Life Advice



Single File: A New Language

Susan Dietz on

You don't have to be single to be shy, but it's more likely when your way of life pushes you to meet new people and make entrances ... solo. That's why it's so important to learn the language of SMALL TALK. (It merits capitals because it's not so easy to learn.) Truth is it's a totally new language for those of us who never inherited the gift of easy, flowing, not-very-important chatter. Which brings me back to a cringeworthy moment years ago at the United Nations in New York City when I was introduced to an old-time film legend and left alone with him. (If you must know, it was Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) I can still see the expression on my face -- and his -- as the two of us agonizingly croaked out sounds we hoped passed for conversation. Disaster!

If, like yours truly, you need to consciously cultivate the art of social glibness, reading the news every day (online or in hard copy) is key. Add to that, if possible, a subscription to a magazine that focuses on one of your interests. On weekends, make it a habit to write down the current subjects being bounced around by the media ... and store that list mentally for those awkward pauses. (Just knowing it's on tap will raise your comfort level when you're out and about.)

The keyword is: PREPARE! Knowing the current political scene is a must. You can have opinions on it, of course. But make it a point to know both sides, to be diplomatic. This is a different sort of homework, but now you're out in the real world, playing with the big boys. The rules are different there, and the pot of gold is an activated mind and a relaxed aura. (It's a whole lot easier to be gracious and real when you've done your homework.)

Try to take your mind off yourself and your discomfort and put it on your companion. Look directly at his or her eyes, and clear your mind of distracting thoughts so you can ask pertinent questions and keep the dialogue moving! It helps to remember that everyone is a bit shy. It's just that some of us cover the fact better than others. No one is downgrading you because of your shyness! Not only that, most people are so busy getting their points across they are unaware of the other person's shyness. It's your secret, and working on it this way will make sure it's under control and manageable.

Don't be defensive. It's not appropriate to divulge your deepest musings, of course, but honest opinions and comments are the hallmark of a confident, interesting person. Don't be reluctant to say what you think.


When you're stuck for a response, simply repeat another version of the last comment made to you. This tactic lets you stall while you're thinking of something else to say. You can't use the ploy too often, of course, but it's a good one to have up your sleeve.

Above all, don't reproach yourself for being shy. Keep your sense of humor. Some of us have more shy moments than others, but working the social circuit isn't easy for anyone! For myself, I find a bit of shyness endearing.


Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at We've uncovered another treasure trove of "Single File" paperbacks -- in perfect condition, signed by Susan, ready to enjoy. Send $15 and your address: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA, 90254.



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