I made a discovery that sometimes it takes effort to be friendly. If you are feeling shy or nervous and don’t extend that effort, it can be seen as though you do not want to be friends.
Since that time, I always try to go out of my way to be EXTRA friendly in a situation when I don’t know everyone.
I have been reminding my children that if you are wondering why no one talks to you, it could be that they think you don’t want them to. If no one is talking to you, why not be the one to start a conversation? Don’t wait for someone to be friendly to you. Show that you are a friendly person and people will want to talk to you.
Additionally, if you are confrontational, you will be favored to win a parking lot throw down.