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Sat, April 20

Dear Annie: Boyfriend a downer at game night

Dear Annie: My boyfriend, “Mark,” can be a sore loser, and it’s beginning to ruin game night.

Every week, a few of my friends get together to play games — video games, board games, anything that can be played with a big group. Most of the time, I go alone, as these friends were made before Mark and I started dating. However, he gets along really well with everyone when we’re out at parties and events, so he’s always invited to play. Last game night, we played a difficult strategy game that I’ve only played once but a few friends are very proficient at. They play aggressively, so I matched that enthusiasm. I ended up winning, but any pride was hampered by Mark’s sulking. About halfway through the game, he decided that he “got cheated” and couldn’t win, so he stopped engaging with the rest of us and scrolled on his phone instead. His childish behavior was annoying for everyone, and frankly, I was embarrassed by him. We’ve talked about this before, but it keeps coming up. And in the moment, I don’t want to have to nag him to play nicely. I’m close to uninviting him to game night. What should I do? — Tired of Playing Mom

Dear Tired of Playing Mom: How exasperating for you and embarrassing for him. A year from now, nobody is going to remember who won at Monopoly, but everyone will remember who almost flipped over the board.

If Mark acknowledges his rudeness and irrationality after the fact, perhaps you two could come up with a warning signal he can give you when he feels himself starting to get upset or a signal you can give him when you notice it. Also, you might suggest playing some cooperative games together rather than competitive ones. If he doesn’t admit that this is a real problem or doesn’t make a real effort at changing it, tell him that you’re not going to keep playing with him if he acts this way. You’ve been more than fair.

Dear Annie: Recently, you published a letter from a fellow who said he has social anxiety and is uncomfortable during social events his wife plans. He even avoids parent night activities at his children’s schools because he fears “awkward” moments alone.

Don Gabor wrote a wonderful book on how to make small talk, titled “How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends.” I tried the advice in there, and it really worked! Suggestions start with body language (smiling, standing with arms open, etc.) and move on to asking “ritual questions” — e.g., “What grade is your child in?” “Was your child in the lovely performance we just saw?” It’s OK to ask people what they do for a living, and prepare in advance as to how you will answer questions like that coming from others.

Gabor says, “The secret ... rests on four key principles: (1) taking the initiative to reach out to others; (2) showing genuine interest in people; (3) treating others with respect and kindness; and (4) valuing others and yourself as unique individuals who have much to share and offer one another.”

The book came out in 1983 but is still in print, believe it or not, which is a testament to how much people get from it. I hope you’ll pass this on to your readers.— Virginia

Dear Virginia: I see that “How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends” is indeed still available. It’s for sale online as a print book, as an e-book and even as an audiobook! Thanks for recommending the book and for sharing those lovely tips from it.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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