When to step forward? When to step back?
A very tough pair of questions. Much of our lives is consumed by them. Friendship, flirting, consoling, teaching, guiding, supervising, and supporting can be enormously influenced by our ability to time and execute these properly. Their success can be determined ever so slightly. In the most subtle moments, one party moves a fraction of an inch and the spell is lost, perhaps forever.
It can be devilishly difficult to determine the best approach because if there is a general rule it is that there is no general rule. All depends on the parties and the moment. The word that would have rung grandly five minutes earlier now sounds tinny and forced.
So we watch and hope we've chosen the right moment to engage or disengage. The entire idea behind tough love is that there are times when the deepest affection requires distance and yet we all are familiar with those occasions when a friend or ally didn't come through during a crisis. We know the power, for good or ill, of the slight gesture.
When all elements work, the moment is memorable. When they do not, it is doubly so.