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Dear Mari: How do I make friends?

HOW DO you make good friends? It’s simple.

Dear Marilyn,

I was a loner when I was in high school. I was in my own reality, and my own world regarding the way I viewed things. I had problems recognizing people and knowing their names when I saw them outside of school.

I had a couple of friends, but it was hard for me to feel empathy or sympathy for them when they would discuss their problems with me. So, we drifted apart. Last week, for the first time, I have come to the realization that I have made some big mistakes in my life in the area of having friends.

I saw two people that I thought I knew. I waved and yelled out their names to them. They turned to me, and I realized that they were not the people that I thought they were. I didn’t even know them. I was very embarrassed. I am now very lonely, and I don’t have any close friends. I realize that I have brought this on myself. I really want to change.

I am now a freshman in college. I know that this is a chance to start fresh and make some friends. I really need some advice or tips on improving my social skills. I don’t even know where to start.

Please help.

Signed, Lonely

Dear Lonely,

Actually, you have already started. You have come to the realization that you are lonely, and have no close friends because of your own behavior.

This is an excellent start. It would have been impossible for you to change your attitudes and relationship styles until you discovered this.

So, now your next step is to do something with this new understanding. You have spent much of your life focusing inward. You have focused on yourself, and not on other people. The sooner that you get started, the sooner it will happen.

In the past, you were not very interested in what was going on with your acquaintances. But, people like to be around people that are interested in them. That is why you drifted apart.

So, when people talk about themselves, really listen. Ask questions. Get to know them better.

People also like to be around people that are happy, friendly and upbeat. So, focus on being that person.

As far as remembering people’s names, a good trick is a word association. When someone introduces himself or herself, say “hi” and repeat their name back. Then think of someone else you may know, or a character in a book or movie with that same name. It makes it much easier to remember.

It may not be easy to change the way that you have related to others, but you can do it. You will need to understand that it may take some time to make some true friends. It may not happen as quickly as you would like.

However, don’t give up. You will be a much happier person when you have some close friends. It will be worth your efforts. I promise.

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