One strategy for initiating friendships, or starting an interaction, is by direct request, e.g. “Let’s be friends!” Another important strategy, known as tangential initiation, is a more indirect technique. Tangential initiation involves seeking out a mutually agreeable activity during which a social interaction may be started and friendship may grow. For example, the following illustrates an indirect approach to initiating a social relationship: ” I saw you riding your mountain bike in the park on Saturday. What kind is it? I just got a new bike. Maybe we could go riding sometime after school. What do you think?”

Tangential initiation enables students to come together to see if a friendship might develop. Students who utilize tangential initiation as a social strategy are adept at observing other students to gauge the degree to which they share interests, and ultimately, their compatibility.

Here are some strategies to help students develop their skills of tangential initiation.

Helpful Hints

  • Promote interactions by helping students find common interests. Encourage the discovery of shared affinities and experiences from which students can build interactions.  
  • Enhance the likelihood that a student’s interactions with a peer or peer group will be positive by setting up structured or guided opportunities in the classroom.  
  • Set up non-academic opportunities for students to interact within a group of peers (e.g., board games).  
  • Help students see the relationship between verbal initiations and effective greeting skills. Model a variety of verbal initiations for students. For example, “I was wondering if you’d like to borrow my ball while I go inside for a minute. Then when I come back, we could play catch if you want.” or, “There are not enough computers for all of us so why don’t we both work on this one.”