There’s a theory in sociology called “looking glass self”.
This theory basically states that we are socialized to accept the judgment of others and reflect it back to others.
To illustrate what I mean, imagine you’re at a party and you don’t know anyone. You notice that the people look at you with friendly faces and appear to like you. So in response, you act friendly and smile back at them.
You have a positive experience because you have a positive perception.
On the other hand, what if the opposite occurs? What if you notice that people are looking at you with blank faces, and seem to be whispering about you and judging you? In return you may act defensive, hang back, and give off signals that you don’t like them either.
Perceptions can be wrong. But all we have to go by are our perceptions.
And because of this, I have found that being in the right mindset is extremely important in making friends.
I’ve heard some of my former high school classmates who are going to the same school as I am directly say that the people there aren’t friendly. They’re mean and they stare at you. And I’ve read status updates on Facebook of people who say that they feel so lonely at this school because they don’t know anyone, and they haven’t made any friends.
These remarks were a total surprise to me. I’m going to the exact same school as them, so how could I have had such a completely different experience? I had an amazing first week of school, and made several friends. I was thrilled at the prospect of being able to talk to anybody in the school and become friends with them. It was a whole new ball park for me, and was nothing like the cliquey and divided high school I attended.
Why was my experience so different from several of my former classmates?
Without a doubt, it was because my perceptions were different. In my eager pursuit of seeking out new friends, I unknowingly had the perception that each person I approached was friendly and just as hopeful to make friends as I was.
And you know what? That perception turned out to be very true. Every time I mentioned that I was hoping to meet new people and make new friends, the person I had started talking to said that they wanted to do the very same thing.
I know making friends isn’t always easy. I had to initiate a majority of the friendships I’ve made, but all it took was for me to open my mouth and say something to them, anything. In my experience, asking a question has been the easiest way to start a conversation. In particular, during the first week of school it is very easy to ask someone a question, like “Is this the textbook we need?” or “This is speech class with Mrs. East right?” And from there, you can introduce yourself, they’ll introduce themselves, and then you can talk about college and majors if you like. If you don’t know someone and you’re in a certain setting like school, talking about that setting is a great way to get talking. And by the end of the conversation, all you have to do is ask to exchange contact information. Facebook is a great way to go, and cell numbers work well too. Then be sure to keep in touch with them, and before you know it, you’ve made a friend! Simple as that.
When you hold a positive perception that people are friendly, then you are going to get positive results back. So be sure to take notice of how you’re viewing a situation or a group of people, because your perceptions have more power in determining your experiences than you may realize.