When I was in college, I signed up for an internship with Students International, an organization that works among the poor in the Dominican Republic. I was assigned to the construction outreach where Rudy, the Dominican construction leader, taught me a great deal about both construction and life.

One day, after we'd spent hours painstakingly laying a foundation for a house and making sure everything was perfect, he turned to me and said,

"We always spend more time on the foundation, because the foundation is everything. If the foundation is solid, the house will be strong. If the foundation is crooked, the house will be flawed. It's the same thing with your life---if the foundation of your life is in solid things, you will be strong. If you set your foundation in crooked things, you will crumble."

(He talked like that ALL the TIME. It was like building houses with Yoda.)

I think Rudy was on to something.

If you take the time to lay your foundation right, then you will be successful in whatever you're building, whether a house, a life, or a set of social skills.

That's what this "Foundations" section is about. I wrote it to help you think through the way social skills affects your own life. This guide is a very powerful tool, but before you pick up any tool, you need to know what you're trying to build. I know you are probably eager to get started on the "meat" of the guide, but trust me (or, if you prefer, trust Rudy.)

The foundation must come first.

Foundations contains four lessons.

If you want to get the most of the guide, there are some guidelines you should keep in mind.

Why are you trying to learn social skills? What are your goals? What has your history with social skills been? Where are you, and where are you going?

Social interaction can be scary, and it's easy for fear to hold us back. But it is possible to overcome your fear, and in this section I show you how.

Some other social skills gurus recommend using social skills to manipulate others into doing what you want. But truly fulfilling relationships are built on trust and respect, not manipulation and deceit.