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Dear Jido,

I am 26 years old and have been an introvert all my life. I feel comfortable talking to some people but tend to clam up around others. Since I have this shyness and insecurity, people sometimes think I’m a snob. As a result, I only have a few friends. I feel very bad about this. Some people have told me I have a phony smile. It bothers me that people I meet are getting the wrong impression. I would really like to make more friends. Please help!


Proceeding Quietly

Dear Quietly,

Where there’s a will there’s a way. And the best way to go is usually the way of our Sages.

King Solomon tells us in Mishlei, “As in water face to face, so, too, is one’s heart to another.” If you want a person to be your friend, you first have to make them feel welcome. The best way to do that is by smiling. But your smile should not be just any smile.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin has a great approach. He recommends, when you see someone walking your way, put on a look of amazement – “Wow, it’s great to see you!” Then follow that up with a short question – “How areyou enjoying this weather? How’s your wife/your job/school?” Or, if you’re at a wedding, “Are you invited from the groom’s side or the bride’s?”

If this person senses your sincerity, they will respond to your opening question with a conversation. On the other hand, if you don’t really look “amazed” to see them, you will likely get a one-word answer and they will move on.

That’s where the “face to face in water” part comes in. If you are genuinely happy to see the people you run into and they feel your energy, they will respond in kind. If it’s all an act you’re putting on, they will quickly sense that and walk away.

It’s no sin to be quiet and shy and there’s no need to be friends with everyone you meet. You can pick and choose your friends, your confidants and acquaintances. But if you do want to break out of your shell and widen your circle, practice those two simple steps – greeting people with a genuine countenance and an inviting opening question.This will take practice but, if you tailor this approach to your personality, it will soon come naturally to you.

Hey – it was great hearing from you!