Dear Teens:

Do you find it difficult to give an oral report, ask someone on a date or be around strangers? These 10 tips provide practical suggestions designed to help teens who desire to become a bit more outgoing:

• Make “hello” habit-forming. It’s a simple start to overcoming shyness, and it gets easier the more you do it. If you say it often and enthusiastically, you will soon feel ready to say more.

• Make eye contact. That’s right: Looking people in the eyes lets them know that you’re interested in them. And that makes them interested in you.

• Smile! A friendly smile can be a magnet that draws others to you automatically. Even just a modest, natural smile when meeting someone new goes a long way toward friendly bonding.

• Learn how to make small talk. Begin by talking about various topics often with people you feel at ease with. Once you get the hang of it, move on to potential new friends and acquaintances.

• Ask questions! When you get tongue-tied, turn the spotlight off yourself and on to the person you’re talking with. The more questions you ask, the more talking the other person will do and the less you have to carry the conversation by yourself. A good question usually draws a full answer, which can lead to more interesting questions as the topic of conversation unfolds.

• Be a good listener. By conveying sincere interest in what others have to say, they’ll feel good about themselves — and about you! They’ll walk away thinking you’re a great conversationalist, without ever realizing they did most of the talking. Maintaining eye contact with the person speaking to you is key here.

• Relax. Take 10 deep breaths or listen to soft music before you head off to a party or meet your blind date. Remember that others sometimes feel nervous too, so do your best to put everyone at ease.

• Visualize a more confident, outgoing you. Try to picture yourself speaking up more in class, hanging out with a big group of friends who admire you or telling your date a funny story. Expert studies show that if you see it and believe it, you can indeed make it happen. Practice visualization when you have a free moment here and there.

• Join clubs. Be a participant instead of a spectator. You don’t have to be club president — but get involved and meet others who share your goals and interests.

• Realize that you’re not alone. Plenty of people have shy tendencies. In fact, most people cite public speaking as their number one fear. When giving a speech, use notecards to refresh your memory. Keep constant eye contact with your audience and project your voice so the person farthest away from you can hear your voice clearly.

Write to Dr. Wallace at

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.