What Makes a True Friend: 9 Signs to Look For
Friendships are one of life’s most treasured assets. Whether you found a good friend in kindergarten, high school, or as an adult, the value of a true friend cannot be understated.
Friends are there for the good times, provide support when things are not so great, and offer healthy companionship. Without friends, life might feel lonely or quiet.
In this article, we will look at the top 9 signs of a true friend that you should see in others and practise yourself.
What is a true friend?
You will meet a huge number of people during your lifetime. With some of these people, you may develop a friendship that lasts for a few months or years, but ends when your circumstances change or one of you moves away. Others will become true friends.
Although you may not speak to these close friends every day, and indeed, weeks may go by without communication, the crucial factor is that a close friend will be there when you need them. This will hold true even if you’ve not spoken for months, and even if it’s not a convenient time.
Some friends can be flaky or phony. They only show up when it suits them or when a situation seems appealing. At other times, they fail to turn up or let you down at the last minute. You may feel that they don’t show you the respect that you show them.
A surface-level friend may not truly let you in. And if they won’t ever be vulnerable around you, then you may feel that you know very little about them.
A real friend will show you who they are. They will be authentic and honest, and will also support you to behave in the same way.
Why is it important to have true friends?
Scientific research has shown that there is value in good friendships. In 2018, Viviana Amati and colleagues reported that both the quality and quantity of time spent with friends positively impacted overall life satisfaction.
Furthermore, a study in 2019 highlighted that friendships “are an important source of happiness, well-being, physical health, and longevity”.
Incredibly, developing quality friendships could therefore support both your emotional and physical health.
9 signs of a true friend who you’d love to have and be
In this next section, we will explore the 9 qualities that you should look for to be sure that you are enjoying a true friendship and all its benefits.
A true friend can be trusted. They will keep your secrets, desires or personal thoughts to themselves without sharing them with others.
However, trustworthy means more than just keeping your confidence. A good friend should also be reliable. This means that if they say they will do something or turn up, you can guarantee that they will be there when they say they will.
A good friend will be endlessly supportive of your hopes and dreams. They will encourage and motivate you to keep going. They won’t laugh at your ideas, nor will they be threatened or jealous of what you are trying to achieve.
However, close friends are also courageous enough to say if they think you are making a mistake or putting yourself in danger.
If you share your feelings with a friend and they are not their usual positive self, you will need to have a frank conversation about what their concerns are, and why they are more hesitant than usual to wholeheartedly support you.
3. A good listener
High-quality friends are good at active listening. Instead of getting distracted with something else while you are talking, they fully focus on you.
They don’t interrupt, won’t make a conversation all about themselves, and you always know that they are interested in what you have to say.
As a result of listening to you properly, you’ll notice that they ask relevant questions and give you great advice when you need it, too.
4. Willing to put the work in
A good friend will never expect you to do all the hard work. Friendships are built on a shared desire to work on your relationship together.
This means that if you are the only one making arrangements, keeping in touch, or providing a shoulder to cry on, your friendship may not be as real as you had hoped.
As with all relationships, friendships can be difficult. In a true friendship, you should be able to share feelings with each other, even if these feelings are hard to voice.
For example, if you think a friend has behaved badly, or you don’t agree with something they have done, you should be able to have an honest conversation with them about it. Speaking candidly doesn’t have to mean the end of your friendship.
If you can have an open dialogue in which you are not criticizing, but rather suggesting that something could have been done differently, you will both come out of the situation stronger.
6. Push you to be your best
A loyal friend will want the best for you. If they see that you are stuck in a job that you don’t enjoy, they might suggest you start pushing for more or looking elsewhere.
If you are struggling with exercise or motivation, a good friend will support you in getting back to the gym or out on your bike. They will do this not because they think they know better than you, but because they will see when something doesn’t seem quite right.
Loyalty is hugely important in friendships. A loyal friend has your back at all times. They won’t betray you or talk about you negatively to others, and you know that you can trust them whole-heartedly.
8. Similar interests
You do not need to have the same interests as your friends. However, most friendships are based on some sort of common interest or connection, such as hobbies, career, or political interests.
It is possible to have strong friendships with those who are different to us. However, a friendship may be more severely tested if you have opposite interests, or views that oppose.
A good friend will accept you for who you are. Although they may support you to be your very best, they accept you right now, and not for your potential to be someone else.
A true friend will also make you feel accepted regardless of your beliefs, sexuality, abilities or background.
When adult friendships are hard
You might expect that the silliness of childhood friendships will be left behind in the school playground. But sadly, adult friendships are not without their ups and downs. When you make friends as an adult, you want to be sure that you are on the road to true friendship.
Keep an eye on your feelings and emotions, and think about whether your friend values your relationship wholeheartedly. Make sure that it’s not just you putting in the hard work, but your friend, too.
When might therapy help?
If you are struggling with a friendship or another relationship, it can be very upsetting. Whether you feel that you are the only one making an effort, or if a so-called friend has betrayed you, you can be left feeling disheartened or even used.
In some cases, a difficult friendship can negatively affect your mental health, leading to anxiety, low mood or depression.
Talking to a trained professional who can offer impartial insight and guidance can be beneficial for understanding the friendship itself, and the part both of you played in it. Finding an online therapist who can help you make sense of what happened can aid closure and help you avoid a similar situation in future.
If you think you could be a better, more engaged or more supportive friend, it is never too late to start trying. For many reasons, you may find it difficult to let other people in, or you may have fallen into bad habits of not replying to messages or responding to phone calls. Noticing the way that you interact with others is a great first step in developing your skills as a friend.
Talking openly with a therapist may help you to understand the areas that you could improve in, and what this might involve in practical terms.
Friendships are complex no matter your age. However, when you find a true friend, nothing can compare to the support, loyalty and companionship you experience.
Deep connections and intimate relationships can only form if both individuals are willing to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the friendship. Remember these 9 key signs of a true friend, and make sure you see them in others as well as practising them yourself.
Hannah Rose is a freelance copywriter with a medical degree. After working as a doctor for several years, she now writes medical and well-being articles. Hannah endeavors to empower people by providing informative content that allows them to make healthy choices for improved physical and mental health. Hannah is part of the LGBT+ community and an inclusion expert, allowing her to write copy that is relevant to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or identity. Hannah lives in a village in the South West of England.Read more