Life

ASK FIONA: I find it difficult to be sociable with people

My bad marriage has left me feeling lonely

I'VE always found it difficult to talk to people, ever since I was little, and I really envy people who can chat away.

Whenever I go out with friends and colleagues, which I do quite a lot, I never know what to say and end up sitting there like a lemon.

I'm sure people must think I'm really dull, but I don't know what to do to change myself as I just don't have the confidence to chat easily.

GV

FIONA SAYS: I suspect that far from thinking you dull, the friends and colleagues who so frequently want your company probably think you're an amazing listener.

If they really thought of you as dull, why would they want you with them?

And yet, by your own admission, you are out a lot, so they must like to have you around.

All too often, people are keen to talk, but few seem willing (or have the patience) to really listen to others.

I appreciate that you feel awkward and would like to be chattier, but never underestimate the value of being the person others turn to when they want to talk.

If you want to be able to chat more freely, never answer a question with simply 'yes' or 'no' but, instead, try to pass on more information in your answer.

For example, if someone asks you if you're interested in music, say 'yes' then say what kind of music, or mention your favourite artist.

This way you give your companion more material on which to base another question or comment. Before you know it, you've got a conversation going!

The book, How To Start A Conversation And Make Friends by Don Gabor is a classic self-help guide for people who want to chat more easily.

SHOULD I SAY SOMETHING TO HER?

I'VE always "turned the other cheek" when anyone's been aggressive, and so far I've been able to avoid conflicts.

There is a new woman at work though, who, in the six weeks she's been there, has upset everyone.

She tries to tell everyone what to do even though she's on the same grade as the rest of us.

Our manager seems to be a family friend, so he does nothing to stop her steamrollering the rest of us.

She's so aggressive and unpleasant and, after 15 years with this company, I think I deserve a little more respect.

HS

FIONA SAYS: While your policy of non-aggression has served you well until now, there comes a time when everyone has to assert themselves.

If this woman is really upsetting everybody, she needs to be told that her behaviour is unacceptable.

Everyone has the right to courtesy and consideration from work colleagues, and the fact all your colleagues feel the same way about this new person lends weight to any complaint you make.

Have you and your colleagues stood up to her and told her that you would rather she didn't speak to you in the way she does?

Have you spoken to your manager individually, or have you approached him as a group?

However much a family friend she may be, if he's a responsible manager, he should act.

If he can't control this new employee's unpleasant behaviour, you should ask to speak to his manager or else speak to the HR department, if you have one.

I'M LONELY

FOR most of my marriage my husband treated me like a piece of furniture.

After we split up (three years ago) I decided that the next man in my life should be one capable of giving companionship and showing affection.

The problem is, I've not been able to find anyone, in spite of joining all manner of activities, social clubs and classes.

I've met some lovely couples, but the only single men I've met have been quite like my husband.

I've resigned myself to never being able to find someone to give me friendship and companionship, but I feel so lonely.

EA

FIONA SAYS: I'm sure your ex-husband's behaviour has left you feeling worried about who you start a relationship with, but are you sure you've given these single men a chance?

I'm sure they can't have all been like your husband.

They might have come across in ways you don't like because they were trying to be tough and macho, or because they were shy.

Please don't give up on all men and please don't give up on all the activities you've started either.

Try to develop the friendships you've made with people of all ages and both sexes – brothers, uncles, fathers of these people might just be the person for you!

Keep making friends and I'm sure you'll soon start to feel less lonely, even if it takes a bit longer to meet the right man.

DOES HE LOVE ME?

MY boyfriend and I have been going out three years, but I still don't know how he feels about me.

He says I'm his girl and gets very angry if another man talks to me, but he's never very affectionate and regularly teases me so much I end up in tears.

Last week he all but pushed me away when I tried to hug him in front of his friends.

If I ask him if he loves me, he just nods his head, but he's never said he does, so do you think he does really?

DB

FIONA SAYS: If he loves you, he has a very funny way of showing it, because caring for someone and respecting them are important parts of a loving relationship.

Instead he humiliates and upsets you in public, and acts possessively as if you're a piece of his property.

There is precious little affection coming your way from this young man and I can't help but feel he's not really interested in you and your feelings at all.

You can try, one more time to get him to tell you if he loves you, but I suspect you already know his true feelings, which is why you've written to me.

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