Dear Amy: I am a painfully shy single young man. It takes every ounce of courage for me to make new friends and approach new people, especially girls who I am interested in. I am lonely, however, so I want to get this right.
I have purchased self-help books, and enrolled in a public speaking class to break through my shyness and learn how to start a conversation.
Echoed again and again is the advice to "pay a compliment."
I read your column, so I know that unsolicited compliments don't seem to be the way to a woman's heart. That said, what am I missing? — Clueless
Dear Clueless: This is a really good question. You are correct that women (and men, too) appreciate some types of compliments, but not others.
Upon meeting a new person, you should not comment on their body, hair, eyes or face. Honestly, it's a mine field to compliment a person's appearance. Save the personal comments for when you know someone better.
It IS safe to compliment a woman on something she is wearing: "That's such a cool pin; is it old?" Or you can comment on (rather than compliment) something you notice about her: "I see you have the Samsung phone. Do you like it?" (People can spend a lot of time comparing their technology.)
Ideally, you would look for commonalities — the little details that help people to connect. If you are at a party hosted by an individual, you can say, "How do you know Brett? Do you two work together?" Then you volunteer something about yourself.
The most important thing to do when meeting a new person is to listen to them, and then find a way to respond to what they say — and to read their nonverbal cues.
I hope you will find ways to meet people around an activity — whether it is a service project, sports, a hiking group, video or board gaming, or a cultural (musical, artistic) activity. Doing something in tandem with others will help you to cope with your shyness, as well as giving you something real to talk about. Good luck!
Dear Amy: I have four cousins that I grew up with. We are still fairly close as adults. Several years ago, my mom blurted out a family secret to me: that my uncle (her brother) had fathered a child, while he was in high school.
I've always felt that my cousins had a right to know that they have a secret half-sibling out there somewhere.
On one level I know it's not my place to tell, but I still feel like someone should tell them.
I've thought about contacting my uncle to persuade him to tell them, himself.
What is best? — Secret Keeper
Dear Keeper: I agree that it is not your place to disclose this to your cousins. However, I agree with you that these adults have the right to know that they have a biological sibling out there. What they might choose to do with this knowledge will be up to them.
Given the ubiquity of DNA testing, there is a likelihood that they will be independently contacted at some point by this sibling (if the person is living).
You should talk to your mother. Tell her that this disclosure has become a burden for you — as it no doubt is for her, given that she chose to blurt it out to you during an unguarded moment.
Urge your mother to speak to her brother about this. She should encourage him to find a way to disclose this to his family. Your mother should be brave enough to be honest with him — and notify him that she has told you about this.
She should emphasize that it is only a matter of time before this becomes more widely known within the family, and that this disclosure is best coming from him.
Give this time to play out.
Dear Amy: "SQ" wanted to revert to her maiden name after her divorce, but one of her sons objected.
I faced a similar dilemma years ago when I divorced, also with two sons living at home. I chose to transition to my maiden name slowly by adding it to the name I shared with my kids ... rather than Jane Doe, I became Jane Smith-Doe.
My kids became accustomed to my maiden name being part of my "Official" name. When I dropped my married name after the youngest left for college, they barely noticed. — D
Dear D: Great solution.
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