Whenever I’m done speaking about mental strength, someone in the audience almost always asks, “How can I help someone else become mentally stronger?”

It’s a great question. After all, you can probably think of several people you know who could use a little more mental muscle.

Perhaps you have a people-pleasing sister who seems to have lost her way in life. Or maybe you have a friend who thinks he’s never good enough.  You likely see potential in people who don’t recognize it in themselves.

So how can you help people build the mental strength they need to think, feel, and act their best? Here are a few strategies you might try (and some you should avoid):

Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice

If you saw someone struggle to lift their luggage into the overhead bin of an airplane, you probably wouldn’t chime in and say, “You should lift weights.” But that’s exactly what some people do when it comes to mental strength--they offer unsolicited, unhelpful (and sometimes obvious) advice.

Lectures aren’t effective. So resist the urge to chime in and tell someone they need to be stronger--even if it’s a relative or loved one.

Share What Works For You

Rather than tell someone what they need to do to change their life, share what strategies you took to improve your own life. You might say, “Ever since I began meditating, my mind is so much clearer,” or “Therapy really helped me to feel more in control of my life.”

If the person wants to learn more, they’ll ask questions. If they don’t seem interested, don’t force more information on them.

Share your goals as well. Whether you’re trying to gain more patience or you want to face some of your fears, talk about the things you’re working on as well. Make it clear that you’re building mental strength because there is always room for improvement.

Focus On Your Own Behavior

The best way to inspire someone to change is to lead by example. So rather than waste your energy trying to mold someone into the person you want them to become, focus on becoming the best version of yourself.

When you put your energy into improving yourself, the other person will see the changes you’re making. That may motivate them to change too.

Be a Good Listener

If you want someone to talk to you, you need to be a good listener. Make eye contact when they’re speaking, put your phone away, and pay attention.

Validate the person’s feelings. You don’t necessarily need to agree with their decisions-;just show that you understand how they feel. Say things like, “It sounds like you felt desperate in that moment,” or “I would have felt discouraged too.”

Set Healthy Boundaries

Being a good listener doesn’t mean you have to provide a captive audience to someone who wants to throw a daily pity party, however. If someone constantly insists their life isn’t fair or calls you every day to complain about all the things that are going wrong (without acknowledging the things that are going right), listening for hours on end may do more harm than good.

Set healthy boundaries when necessary. That may involve saying something like, “I don’t think listening to you talk about how horrible your life is every day is being a good friend to you. I’d love to help you create positive changes if you’re interested.”

It’s also important to set other emotional, physical, and financial boundaries. Don’t make your happiness contingent on someone changing and don’t enable someone to continue making poor choices.

Don’t Expect Too Much

Don’t expect someone else to spring into action simply because you suggested it. Keep in mind that you might simply be paving the groundwork. The conversations you hold now and the action you take in your own life may have a lasting impact on others--but it may take a while for the other person to decide to create change.

If the other person doesn’t take positive action, don’t blame yourself. It’s not that you didn’t say or do the right thing. Instead, it most likely means the person just wasn’t ready to create change yet.

Published on: Jul 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.