Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

Find me on…

Get the feed


Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Posts Tagged ‘likeability’

My Peers Don’t Like Me

Monday, August 30th, 2010

I know this isn't easyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Why do I feel that everyone is laughing at me just because I don’t hang around with them? If I do hang out with them, I never know what to say. I feel I’m not liked by my peers, but I’m not sure where I’m going wrong. Please help!


A Dear Andrew:

Pat Boone, in his fabulous book ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat talks to Teenagers, seems to address some of your concerns. Here is a sampling from his “To be a Friend” chapter ~ perhaps it will help you gain some confidence. Now go out there and be yourself!

1958: Daring to be Yourself

It’s normal for teen-agers to form social groups. This is fine and healthy if these are circles of friendship. . . . It is quite another thing, to my mind, if they are mutual protective societies, cliques, crowds, threesomes or foursomes that use their united power to exclude or hurt others; or to give a group security to do things that not one of them would do as an individual; or to deprive members of individuality until they all follow leaders like sheep or insist on doing what ‘all the other girls do’ simply because all the other girls do it.

I’m not talking about juvenile gangs either. I’ve actually seen a strong clique of supposedly nice girls pick the feathers from an outsider, or kick out some poor gal for failure to conform, or talk about an absent one in a way that made me wonder what little girls are made of.

I know this is all unusual but I think it’s really important to guard against it happening at all. The basis of all happy social dealings is being kind to one another. I, for one, really admire the guys and gals who have the courage to insist on doing that. What I’m saying is, don’t let any group become so important to you that you will betray your own standards to belong to it. Maybe that sounds like an odd way to tell you to make a hit, but believe me, you won’t lose any friends. You may, however, find a few friends you didn’t really know you had.

Look, I know this isn’t easy. I have had my own problems along this line, like the question of joining a high school fraternity. To assume an air of exclusiveness, some frats discriminate against boys because of their poverty or belief or race. My parents disapproved of that, but when I pledged, intending to join a frat, they didn’t forbit me. Something else did. It suddenly just seemed goofy, I guess, because it didn’t stack up with the principles of friendship as I understood them. Now, it might coincide with your principles. Then it would be all right for you. But it wasn’t for me. So I had to make a stand right there.

This doesn’t mean defiance, or bitterness, or trying to tear others down. It just means the quiet courage to do what you think is right, and stand on the consequences, like the little boy whose Sunday school teacher asked: ‘If you are always kind and polite to all your playmates, what will they think of you?’

The boy said: ‘Some of them will think they can lick me.’

And some of them will think they can lick you. But when they find that they can’t, then the right ones will join you, and you have taken the step that means leadership. You are bound to be attractive to worthwhile people because now you really have what it takes to be a

Source: Boone, Pat. ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat talks to Teenagers. Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1958.
~ pp. 98-99 ~

Do People Like You?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

do you avoid being bold and nervy?Okay, everybody, it’s quiz time again! Get those pencils sharpened, because being liked is a most wonderful thing, and I sure want all of you to be as likeable as you possibly can. This self-analysis tool was published in Unit One of the Personality Development Series, written by Estelle Hunter. And in case anyone was wondering, my score was 59. I suppose I’ve got a bit of improving to do, but no matter what, I absolutely refuse to change my answers to #4 or #35.

1939: Do People Like You?

Every normal, healthy individual wants to be liked by others. If you have ever said that you didn’t care whether or not people liked you, you probably weren’t really honest with yourself. Perhaps you were trying to cover up hurt pride. The person who says bitterly, ‘I don’t care,’ really does care a great deal. He should face the fact squarely and try to discover the reason for lack of harmony in his relationships with others.

Donald A. Laird, after a series of experiments made in the Colgate Psychological Laboratory to determine what traits were of most importance in making people liked or disliked, compiled the list of 45 questions which is quoted below.

Give yourself a score of 3 for each of these questions to which you can answer ‘Yes’:
1. Can you always be depended upon to do what you say you will?
2. Do you go out of your way cheerfully to help others?
3. Do you avoid exaggeration in all your statements?
4. Do you refrain from being sarcastic?
5. Do you refrain from showing off how much you know?
6. Do you feel inferior to most of your associates?
7. Do you refrain from bossing people not employed by you?
8. Do you keep from reprimanding people who do things that displease you?
9. Do you refrain from making fun of others behind their backs?
10. Do you keep from domineering others?

Give yourself a score of 2 for each of these questions to which you can answer ‘Yes’:
11. Do you keep your clothing neat and tidy?
12. Do you avoid being bold and nervy?
13. Do you refrain from laughing at the mistakes of others?
14. Is your attitude toward the opposite sex free from vulgarity?
15. Do you keep from finding fault with everyday things?
16. Do you let the mistakes of others pass without correcting them?
17. Do you loan things to others readily?
18. Are you careful not to tell jokes that will embarrass those listening?
19. Do you let others have their own way?
20. Do you always control your temper?
21. Do you keep out of arguments?
22. Do you smile pleasantly?
23. Do you refrain from talking almost continuously?
24. Do you keep your nose entirely out of other people’s business?

Give yourself a score of 1 for each of these questions to which you can answer ‘Yes’:
25. Do you have patience with modern ideas?
26. Do you refrain from flattering others?
27. Do you avoid gossiping?
28. Do you refrain from asking people to repeat what they have just said?
29. Do you avoid asking questions in keeping up a conversation?
30. Do you avoid asking favors of others?
31. Do you refrain from trying to reform others?
32. Do you keep your personal troubles to yourself?
33. Are you natural rather than dignified?
34. Are you usually cheerful?
35. Are you conservative in politics?
36. Are you enthusiastic rather than lethargic?
37. Do you pronounce words correctly?
38. Do you look upon others without suspicion?
39. Are you energetic?
40. Do you avoid borrowing things?
41. Do you refrain from telling people their moral duty?
42. Do you refrain from trying to convert people to your beliefs?
43. Do you refrain from talking rapidly?
44. Do you refrain from laughing loudly?
45. Do you refrain from making fun of people to their faces?

The higher your score by this self-analysis the better liked you are in general. Each ‘No’ answer should be changed through self-guidance into a ‘Yes’ answer. The highest possible score is 79. About 10% of people have this score. The lowest score made by a person who was generally liked was 56. The average young person has a score of 64. The average score of a person who is generally disliked it 30. The lowest score we found was 12.

From these questions it is apparent that whether you are liked or disliked depends chiefly upon your attitude toward others. All your efforts at self-improvement will be of no avail if you think only of building up your own superiority. The consciously superior, the self-righteous person is never popular. If you would be liked, don’t try to impress the other person with your importance; make him feel important; show your interest in him.

Source: Hunter, Estelle B. Personality Development, Unit One: Your Physical Self. Chicago: The Better-Speech Institute of America, 1939.
~ pp. 120-22 ~

Everyone Wants To Be Liked

Monday, August 30th, 2010

It is a fine thing to have a sense of humorI apologize for the lag time since my last selection. The delay was due to a much-needed trip out to the woods, where I was nowhere near a computer. I hope you are not angry with me! I just want to be liked! Don’t you? Yes, I thought so. So let’s read a bit from Everyday Living for Girls: A Textbook in Personal Regimen in order to help us achieve this goal, shall we?

1936: Everyone Wants To Be Liked

Definitions of personality and character would often lead us to suppose they are one and the same. Perhaps the difference between character and personality can be most simply stated as follows: Character is one’s true moral worth, and personality its outward expression as seen by others. It is, then, quite possible to be of an upright and moral character and yet have an unpleasant personality, and vice versa. . . . Have you ever thought that we may admire our friends because they are good-looking and respect them because they are clever, but that we love them because they are pleasant and easy to get along with? Probably no one thing contributes more to popularity than being good natured. Have you tried it?

Traits others like in us. What, then, are some of the things that we should do or refrain from doing in order to be liked? In the first place, no one likes affectation on the part of others. “Be yourself,” has become a slang expression, but it is still good advice. The girl who tries to act and look more sophisticated or accomplished than she is, is making a great mistake.

People do not like interference. Do not be inquisitive about other people’s affairs, and certainly never take part in other people’s quarrels.

Do not argue. Hardly anyone can keep from getting angry or offensive when arguing, and as was said in the beginning, good nature is a great asset.

Be a good listener. Do not carry on a monologue, but give others a chance to talk. Never make fun of others. If you do, your listeners will never trust you not to make fun of them when their backs are turned.

Do not be moody. To say of one that she is always the same is a great compliment.

Sociability and friendliness are very useful and endearing traits. Friends are indispensable, and acquaintances are always possible friends.

It is a fine thing to have a sense of humor. Indeed, it is almost always listed as a necessary element in popularity. Cultivate it, if possible.

Learn what good taste is and practive it in dress, manners, and all social relations.

No one is better liked as a companion than one who is self-possessed, well poised, and who knows how to behave correctly under all circumstances.

Be interesting. Learn to talk about things rather than about people.

Do not be too sensitive. Think about other people, not about yourself and what kind of an impression you are making, and do not take offense quickly.

Do not be too critical of what others do or say, of entertainments, or conditions. There is no surer way of making others shun your companionship and of spoiling your own good times.

Always make acknowledgment of everything done for you, no matter how slight it may be. Do not look upon an act of courtesy or a favor as your just due.

These are only a few of the ways in which one may gain deserved popularity. See how many others you can add to the list.

Source: Van Duzer, Adelaide Laura, et. al. Everyday Living for Girls. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company,1936.
~ pp. 356-57 ~

A Boy Likes a Girl Who . .

Monday, July 12th, 2010

sits like a lady, even in jeansQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I’ve never had a boyfriend and I’m very lonely. The only boy who I liked and liked me back was in kindergarden. Only geeks like me! I’m sick of being made fun of too. People are mean to me and I feel sad. Can you could give me a quiz or something to see if I can ever get a boyfriend?


A Dear Sarah:

Hey, what’s wrong with geeks? This particular geek is not sure that a quiz will help solve your problems. As we all know, the better you feel about yourself, the more likely others will feel good about you too, yadda yadda . . . so you might consider working on that self confidence issue. But if it’s questions you want, the following excerpt from On Becoming a Woman, by authors Mary McGee Williams and Irene Kane, may help you figure out if you are truly a girl that would be liked by boys. Geeks or otherwise.

1958: A Boy Likes a Girl Who . . .

It’s not possible to sum up, easily, what makes one particular boy like one particular girl. It’s a complicated combination of their personalities, their needs, their tastes, and sometimes the state of the weather. But it is possible to sum up, in general terms, the generally true things that make girls appealing to boys. Here’s a list you might want to read several times; there may be a tip or two for you.

A boy likes a girl who …
listens …
meets his eye …
walks with a spring, not a swagger …
has a bell in her voice …
makes inexpensive clothes look cheery …

A boy likes a girl who …
puts make-up on her face, not on his collar …
isn’t self-conscious about her figure, and doesn’t advertise it …
wears a flower, but not the whole Botanical Garden …
draws a line between slang and profanity …

A boy likes a girl who …
smells like spring all year ’round …
is prudent, but not prudish …
smokes at home, drinks nowhere …
improves on nature, but in moderation …
sits like a lady, even in jeans …

A boy likes a girl who …
appreciates football without looking as if she could play it …
laughs, but not too loudly …
doesn’t knock the rock, but admits there’s room for Bach …
would rather bite her tongue than her nails …
has opinions, but doesn’t think they’re the only ones …
doesn’t call him on the phone for no good reason …

A boy likes a girl who …
likes him more than she likes his car …
thanks the donor for small favors …
neither spreads nor inspires gossip …
follows the crowd, but not blindly …
doesn’t go to the beach dressed in a pocket hankie …

A boy likes a girl who …
acts herself, instead of aping movie stars …
doesn’t load his pockets with her compact, overshoes and hairbrush …
has read a book …
dances instead of yakking when she’s on the dance floor …
enjoys a movie and a hamburger as much as she enjoys night-clubbing …

A boy likes a girl who …
walks in the rain, and doesn’t fuss about her hair coming down …
gets up early to go fishing …
appreciates his jokes (even the bad ones) …
cares about his hobbies …

A boy likes a girl who …
looks good …
sounds good …
feels good …
walks good …
and talks good ~ but not too much …

Source: Mary McGee Williams and Irene Kane, On Becoming a Woman. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1958
~ pp. 60-62 ~

Does He Like Me?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

plenty of good sense at partiesQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How can I tell if a boy likes me?


A Dear Tammi:

Usually you can tell pretty much right away when I boy likes you. A certain glance, a gentle touch, a smooch on the front porch. But in case the signs are not clear, try to see if you have any of the following qualities as described by actual boys, brought to you by Evelyn Milles Duvall’s Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. This is apparently what they want, so it’s about time we listen. At least if you feel the need to pretend we are in the 1950s again.

Am I the only one who’s a bit concerned with some of their requirements (“average intelligence”)? For balance, I’ve also provided you with the “other side” ~ what the girls want in boys.

1956: What Boys Say They Like in Girls

Lester Crow’s study of more than 1,600 boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 17, turns up such characteristics as these in what boys say they admire in girls:

“I like a girl who acts like a girl and not like a tomboy” (14-year-old boy)

“I like a girl who is pretty and talks nice” (14-year-old boy)

“I like a girl who doesn’t hang around with a bunch of boys or tough girls” (14-year-old boy)

“I would like her to be of average intelligence” (14-year-old boy)

“I like a friendly smile” (17-year-old boy)

“I like a girl with plenty of good sense at parties and dates” (17-year-old boy)

“I like a girl to be a good dancer, a lot of fun, and to have a good sense of humor at the right time” (17-year-old boy)

“I like a girl to be able to carry on an intelligent conversation” (17-year-old boy)

In Dr. Blood’s study of dating preferences on a large co-educational university campus, more than 80 per cent of the men said they preferred a girl who “is willing to join in a group,” “is a well-rounded person,” and “is a good listener.”

The gist of these and similar studies in other schools and colleges gives us a clear impression that boys like girls who are feminine, friendly, at ease in social situations, and pleasant persons to be with.

What Girls Say They Like in Boys

The girls in one high school study had these things to say about what they like in boys:

“I like a boy to be well-groomed” (14-year-old girl)

“I like a boy who has good manners and isn’t a show-off” (14-year-old girl)

“I like a boy who knows how to get along with people” (14-year-old girl)

“He should be neat and clean, courteous, kind, and considerate” (14-year-old girl)

“I like a boy with intelligence, someone who knows how to talk about other things beside movies and baseball” (17-year-old girl)

“At present I like all the traits my boy friend has: he is considerate, polite, ambitious, intelligent, punctual, kind, thoughtful, complimentary, just affectionate enough; and he has a wonderful personality which allows him to mix well with all groups of any ages” (17-year-old girl)

“I like a boy who is firm and stands up for what he thinks is right” (17-year-old girl)

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. New York: Association Press, 1956.
~ pp. 130-31 ~