If you always tell your friend how to fix her problems, the relationship will be unbalanced. You become the One Who Knows All, and she becomes the One Who Is Troubled. Eventually you’re both going to tire of those roles. Instead, let her bounce ideas off of you. Ask, “What are you planning to do about this tricky situation?” Or just give a supportive comment: “That sounds difficult. How do you feel about it?” Offer your opinion only if she asks for it. Otherwise you’re not having a dialogue; you’re giving a lecture.
Frank M. Lachmannm Ph.D., is a New York City-based psychologist and the author of Transforming Narcissism ($40, amazon.com).
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Show a Different Side of Yourself
One great way to do that is to mix friends from different areas of your life—say, throw a get-together with your college buddies and your pals from work. You’ll find yourself opening up more, and your friends will learn new things about you. Friendships benefit from a breath of fresh air.
Sally Horchow is a coauthor of The Art of Friendship: 70 Simple Rules for Making Meaningful Connections ($15, amazon.com).
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Be (Genuinely) Happy for Your Friend’s Success
Friends want you to celebrate with them when good things happen. Sometimes that’s harder than it sounds, especially if you’re a little jealous of your pal’s success. Swallow that emotion, because she doesn’t just need a shoulder to cry on in a crisis. She’s also looking for someone to cheer her triumphs. Joy shared is joy doubled.
Jennifer Litchman is one of the 10 lifelong friends who were the subject of Jeffrey Zaslow’s best-selling book, The Girls From Ames ($16, amazon.com).
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Make Small Gestures
You don’t have to go to great lengths—throwing a surprise party or giving an expensive gift—to show your friends you love them. Case in point: When I had surgery in 2009, about 50 people posted short comments online wishing me well. I was touched. If you don’t use social media, reach out in other ways. Leave your friend a compassionate voice message, or stop by her office with a latte if she’s had a tough day. It will mean the world.
Jason Falls is a social-media consultant based in Louisville, Kentucky.
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Act Like a Nine-Year-Old (Like Me)
Grown-ups should work harder on seeing their friends. When you’re in school, it’s easy. You get to spend all day, every day, with them, except on Saturdays and Sundays. But once you’ve graduated, a company can’t offer jobs to you and all your friends so that you can stay together. Adults have to make more of an effort to see each other, and sometimes they don’t do that enough.
Grace Lagan will be entering the fourth grade this fall in New York City.