Making friends can be really scary for kids, even though we tell them all the right things. “Just be yourself.” “Invite them to play with you.” “Start a conversation.” It can seem daunting and difficult, especially if your child is shy. You may wonder if there is a secret formula for how to help your child make friends.
When my son joined a new baseball team halfway through the season, he had a hard time until we discovered one simple, practical way to start the friend-making process—one he could actually put into practice. It opened the door to all the other things we told him to do. Here it is.
Address other people by their names.
In Dale Carnegie’s famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, he wrote, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Sounds like a perfect foundation for making friends, right? Here’s how it works.
Say the person’s name.
That’s it? Like, “Hey, Evan”?
Yes, that’s it. Here’s why it works. When you say other people’s names, it communicates that…
You see and value them.
Addressing people by their names is a simple way to tell others they are important to you. You see them, apart from the crowd, and you care enough to stop and say hello.
Addressing people by their names is a simple way to tell others they are important to you.
You are open to getting to know them more.
Saying someone’s name causes him or her to turn toward you and make eye contact, and you make a personal connection. Once you have established that connection, even if it’s a very quick one, you’ve opened the door to friendship. Then you’re ready for these next 4 steps to making friends.
You’re a friendly, nice person.
No matter what you think of a newcomer, if that person makes the effort to learn your name and say hello, you can’t deny that he or she is friendly. And when someone is friendly to you, you usually feel compelled to be friendly in return—therefore, that person will learn your name, too.
And guess what! It works just as well for adults. Just when I was starting to feel awkward sitting with the parents on this new baseball team, one parent stopped and said, “Hey, Anna!” with a smile and a pat on the shoulder. Short, simple, but packed with good feelings and a message that told me: You belong here. I value you.
Once my son learned everyone’s name on the team, he made it a habit to say things like, “Great hit, Patrick,” or “See you Tuesday, Jackson,” every chance he got. And still feeling very shy, he didn’t say much else for several weeks. But the connections grew, slowly but surely. Now it’s like he was part of the team all season.
How do you help your child make friends?