How to get your friend to open up about their feelings

inditan asks: I want to ask you about friendships. I have a lot of friends at school (I don’t mean to brag, sorry!), and my social life is pretty much awesome. I have a few best friends that are really close to me. One of them is a girl named S. The problem between us is that she doesn’t talk about her problems often. She’s my only best friend whom I share all my secrets with, she shares hers as well but she doesn’t share her problems with me. And I’m worried that maybe she doesn’t trust me, or maybe it was because something I said to her. I don’t want her to feel alone when dealing with her problems. She’s had anorexia a few years back and that was a serious issue she hasn’t let go of yet. I’m really worried about her Shirelle. what should I do?

Hi inditan –



Okay, there are two issues here.  And I want to get the first one out of the way first.


I am no expert on eating disorders.  As a dog, I’m always looking for food; but because I’m so active, I’ve never had a weight problem.  I frankly don’t even understand them – why would someone starve themselves, or throw up what they’ve eaten? It doesn’t make sense for a pooch.  But I know these disorders exist.  And I urge you, if you are really concerned for your friend, to get her to see a doctor RIGHT away.  Anorexia is unhealthy for anyone, but it can be permanently disabling, or even fatal, if it develops too far.  So please please please, be a great friend and get her okay… if she’s actually suffering from this right now.


All right, second issue.  I see this problem every day!  My human Handsome is a psychotherapist, so he meets with people for his work, and they talk about problems – always their problems.  Never his!  And sometimes, they actually get frustrated about it.  Even though they’re paying him to deal with their problems and not his!


So your frustration at your friend not opening up to you, especially when you’re concerned that she’s keeping a secret that could hurt her, sure makes sense.


And the only suggestion I can make is to tell her.  But don’t say it like “Hey, you need to tell me more.”  More like, “You mean so much to me, and I feel it’s unfair that we’re always talking about my problems.  I want to hear what’s going on with you too.”  Or even, “I feel alone when we only talk about my stuff.  I need to hear about you.”  Or, if things get really scary, “I’m starting to have hurt feelings, like you think I’m the only one with problems, and you don’t think I’m trustworthy to hear about what you’re going through.”


Does one thing strike you as in common about all these?  They are about how you feel.  Not that there’s something wrong with her, or that your friendship isn’t “doing it right.”  Because she could get defensive, or argue, at any of those.  But when you tell her how you’re feeling, you’re saying something indisputably true.  And she’s putting so much effort into showing you she cares about your feelings that this way she’ll almost be sure to open up.  For your sake, if not her own!


So inditan, I say to open up to her about this feeling, along with your others.  And if you do so, you’ll be well on the road to being the best friend she ever had.  And perhaps saving her life too.


Which would REALLY give you something to brag about!


All my best,


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