DEAR FIONA: Our agony aunt solves your personal problems

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Fiona Caine answers your letters

Q I’ve always found it difficult to talk to people, ever since I was little, and I envy people who can chat away.

Whenever I go out with friends and colleagues, which I do a lot, I never know what to say and end up sitting like a lemon. I’m sure people must think I’m dull, but I don’t know what to do to change as I just don’t have the confidence to chat easily.

A 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? By your own admission you are out a lot so they must like to have you around.

I appreciate 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 a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but 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.

QI’ve always ‘turned the other cheek’ when anyone’s been aggressive and avoided conflicts.

There’s 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 us.

Our manager seems to be a family friend, so does nothing to stop her steamrollering the rest of us. She’s aggressive and unpleasant and I think I deserve a little more respect.

AThere comes a time when everyone has to assert themselves. If this woman is really upsetting everybody, she needs to be told 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. You and your colleagues should stand up to her. If that fails you must complain to your manager, or failing that, your HR department if you have one.