DEAR HARRIETTE: I started a new job and want to become more social with my colleagues. They invite me to happy hours and evening work events, and everyone is very nice and great to be around. However, I feel like I am an outsider, or I don’t match the same energy as the others. I am an introvert, but I want to learn to become more social and improve my networking skills. I want to come out of my shell, but I am afraid I may come off as fake and not my authentic self. How do I show interest and improve my networking skills while still being me? -- Shy Girl, Seattle
DEAR SHY GIRL: The good news is that your co-workers are actively pursuing you and working to include you in their after-work events. This means they like you and want to get to know you better.
Remember that most people like to talk about themselves. Observe your co-workers and notice little things about each of them that point to their personalities and interests. When you are sitting near them at these after-work gatherings, bring up what you have observed about them. For example, if a co-worker loves animals, ask him to tell you about his pets. If another is into sports, ask what her favorite teams are. Simple questions that show you are paying attention will get your co-workers talking and engaging with you. Give it time to find your comfort zone.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I want to start a family, and we have talked about how we would like to raise our children with specific values and morals. But sometimes he thinks too much about the mistakes his family members have made and plans ways to avoid them. I try to tell him that some of those things you can’t control and sometimes you must adjust. Do you think it is healthy to look at others’ mistakes and change or plan your life so you can avoid the same mistakes? How do I tell my husband that he shouldn’t worry himself so much and focus on our future? -- Worried Wife, Aberdeen, Maryland
DEAR WORRIED WIFE: It is good to talk through your values and about how they have or have not played out in each of your families’ histories. This is good because you have examples of what worked and what didn’t work. To your point, though, you should not belabor the past. Note the mistakes that others have made. Together, set a course for how you intend to guide your steps and keep it moving. You should also accept that you will make mistakes along the way, but if you focus on living by your values, your missteps should not derail your life. Accept that you are not your family members. The two of you are building your own life together. You get to make independent choices and feel confident in your decisions.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)