The 3 Secret’s To Building New Friendships

Have you ever been in a really awkward conversation, or never knew where to start when meeting new people? For a lot of people, starting new friendships can be scary or intimidating and for others it can come quite naturally. There are some key tips that we have learnt over the last few years that have really helped people to break through that awkward conversation zone and start building new friendships.

Psychology tells us that the quality of our relationships has the most significant impact on our own wellbeing. If our relationships are going well, they are meaningful and they make us feel appreciated which then amplify our wellbeing positively. On the flip side, if we don’t have genuine or positive relationships with peers or with family then this is also the greatest detractor from our wellbeing. Seligman’s PERMA model and all the other models of positive psychology include relationships as one of the critical aspects for personal wellbeing and are a growing focus in terms of personal wellbeing.  This means that relationships and friendships are something for us to work at and pay attention to it, like a flower, the more attention it gets from you in terms of food and water, the more likely it is to grow. This is the case with any friendship or beginning new ones, positive attention = growth.

1) Find Common Ground

As a part of one of the activities we do at Burn Bright, we ask young people to find something in common with each other, not just the colour of your hair or something surface level but to find something that they genuinely have in common. I have never seen a pair not be able to find something they have in common. From a really simple task, I’m constantly amazed at how many new relationships and friendships form.

Finding that common ground between two people Is the best advice I can offer when you are in the building friendship phase. For me, this will mean I will come armed to a new conversation with a few key questions to try and find some things we have in common. Finding common ground can look like finding common interests, common experiences, common beliefs or common views.  You will find that the conversation really picks up when that commonality is found and often through one thing in common all of a sudden you realise you actually have 4 or 5 things in common and possibly even a few mutual friends you didn’t even know about. This active search for commonality allows for both parties to disarm a little and begin the process of getting to know one another.

Often at Burn Bright, we find ourselves working alongside leadership teams within a school context and the feedback we get is: “it’s just too hard to relate to the younger years, they like different things to what we like”. The question I often fire back is, have you made the effort to find something that you have in common or something that you both enjoy?  Sometimes that thing in common can be a shared sport, a movie, a book or a hobby. For a younger student at a school, a one minute check-in conversation with an older student can literally make their day and it’s something that a whole year group or student leadership can action so easily to build a culture of belonging at school.

I would say that finding common ground is the greatest leveller of our relationships and often that’s what’s missing. Have you ever met someone famous or well known or have you ever had tension with another person? Every time I have been in either of those two situations, the search for common ground begins! This is because when we find it, it truly levels the playing field and gives us a reference point into the other person’s life.  We can find something that we can relate to that isn’t a preconceived idea of someone in our heads.  Ultimately, I truly believe that every person on this planet has something in common with someone else only that for some of us, it may just take a little bit of searching.

2) Be Friendly

This seems really obvious but often it’s something we just totally forget to do. Starting a new friendship requires both parties to be friendly to each other (you’re probably thinking – well yea obviously) but quite often we aren’t aware of how our body language is sending signals to the other person or the fact that we are talking more than we are listening. It’s so important for us to be self-aware of how our behaviour is having an impact on someone else and ensure that we appear open through our actions when getting to get to know someone.  I couldn’t count how many times I have met someone new for the first time and their body language looks disinterested but they themselves are actually really invested in the conversation.

3) Assume the Relationship

In my late teens and early twenties, I was constantly told to assume the relationship and it really frustrated me because who was I, as a teenager, to be assuming the relationship with these adults around me who had much more life experience and who lived much busier lives than I do. What I have realised though is that this was teaching me a mindset that as all human beings, we are all created equally. So, no matter who someone was, their profile or where they came from, at the end of the day they are also just a human being. It’s takes some courage and a lot of hard work but assuming the relationship is definitely a mindset where we start a new conversation as if you are already friends and know each other well, even if you don’t! Sometimes I find this gives me the confidence to start talking to whoever I meet!

Finally, it’s important to:

  • Realise that at the end of the day, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain, the worst someone can say is no!
Remember there is so much to learn when you become friends with someone you wouldn’t normally engage with – you can learn from each other.
  • Asking questions is key – generates conversation and shows interest in the other person.
  • Be curious, not judgmental – ask about different interests the person has and learn something new.




Continue your student’s leadership or wellbeing journey with our digital programs. Specifically designed to be flexibly implemented into your wellbeing or leadership programs, these courses can be completed at any time in any place, providing a self-paced option for students to explore in class or on their own. These modules include individual student logins, a teacher dashboard to track student progress and lesson plans with follow up face to face resources.

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Facilitator in Laptop Screen

I found Burn Bright in the midst of studying civil engineering at the University of Wollongong, just as I wanted a richer, deeper, more full experience of life.

Through Burn Bright, I have met many students and volunteers who are all seeking to find their place in the world. When we come together at NLC or SLC, no matter our age, we begin on the same page, of wanting to do good for ourselves, our community, and the world. And then we are thrown into a program that brings us closer to each other, our purpose, and how to bring forth this impact. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

Volunteering with Burn Bright stoked a fire in me – It helped me feel comfortable in myself and made me realise life isn’t just about work, study, or productivity, but our relationships and how we connect with others along the way.

I have learned skills in videography, worked for a top-tier corporation in marketing, and most recently published a book called “18 and lost? So were we” 

I have a passion for storytelling, bring loads of energy wherever I go, and am dedicated to helping young people move through the initiation of leaving high school and going into the ‘real world’. 

The best part for me is being able to stay connected to the latest generation growing through high school. To see them grow, expand and express more of themselves is like watching an artwork paint itself. It’s magic.

I am Simon Thurston, a Kiwi based in Perth. I work as an Instructional Designer and in my spare time I enjoy reading, running, and board games.

Since my initial connection to Burn Bright I have been onboard with their mission. Burn Bright’s focus on building the capabilities enables students of all ages to see how they can shape their world through connections with others and their own self discovery.

Seeing others grow, learn, and open up is what keeps me coming back, to help others realise their potential and how they can influence their future and their community is a definite highlight. It’s infectious, the atmosphere when they run a program or camp is welcoming, exciting, emotional, and rewarding all in one.



Hi, friends! I’m Kelsie, a psychologist from central QLD working in private practice. I got involved with Burn Bright officially in 2016, but the journey started long before that. I attended the National Leadership Camp (now hosted annually by Burn Bright) in 2009. It had such a profound impact on me that I returned as a mentor and volunteer. Those connections ultimately lead me to joining the Burn Bright team as an adult.

When I transitioned from facilitating with the Burn Bright team to working as a psychologist, I was so grateful for an incredible foundation of skills (particularly facilitation, communication and interpersonal skills) along with a strong grounding in positive psychology that Burn Bright integrates into their ethos.

I can’t imagine my life without volunteering for Burn Bright. I have met some of my dearest friends through the Burn Bright crew. I’ve found that volunteering for BB is rewarding, humbling, and often brings as much personal growth for the volunteer as it does for the young person.

From a professional perspective, I love that Burn Bright programs/camps support the adolescent individuation process by providing an exciting and supportive environment for teens to explore their own sense of self, personality, identify and values alongside other young people.

Imagine this POV: you’re back at school wanting to figure everything out and fit in – and you find
yourself in a room with amazing music that uplifts you and hooks you in. You meet the team of
dynamic, interesting, caring facilitators whose own friendships inspire you. Their facilitation skills bring about amazing light-bulb moments and lessons that light a fire inside you… It makes me want to feel that for myself again. The next best thing, for me, is volunteering for the team who passes that on to other young people.

My start at Burn Bright is one of the best cases of one door closing and another door opening. After losing my job at a local pub while on uni holidays, I started looking for new opportunities that were different and decided to volunteer. Searching for opportunities, I found working bees, community driving and nursing home visits, but the chance to become a National Leadership Camp intern stood out. Over nearly six months, I worked with the team to pull off Burn Bright’s first National Leadership Camp, and had an absolute blast in the process. After camp, I started working for Burn Bright while studying, doing anything and everything — data analysis, hiring strategy and even picking up furniture.

Finishing up working for Burn Bright in 2019, I am still actively involved with the Burn Bright volunteer community. I’ve found that the emphasis placed on investing in your relationships, understanding your values and making an impact allow you to be accepted for you. This has given me the tools needed to make the difficult decisions that life will inevitably throw at you. Besides all that, I’ve had a ton of fun and formed life-long friendships with people I may have never crossed paths with otherwise. “Get involved — you’ll change your life for the better and make life‑long friends in the process”.

I am a health science student from Perth wanting to get into the mental health realm of occupational therapy. In the meantime, I work as a barista and supervisor at a beachside café. In my spare time, I love to play netball, be around my friends and I have just gotten into crocheting. I went to Perth College where I was lucky enough to go to the first Perth College Leadership Camp in 2018 as a student and absolutely loved it. What really drew me in was the atmosphere that was created, the open conversations, and the lasting relationships formed.

Since then I have been a mentor for the Perth College Leadership Camp in 2019, 2020, and 2021 and had the opportunity to go to the National Leadership Camp in 2019. When Burn Bright comes to Perth I also love helping out at their programs as much as I can.

Volunteering for Burn Bright has given me so much that I could never have imagined. I have learned so much about myself and I have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities that I know I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t exposed to the amazing opportunities volunteering for Burn Bright has given me. Before being involved I would never have seen myself being a mentor, role model, and facilitator to students, but now I can confidently say that I am, and I have made an impact on others that I am proud of. I have also made so many meaningful connections to so many amazing people from all around Australia through Burn Bright. I get asked quite a bit why I keep coming back to my old school to volunteer and it’s simply because I was given this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Burn Bright programs and if I can help facilitate that experience to someone else then why wouldn’t I?

I was born in Perth and moved to Sydney in my early 20’s to continue work as a youth worker and surfboard maker. This was followed by 30 years working in IT as a computer programmer.

Following retirement in 2016 I searched for an organisation that was aligned with my values of servant leadership and service, especially in the youth space. This search led to Burn Bright where I am now volunteering one day a week and mentoring at the National Leadership Camp. Volunteering with Burn Bright gives me a great deal of hope and confidence in the next generation of leaders. It is a pleasure to be a part of the Burn Bright family.

I have been married to Denise for 41 years and we both very much feel part of the Burn Bright team.

When not at Burn Bright you may find me running along Manly beach, riding my mountain bike or indulging in my passion for photography.











Hi! I’m Rosie, a 20-something full-time public servant, part-time Tassie tourism advocate.

I am passionate about seeing young people succeed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching them become the next generation of change-makers.

I have been a champion of the ethos and work of Burn Bright since its inception in 2014, and consider them to be the leading experts in their field. By delivering impactful leadership and wellbeing programs to students across Australia, they offer the knowledge, skills and engagement to invoke lasting positive change in school communities.

The Burn Bright team are dedicated, inclusive and values-driven, which is why I love working with them.