Making friends and forming solid relationships almost always assures easier transition. These practical ideas will make a difference. Additional resources including Best Practices and Coaching Videos are readily available for clients.
How Do I Start Conversations?
The GCA Report measures your communication initiation tendencies, which considers your inclination to begin conversations, interact in new environments, engage through talking in relatively strange situations, not avoiding such opportunities, or feeling frustrated and anxious when faced with a diverse cultural or group condition. You may be high or low in this area (84% is the average), but in any case, you want to think about your enthusiasm, impulse, or drive to connect. If your scores are relatively low, and you don’t quite feel ready to meet socially or culturally diverse teams or individuals (you might feel scared or unsure), that is understandable. Be assured that launching out with a basic hello script, followed by introductory remarks that you practice ahead of time, can help you initiate meaningful communication with people from diverse backgrounds, and can also simply feel encouraging.
- Have a hello script, starting with greetings and small talk, including exit phrases
- Listening skills: Active listening with appropriate listening comments (i.e. questions)
- Practice culturally appropriate self-disclosure. It is OK to laugh at YOURSELF, but not at them or their culture
- Develop turn-taking skills: when to talk and when to listen
- Speak Up: ask when to be passive or assertive in context
- Show interest in the other person: notice photos, sports, family, etc.
- Look for common interests with others
- Discover how the culture shows friendliness
- Check your nonverbal cues to express friendliness: social distance, small talk, facial expression, speech rate, volume, eye contact, body positioning
This takes time, but future friends are out there (in the workplace, your classes, where you eat, the library, places of worship, extra-curricular groups, sporting events, and many more contexts). It takes courage, but try just saying hello and introducing yourself. Ask relevant questions for the context you are in (like a class). Check your personal space, use a smile, and listen to the interests of this potential new friend.
- Remember times you saw good in the culture
- Discover underlying reasons for cultural rules and habits
- Read, attend seminars and training, or visit new surroundings
- Seek instruction on cultural values to reduce stereotypes
- Incorporate inclusive interpersonal skills and adjust sensitivity to situation
- Learn how teams are organized and utilized in the host culture
More Tips to Making Friends
A friendship development list adapted from U.S. News & World Report suggests these 5 tips:
- Create Involvement. Find a time for coming together with other students or friends around a common activity or interest. There might be International Student Organizations, classes, sports, worship sessions, workplace after-hours parties, or other opportunities.
- Stay in Balance. If you are highly focused, work long hour, or study a lot, that is good. But you don’t want to be a wallflower so join in socially. Of course, the other extreme is having so much fun and recreation that you don’t accomplish tasks. You want to be in moderation to keep balance in life.
- Seek out Multicultural Resources. The International Office, Office of Multicultural Affairs, State Department, Embassy, or Human Resources are great resources, along with dozens of clubs, organizations, events, and seminars to connect you with peers from the host country and other nationalities.
- Connect with Others. It may be hard at first to discover common interests with other co-workers or students. But, you can find a task or course of study that makes it easy to introduce yourself to other students or co-workers. One way is to offer to study or work on a project together. If there are experienced people on a project or in a class, ask them to mentor you, or see if they have any advice for your success. This reaching out can be done via social media, but is especially good in face-to-face interactions.
- Spend Time with Both International and Host Country Friends. When you’re in a new place, it can be tempting to cling to people who are similar to you. A group of international friends (from your home culture) is OK as a safety net early on, but do your best to limit time spent only in these groups. Living in a non-international neighborhood or residence hall, joining campus clubs and community organizations, or just making an effort to meet and spend time with people who are outside your comfort zone are all great ways to make friends with host-culture nationals.