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6 Friendship-Saving Questions

Sometimes the simple things mean the most.

Key points

  • Friendships often end after a series of communication difficulties.
  • Young adults may be particularly vulnerable to losing friends.
  • Taking steps to show care and clarify boundaries can help preserve friendships.

As a therapist, I often meet with individuals experiencing troubles in friendships. I'm not alone. While friendships have always naturally come to an end at points, our culture is shifting toward one of fewer long-term, stable relationships. Young adults between ages 17 and 21 are particularly vulnerable to turnaround in friendships (Roy et al., 2022); this can be taxing, particularly when the friendship is a close one. Relationships give life sparkle.

Sometimes the end of a friendship is necessary. Still, often misunderstandings and unknown boundaries lead to preventable troubles in relationships. It's more common for a pattern of communication difficulties to erode a friendship rather than one single event to lead to its end.

What follows are six simple, but sometimes forgotten questions that can help you watch for these things are preserve your friendships.

1. "How are you doing?"

Simple enough, right? We ask each other questions like this all the time. Yet this casual question can hold a lot of significance.

Checking in with your friend at key times—such as the anniversary of a loss or a few months after a new baby—can mean a lot. It shows you care about their well-being. Those moments of feeling alone, when no one checks in, are one thing that also prompts many to step away from a friendship.

2. "Do you have the bandwidth to talk with me about something heavy?"

The pop-psychology term for unloading something serious on someone who doesn't want to hear it is "trauma dumping," yet part of friendship is sharing the tough stuff. The key? Consent. Asking your friend if they are presently up to talk to you about something you are going through can mark a difference between seeking support and dumping your problem onto them.

3. "How late is too late to call?"

Common talk about boundaries tends to give the impression that boundaries are universal and fixed. Nothing could be further from the truth—yet we may still make assumptions about where the line lies.

Boundaries are quite individual and changing. Rather than clear expectations, boundaries range from preferences to necessities, with most falling somewhere in between. Without asking someone where a boundary is, such as how late is too late to call, it can be easy to walk on past without even knowing.

4. "What can I do to be there for you with this?"

Often we know someone might be struggling, but don't know how to help. Asking someone to let us know if there is any way we can help shows we care; however, rarely do people follow up. Rather, asking specifically what a person needs from you, and checking in with them makes it more likely for them to feel comfortable reaching out.

5. "Is there anything we need to talk about?"

Conflict is an important part of the relationship cycle. We have conflicts, repair those, and get closer. Yet many avoid conflict. We may assume others know we are upset even if we haven't explicitly expressed it. If you are concerned about this, asking your friend directly if there is anything that needs to be talked about can give them an opportunity to clear the air.

6. "How is (good thing) going for you?"

Negativity is a common trap that can burn out a relationship. We can get in the habit of talking about all the bad things while not covering the good things. Asking your friend how something positive is going for them demonstrates that you not only care about them when they are hurting but that you also want them to succeed. It also adds some positivity to the conversation.


Roy, C., Bhattacharya, K., Dunbar, R. I., & Kaski, K. (2022). Turnover in close friendships. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 11018.

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