Editor’s note: The following article is written by a counseling professional from Counseling Services in partnership with the Southern Accent.
Written by: Tiffany Bartell
Good friendships are key to mental health on a university campus. As a therapist, the two main types of relational pain I see in college students are loneliness and social isolation or close friendships that are experiencing chronic pain and conflict.
In high school, friendships of convenience are easily created. But as we move into our adult lives, we crave deeper connections in intentionally created friendships.
Sixty-four percent of surveyed college students reported they were experiencing loneliness in a survey conducted in 2017 by the American College Health Association. If that statistic resonates with you, here are a few tips for creating connections here at Southern.
The first tip for friend-making in college is to assume others want to be your friend! If we go through our day believing the people we meet want to know us and connect, it can help encourage us to take that first step to start a conversation.
This leads into the second tip, which is to cast your net wide. Remember that not every person you start a friendship with will end up at the top of the friendship mountain. But it is important to have a healthy group of acquaintances and middle-of-the-mountain casual relationships. Some of the closest friends I have are people that I met through a casual friend.
Each person you meet is a potential friend and connection to even more friends. Set a quota of how many people you are going to greet in a day, and see how your circle grows.
Another tip for making new friends is to cultivate curiosity. If you can’t think of things to say, stop and wonder about that person — why they chose their major, where they grew up, etc. Showing interest in someone is one of the best ways to connect deeply, and it allows them to return the favor.
A final tip to put in your pocket as you create your friend family on campus is to put yourself in as many places as possible to meet new people. Check out the SA event calendar, join a club or LifeGroup, and explore your academic department’s events. You’ll meet new people and not only build your own circle of friends, but help others as well.
I often ask myself, “What kind of friends do I have, and what kind of friend am I being?” The best way to make good friends is to be a good friend. Healthy relationships involve our own health, growth, respect, kindness and healthy boundaries. While you are finding and making new friends, you might also want to evaluate and adjust some of your older relationships.
Throughout our lives, people will move up and down our friendship mountain. But we can go through each new chapter of life adding new friends while staying connected in healthy ways to the old.