Author John “Izzy” Israel’s passion spills forth in interviews and in his book Skating through College, a story of learnings and balancing a professional skateboarding career, school and life.
I bought it thinking I would learn some things to share with my teenagers but also found great encouragement in approaching life with intentionality. Reaching out to John, he graciously allowed us to reprint Chapter 11 which I thought was a good encouragement in relationship building.
Whether you are heading to post-secondary, in it, out of it or encouraging a next generation, John’s simple explanation here is timeless wisdom. Enjoy!
– Rodney, atWork Office Furniture
For the Social Butterfly or the Antisocial Caterpillar
Now if you are the social butterfly, you may have no problem meeting or getting to know people on campus. That’s awesome. You just might be that person who “saves the day” for your less-social counterparts. Your challenge may not be having the guts to talk to someone; it may be having the patience to listen.
If you’re the antisocial caterpillar, this is the time for you to grow those wings. Now you don’t need to stand on a table and yell, “Hey look at me.” That would be weird. The thing for you to consider is that whatever you fear about meeting other people, they probably have similar thoughts, fears, and insecurities themselves.
I remember someone telling me, “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met.” It made me reframe my thinking and realize that people aren’t so scary. And the way you make something less scary is by making it more familiar. The more you know about something, the less you have to be scared of it. The same with people. So what’s the answer if you’re an antisocial caterpillar… the answer is QUESTIONS.
Learning to ask good questions about the other person actually takes the focus off you. They are the ones talking. How great is that?
Remember this: Great relationships aren’t always about what you do or say, but how you make people feel. If you make them feel awesome when they are around you, then they will love you being around. We always enjoy spending time with people who make us feel like we matter.
Here are five dos and three don’ts every social butterfly or antisocial caterpillar needs to know to create great friendships/ relationships in college.
- DO give others an opportunity to shine. Involve others in your conversations. If someone’s talking, give them your full attention. It’s easy to get carried away with your stories because it’s fun to tell them. Just remember, the other person likes it too, and when you listen, the person telling the story feels like you actually care about them. Let others talk, too.
- DO ask questions. Be curious about the other person. Not like “Hey, what’s your social security number?” but like “Why did you decide to go here? What has you interested in chemistry? What do you love about where you are from?” They might be an excellent musician or a closet metalhead. Everyone is fascinating. It’s your job to find out how.
- DO listen with your whole body. It’s important to make sure that when you listen, it’s clear that you are listening to them with your eyes, ears, and body. Have you noticed when you try to tell your parents something important while they open the mail or they’re on the computer, it feels like a waste of time? Consider that other people feel that way when you are on your phone while they talk to you. Look them in the eye while they talk. Show facial reaction and expression to what they say. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by things going on in the background. Listen to them as if what they are telling you is the most important thing in the world. Of course, don’t be weird and over-exaggerate your reactions; you might come across as insincere.
- DO pay attention to the energy you bring to the conversation. It’s been said that some people brighten up a room when they walk into it, and some brighten it up what they walk out of it. Harsh words, but we all have at least one friend who constantly brings negativity to a conversation, and it’s just a bummer. Remember, it’s okay to vent if something is bugging you, but check it out first. Ask “Hey, is it cool if I vent for a minute?” Just remember, the goal is to talk about it so you can get over it, not so you can ruin the other person’s day.
- DO pay attention to time. There’s nothing worse than talking to someone when you KNOW you need to leave for class, or when you’re talking to them on the phone and you KNOW you need to start working on homework. Consider other people’s time—I can get caught into this trap myself, so I learned to ask, “Do you have a few minutes” before I start unloading my day on them. Or ask, “What are you heading off to next?” This will make sure you BOTH respect each other’s time.
- DON’T be a one upper. Have you ever finished telling a story you were really excited about, only to have your friend tell a much cooler story?
You tell them how your family went to Hawaii for summer break, and they tell you how their parents have a beach house in Hawaii and they go there every summer… and one time they were attacked by a great white shark while they were surfing, but they fought it off with their bare hands. Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but you get the idea.
If you’re like me, you not only felt like what you did wasn’t THAT cool, but also you probably started to secretly despise that person. Just a little.
That’s called being a one upper. Now, consider that you might do the same thing to others once in awhile. When you hear someone telling a story, maybe something similar but MORE exciting happened to you… don’t say anything about it.
Don’t share your story. And this is really hard to do, especially when you have such a great story and you’re on the same topic. Let their moment or story be special. It will create a better friendship when they enjoy being around you rather than feeling uncomfortable telling you great stories because you always have something better to say.
Again, relationships are all about how you make the other person feel. It doesn’t make you or your story any less significant. It simply means you care more about the relationship than being the center of attention.
- DON’T think of your reply while they are still talking. Do you ever notice that, when someone is telling you something, you check out and start to think of what you want to say next only to realize you’ve stopped listening to them? We all do it. But it’s frustrating for the other person. You’ve experienced this. You get this sense that they are just waiting for their turn to talk. It deflates your desire to continue telling your story. Just sit there, listen, and what there is to say will come to you. Trust yourself.
- DON’T finish people’s sentences. This ties in with thinking of a response while the other person is talking. Isn’t it frustrating when we’re trying to talk and someone keeps interrupting us? It’s like, “Hello, I’m an adult. I can finish my own sentences.” It makes us feel like a little kid.
Give people the time to finish what they are saying. Everyone thinks and speaks at a different pace. You never know, you might not be correct when you start assuming you know what they are going to say. And all that does is prove you weren’t fully listening to them. This one requires patience.
Most of these are common sense, but what’s common sense isn’t always common practice. Try these out and I bet you’ll notice a difference in the relationships you build on campus (and in life!).
John Israel, “Izzy” as many call him, is a nationally acclaimed speaker and author of the best selling book Skating Through College.
His mission is to transform the world through inspired youth, and to empower parents to lead their children, not to become good kids, but great adults.
John currently resides in the Central Coast of California with his wife and son.
To get in touch with John visit www.skatingthroughcollege.com