ep.013 Make Friends Using Social Skills

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The past two episodes have focused on different aspects of friendship — Episode 011 was Find (and Be) a Good Friend, exploring the qualities of a positive friendship. And Episode 012 was Friendship Fires, conflict resolution strategies.

Those are both connected to Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, as part of the competency Relationship Skills. And since good things come in threes, I’m topping off our Friendship discussion by focusing on making friends.

How to make friends …

Can’t you just walk up to someone, ask if they’ll be your friend, and they say, “Yes”?

That might work, especially with really young kids, but it’s usually not that simple or straightforward. No worries, though, we’re gonna go over it.

First, where can you find people you could call friends? Think about your interactions with others outside your home. You can find prospective friends in lots of places:

  • A team sport or activity, like gymnastics, dance, cheer
  • A group lesson, like choir, band, or a fitness class
  • A class or club, like art, STEM, or chess
  • A youth club or group
  • A playground, dog park, or community pool
  • Or right in your own neighborhood!

Look around you for potential friends — one might be right under your nose! My best friend in high school didn’t start out that way, we had known each other casually for a few years. But when we both reached out, our friendship grew!

So let’s say you found someone — lucky them! But now what? How are you supposed to act? What should you say? What are you going to do? That’s where Social Skills come in.

Now I want to note that some countries may have different Social Skills that are more customary to their culture. I will focus on the common Social Skills that relate to Social and Emotional Learning.

Here are your Core Social Skills tools:

  1. Observe – Before you go up to someone, take a moment to see what this person is doing or playing. Are they already playing with or talking to someone, and if so, does it seem casual or more serious? If it seems serious, maybe wait til things mellow out before approaching. Otherwise, go ahead and approach them.
  2. Engage – Break the ice and start/join a conversation or activity. Share your name and ask for theirs. Comment on something you noticed, ask a question about likes/dislikes, offer a genuine comment/compliment, tell a joke, ask if you could join in the game or invite this friend to play with you!
  3. Share – Let your friend ask/answer a question and take turns talking and listening. Allow for give and take in your conversation. Be kind, be polite, and use your manners.
  4. Listen – not to respond or react, but to understand. Help your friend know you are listening by making eye contact, nodding your head, and making brief comments as they continue speaking.
  5. Read – Pay attention to social cues to help you understand your friend’s mood, emotions, and personal space. Notice their facial expressions, body language, and sound of their voice. Recognize their personal boundaries and hold to yours, too. Read social cues to help you understand your friend’s feelings and comfort level and adapt, while expressing your own.
  6. Play – When you’re playing, allow your friend to choose the activity or go first. Instead of competing, cooperate and work together. Play fair and be a good winner/loser.
  7. Smile – Be friendly! Laugh! Be positive! Enjoy each other’s company and your time together! And if you need to, take a moment to calm down or clear your head before easing back into a conversation or activity.

Relationships are a big part of life.

Making new friendships can sometimes be intimidating, and the fear of rejection is real. Sometimes you’ll fit together, and other times you won’t.

You don’t need to change who you are to be liked. You want to be friends with someone who wants to be your friend back.

So I encourage you to put yourself out there anyway. Open yourself up to the possibility of making a connection with someone — not everyone, you don’t need to be everyone’s bff or have hundred pennies, you want quarter-type friends. Use these tools, Core Social SkillsObserve, Engage, Share, Listen, Read, Play, and Smile — and go make a friend.

To help you remember all of this, I created a “Making Friends” list of these Core Social Skills for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.

A few of my favorite books/workbooks that illustrate Making Friends are
Teach Your Dragon to Make Friends, by Steve Herman
Let’s Be Friends: A Workbook to Help Kids Learn Social Skills & Make Great Friends, by Lawrence Shapiro
Social Skills Activities for Kids: 50 Fun Exercises for Making Friends, Talking and Listening, and Understanding Social Rules, by Natasha Daniels

I think those two workbooks are great resources. They offer helpful information and exercises with real-life examples or scenarios for you to work through and respond to. So as you learn more about social skills you practice them, which helps you strengthen your skills, become a better friend, and honestly will apply to all sorts of relationships for years to come.

If you have favorite books or movies to share, I’d love to hear from you! Ask your parent’s permission to share your favs by sending an email to hello@empowerfulgirls.com.

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