Psychological Self-Help

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Becoming a good conversationalist
Many of us fear not knowing what to say after the first few
minutes. Conversing is a skill; it takes practice and planning.
Unfortunately, many young people resist "preparing" to meet
someone, they want to be spontaneous or free flowing (Flanders,
1976). That would be nice but for some of us conversing takes work.
The major problem is the fear, i.e. suddenly there is silent pause and
we start to panic. If we blush or break out in a sweat, it adds to the
embarrassment (and builds our fear of silence). How can we reduce
the fear? By becoming better talkers through preparation. 
There are two options when talking: continue on the same topic or
change it. A good conversationalist is able to ask questions and may
be able to share his/her own ideas and experiences. Practice both,
pursue the "finer points" of any topic, ask personal questions, and tell
your own stories. When a topic is exhausted, don't panic...almost any
topic will do (Russell, 1965). Practice having a topic or two ready for
instant use; up to a point, continuing a conversation is a compliment.
You are offering your interest and time. Lastly, practice ending
conversations tactfully: indicate you must do something else, give the
person a genuine compliment, and suggest a specific time to see
him/her again (if that seems appropriate). 
There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it
behooves all of us not to talk about the rest of us.
Developing a friendship
Most of us need friends. Some need lots of friends; others need
only one or two. For a few people, their family or work can replace
friends altogether. But, in a crisis, about half of us will turn to a friend
for help, instead of our family. On the average, Americans claim to
have about 5.6 close, intimate friends. Friends serve many purposes:
they give us a sense of belonging, they guide our behavior and
opinions, they give us emotional support, they give us a chance to talk
and enjoy other pleasures, they help us, they give us a chance to help
them, they show us that our lives are worthwhile, they reassure us
that our thoughts, feelings, and values are okay, they cheer us on
(Duck, 1983). Steve Duck has summarized the research about forming
friendships and love relationships; his major point is that building a
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