DEAR ABBY: I am 18, a freshman in college, and I'm having the hardest time making friends. I have always been a quiet person, but meeting people around here has been like pulling teeth. I have received advice from many people telling me I should be more open to people, and I should talk more and be active in groups and organizations. Although I have followed this advice, no one seems to take an interest in me.
What should I do? I have been beating myself up about this. Now I'm starting to get depressed. -- LONELY IN NEW ORLEANS
DEAR LONELY: Cheer up. If misery loves company, you have plenty of it. Loneliness is probably the No. 1 problem in my mail. Everybody wants to be well-liked. It's essential to a person's self-esteem to know that others think he or she is worth having as a friend. But making friends doesn't always come naturally. For many, it's a learned skill.
While joining groups and organizations is an excellent way to meet others, before you do, it's important to take a good look at yourself. Ask yourself why you find some other people immediately attractive. Obviously, because they appeal to you. Well, how do you appeal to them? The expression on your face can be your greatest asset -- or liability. Would you strike up a conversation with someone who is wearing a permanent-press frown? If that could be you, get rid of it.
If you walk down the street in any foreign country in the world, even though you may not understand a word people are saying, when you see a smile, you get the message. It says, "I'm friendly. I'm approachable."
My booklet "How to Be Popular" is filled with many tips on how to become socially adept. It can be ordered by sending a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus a check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.
The keys to popularity with members of both sexes are: Be kind. Be gracious. Be honest, but be tactful. Be generous of spirit, and always grateful for the blessings that you have. Readers of all ages have told me how much this booklet has helped them and people they know.