Talking to others can be challenging- especially if you’re shy. In middle school, I was uncomfortable talking with anyone I didn’t know. When I met new people at school, I usually felt shy and unsure what to say. Talking with new people made me feel a bit scared, so I tended not to talk much.  

Going up to someone and talking with them felt terrifying because I didn’t know if I could pull it off. I never thought of myself as good at carrying a conversation, let alone starting one, and thought I wouldn’t leave a good impression on others. My fear of talking to new people held me back from meeting new friends for most of my life.  

But my attitude towards connection changed when I had my first interview with a program I wanted to join at my local high school. During the interview, I noticed I felt really uncomfortable speaking with the person interviewing me. Honestly, I felt intimidated and nervous because I was talking to an adult – and not just any adult, the program director.

I wanted to make a good impression. All of those thoughts and feelings ended up making me feel nervous and anxious.

After the interview, I walked away feeling unsure. I started thinking about why I felt so uncomfortable talking to the program director. I realized that if I wanted to be a part of a particular club or group, I’d need to learn to be more comfortable having simple conversations with others. It would be hard to feel comfortable and accepted if I felt too intimidated to talk to anyone. 

At the very least, I had to try to have conversations and be friendly. And if I don’t quite fit in, at least I know I tried.  So, when I graduated 8th grade and began my first year of high school, I decided to approach talking with my peers in a totally different way. When 9th grade started, I pushed myself to leave that feeling of intimidation behind. I started the first day by talking to classmates that I had never met before right off the bat. 

After a few random conversations in passing or comments during class, I saw that I was already meeting new friends. Most importantly, though, I was building a connection with my peers and staff. 

While these little foundations of connection seem simple, they impacted me a lot throughout the school year. I was known by school staff and peers, if not by name, by face- because I always said hello to everybody.  

Then, when I needed support, mentorship, or friendship, I had a pile of connections to start with. I’ve relied on those connections when I needed help with my assignments, advice, or just a friend to talk to.  

Reflecting on how I felt at the end of 8th grade – nervous and too shy to connect- I realized I felt totally different in 9th grade.

What were my steps toward feeling this newfound confidence?

Adjust to being open

Being open to different kinds of conversations with other people was one of the best decisions I have ever made. What if I never decided to be okay with newness and push past being uncomfortable at some point? I might have a totally different level of connection with the people in my community.

Start small.

Every interaction doesn’t have to be deep and thoughtful. Getting to know somebody might be as simple as “Cool shoes, where’d you get them?” 

If you still want to be more comfortable talking to the people you see daily, try testing out a conversation starter on a community member you see less frequently– like your bus driver or a clerk at the grocery store. Then, you can practice saying your starter line out loud once or twice before you say it to a classmate. 

Start a conversation with an adult who you trust.

There’s no doubt about it- socializing can be nerve-wracking. If you need stronger tips and practice, you can always seek professional help or a program. Speech therapists or other public speaking mentors might be available to you through a healthcare provider or at school. 

Talking with others can be intimidating. I get it. But connecting with others is super important. We thrive when we have a community of people to rely on. Your connections can stand beside you when you are struggling, celebrating, looking for new perspectives, or needing a teammate.  Having some skills and techniques to connect with others and build up your community is essential when you are young and after school, too. Connecting with my community has made me feel more confident and more in touch with the people I see daily.  

I’ll be honest, sometimes I still feel nervous socializing because I don’t know if I’ll pull it off. But my technique for getting through those moments is to fake it until you make it.  

I hope you can hear my story, my decision to push myself past my comfort zone, and trying something new and feel encouraged to lean into connecting with the people in your community – no matter if that’s your school, work, or even in your neighborhood.  

It’s fun to have good relationships and to have folks who you can reach out to for support. In making connections, you have people you hang out with to help uplift you, and you uplift them.

Geo Ramos

Geo is 17 years old and lives with his family in the Denver Metro Area.