DEAR ABBY: My close friend, "Denise," tells me when others say something derogatory about me. Some examples:
Denise was recently in a restaurant with "Martha," a mutual friend, when I happened to enter. Denise said that Martha laughed and made fun of me when she saw me. Another time, a woman I'll call Lorraine invited Denise to a party but didn't invite me. Denise said she told Lorraine she wouldn't attend unless I were also invited. Lorraine relented and reluctantly invited me, although Denise said she really didn't want to.
There have been other incidents when people said unflattering things about me to Denise, and Denise reported them to me. Why? I never tell her when I hear something uncomplimentary about her because I don't want to hurt her feelings. Why do you suppose she feels compelled to bring me "bad news" about myself? Your opinion is appreciated. -- HURTING IN MINNEAPOLIS
DEAR HURTING: She does it because she gets a perverse pleasure out of hurting you. A more important question is: Why do you tolerate it? So-called "friends" have been known to make up unkind things out of whole cloth in order to isolate people from their other friends. If I were you, I'd start asking the individuals she reports are bad-mouthing you if what she said is true. I advise you to keep Denise at arm's length. She personifies the old saying, "It takes an enemy and a friend working together to hurt you to the core -- the enemy to slander you and the friend to get the news to you."
DEAR ABBY: All my life, I have been unbearably shy. I have few friends. My co-workers think I dislike them because I don't talk much. I do like most people and I'm tired of being lonely -- but when I try to communicate, I panic and can't think of what to say. How can I get over this? -- CLAMMED-UP IN KANSAS
DEAR CLAMMED-UP: By writing to me, you have already taken the first step in coping with your problem -- so don't be shy. You're on the right track.
I have several suggestions to offer. The first is simple. Write down, in advance, some topics to discuss with your co-workers and take the list with you. If your mind goes blank, consult the list. Believe me, you are not the only person to whom this happens.
If that isn't enough to get the ball rolling, consider that you might suffer from a social anxiety disorder. A psychologist can help you overcome it with counseling and medications. Enough people suffer from social anxiety disorders that online support groups have been formed to provide help. Members.aol.com/cybernettr/shyness.html offers information to help overcome shyness, as well as tips on job hunting, assertiveness and dating.
The Social Anxiety Group at http://anxietynetwork.com offers support and education to those with anxiety disorders. Members exchange coping skills, and there are online support meetings for people with social phobias. I'm sure you will be welcomed.
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