DEAR ABBY: When I was a teenager, there were many times when I made things awkward. It continues today. I try to have normal conversations with people, but when I do, I have nothing to say. My mind goes blank, so I keep quiet and walk away. I feel like the odd person out each time and like I'm not good enough, and it really sucks.
The only time I'm successful socially with people is at work because I'm kind of forced to be. I really want to make friends and possibly get a girl in my life, but it's almost impossible to do with my social skills. This is so depressing and disappointing that I'm almost ready to quit trying. I need some tips and guidance. Do you have any? -- FRUSTRATED GUY IN FAIRBANKS
DEAR FRUSTRATED GUY: I think so. If you think you are alone in having this problem, you are mistaken. The majority of people have the same insecurities you do. No one is born knowing how to be social. Social adeptness is a skill like any other. It can be learned and, with some practice and effort, polished until it becomes second nature.
You don't have to be handsome to be well-groomed. You don't have to be brilliant or witty, either. Part of being social is showing an interest in other people. Ask them about what they think and encourage them to share their interests and opinions. And when they tell you, be a good listener. Cultivate your own interests and you will have something to talk about with others.
My booklet "How to Be Popular" contains tips on how to approach others, and what to say and what not to say when trying to make conversation. It can be ordered 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, Mt. Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. When you receive it, don't read it just once. Keep it on hand for reference because it contains many helpful suggestions about how to be the kind of individual others find interesting and attractive. Be courteous and show kindness to others. If you do these things, you will find the results you're looking for.