DEAR HARRIETTE: I was ditched at a holiday party I was dragged to! My friend thought it’d be a great idea to take me to meet all of her friends … and then she ditched me as soon as she saw all of her other friends. I tried staying in the group, I really did, but my friend did not even introduce me to anyone, and no one spoke to me. I tried making myself approachable by setting down my phone and standing alone by the kitchen counter. This failed as well. I tried introducing myself for a few more minutes, and then realized what a social flop I was. I know my only friend there didn’t help me out at all, but I thought I could have been more socially adept. Any tips on how to work a room you don’t know anyone in? – Blooming Social Butterfly, Chicago

DEAR BLOOMING SOCIAL BUTTERFLY: I’m sorry that your friend was so rude. You should speak to her later about how uncomfortable you were. Since she invited you with the presumption of introducing you to her friends, she should have done so. It is OK for you to let her know that you are somewhat socially awkward, and it was very difficult for you to be by yourself at that party.

What you can do in the future is to look around the room at a social function and notice anyone who seems to have a pleasant face or inviting demeanor. Then drum up the courage to walk over to that person and say hello. State your name, and ask the person’s name. Say something about yourself that could be a conversation starter. It can be simple: “I’m new in town.” “I’m a friend of X’s.” “I love the holidays. My favorite part is X.” Just say something to get a conversation going. When it seems that the moment you started is over, move to another person. You can do it!

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DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I have attracted an unpleasant holiday guest. We have known this woman, Agnes, for years. Agnes has never been in a relationship, never had children and spent her entire life working. She is in her 50s and does not bring any joy to our holidays. She does not have any contact with her family and does not have anyone to celebrate the holidays with if we don’t invite her. After years of inviting her and listening to her lament about regrets and mistakes in her life, we would like to have total happiness in our Christmas celebration. Is there any tactical way to tell Agnes to stop depressing everyone, or should we see how a holiday is without her? – Holiday Debbie Downer, Boston

DEAR HOLIDAY DEBBIE DOWNER: You do not have to invite Agnes to your celebration if you don’t want to do so. Know that. If you feel like you cannot leave her out, by all means tell her that you want to invite her and that you want her to be happy. Have an honest conversation with her about the kinds of things she usually talks about and how it affects people. Ask her to choose to be positive, even if that means listening to others rather than bemoaning her life all night.

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.