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Thanks, Mom
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It has always been difficult for me to participate in and enjoy social settings when strangers are present. I'm shy; I don't know what to say; I wonder what to do with my hands; should I sit or stand. One glass of wine is my limit.

My mother, herself nearly a recluse by the end of her life, perceived that I wanted to be socially accepted, but that I didn't know how to go about it, and was fearful of embarrassment.

She said that most of us say or do awkward things, and that fear of being inept shouldn't prevent learning two major skills for social situations:

1. Hold out your hand to shake hands, make eye contact, and say "Hello. I'm pleased to meet you." Or the equivalent. In New England no one would have dreamed of hugging a stranger, but here in southern California, it's very common and I'm beginning to enjoy it. I'm reminded of the early Christians' kiss of peace.

2. Listen to the conversations around you. Move from group to group, paying attention to the various topics. When you find one that is interesting (and you know something about the topic), listen, nod, make eye contact--and when you have something to say during a pause, say it.

Often you'll find yourself braided into the conversational flow effortlessly. If they shut you out because it's a clique and strangers are not welcome, shrug your (mental) shoulders and move on. It's not a negative comment on you--it's their social crassness to be exclusive in a general social milieu. A pox on them and their houses. Find another group, try again.

Over the years, with practice, I've become less timid with strangers. It helps to have a wide range of interests--I can talk about nearly anything under the sun, with greater or less expertise, depending on topic.

I can also listen intelligently, and that makes me most popular of all. Thanks, Mom.

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