Question: I honestly can’t recollect a time in life in which I have had a meaningful friendship. All my interpersonal interactions are shallow. I simply can’t seem to relate to my peers. It seems as though the average 16 year old isn’t interested in intellectual discussion. Though I try my hardest, I simply can’t discuss shoes and cars for more than five minutes without drifting off into my own world. I think most of the problem lies with me. I’m shy and appear emotionless to others. I don’t really reach out to anyone. I never know if they actually want to talk or not. This is why I wait for others to initiate conversation. Is there something wrong with me?
A. There is nothing wrong with you, but two things might apply to your situation which would keep you isolated.
First, you appear to be very mature and intellectual for a 16 year old. You cannot ‘relate’ to your peers because you are too mature and knowledgeable for them. You sound like an adult already inside your young body, judging by your vocabulary and thought process. Of course, not many people would be like you, which you would need to accept. Just as how small talk about ‘shoes and cars’ would bore you to death, discussing the heavy subjects would bore them mightily, too. You perhaps need a compromise where you begin by taking an active interest in others, instead of just caring about your needs. Get to know that person through sharing activities or information and you will seem even more attractive yourself, because others will want to know about you, too, and even want to discuss your subjects. But, if it is all about you, they will just keep away from you.
Second, if you appear ’emotionless’ to others it could be that you are masking some hurt in your life that you have gone through, protecting yourself from future hurt by being detached and guarded. That would not endear you to anyone because TRUST is at the heart of relationships. Unless you can trust others, make friends with them in an expressive and open way, without guarding yourself too much, or being too detached in your interaction, you won’t have many friends. They would always be suspicious of your motives. People can’t react to coldness. It is warmth and interest that draw them near.
Perhaps if you start sharing your feelings with others, to talk about what has affected you, and to empathise with them as well, people might come to see that you are as human as they are, and come to trust you. Most important, you won’t appear too ‘robotic’ and ’emotionless’. Furthermore, don’t wait for others to talk first. Start off the process with simple questions about them when it feels okay. That is the only way you’ll know if they wish to talk because they will either answer eagerly, reluctantly, or not at all.
It sounds as though you need intellectual stimulation from other bright people of your own age or older. If you take an interest in others and trust much more, in time you will gradually find the type of people who matches you, as well as the friends you seek.