DEAR ABBY: I'm a 13-year-old girl who just entered the eighth grade. I have a few friends, but I often feel like I'm invisible. They never take the time to call me. I guess I could take the first step and call them, but I don't know what to say. I guess I'm a little shy.
I spent a long, miserable summer with no one to talk to. I want to change this before I start high school next year. I am noticing several cute guys in class. If I have so much trouble with my friendships with other girls, how am I ever going to get to know some of the guys I'm starting to like? How do I get them to notice me? I hate to think I'll just fade into the shadows. Can you help? -- ALONE AND SHY IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ALONE AND SHY: The skills you're asking about take practice, and it might be of some comfort to know that, according to my mail, a third of the population is also afflicted to some degree with shyness. The surest way to overcome shyness is to understand that most people have the same feelings of insecurity and fear of not being liked that you do.
Rather than concentrating on yourself, focus on building the other person's confidence and self-esteem. My mother used to say there are two kinds of people in this world: those who walk into a room and their attitude says, "Here I am!" And those who walk into a room and their attitude says, "There you are!" The there-you-are type is always the most popular.
Because you're shy, focus yourself on interacting with others in a safe environment. Break the ice by asking someone in your class about a homework assignment. If you can't do it face-to-face, then do it on the phone. Or if you walk into a room and don't know anyone, don't wait for someone to approach you. Select someone who looks lost, approach him — or her — and say, "Hi, my name is 'Emma,' and I don't know a soul here. Do you?" You won't be sorry. It's not being pushy. It's being friendly.
Another thought: No matter how you feel about yourself, everyone can be charming. Charm, in a nutshell, is putting the other person at ease and making her (or him) feel comfortable and important. The charming person makes the effort to make others feel good about themselves. Forming the habit of making others feel good will make YOU popular to be around.
These suggestions — and many others — are included in my booklet "How to Be Popular: You're Never Too Young or Too Old." It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $6 (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.
Remember, people who are interested in others are a cinch to be welcomed — and even sought out. So, even if you don't feel you are "perfect," or outgoing or talented, try being charming. It works like a charm.