Everybody knows it really shouldn’t matter, but sometimes entering a school cafeteria without a lunch mate can seem like walking the plank. Here’s how to survive the stroll.
Step 1: Survey the room and decide if you want to try for the popular crowd and risk being rejected, make a beeline for the loser table where everyone is accepted, or jump in somewhere in between.
TIP: According to one poll, 70% of students said the cafeteria was the school setting where social boundaries are most clearly drawn.
Step 2: Politely ask if the seat is taken. When they say no, reply, 'Cool, thanks.'
TIP: Make sure to smile when you ask about the status of the seat. Don’t grin like a maniac; just smile enough to seem confident and friendly.
Step 3: Introduce yourself. Ask their names, and make a point to remember them so you can drop them into the conversation. People love the sound of their own names almost as much as they love the sound of their own voices.
TIP: Don’t eat anything gross or smelly. No one will want to sit with you.
Step 4: Ask some questions. What’s their favorite band, or how do they feel about the new gym teacher? Break the ice with a few inquiries that invite them to chat about Numero Uno.
Step 5: If you are confident in your ability to be funny, by all means tell a joke or make a crack. Just don’t push it—it’s better to stay low-key than to fall on your face trying to be witty.
Step 6: Be generous with the compliments, even if they’re insincere, and offer praise that’s unexpected. The head cheerleader is used to being told she’s pretty; tell her she’s smart and she’ll think you’re one smart cookie for noticing.
Step 7: As lunch comes to an end, evaluate your progress. Have you won them over? Or were they polite but cool? If it’s the latter, forget them and try a new group tomorrow. Clearly, they are not worthy of your company.
FACT: Approach the chosen clique with your head held high, but not your nose in the air.