Ways to Find Happiness in Friendships

Advice for strengthening your friendships. A little open discussion and positive thinking will do the trick.

By Alina Larson, New York, New York

"The only way to have a friend is to be one," Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said. Well, what if your friend isn't acting like one? Maybe she keeps canceling plans. Or he's overly critical. How do you save the friendship and save yourself from further injury?

Don't let your feelings fester. No one wants to hear, "We need to talk..." but remember, one sure way to end a friendship is to not face problems.

You might think, If she were a real friend, she wouldn't have done that! In fact, people are often totally unaware of their behavior's effect, says psychologist Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.D. Consider your talk not a confrontation, but a good opportunity to tell your friend more about yourself. "Go in calmly, without anger, blaming or criticizing," Dr. Shoshanna advises.

Establish that the friend is important to you, says Jan Yager, Ph.D., author of When Friendship Hurts. Then explain how her behavior made you feel. Say, "Your actions made me feel..." rather than "You made me feel..." which sounds accusatory.

For example, you might say to a friend who constantly cancels on you, "I value our friendship and I like getting together with you. So it makes me frustrated when you cancel plans. I understand that you're busy. I am too. Were we seeing each other too frequently? What can I do so this doesn't happen again?"

It's helpful to end with this question to open up discussion and get your friend's views. The good news is, overcoming problems and learning more about one another will make you closer, and your friendship stronger.

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