You’ve probably had a lot of amazing — and not so amazing — friends over the years. Knowing what made the great ones stand out from the rest can help you choose the right friends going forward.
Friendships make life more meaningful and are good for your health. Great friends offer emotional support and make you feel loved and connected. These experiences are critical to your mental health and social wellbeing, which is why it’s so important to choose your friends wisely and treat them well.
But sometimes finding, or even being, a good friend is tough. And for many, making friends as an adult already feels harder. Gone are the days where you could simply approach someone and ask, “Want to be my friend?”
Life is busy, filled with distractions and obligations. But in these moments, knowing the qualities of a good friend is even more important. You need a supportive friend the most when work is stressful and personal problems are weighing you down.
Whether you have too many best friends to count or are still looking for one more, knowing the characteristics of a good friend can help you appreciate your current relationships and make new, meaningful connections.
What are the qualities of a good friend?
Not every person you meet will become your new closest friend. And approaching meeting new people with an eye toward making a best friend might even cause stress and possibly make people uncomfortable. A network of loose social connections is valuable to both your well-being and success, too. These friendly connections are what form a community.
Many people in your life will move along the spectrum between acquaintance and best friend. These different relationships are all important. Understanding where someone fits on and differentiating what you expect from the relationship is helpful.
But anyone you call a friend should live up to certain standards if you’re going to invest in the relationship. And you ought to, as well, if you want to retain meaningful and mutually enjoyed connections.
From casual acquaintances to personal cheerleaders, here are 11 important qualities of a good friend.
1. They live with integrity
A friend with integrity acts in alignment with their values and commitments. They have strong moral principles and will speak or act when someone violates these principles. They’re also self-aware and behave and speak in consistent ways. Because of this, you can rely on what they say they’ll do.
2. You can trust them
A good close friend is honest and speaks from the heart with good intentions. They tell you what you need to hear in a respectful and loving manner, so it doesn’t feel hurtful. Because you know they have your best intentions at heart, you can be vulnerable, insecure, and weird with them.
3. “Dependability” is their middle name
There’s no time for fair-weather and flaky friends. A good friend respects this, trying their best to show up, keep promises, and do what they say they’ll do.
That doesn’t mean they’ll be dependable in every situation. This friend might always be a little late, but you know you can depend on them to offer a listening ear when you’re going through a hard time.
4. They’re loyal
A loyal friend sticks by you through your highs and lows, offering a helping hand or a listening ear whenever they can. They listen to your side of the story, give you the benefit of the doubt, and defend you when you deserve it.
5. They have empathy for others
Empathy involves understanding others’ emotions and experiences, and a great friend easily does this for you. If you’re distraught because you didn’t get a promotion, this friend does their best to put themselves in your shoes so they can offer you more thoughtful and meaningful support.
And if they know you really well, they might intuit your feelings before you express them, providing comfort and guidance before you even expected it.
6. They’re good listeners
Excellent listening skills are one of the most important qualities of a good friend. Great listening allows your friend to understand how you are feeling, retain important information about you (like your favorite food or activity), and validate your emotions. They can only truly know who you are and offer excellent advice if they’re actively listening.
7. Their confidence is contagious
A great friend has enough confidence for the both of you, making you shine in social situations and offering you courage when you don’t have it. They’re self-confident and think you should be, too, since they think you’re the best.
8. Spending time with them makes you feel good
Perhaps the most crucial trait, you should feel great spending time with this person. Social vampires and toxic relationships might exhaust you, but spending time with an excellent friend is something that should cheer you up and energize you. This is someone you’re comfortable seeing even on your most burned out days because it’s not work.
9. They make you laugh
Laughter is life’s medicine, and great friends dole it out in tonnes. Humor reduces stress, brightens your mood, and leads to a greater sense of belonging — all things a great relationship should do. So if your friend makes you laugh, know that this seemingly small trait might actually be increasing your well-being.
10. They’re non-judgmental
While they might offer “real talk,” bringing you down to earth with critical insights, real friends never make you feel bad about yourself. They offer a safe space for you to work out issues, share insecurities, and discuss hard topics.
Great friends have your best intentions at heart, no matter what, and simply want you to be happy. And they also understand that your road to happiness is unique to you, so they’re ready to support you as you change throughout your life.
11. They’re low-maintenance
Great friends don’t want to be a burden. While they’ll expect some quality time, care, and consideration from you, they’re low-maintenance and won’t hold your busy-ness against you. And when you reconnect, it’s like no time has passed.
These are excellent friends to be around since they’re also low-drama, avoiding gossip and making hang-outs lighthearted and fun.
How to spot a bad friend: 3 tips
Intuitively, you’ll likely know you’ve spotted a bad friend because you don’t want to spend time with them. They tire you out, make you feel judged, and don’t align with your interests and values.
In many circumstances, your bad friend won’t be someone else’s. You might want to befriend someone that’s more reliable and available than the next person, or maybe what’s most important to you is interest alignment, like if you both work in the same industry.
You can determine what you require in a friend — and what the sure-fire deal breakers are — by brainstorming and writing down your friendship goals.
That said, here are some bad-friend traits extending to all situations:
They constantly “one-up” you: These friends always make their issues seem more significant than yours. If you tell them about your bad day, they tell you how their day was worse. And if you’re proud of an accomplishment, they mention how they did it better and sooner. This constant competition invalidates your feelings, and good friends don’t do that.
They’re a bad influence: They encourage you to participate in risky behavior or activities that make you uncomfortable. And if they don’t respect your boundaries, they’re not worth having in your life.
They bully and belittle you: Some “friends” only keep you around to make you feel bad. To feel better about themselves, they take you down — and that’s simply not friendship, it’s bullying. Instead, great friends raise you up, offering support and affirmation to help you become your best self.
The importance of good friendship
When you have good friends, hard times seem more manageable, and you feel supported and celebrated for who you are. And when times are tough, you know you have someone to count on. No matter the distance or situation, they always seem to know how to make you feel better.
A good friend doesn’t need to share your every interest, but they value what’s important to you and never belittle your passions and hobbies. And when you’re doubtful about your value, they quickly remind you of your importance and what makes you unique.
How to find good friends: 3 tips
Making new friends as an adult is difficult. Between work and other obligations, it’s hard to put yourself out there, but it’s worth it.
Here are three tips for finding more healthy friendships.
1. Try different communal activities
If you’re doing an activity you enjoy, chances are high you’ll meet like-minded people. And studies show that most people seek friends who are similar to them, so you could try attending group activities with strangers to make new friends.
So many activities exist that’ll expose you to new people, like dance classes, language courses, and exercise groups. Even if you’re shy, you could try less social events like painting or sculpting classes. And if you’re intimidated by trying something new, join an activity you’re already good at to remove this barrier.
Here are some options for meeting new people with similar interests:
- Attend local events: Having local friends makes it easier to hang out and stay in touch, plus you might have more in common. You can find local networking and social events online or on community boards, or even ask around at your workplace or with current friends.
- Volunteer: Helping out a cause you feel passionate about ensures you’ll meet new people with concurrent values. You might help out in a soup kitchen or with a beach clean-up, trying your best to chat to strangers each time you attend.
- Find a new social hobby: A great way to meet people is by taking on an out-of-home social hobby, like joining a sports team or book club. You might just go to the same spin studio weekly, building community that way.
2. Become your own best friend
If you’re a great friend to others, that means you can also be a great friend to yourself. And considering yourself “a friend” means you might treat yourself more kindly and compassionately, like you would your other close connections.
This self-love also boosts your self-esteem and confidence and helps you practice how to treat people well. And these traits won’t go unnoticed by current and future friends.
Take yourself out on a dinner date every once in a while, give yourself a positive pep talk, and enjoy cozy nights doing free time activities you love. Because you deserve it.
3. Be a good friend to others
Great friendship is based on reciprocity: to find good friends, you must be a good friend. Self-reflect, perhaps journaling or talking aloud, to determine whether you embody the traits listed above, like being a good listener and offering your friends a no-judgment safe zone. Then make a self-improvement plan practicing any missing qualities.
The tough part of friendship
True friendship isn’t always sunshine and roses. You might fight, fall out of touch, and feel jealous of each other — all of which can strain an otherwise great relationship.
And sometimes, your friend’s decisions won’t make you happy. You might have to confront them about a bad work ethic or toxic trait. These conversations aren’t easy, but they’re necessary if you want to be a good friend. If you communicate openly and honestly, your relationship can survive any rough patch.
Finding fulfillment through friendship
Building meaningful relationships takes work. You must be vulnerable with others, honest about how you feel, and supportive when people need you. And you have to trust your gut when you feel like someone’s a negative influence in your life.
But the struggle is worth it. Now that you know the qualities of a good friend, you can find people to support you during tough times and help you feel more fulfilled in life. Great friends offer belonging and meaning — what’s more important than that?