There was a time in my life when I did not have the confidence to talk to anybody, mostly due to being rejected so many times. If it had been permitted at my school, I would’ve been the girl eating lunch in the bathroom stall. In class, I rarely raised my hand–not to answer questions, and certainly not to ask them. While my peers interacted with each other and formed friendships, I simply existed. There were so many people I wanted to talk to, so many conversations I wanted to have, but I couldn’t bring myself to follow through with it.
There are shy ones in every school. Not all of them are shy for the same reason I was–perhaps they’re just naturally quiet people. However, it’s always nice to go check in on them. The cafeteria is a great place to do this. You know how to spot them–sitting alone, eyes downcast, perhaps fidgety and nervous-looking. Find a spot close to them at the beginning of lunch (or class) and simply start talking. Give them time to talk about themselves, but be careful not to overwhelm them. When I was shy, I preferred to listen to others talk until I began to warm up to talking myself. Personally, I’d start out with 60/40 (talking-to-listening) and adjust based on how talkative the person is.
I think more of us would try to put these tips into practice if it weren’t for one thing–our own friends. Friends are great, don’t get me wrong. They’re very important. Sometimes, however, we get so involved with our own friends that we forget those who don’t have anybody to talk to or laugh with. Choose a day to reach out to the people sitting alone. Good friends will understand this–some of them might even want to try it themselves. Also, don’t forget the power of inviting someone to sit with your own little group. Even if the person doesn’t say much, they will most likely feel included and happy that you were kind enough to let them into your circle.
Many people who regularly reach out to others are missing one key point–laughter. What do you do with your friends–you laugh together, have inside jokes, and tell funny stories, right? Well, these shy people are no different. Being kind to these people is better than not talking to them at all, but believe me, they will pick up on the fact that the two of you aren’t sharing a good laugh. I remember seeing people with their friends, wondering why they put on a completely different image for me. After getting to know the person a little bit, share some of your humorous experiences. Believe me, laughter really is good medicine for someone who’s lonely.
Today, remember the forgotten ones. Perhaps it’s the janitor at your workplace or that quiet neighbor of yours. Make it your mission to engage with them. I promise you, helping someone else is often the best way to brighten your own day.