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. My aunt told me you have a booklet that can help. If you do, how do I get one? -- 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.