There are many reasons college students (and to a larger degree those ages 16-24) have a hard time with loneliness. One of these is a misunderstanding of social cues. I read about this as a possible cause of loneliness in my research and knew exactly what it meant.
For a lot of my life, I’ve dealt with low self-esteem and been hard on myself. But over the years people would say nice things to me. Yet I’d never accept them as genuine. Shutting these people down led me to not form connections, which, in turn, made me lonelier.
Due to a lack of life experience, it’s often hard for young adults and teens to understand what people are saying beyond their words. For example, when I was in college someone may say something to me like, “I like your shirt,” or “It was really cool talking to you the other night at the party.” And my thought pattern would go to, “They don’t really mean that. They’re just saying that because they feel they have to.” My verbal reaction would be, “Oh, thanks,” and my facial reaction would often be one of nonchalance. In doing this, I shut the door on a possible connection.
And when you think about it, there’s no logical sense to the notion that everyone is lying to you when they give you a compliment. There’s not some grand cabal that has gotten together and decided they want to be mean to you.
Think about yourself: when you compliment someone or say something nice to them, you mean it. So why would you assume that a compliment directed toward you is illegitimate?
When people compliment you, that’s an attempt they’re making to reach out. Next time someone says, “I like your shirt,” use that as an opportunity to ask them what they like about it. Or tell them where you got it. Or why you like it. Use that as an entry point to make a connection. That’s not to say this person is going to become your new best friend, but they might. And as is the case so often with making connections, you don’t know if you don’t try.
So, don’t hesitate to accept the compliment and use it as a starting point to develop what could become a genuine relationship.
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This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.