Sage & Blunt Advice: Ready to Mingle


Cornelia Di Gioia

Graphic by Cornelia Di Gioia.

Sage & Blunt

Dear Sage & Blunt,

I’m trying to expand my social circle and connect more with different people on campus, but I don’t know how to go about it in a way that doesn’t feel forced and annoying. Any advice?


Ready to Mingle


Dear Ready to Mingle,

When I’m looking for friends, the effort that it takes to tolerate the feelings of forcedness around new social interactions is often enough to make me want to get back into bed. It’s exhausting and discouraging. Here’s my suggestion: outsource the force! Absolve yourself of the pressure of creating social interaction by building out from where you are already forced to be — class, jobs, your dorm floor. This takes no additional planning on your part, and it also makes ordinary, often dull situations into playgrounds.

I don’t know what the metaphor is for you — speed dating? National Geographic-style discovery? Make your everyday life the setting for exploration. Get extremely curious about the people sitting near you. Put yourself in more situations where you have to bump up against new folks (clubs, teams, parties, jobs). Go to interesting events on campus, maybe even go to events that are explicitly disinteresting to you, just to scope out the crowd. Go alone — I dare you. Oh, and you have to talk to people when you go. It doesn’t work if you don’t talk to anyone, unfortunately.

Practice talking to strangers! Give out five genuine compliments to strangers every day, especially ones with whom you don’t necessarily foresee a possibility of friendship and strangers who aren’t your peers. It’s good practice, people eat it up and it just greases the wheels of social dynamics. As cheesy as it sounds, it will make you feel more in tune with the living beings around you, and the more of a habit it becomes, the less forced it feels. Essentially, you will have to force yourself to do some things and get really good at seeming like you’re more or less at ease. With time, almost as if by magic, you will become more at ease.

Also, remember: most people you meet will not be your friends. They also probably won’t be, like, your mortal enemies — most people you meet will be inconsequential to your life, but when you are looking for consequential connections, it’s hard to approach a potential companion without a news crawl running across the bottom of your mind that says I WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH YOU! Expectations can create a chokehold, so try to release them. If you maintain too tight of a grip on what you feel is missing from your life, it will be harder to make room for cool people to enter it and every rejection will feel like a huge setback. And I hate to say it, but people can smell desperation. Instead of placing hopes or assumptions onto people you are still getting to know, what will work to your benefit is an inquisitive effect. When you see a new face, say these words to yourself: Who are you? Stay open, open, open.

A final note on annoyance: the beautiful thing about it is that we have absolutely no control over how annoying someone may find us in a given moment. It is one of the most fickle and subjective human reactions I have ever witnessed or experienced. So, on being annoying, I will give you my favorite advice: don’t worry about it! Great friends will find you tremendously funny and charming, and when they do find you annoying from time to time, it will be the same person they know to be so funny and charming, and they will be able to recognize both truths at once.

Good luck out there! I must say I’m excited for you. You can always write back with updates on your new friendships and whatever conflicts or successes they bring — I’m quite the gossip!


Sage & Blunt