CIAO Program, Part I


Ciao America! You look le superfantastico!

Hello my little drumsticks! How are you? I am very excited. Why?

Because today here at Adviceopolis we are introducing, for the first time ever, our patented CIAO program, four steps to making new friends, becoming more popular, and having more fun. It’s called CIAO because in Italian, “Ciao” means both “goodbye” and “hello.” Here it symbolizes saying ‘see ya’ to your old insecurities, and ‘hi hotstuff’ to the new, more confident you. Each of the four letters in CIAO represents a step on the road to More! Good! Times!

This post is a wee bit longer than some of our other posts so strap on your reading goggles. All strapped? Tray tables in their upright and locked positions? Let’s goooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Last year i changed schools. i have made a few friends i love VERY much, but i feel so out of place with the other people in my year. i am taller and then most people and i’m a goth. the other thing is that i’ve never had a boyfriend, which seems, oddly, the thing that everyone seems to be doing, not kissing and holding hands etc. but more of a status symbol. i hope you can give me some advice on coping.
–A Little At Sea

Dear ALAS,

The boyfriend-as-status-symbol topic is something we’ll discuss in another post (but for those of you who keep emailing with questions like this: there is no one right time to start dating; the right time for YOU is when YOU feel ready.)

But for the rest: I’ve chosen your email to help us introduce the opening letter of the CIAO program.

The first step in getting comfortable with other people and making new friends is….
Talking to people. Kind of anti-climactic, I realize but not only is this the most obvious thing I am going to say, it is also one of the hardest. Which is why:

C is for CONTRACT.

In my old journal I found all these pages that just say in the middle

I, Michele Jaffe, promise I will talk to two guys at the party at Christy’s house this weekend

(sign and date here)


Yes, I really made myself sign them. Even then I knew I was untrustworthy. But the weird thing is, I fulfilled them. (I still do it at parties, only now I only make the contract in my head. And I’ve upped it to five people. And there are cash prizes involved.) Maybe you are more self-actualized than I am and do not require the whole sign-and-date-and-notarize thing, but the principal still holds. Make a contract with yourself that you are going to meet new people.

Don’t worry, I’m not just going to leave you with “okay, go out and talk to people and you’ll be more popular/happier/whatever your heart desires.” I have a trick for you to try.


Dear Michele,
I really am a loner and I don’t talk much and I’m really sick of it and I want to start being more outgoing. how do I do that to?
–Lone Ranger

Dear Lone Ranger,

Never fear, help is here! Meet I:


Everyone loves to talk about themselves, but they aren’t always open to strangers. So do this: put together a questionnaire or poll that you can use to approach people, lots of people, at least one person from each clique, and talk to them. That might sound contrived, but its an supreme ice breaker. I mean, who wouldn’t respond to the question, ‘If you had a signature scent, what would it be called?’ This has the ace side benefit that if you’re sneaky, I mean, clever about it, there’s a good chance you can come up with something that you can use as a project for class credit.

(You could also consider running for school office. Then you also have an excuse to go up and introduce yourself to people, asking them what their concerns about the school are. Heated toilet seats in the bathroom? Great idea! Custom lip gloss mixer vending machine? Why didn’t I think of that! Plus you can bribe them with candies, and everyone likes someone who gives them candies. Trust me, I didn’t get elected Senior Class president on my speeches.)

But asking questions is only half the activity. The other half is A.


I’m in 7th grade am not that cool lookin’. I used to be like 2nd tier cool and all of the boys I like never like me!!!
I really wanna be liked but don’t know what to do???
should I change??
or stay the same??
‘cause so far no one likes how I am now I don’t think.

Dear Lookin’,
You are really good at asking questions, so the whole interview thing described above shouldn’t be a problem for you. all you have to do to use that questing skill to your best advantage is to use some A.


The #1 guaranteed way to get people to like you is to show you’re really paying attention to them. So when you’re doing your poll and asking “What kind of dessert toping do you resemble most?” make it clear that you are really listening to and interested in their answer. That’s it. So. Easy. And yet, there are still two tricks I can give you!

First, embrace the creed that people are Cool until proven Uncool. People can tell if you’re judging them—you know this is true—so don’t. Even if the person you want to be talking to is the cute guy, and instead his lame friend keeps answering the questions, don’t waver. Assume Lame Friend has something massively interesting to say. Love him for the sake of the Cool One.

Second, give yourself a tiny pep talk before setting out for your interview and for the first few minutes of it. In your head repeat “I like you, you like me, this is going to be fun.” I learned this from a magician friend of mine. It helps reduce anxiety and helps you convey an air of confidence—not icky over-confidence but the scintillating confidence that starts inside but shines outside like a lite-brite game.

Which brings us to O. O is the one element in the CIAO program that more than any other will transform your reputation and get you noticed at school. O is the fastest way to change how people perceive you. O is…

What I will talk about in two days. Bwahahahaha! But leave your guesses about what it could be in the comments for a chance to win a signed ADVANCED copy of my new book MINDERS.

Dr. J

Need Advice? Mail your questions for publication to The doctor can't promise to answer them all, but she'll do her best. (By sending a question you grant permission to have it appear here. Letters may be edited. Advice is for entertainment purposes only. No blaming us later okay? Okay.)

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