You're lonely if you think other people don't accept or want to include you. Learning to be accepted by others and knowing how to act are hard skills to learn. Often, we work too hard to be accepted, and sometimes we have difficulty knowing what to say or do that doesn't offend others. That can make us act like a pest, annoy others and be lonely.
Causes of Loneliness
Loneliness has many causes, but loneliness frequently happens because we never learned how to interact with other kids. Lonely elementary kids often play by themselves, sometimes in imaginary games that seem odd to other kids, like pretending to be an airplane. Other people are born with disorders, such as autism, that makes it hard to attract friends because of social language barriers, such as not understanding friendly “small talk.”
Loneliness Causes Problems
Continued loneliness leads to withdrawn behavior, like spending most of your time playing video games by yourself. Socially withdrawn kids seem to provoke tormenting and bullying by their peers, making the loneliness worse. Kids who are socially withdrawn also tend to have more mental health issues, including anxiety, obesity and other emotional problems, when they're grown up.
Signs of Loneliness
If you stay home or by yourself all the time, it's a good bet you're lonely. If you frequently use absolutes, such as “always,” “no one” and “never" -- as in “no one likes me” -- you're probably lonely. People who feel there's something wrong with them, who never fit in, wait for others to talk to them or get very scared if they have to meet new people, are typically lonely. You don't have to remain lonely; you just need new skills and behaviors.
Awareness of Others
Loneliness puts the spotlight on you. When we're in our own spotlight, it's like being on a stage; we don't act ourselves. Sometimes, we act silly, pushy or goofy in spite of ourselves, probably to get attention. Other people find those behaviors very annoying. Becoming aware of others focuses the spotlight on them and what they need, allowing you to act naturally while making other people feel appreciated, a first step in being accepted.
Lose the Absolutes
Stop using those “never” and “always” words you use to describe your lonely and unappreciated condition. Write down the times you hear yourself saying absolutes; you will find they're seldom true.
Don't Be Pushy
Start by making eye contact, smile and then give the other person a not-too-personal compliment, such as “I like how you answered that question in science class.” Quiet little compliments are good first steps to being accepted.
Ask someone you trust, such as a teacher or pastor, to watch what you say and do, coaching you on the skills you need to develop friendships. It's those little things-- like telling someone your life story when they only asked how you're doing, telling mixed-up stories or crowding personal space -- that coaching can help you fix.
You're developing new friendship skills. Now look for those who seem to like what you do. Talk to them, but focus more on listening than on talking. Then, take it one step further: Ask them to do things with you. Keep in mind it takes time, so proceed slowly and focus on quality friendships.
- University of Maryland: Social Withdrawal in Childhood
- Education and Treatment of Children: Increasing Second-Grade Students' Reports of Peers' Prosocial Behaviors Via Direct Instruction, Group Reinforcement, and Progress Feedback: A Replication and Extension
- University of Chicago: Loneliness
- University of Minnesota: College of Education and Human Development, Impact, Supporting Friendship Development For Students with Low-Incidence Disabilities
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