This piece comes from Bloom: Empowering the Military Teen, and it is written by military teen, Malayna S. Thank you, Maylayna, for sharing your story!
The thing about constantly moving is that it’s hard to make friends. You move to a brand new place where you don’t know the people, the area, or the social norms of the new location. Not only that, but you are also missing your old friends. And, sure, you can stay in contact with them through social media, or call them up, or even write them a letter, but you may still grow apart from your friends as everyone’s lives move on. (Or you could stay BFFs, and that’s awesome!)
Just because you have other best friends in other states or countries doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make new ones! For some people, putting themselves out there is easy. A walk in the park. A piece of cake. For others, you may struggle with even introducing yourself to someone. I know I’m definitely one of the people who struggle with starting a conversation with a stranger. I remember one day at the beginning of 8th grade where I sat in my new English class and we had some free time to talk because all the announcements for the new school year were over. Everyone around me was talking to each other about how their summers had been or laughing over something dumb that had happened at school earlier in the day while I just sat at my desk and watched the clock for a bit until my teacher came over. She started talking to me and asked me where I had moved from and about the school. The thing I remember most though was the remark she made near the end of our conversation. She said, “Making new friends must be so easy for you because you have to do it so often.”
I nodded a bit but my brain was yelling that it is not easy and will never be easy to be ripped from everything and everyone you loved in your old home and be tossed into a new place with complete strangers you can’t relate to.
But I suppose my teacher was slightly correct in her assumption because over time it did get easier. Hopefully it gets easier for everyone else who struggles with this as well. Over my years of moving I’ve acquired some tactics on how to make friends in an easier, less awkward manner. Yes. Tactics. I know making friends shouldn’t be a thing that requires strategies or grand scheme plans but hey, they work! So here are some of the strategies that I use to strike up a conversation with strangers who may be future friends to help you out.
Try to find something (literally ANYTHING) you have in common with someone. If someone expresses an opinion to you or to a group, express your opinion as well. Just mentioning that you agree with something someone says will give them a positive opinion of you. The conversation will likely continue naturally from there.
2. Nothing to Lose
This is more of a mindset thing to hype yourself up to prepare to talk to someone. Often, military kids know they will move again. So, even if you embarrass yourself or make an enemy just remember you’ll move again soon. Most interactions end positively, however. Just tell yourself that you have nothing to lose. If the conversation doesn’t go well, so be it.
Compliment someone on something in a manner in which the conversation can continue. For example, maybe compliment someone’s shirt and ask them where they got it. Usually the more specific a thing you are complementing, the easier it is to hold a conversation. If the shirt was from a band you liked, you could tell them that and it would create a commonality.
4. Group Work
Most people don’t like working in a group or pair if they don’t know the other people, but military kids should look at it as an opportunity. If a class has group work, this will allow you to easily get to know a bit about the other people in your group and be generally associated with them. I met one of my best friends through group work in a math class and have met countless other awesome individuals while working together. I encourage you to work in a group at school if you have recently moved because even though it may be awkward at first, working together can really help a friendship begin.
If you see someone you’ve seen before, talk to them! For example, if you recognize someone you saw in your first class and then see them again later in the day you can say, “Hey, you’re in my first class right?” It’s a good way to get the conversation started.
Sometimes it’s easiest to introduce yourself to one person at a time so if you see someone standing on the outside of a crowd or by themselves, then introduce yourself. Additionally, they may be looking for a friend as well.
I’m sure there are many other ways people go about making acquaintances, but hopefully this helped someone. The most difficult part is getting your foot in the metaphorical friendship door. Once you are past the initial introduction, it will get easier and easier to talk to people. Good luck to everyone moving and starting their new journeys. Remember, even if it seems like you are alone in a new place, you still have people who care for you and will be there for you if you need them.