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I am uncomfortable interacting with babies because I personally don't find them cute or interesting to interact with. I also am not good at faking positive interactions with babies, because I really just don't know how to act with them. I'm not good at making the 'baby voice' or making silly faces.

I realize that perhaps I should get better at interacting with babies, but I personally feel like this is not something I should have to deal with when I am at work (since I do not work as a babysitter). But co-workers often bring a baby to work out of necessity (which I understand), and it sparks this immediate change in everyone's behavior: people stop what they are doing to gush over the baby, to take turns holding it and interacting with it, and telling the parent how cute it is. All of this seems like it is socially important because literally, everyone does it except me. And I think the parent can sense my discomfort, because I have had the awkward experience of the parent taking the baby around the room to be held by everyone, and just skipping past me without saying anything. Part of me was relieved because I didn't have to interact with the baby, but part of me felt embarrassed and alienated because everyone else was approached.

I really don't feel like participating in any of this, and even if I wanted to, I think I would appear very awkward if I attempted interacting with the baby. But at the same time, I feel as if I am being rude by ignoring the baby, and I feel like something is wrong with me because I am not excited to see the baby. I also feel like people judge me and think maybe I am not very nice because I wasn't interested in the baby. I don't want my co-workers to think I am a weird baby-hater. Does anyone have tips on how to respond when a baby shows up at work, and I am not a baby person? Do I just need to try harder to interact with the parent and baby, or is there a way to back out of these interactions that won't make me seem rude or weird?

PS I kind of understand how my coworkers feel when a baby shows up because I DO feel that way if a dog shows up. I will stop whatever I am doing to play with the dog, and I am always happy when a dog shows up at work. I just don't feel that way about babies.

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    @RobertCartaino thanks. Not complaining, but shouldn't answer-comments be coveted to answers before getting deleted? – Ooker Aug 9 '17 at 8:01
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    Comments should be left as they add insight and context. You guys are ruining stackexchange by deleting so many comments. – Matthew Whited Aug 9 '17 at 10:39
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    xkcd.com/1650 – yesennes Aug 9 '17 at 14:53
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    Exact same question over at The Workplace: How to act when coworker brings an infant to visit the office? – David K Aug 9 '17 at 15:16
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    @RobertCartaino You probably should have moved the comments to chat instead of deleting them altogether. Deleting them has not only erased potentially important information that people might have liked to include in answers, but it has also prevented future visitors from being able to see what was said or get involved in the discussion. Deletion is a very heavy handed approach, especially without warning. – Pharap Aug 10 '17 at 10:24

16 Answers 16

52

It seems that you have a very (re)productive company!

You are not at all obligated to have interactions with a colleagues progeny in such a manner as you describe. There are also many new parents that would baulk at the idea of passing around their newborn amidst numerous parties.

It is usually courteous to join the group, smile and say something like "Aaw she's beautiful", keep your hands behind your back if you do not want to hold the infant and move on.

As you compared it to bringing a dog to work, there may be colleagues who are allergic or afraid of dogs, so you would not expect them to join in a petting group. As such, people that know that you are uncomfortable around babies should not expect you to be as enthusiastic as those that adore them.

Probably the easiest method is when someone else is holding the baby, speak to the parent, smile and congratulate them for a lovely baby (even if you do not think so) and return to your workstation. The parent will appreciate your attention to them as well!

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    smile and say something like "Aaw she's beautiful" You should, of course, be sure of the gender before committing to such a statement! – Grimm The Opiner Aug 8 '17 at 7:39
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    As a recent new mom doing just that, I preferred people who didn't want to hold my baby. – Catija Aug 8 '17 at 15:02
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    speak to the parent, smile and congratulate them for a lovely baby (even if you do not think so) and return to your workstation = that's the same I did once and it worked (no pressure, no uncomfortable situation, just I continue my way). :) – Mauricio Arias Olave Aug 8 '17 at 20:09
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    @MatthewWhited If you have an answer, please write one. Comments are not the place for answers. – Catija Aug 9 '17 at 2:18
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    @GrimmTheOpiner As a new-ish parent myself, I don't think it matters too much; people guess my daughter's gender wrong pretty frequently (she doesn't have very long hair), and it's just not worth getting bent out of shape about. Physical sex-distinguishing characteristics are just not that prominent in young children. That said, when I'm complimenting a baby whose sex I don't know, I do just try to phrase my compliments without specifying sex, e.g., "Aaw, how beautiful!" (No verb or subject is really necessary anyway.) – Kyle Strand Aug 9 '17 at 17:11
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I just had a rather interesting idea for you.

Simply treat the baby as if it were any other human being that your co-worker brought to work.

"Hello, John/Suzie/Star-Lord, pleased to make your acquaintance."

You can shake their tiny hand, if that feels natural to you.

If said with a smile, then it's unlikely to offend anyone, and even if everyone is into the "goo goo gah gah" talk, maybe they'll find your alternative approach amusing. At the very least, you will appear capable of interacting with the children of your coworkers, and you won't look as stand-offish. Worst case scenario is that you'll be known as the weirdo that talks to babies like they're grown ups, but I don't think I've met anyone who thinks that way.

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    This would be my answer - it allows OP to share with the interaction without forcing them to resort to baby voices, whilst also coming across as amusing. "So you're a baby, huh? What's that like?" baby noises "hahaha, me too" bro-fists the baby – ESR Aug 8 '17 at 0:44
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    This is an important point, I think - babies are people who are important to your colleagues. If they had brought in their partner, cousin, mother, etc. and introduced them to you, it would be weird if you said "Sorry, I don't interact with mothers", right? In the same way, there's no obligation to do any more than you would with any other person: The baby equivalent of "Hi, nice to meet you" is fine - "He's/she's cute, congratulations." will do the trick. – Beejamin Aug 8 '17 at 4:55
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    Personally, I'd say something like "Are you the new temp?" or "Shouldn't you be in school?". The point is, a joke gets a giggle from the parent, and you don't have to pretend to like babies. – Shawn V. Wilson Aug 8 '17 at 22:02
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    @djsmiley2k Stormageddon? – Rand al'Thor Aug 9 '17 at 12:20
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    You got to Dr. Who because Guardians was a Marvel movie, so was Dr. Strange, which starred Cumberbatch, who also stars as Sherlock on the BBC series and plays a drug-addled highly eccentric very well - and Dr. Who is also a BBC series starring a highly eccentric male figure. – Wayne Werner Aug 9 '17 at 12:43
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Well, you're not a baby person, and that's totally OK. It doesn't make you a bad person in any way. I wasn't a baby person and I'm still not really into babies unless I'm related to them closely (like mines or my nephew/niece).

The thing is, you don't need to do baby faces or try to make them laugh or even have to carry them. If somebody ask you to, simply turn down saying you're not a baby person. It shouldn't be awkward, you don't feel comfortable with them and babies tend to feel that when forced upon strangers who doesn't like it. Don't ignore the baby's presence as it's rude and simply acknowledge that he/she's cute and move to the next thing.

If it's of any help, you can still interact with them. Babies should be talked to like normal person (it's in fact very important for their speech abilities to develop correctly that they'd be spoken to correctly).

And in the case that you'd be given a baby to care for without further discussion, just keep your calm. Babies like to be cozy, dry, not too hot, not too cool. If it's start to cry don't panic, just keep it tightly pressed against you, rock it slowly and wait a bit. And if you ever feel like losing it, just find a mom.

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    +1 especially for "it's in fact very important for their speech abilities to develop correctly that they'd be spoken to correctly" – NVZ Aug 7 '17 at 15:59
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    Nothing annoys me more than people talking to my tiny people as if they were stupid creatures. They're just tiny people, it's totally fine to talk to them as other human beings. – Wayne Werner Aug 7 '17 at 16:07
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    @NVZ: Actually there's research showing that speaking in "baby-talk" to infants actually improves their language development. – psmears Aug 7 '17 at 16:28
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    @psmears is correct—regular exposure to "child-directed speech" (aka parentese or baby-talk) is one of the largest factors in language development for infants and small children. It can predict both how fast children learn language and how fluent they eventually become. Of course, it's not the responsibility of random coworkers to provide this input. – 1006a Aug 7 '17 at 17:13
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    @psmears ... there's a huge range between "the baby voice" and normal (as in directed to other adults) speech. The research you quote looked at "IDS [which] is characterized by exaggerated intonation, as well as reduced speech rate, shorter utterance duration, and grammatical simplification." IMO this is far from what most people do when they're trying to do "baby speech" (where words are often degenerated and needlessly repeated) and has much more in common with normal speech. – Daniel Jour Aug 8 '17 at 11:55
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I answer this as I stare into my baby monitor, thinking about how we're planning on bringing my little one to work in 2 days for a few minutes...

If you are uncomfortable around babies, I would not be offended if you didn't take part. To be blunt, I probably didn't bring the baby to see you anyway. If I've taken the effort to bring my baby in to work, it's likely for a couple of people in the office in particular. It is a LOT of work to get a baby out the door! And trust me, once we get the little one into the office and people start gathering around, inside our heads we're likely thinking "Ok, how do I make a socially acceptable exit from this madness? And quickly?!"

I honestly don't think any parent would be offended if you kept your distance. And if you're worried about offending them, just start sneezing and wiping your nose. We'll keep a good 10 feet away from you! LOL!

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    I agree. When I took my son to work to say "hi" when he was a month or two old, there were certainly many people cooing over him but if someone wasn't interested, I didn't put a black mark down in my book. As someone who doesn't go crazy for infants, I understand. – Catija Aug 8 '17 at 15:08
  • Great answer! Hopefully your office's parents are as understanding. – rebusB Oct 20 '17 at 21:22
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It's totally OK not to make cooing noises or silly faces or whatever. Just remember two things:

  1. The parent is probably bringing the baby to office due to either lack of babysitting issues or, if the coworker is female, because the baby needs to eat. So understand and try to be empathetic of their needs.

Another poster said that it was a choice. It might be, but the choice might be have a family and keep their job. So, the lesser of the evils.

  1. Babies are people and all people deserve respect. But respect doesn't mean that you have to play games.

Personally, I became much better with babies once I had my own (and when I see a dog in the office I am afraid of getting bitten).

You totally don't need to play with the baby. Just try to be respectful.

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    Some people actually just bring their babies in to "meet the office". – Catija Aug 8 '17 at 15:09
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I used to have a reaction like yours. I'd explain that I didn't like babies and etcetera. The baby remained just as popular; my popularity declined.

With age I realized my remarks failed that wonderful test of "Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said right now? Does this need to be said right now, by Me?"

I'm still terribly uncomfortable around very new babies, but I've found a workaround. Now I focus on the parent and ask open-ended questions like "Who does baby look most like? Have the grandparents been to visit/ done Skype with you yet?" kind of thing. Parents welcome the direct attention and enjoy basking in their significant accomplishment.

If there's that invitation (sometimes forcefully repeated!) that I hold the baby, I'll say I'm feeling a bit unwell, or that I'm enjoying looking at parent and child, and offer to photograph the two together. If you stay engaged as you move the interaction forward, no one will notice.

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Background: I don't like the human variety of baby either. But I adore baby animals -- puppies, kittens, whatever. All human babies are preemies by the standards of the rest of the animal kingdom. As homo evolved, its brain and thus its head grew, but the birth canal did not, so humans had to be born in an earlier stage of development. Young puppies would be less appealing too, if they were born in a comparable stage of development. Source. (Warning: this source contains lots of pictures of babies! :))

Answer: Unless your obvious lack of interest in babies is affecting your work relationships, you don't have a problem. Just continue as you have been: tolerating the babies, but not enthusing over them. Productive people are forgiven one eccentricity. Be productive and a congenial and helpful colleague, and, as long as you don't protest about the babies (or shudder when you see them) you will be OK.

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As a parent I am always mildly annoyed at cooing and baby noises. Just saying hello, smiling and waving are great ways to interact with a child.

Most savvy parents don't want their newborns to be excessively handled by others due to injury/illness risks, even if they would like to show them off to coworkers. Just saying congratulations is likely all that is expected, or at least perfectly sufficient.

Actively trying to ignore the baby and talking about how you shouldn't have to interact with a baby is going to be seen as a bit off. Again, no need to do anything with the baby which nobody expects you to, but maybe just try to exude less of an annoyed/aloof presence.

How you feel is perhaps not that uncommon, particularly if you have not really interacted with babies very much. I was really awkward with babies until we had one.

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It can be insensitivity on the part of the parent to expect everyone to coo over their babies.

For all they know, you may have lost a sibling / child of your own and being near a newborn brings back very unhappy memories. Or it may be that you are just not used holding babies and have a fear of dropping them.

Whatever the reason, do not feel obligated to suppress your real feelings just to please the parents. You could always excuse yourself by saying you have a deadline to meet; after all, you are paid to be at work to do work, not to cuddle babies.

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange! Feel free to take the tour and check out the help center. Answers shouldn't just give suggestions, but should explain why the suggestion would be beneficial to the reader - in other words, discuss where you got the idea for the answer (experience, perhaps). If I use your suggestions, how can I be sure that they will make my situation better? I'd recommend explaining why you feel that your thoughts and experiences are applicable here. Thanks :) – Zizouz212 Aug 7 '17 at 19:28
  • @Zizouz212 Thanks for your response. My answer comes from personal experience. My earliest memory is being made to hold my baby sister, I was very young at the time and was very scared of dropping her. When I became a parent, my first child died at 4 weeks old. That was over 30 years ago but even now, when I see a baby or young child, I cannot help thinking about my baby and what might have been if she had lived. I do not share that with the new proud parents (most of whom are younger than my daughter would have been if she was still alive). – jsc42 Aug 24 '17 at 14:53
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I've had a similar experience. A co-worker was showing pictures of her kid being potty-trained. I get that this is a big deal in a child's life, but I still don't want to see pictures of any human on a toilet. I reacted badly, and it was clear my co-worker wasn't happy...

Regardless of whether or not this is appropriate, I would recommend to make sure you tell them how cute / adorable their kid is. Irregardless of how you really feel, this will just make things smoother. Use similar language to your co-workers.

It's OK if you don't gush as much as them. You co-worker will probably realize you're not that into the baby, but also appreciate your compliments. Not saying anything might be considered offensive or stand-offish

You have to pick your battles. A quick "What a cute baby!" is easier than months of being considered an avoidant person, in my opinion. Remember, like you said, this is just how people are. It's a cultural norm, essentially, so you might as well involve yourself.

Practice smiling. It's a good skill to have.

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So you feel uncomfortable around babies, the parents detect this discomfort and therefore don't expect you to interact with the baby.

In short, you don't want to interact with babies, and nobody expects you to, so where exactly is the issue?

As a parent, I've observed this behaviour in some people, and that's totally fine. The last thing I would want to do is expect someone who doesn't like babies, to feign interest for the sake of appearances. Mind you, this isn't as much out of courtesy to you, but mostly out of respect for my child.

Nothing would make me more uncomfortable than a person who dislikes children, to be interacting with my child.

So in essence, your doing everyone a favour by keeping your distance. You don't need to feel awkward about it.

Parents are very intuitive when it comes to people around their children. They can see immediately if someone isn't into kids, and will naturally just move on past.

Just keep looking at your screen (or whatever you might be doing), ignore the slight disruption, and go on with your day.

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How about talking openly about this?

Openly talking about your feelings should be your number one solution in every situation because:

  • you already know what to say

  • the root of the problem is brought up to the table: the feelings. Since it's not about the person, there is no need to worry if they feel insulted

  • honesty and empathy invoke honesty and empathy

Something goes like this:

Hi, I just want to say that although I'm not fond of baby, I don't hate them. In fact, I know how others feel because I do love dogs. I want to talk openly about this because I don't want to feel embarrassed and alienated for this behavior. Please note that this has nothing with you, your child, you bring your child's to the office, and everyone talking with them. I just want both of us have relief, not awkwardness for this.

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    It seems a bit self centered to approach someone and ask that they discuss your feelings (or lack of feelings) about their baby with you. If I was the parent and someone approached me with something like this, I would probably have to write a question about THAT on Stack Exchange, like "How do I deal with someone approaching me to discuss their apathy towards my baby? I don't want to be rude, but also I really have no idea what to say to that." – Slow loris Aug 9 '17 at 17:56
  • Thanks for your feedback. I agree that this is self centered, but all I want is to address this openly. In your opinion, how would you do this? – Ooker Aug 10 '17 at 0:37
  • Dear Ooker, Please note that whilst I don't hate going out for a coffee, infact, I quite enjoy having coffee, just not with other people. To me, a coffee is "time best alone". I want to talk openly about this. Please note that this has nothing to do with you, or your coffee drinking habits. I realise that we've never gone out for coffee, but, I saw an interaction on stack overflow and realised that there was a very slim chance that you might, possibly, ask for a coffee. I just want both of us to have relief, not awkwardness, in the event that this situation ever arises... – Arafangion Aug 10 '17 at 2:58
  • @Arafangion ugh, but in this case, declining a coffee invitation is not rare. If my friend brings her coffee to work and everyone drink it except me, I don't think we have any awkwardness between us – Ooker Aug 10 '17 at 9:59
  • @Ooker Disliking babies isn't rare either, as evidenced by the other answers. – Pharap Aug 10 '17 at 10:35
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That is hilarious! If you don't wanna interact with the baby, fine! If you feel alienated etc. that is another problem, probably different from not wanting to interact with the baby, although you experience it in relation to it.

I too do not really want to interact with them either, because I feel I could break something. In the end, I do not know how to properly handle them. Also, I've read an article about letting babies rest most of the time, instead of passing them around. So it might also be the 'better' thing to do.

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills! I invite you to take the tour and visit our help center to learn more about the site and its guidelines. Good first post, by the way. :) – NVZ Aug 10 '17 at 8:56
  • This answer seems to reject the validity of the question by saying that feeling alienated in these situations is "another problem" (and saying it is "hilarious"?). I don't think it is. It IS alienating to be in a situation where everyone is acting a certain way and I don't "get it" and they can see that. Being left out is the definition of alienation. And the question empahsized how to avoid appearing rude or odd, which is a fair concern if I am being standoffish in a situation where others are expressing joy and excitement. Reuben's answer (the one I accepted) actually addresses the question. – Slow loris Aug 10 '17 at 14:18
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I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum... I love babies and want to melt into a pile of goo on the floor for them. However, I'm also busy and don't always have time to subtly dropkick people out of my way and get to the bambino.

So... If my coworker brings her baby over by my desk and I'm not in the baby zone, I've had a lot of success just doing this:

  • Smile at parent and baby

  • Focus on baby. Say "Young sir [or miss, depends on baby], you are behind schedule. I need you out on the floor, stat!"

  • Smile again, turn back to work

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Why do you feel like you are obligated to make baby faces or say silly stuff? If you are not into babies don't interact with them. I don't understand what the big deal is. I used to not care for one and I have two now. I love mine to pieces but I am not the one to go goo goo gaga over every baby that I see. It's not that I don't like them. Sometime I just don't feel like doing it. When I bring baby to somewhere I don't expect everyone to go head over hills with my baby. I appreciate nice comments but if someone doesn't say a thing that's fine. I don't really care. I am there to take care of business and I'd rather get that done and leave.

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    Hi, this answer feels more like commentary rather than answering the question specifically. Which would probably explain the downvotes – Kev Price Aug 8 '17 at 14:06
  • Hmmm I am answering from the person's point of view that the question is subjecting to. Not sure why you would feel like it's a mere comment. As a parent, if someone is not comfortable with the baby, I am more than fine with that person not wanting to interact with the baby. It won't make me upset or uncomfortable. If a parent is bring a baby to a work place, they are not expecting to be adored. It's mostly out of practicality. – mom dev Aug 8 '17 at 14:25
  • I'm simply explaining the downvotes so that you get a better understanding of the format of the site. Your answer has questions within it (although they are rhetorical), which makes it difficult for it to be accepted as a definitive answer. Which is what the person posing the question is after. The tour and Help Centre will explain it better than me though. (more experienced community members are directed towards new posts to give feedback and guidance on the sites format) – Kev Price Aug 8 '17 at 14:38
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    If the point of the office visit is to stop by and show off the baby, then that is the business you're getting done. I think that there is some value in having an answer from the POV of the mom in the situation but I think this could use some more direct solutions. A lot of why this feels like a comment is how the answer is phrased. – Catija Aug 8 '17 at 15:06
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I think it is perfectly OK to simply greet the baby as you would any other person, in a normal voice simply saying "Hello". When introduced just smile and say "Hello". There should be no expectation to goo and gah or make silly faces.If your workplace does push you to interact with co-workers babies in a way you are not comfortable with, that is a different problem. As long as interacting with babies is not a defined aspect of your job, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange! Feel free to take the tour and check out the help center. Answers shouldn't just give suggestions, but should explain why the suggestion would be beneficial to the reader - in other words, discuss where you got the idea for the answer (experience, perhaps). If I use your suggestions, how can I be sure that they will make my situation better? I'd recommend explaining why you feel that your thoughts and experiences are applicable here. Thanks :) – Zizouz212 Aug 7 '17 at 19:02
  • I don't think there can be anything but suggestions given to any question raised in a forum about interpersonal skills. This question clearly asks for advice and that is what I have given. I can't assure you that your situation will improve by following this advice. – Thomas Carlisle Aug 10 '17 at 21:39

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