Dear Abby: Practice makes perfect in building social skills

SHARE Dear Abby: Practice makes perfect in building social skills

DEAR ABBY: I’m 13 years old, and I want to know how I can make my life easier and not be as shy as I am. I have a lot of friends at school, but of course they’re not popular either. I want to still have those friends, but I’d like to be able to strike up conversations with other people. When I try, I get nervous and chicken out before I can get a word out. I want to improve my communication skills and come across as more friendly and natural. — NICOLE FROM NEVADA

DEAR NICOLE: Everybody wants to be well-liked, accepted, feel needed, appreciated — and of course, loved. It’s essential to a person’s self-esteem to know other people think they’re worth having as a friend.

If you think you’re alone in being shy, let me assure you that you have lots of company. No one emerges from the womb knowing how to be social. It’s a skill that has to be developed. Like you, many others could use a little coaching on how to be the kind of person others find attractive, interesting and worth knowing. Achieving it isn’t always easy because social skills don’t come naturally to everyone.

My booklet “How to Be Popular” contains tips on how to approach others, and what to say and NOT say when trying to make conversation. You can order one by sending your name and address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.

When you get it, don’t just read it once. Keep it on hand for reference, because it contains many helpful suggestions for polishing social skills — which, like any other skills, takes time, effort and practice.

DEAR ABBY: I have recently begun a relationship with my biological father, “Frank,” after not seeing him since I was 4. My mother and stepfather raised me and I am very close to them. But after talking to Frank and meeting him face to face, I have gotten close to him as well.

His relationship with Mom ended badly. They were very young and he takes all the blame. Mom has always said that if I have a relationship with Frank, she wants no part of it. After I told her I have been talking to him for two years, she became upset and has been short with me and my wife ever since.

I want to continue to develop what I have with my biological father, but I’m not sure how to handle Mom if she’s going to be so hurt and upset over it. Can you advise? — ANDY IN GEORGIA

DEAR ANDY: Tell your mother you have noticed a change in her behavior, and feel that she is punishing you for having an interest in knowing your biological father. If that’s the case, in the future do not discuss anything about Frank with her since she has made clear that she doesn’t want to hear it. If you haven’t discussed this with your stepfather, please consider enlisting his help because he may be able to explain your feelings to your mother better than you can.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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