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A week ago I moved into a single-room college dorm. I have 5 neighbors who have quickly gotten to know each other and now it's like they've been friends for years. They all typically hang out in the dorm room adjacent to mine.

I on the other hand, have avoided talking to them because I am nervous around people and have trouble socializing. I stay in my room while they all hang out with each other inside and outside the dorm. We all live really close together so oftentimes whenever I leave my room or come from outside, one or more of my neighbors is in the hallway (it's a small dorm building). All I can do is say hi and walk on. No eye contact.

I don't want this to stay the same for the entire year because I can feel the awkward tension whenever I'm around them. I am the quiet scary guy who doesn't want to be around them. I figure they think that I am a serial killer or that I just don't like them, neither of which is true. As far as I can tell they've all been respectful and I haven't heard any negative behind-the-back talk about me through the thin walls.

I have spoken to two of my neighbors individually, but we haven't moved on from small talk since I went back to my reclusive ways after talking with them.

I'd like to get rid of this awkward tension by interacting with them in order to get rid of this spooky image they have about me. But I am a shy person. Also, choosing which way to do it is difficult.

Do I make friends with each person individually, or do I wait until all of my neighbors are together in their dorm and address myself, or both?

I realize that interacting with a group will be different since they've all gotten to know each other and I am the weird outsider who not only has to deal with everybody's misconceptions of me, but also has to prove himself to be a potential friend. While on the other hand you tend to have more control over person-to-person interactions. The group interaction is the particular one that will be hardest for me.

I was thinking I could wait until they are all together, knock on their door, and ask if I could come in to use their computer to flash a file onto my USB drive (that is an actual problem I need help with) and go from there. But I'm not exactly sure how to go about turning that situation into a befriending opportunity.

  • Can you be a bit more specific about the layout of the dorm? Does everyone have completely separate rooms, are there some shared areas like a kitchen, common room, ...? – AsheraH Sep 1 at 10:09
  • You already know how to make friends, you've said do yourself more or less. Start talking to them, build a relationship. That part is obvious. So you are asking the wrong question here. Perhaps ask: how do I learn to talk to people? That might be not exactly what you want to know, please reflect and edit your post. Please, ask yourself: what's step one here, what is my actual problem, do I know how it works and do I just need a kick in the behind + practice or do you really need to know something? Do you face any other issues? – Raditz_35 Sep 1 at 13:25
  • @AsheraH I am the only one with a single room. Everybody else has one roommate. We are part of a small hallway and the dorms are separate but close together. They all sometimes hang out in the dorm room next to mine. – George McFly Sep 1 at 17:18
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    Have you ever considered that maybe a lot of the awkward tension you feel is only being felt by you? Do you have any reason to believe your dorm-mates think you're the "quiet scary guy", that you're a serial killer, or that they have a "spooky image" of you? It sounds more like your own fears of how they view you and not necessarily your own, and it's influencing your behavior around them. – goat_fab Sep 4 at 15:19
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I lived through a very similar experience to yours-- I lived in the only single room on my floor of the dorms, and due to a combination of a depressive episode and just being on the shy side naturally, spent less time with others than most of the other students. With no roommate to share the friends-finding-and-inviting burden, I quickly started to feel like the only stranger on a hallway of friends.

The primary ways that I eventually improved my situation were: If I was in the room and not head-down studying, I left the door open. That way others started to notice that I was accessible, and I could pop out at a moment's notice if anyone called out a general, "Anyone want to go get food?" The side effect of this is that others seemed to start leaving their own doors open more when they were in the mood to be social.

I created the same kind of no-pressure interaction options for others to take if they wished. A general "Anybody feel like doing random fun activity?" to the hall at large was usually well received by at least one person, and created a natural, comfortable way to chat.

I looked for ways to make myself valuable and useful for others. I kept my room stocked with cough drops, Advil, extra hygiene products, snacks, etc, and let the others know that if they needed something I would be happy to share. I set up proofreading exchanges with others when papers came due. I let people who needed some quiet study time chill in my room if their roommate had friends over. Make sure you don't overdo this and start to feel used; After making that mistake I realized that I must only offer help that I am truly happy to give and not overextend myself!

I attended as many floor- and dorm-wide social events as I could, even if I wasn't entirely that interested in them. This is a less-pressure way to show you are 'part of the group'.

Participate in whatever trend or activity others enjoy together, even if you find it silly. Don't be too proud or too picky to have fun and be a little silly in the name of relationship-building. You don't have to love the choice of show/movie/sport to have a good time socializing while it's going on. I never did learn to like reality TV, but I liked being part of the weekly ritual of watching with friends, and that was enough.

Finally, I did exactly what you are proposing with the USB drive thing: Come up with a reason to meet others and be part of the group. Just being present in the group as a friendly person, just sitting back and watching the movie, laughing at what other people say, passing the popcorn, etc will start to make you part of the social group instead of an unknown maybe-unfriendly stranger. You don't really have to do something dramatic to override the initial impression, just be nice and present and treat them like you are already good acquaintances or casual friends.

Full disclosure, I never became truly a core, tight-knit part of the group, both because I wasn't as good at social interaction as I could have been in my college years, and because it took me most of the year to figure these steps out! (Being intensely depressed probably didn't help my case either). But even after mucking it up for months I was eventually able to feel more a part of the community and get to a friendship level with the other students where we could ask each other for help, have fun together, and I didn't have the reputation as a creepy loner anymore.

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