19 Ways to Make Your Friends Feel Special, Because They Deserve It (Updated 2022)

People talk about best friend goals all the time, but I really feel like I hit the jackpot. There are few things that I love more in life than my friends. Through the best and worst of times they have always been at my side. Whether traveling across the world to see me, writing me cards on tough days, or just being there for a hug — they’re there. In turn, I do my best to be a good friend to them by making them feel special. Not sure how to make your best friend feel special, or how to make your best friend happy? Today, I’m sharing a list of ways I put my friends in the spotlight, so that you can make your friends feel special too!

Give them an unusual compliment.

I’m the Leslie Knope of my group of friends; not only because I’m immensely enthusiastic, but also because of my unusual compliments. (A recent winner was: “You are the baby sun lighting up the lives of all of us Teletubbies.”) You don’t need to be creative or, let’s face it, weird to make your friends feel appreciated, though! An original compliment, especially on something other than clothing or appearance, can go a long way. Think about the characteristics that you love about your friends. Here are some examples:

  • I really admire how kind you are to others
  • I respect how engaged you are with politics and justice
  • Your faith really inspires me
  • You’re so fun to be around

Do your best to be thoughtful and authentic. Your compliment can really make someone’s day!

Introduce them thoughtfully

I have a lot of friends from different parts of my life: my dorm community, my faith group, my classes, or or my organizations, for example. Often, if I sit in the dining hall and people join me, I’ll end up sitting with a few friends who may know me, but not each other. A great way to make your friends feel included is to introduce them with an interesting fact to spark future conversations. For example: “Emefa, this is Julie. Julie is a Computer Science major who is involved with Jewish life on campus. Julie, Emefa studies English and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity on the weekends.” This way, when you leave the table or if Julie and Emefa run into each other later, they already know enough about each other to start asking questions.

Help them feel included

In group settings, inside jokes and stories may come up. Make sure that if someone at the table wasn’t there or doesn’t get it, you either briefly explain the comment to them, or bring up something that you experienced together so they feel included.

Best Friend Goals: 19 Ways to Make Your Friends Feel Special

Me and a close friend together after a concert!

Don’t be on your phone around them

In the technology-driven world we live in, it’s very normal for people to constantly be on their cell phones. As a result, when someone I’m with puts their phone away and really focuses on me, I am extra appreciative and it really makes me feel special! I now do my best to put my phone away around my friends, as well, and to let them know when I’m about to glance at it (“I quickly need to check who’s calling, but after that, I’m all yours”). Staying off my phone also helps me be a better listener and be more attentive to my friend!

Give them a thoughtful gift

Gift-giving is a great way to show your care for someone. Gifts don’t need to be expensive or elaborate to be thoughtful; one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten was an inexpensive fill-in-the-blank book called Why You’re So Awesome, which my bestie Taylor filled out for me. I’ve since taken it with me to every city I’ve lived in, because it helps keep Taylor close!

If you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, think of small things that might make your friend feel appreciated, whether it’s a copy of her favorite magazine and a bottle of nail polish for a “self-care kit,” or a book she mentioned a few weeks ago.

Make them dinner

A good friend of mine has some severe food allergies that make it harder for her to eat in the dining hall. My friends and I wanted to make her a special “gourmet” meal that she could eat, so we found allergy-friendly recipes and got to work. We also decorated our dorm kitchen to be extra cozy and feel a little celebratory. She was truly touched! This is a unique way to make your friends happy.

Making dinner for your friends is a really sweet and thoughtful way to make them feel special, especially in college when dining options can feel a little stifling. Get together with some other friends and cook to treat one person! It will help minimize costs, and you’ll have more fun in the kitchen.

Support them when they’re down

It’s normal to have bad days, especially in these uncertain and difficult times. Your friend best friend may be having a tough time today, or struggling with longer-term sadness. One of the most important ways to show your friends you care is showing them love in hard times. Bring them some tea, or (social distancing) mail them a small gift or card. Check in via text. Let them know you love them.

Me with my fellow Wellesley alums, including Shannon

Text them when something reminds you of them

When I see a funny sign, a street that shares a name with my friend, or even a cute puppy in a sweater, I’ll take a picture and send it to the friend it reminded me of. It’s a nice way to stay connected and remind your friends that you’re thinking of them! Also, who wouldn’t want to see a puppy in a sweater? Seriously.

Ask them about their thoughts and opinions

Especially when we’re swamped with work or midterms, it’s easy to let conversation slip into small talk. But asking your friends about more serious or interesting topics is a great way to get to know them better and make them feel heard. Ask about what they’re reading or which class is their favorite and why.

Help them feel safe

We’re living in a time when a lot of people are made to feel unsafe by the language and behavior of others. Do your best not just to be a good friend, but to be an ally to your friends. Confront language that marginalizes them or makes them feel unsafe. Offer to walk with them if they’re nervous to go somewhere alone. Listen to them when they need to vent, and do your best to understand and legitimize their feelings. Friends need to stick together!

Take them out to something fun

Time together is always fun, but unusual trips make for extra-special memories. If you’re celebrating a birthday or the end of a semester, make your best friend happy by doing something fun and different. Some great ideas would be ice skating, rock climbing, or the zoo. Used bookstores are also always fun, and there are usually great free events in the city if you go to school in or near a metropolitan area.

Give them a $5 treat-yourself gift card

Gift cards are often thought to be unthoughtful gifts for birthdays or holidays, but as a surprise gift, they can make someone feel really special. A $5 gift-card to Starbucks or a local café with a little card or post-it (“I like you a latte – have a coffee on me!”) is a really nice way to give your friend a pick-me-up if they’re feeling down. Make your best friend happy with this thoughtful gesture!

Take them out for coffee

On the other hand, it can also be really nice to actually take your friend out for coffee. I love getting coffee or tea with my friends and chatting, hanging out, or doing work together (side-note: I’m actually working next to Ken in a Starbucks right now, but this time, he paid!). Paying for yourself is enough, but offering to pay for the other person is also a nice, small way to be generous.

Ask about members of their family (by name!)

A lot of my friends have siblings that they’re really close to. I always find it extra thoughtful when my friends ask after my brother by name. I’ve started making an effort to memorize the names of my friends’ family members to ask about them and how they’re doing. Better yet, try to remember what you can about your friends’ siblings – asking how Ellis’ wedding-planning is going, or how Alice is doing at Stanford, is a great way to show your friend that you listen to them!

Follow up on important conversations

If my friend is struggling with something, whether it’s schoolwork, future plans, or a family issue, I always do my best to ask about it in the weeks after. Sometimes it takes a long time to process difficult things, and making sure that your friend is doing okay in the weeks after a challenge is always appreciated.

Craft them something

If you like to craft, making a gift for your friend is a great way to make them feel special. One of my friends has been watercolor painting decorations for my door, and it always brightens my day! I have a few craft tutorials you could try to make for a friend, including flower crowns or a terrarium.

Write them a card

When I go to a new city, I like to pick out post-cards for my friends. Cards for birthdays and holidays are also a nice way to leave a lasting memory. I know a lot of my friends like to tack up cards to their walls, or save them in a binder.

Decorate their door

The doors in my dorm have dry erase boards on them, so my friends and I often write messages to each other. They also have cork boards, so we’ll sometimes leave each other cards, watercolor paintings (as my friend does), or other little things. Adding things to your friend’s door, or even decorating it for a birthday or event, is a fun way to make your friends feel special.

Bring them a cup of tea

Drinking tea with my friends is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening in. Sometimes a to-go cup of tea is also nice, though! Every once in a while, I’ll grab a disposable coffee cup and bag of tea, write a little note, and leave them at a friend’s door. It’s a small and inexpensive way to show someone you’re thinking of them.

Best Friend Goals: 19 Ways to Make Your Friends Feel Special

Sharing a cup of tea with my basically-roommate, Taylor

Go to something that’s important to them

Your friend has probably invited you to their plays, art shows, meets, or even lectures in their department. If you have the time, going to something that’s important to your friend is a really thoughtful way to make your friends feel special!

Invite them to your events

If you have a meet, a play, or something else going on that you’re proud of, invite your friends! Especially if you’re already taking care to be a kind and thoughtful friend to them, I’m sure they would love to come and support you.

That’s all I’ve got for today, but I’d love to hear from you in the comments:

How do you show your friends that you appreciate them?

Sara Laughed

Hey hey! I'm Sara, an American writer living in the Netherlands and working as a product manager.

    1. Sara says:

      Thank you so much, Kim! Yeah, thoughtful introductions are one of my favorite ways to make friends feel included. It makes such a difference! I hope you have a great day!

  1. I really love this post! The one about having a more thorough introduction is such a good and unique idea. I feel like friends often introduce friends to other friends (wow that’s a lot of friends haha) by just saying “Hi this is my friend so and so!” without throwing on anything else that could help be conversation starters or tie people together, which is really great especially if you’re in a situation where you don’t know many people. This post made me so happy 🙂
    paige // eyeliner wings & pretty things

    1. Sara says:

      Thanks so much Paige! My boyfriend also suggested that repeatedly referring to your friends by name in a group would help your new friend remember the names better! I hope that helps you (: Also, I’m so sorry I haven’t responded to your email from, like, JULY. I’m adding it to my to do list for today! Expect to hear from me soon!

  2. This post has some things that I have never thought of doing for my friends, and now I know how I can treat them well. I feel like sometimes it’s really easy to lose connections with old friends in college, but I guess now I can do some of the things you recommend to reconnect with them! 🙂

    – Sabrina | StudentsToolbox.com

    1. Sara says:

      Thanks so much Sabrina! Yes, I’m sure a lot of these (especially the ones that can be done over text) would also be a great way to keep in touch with faraway friends!

    1. Sara says:

      Thanks Caitlyn! I’m really glad that people are liking the post. I think a lot of us want to be good friends and are looking for creative ways to do that!

  3. Jackie Nutter says:

    I have had my high school friends since I was in 1st grade and so I definitely forgot a thing or two about making friends. I am starting my second year in college and these beautiful ideas were such a great reminder that college is a time where you have to figure out how to make new friends again! I now have wildly delightful group of friends that I get to see again this fall and I know I will continue to meet new people, so your post has made me much more excited and confident moving forward. Thanks!

  4. Maddie says:

    Thanks, Sara Laughed! That was very helpful! I love your creativity! My friends birthday is tomorrow, and I’m pretty much broke. What do I do? She likes Starbucks, (She’s a Christian), animals, (mini pigs( hehe! She loves acting, playing volleyball, and singing. She’s also artsy.
    Maddie 🙂

  5. Justina says:

    I love my best friend so much…Though we know each other from past 8 months but I haven’t met such kind of friend before…while reading your article I remember the days spend with her when I took her out for coffee,when I include her in my activities,ask about her family member’s by name,When I tell about my feelings and thoughts…..SO I had already did many things which are mention in this Article…After reading this article I realize that how important these small things are in our lives…As I forget to take out my phone when I am with her,We both take out our phones only when we need to show something to each other from our phone.I have learned some new things over here…So now I am going to craft something for her,decorate her door and write her card to make our friendship bond more memorable.

  6. Penny Higgins says:

    Was looking for some takes regarding this topic and I found your article quite informative. It has given me a fresh perspective on the topic tackled. Thanks!

  7. Tyler Rory says:

    This is such a helpful primer! Especially since the pandemic, I’ve forgotten how to connect with my friends. I love tea, I’m definitely going to have to share a cup with my best friend soon!

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