QUESTION: “I’m new to Wash.U. How do I show that I’m likable and get people to be my friend?”
A huge part of being “likable” is being both approachable and unafraid of approaching others. If you see people looking at a campus map, ask if you can help them find something; when you make eye contact with someone, smile (toothlessly, of course—grinning toothily at strangers screams “I lurk around frat basements”).
Your best bet is to work on building a positive first impression for yourself—not necessarily a reputation but a perception. To achieve this end, I have three main suggestions: 1) appear welcoming and approachable, 2) practice small acts of kindness for others and 3) join clubs.
Appearing open, friendly and happy on a daily basis makes all the difference in the world. Smile, smile, smile. If others perceive you as happy, you will immediately be more attractive—in all senses of the word. Look up as you walk, take out your headphones and put away your cellphone. Think about all the positive things that have happened to you that day (try to come up with at least three) and look forward to exciting events in the foreseeable future.
It’s corny, but it works. Positive thinking becomes chemical, tangible happiness. Even if you’re not feeling particularly friendly on a given day, do your best to pretend as you go about your routine. Fake it until you make it: engaging the muscles necessary to form a smile can actually make you feel happier after a while. If you’re really struggling with this concept, try holding a pen in between your teeth for some time and see how it affects your mood (it works the same muscles as smiling does).
My second suggestion is to do small favors for others. Little gestures show that you are generous and care about the well-being of others, which is critical when building relationships. This isn’t to say that you should be going completely out of your way to do things for strangers, but a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
Take advantage of your skills and passions: if you like writing, offer to edit a Writing I paper for someone on your floor. If a friend mentions she has an important interview, send her a quick good luck text. These actions might not seem like much individually, but think about the last time your friends let you know they care. Whether it was through a text, a note or a piece of candy, chances are it didn’t take much to make you feel appreciated.
Lastly, if you’re having any difficulty finding friends, there’s a tried-and-true solution: join a club. It sounds obvious, but an unbelievable number of students here convince themselves that they “don’t have the time.” Trust me: you have time for your happiness. You really didn’t have to do that chapter of reading anyway.
Tips and Tricks
Greet people by name. Instead of just saying “hey,” acknowledge people by including their names in your greeting. You’ll be surprised by how much of a difference this makes. People like to hear their own names, and on top of this, you will show them that you remember them from the last time you spoke.
Make the most of passing periods. Going from class to class is the perfect time to show off your friendly demeanor. Look up as you walk and be sure to smile and wave at those you know whom you pass. I always try to see if I can find and greet at least five people on my way from one class to another. Making a little game out of it keeps me focused and alert as I pass other students. Take it from me—don’t play Candy Crush while you walk.