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Dear Abby: Pandemic isolation leaves man’s social skills ‘rusty’

Dear Abby: I am a guy who is 27. I have always been somewhat shy and reserved, but I do like people and I like mixing. After more than a year of being “locked down” during the COVID-19 pandemic, although I was fine being housebound, I started missing human contact.

Social opportunities are opening up for me now, and though I was never great in conversations at parties, my “time away” has made me rusty. I believe you have written some pointers for being better in social situations. Can you give me a quick refresher course? Thanks, Abby!

— Ready to Be Back Out There

Dear Ready: I’m happy to try. The first thing to understand is that social adeptness is a skill. No one is born with it. It has to be learned. With practice, it can be “polished” until it becomes second nature.

Part of being social is showing an interest in other people. Encourage them to share their interests and opinions. Ask them to tell you about themselves and what they think. Ask their opinions and, when they tell you, be a good listener. Cultivate your own interests so you will have something to share with them.

I publish a booklet (which is probably what you were alluding to in your letter) titled, “How to be Popular” that contains many useful tips for polishing social skills. It can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus a check or money order for $8 (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. It is meant for people of all ages and covers a variety of situations. (If parents, teachers and clergy know someone who needs help in this regard, it might make an inexpensive gift that could change the course of a person’s life.)

When you receive it, don’t read it just once. Keep it handy for reference because it contains many helpful suggestions about how to be the kind of individual others find interesting and attractive. The keys to being socially successful are: Be kind. Be honest. Be tactful. Offer a compliment if you think it is deserved. And if you become anxious, remember: People can think of only one thing at a time. Forget about yourself and concentrate on the OTHER person. Try it and you’ll find it works like a charm.

Dear Abby: Lately my best friend has been assuming the role of the masculine lesbian in our duo. I’m tired of making cute outfits, and I want a turn to dress as the male. How do I subtly hint that we need a role switch-up?

— Curious & Confused in Connecticut

Dear Curious & Confused: Hint? Why hint? Choose a time when you are both calm and relaxed and tell her what you need. You have a right to do that, and if she cares about you, she should be willing to accommodate you.

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