When it comes to friendships, you may be closer to some people than others, which is perfectly fine. While some friends may be more in the “casual acquaintance” category, others may be within your inner circle. Of course, there are several traits of good friends, and your closest ones probably have many of them.
“Friendships can definitely be found on a continuum with acquaintances on one side and your best friends on the other, with all different types of friendships in between,” Heidi McBain, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of Life Transitions: Personal Stories of Hope Through Life’s Most Difficult Challenges and Changes, tells Bustle. So, this begs the question: How does someone make the cut, so to speak, and become one of your closest friends?
“There are many different ways, but a big one is that you feel completely comfortable with the other person,” McBain says. “You can truly be who you are without fear of judgment on their part. Plus, if this friendship truly benefits both of you - which the deepest friendships do - then your closest friends are able to be exactly who they are with you, as well.”
As McBain says, there are many qualities that set close friends apart from the rest. Below, experts weigh in on traits that make a good friend, so you can see how you - and your friends - measure up.
1. They’re Trustworthy
Every kind of relationship needs to have trust as a base and core quality, and this is also true when it comes to good friends. “They’re trustworthy and genuine,” Jamie Gruman, Ph.D., a professor of organizational behavior and author of Boost: The Science of Recharging Yourself in an Age of Unrelenting Demands, tells Bustle. “They offer us a sounding board to test ideas and show our true selves while knowing they won’t betray our confidences or make us feel ashamed of our weaknesses,” he says. “They offer us caring, honest feedback, even when it might hurt.” This helps our self-esteem increase, he says, and allows for a safe environment to explore yourself and your world.
Nate Battle, coach, speaker, and author of Battle: Three Phases of Endurance During Crisis, agrees. “A good friend is someone you can trust to keep the personal information you shared with them private and not share it with anyone or gossip about it,” he tells Bustle. “You can trust your kids with them, as well as trust the friend like a sibling; sometimes, even more than a family member.”
2. They’re Supportive
Having a support system is important, and supportive friends are the key. “Good friends offer us various kinds of support, such as emotional support when we’re feeling insecure and information support when we need to know how to handle problems or deal with ambiguities,” Dr. Gruman says. “This gives us the reinforcement and encouragement we need to face life’s many demands and help prop us up when needed.”
Darlene Corbett, speaker, therapist, success coach, and author of Stop Depriving The World of You: A Guide For Getting Unstuck, too, thinks a good friend is supportive. “A good friend will go 150 percent to be there for you,” she tells Bustle. “Life is not always easy and fun, but a good friend will be available.”
3. They Accept You As You Are
You’re probably comfortable around your good friends because you can be yourself around them; with others, you may put up more of a front or feel less comfortable. “A good friend is someone who will unconditionally accept you as you are, but will never be afraid to tell you the unpleasant truth of a situation or your behavior,” Lisa Orban, author of It’ll Feel Better when it Quits Hurting, tells Bustle. “They are the mirror that keeps your life in focus when you’ve lost perspective.”
Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, agrees. “A good friend is someone whom you feel you can share everything with, and are not afraid to reveal your weaknesses or shortcomings,” he tells Bustle. “They’ll call you out on your BS and challenge you to become a better person. Many people - and enemies - may do this, but a good friend has a better chance of doing it in such a way that you are able to properly receive and internalize it.”
Corbett adds that good friends are not judgmental either. “Unless your friend commits an egregious crime, you should not judge them,” she says. “None of us leave this Earth unscathed from doing something we would rather forget.”
4. They Actively Listen
While a friend may listen to what you have to say, a *good* friend actively listens. “A good friend is someone that you cannot only rely on, but that asks questions and truly listens to the answers,” Susan MacTavish Best, friendship expert and founder of Living MacTavish, tells Bustle.
Varsha Mathur, founder, dating, and relationship coach at KnowingLuxe Coaching, thinks so, too. “A good friend listens and shuts up,” she tells Bustle. “They’re a sounding board rather than a coach, and won’t give you advice when all you’re looking for is someone to listen.”
5. They’re Emotionally Available
Just like a romantic partner is, hopefully, emotionally available, good friends are, too. “They make us feel heard, and acknowledge us and our points of view,” Dr. Gruman says. “We feel listened to and appreciated as opposed to ignored or dismissed.” As a result, he says this allows you to share your life with them and feel connected, both of which combat loneliness and help you weather distressing circumstances.
Of course, some of your best friends may not live nearby, but you still maintain a close relationship with them. “A good friend doesn’t have to be physically close to be emotionally present,” Backe says. “Physical closeness is a lot, but especially nowadays, there are ways of staying together even when you are far apart.”
6. They Have Similar Interests
hances are, you and your good friend(s) are a good fit because you have several things in common. “They are similar to us in terms of values, beliefs, and views about things that matter to us,” Dr. Gruman says. “Because our personalities and opinions are similar, it gives us a sense of belonging, which satisfies the fundamental human need to feel connected to others - we feel united, togetherness, and a sense of belonging.”
7. They Show Up During Tough Times
While it’s easy to be there for somebody during the good times, it’s even more amazing to be there for them during the not-as-good ones. “Good friends show up for the tough times,” Mathur says. “They help clean up after the party, come to your parent’s funeral, and pick you up from that doctor’s appointment you’ve been dreading. All the fun memories are easy to make, but these critical times are the true test of a friendship.”
8. They’re Reciprocal
In any type of relationship, having a good balance of give-and-take is important. “Good friendships have reciprocity so you’ll have a satisfying relationship, which is symbiotic,” Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, tells Bustle. “Sometimes you carry the ball, and sometimes your friend does. If one side is doing all the giving, this relationship will tip over.”
Corbett agrees. “There are the takers and the givers in this world,” she says. “Sometimes one friend is giving far more than the other, and this is fine as long as the other party reciprocates at some point. If you are just giving and they are just taking, how good of a friend is that person?”
9. They Have Your Best Interest In Mind
Sometimes, you may feel as though your good friends know you better than you know yourself. “They have your best interest in mind even though it will not benefit them,” Battle says.
McBain agrees. “Good friends can be your biggest cheerleaders and your greatest advocates,” she says. “They can also serve as accountability buddies, keeping you focused on what’s most important at that point in your life - even during the times when you may doubt yourself and your own self-worth.” She says good friends will continually build you up, remind you how great you really are, and support you as you learn and grown throughout your life.
10. They Don’t Just Reach Out When They Need Something
You can probably think of people who contact you *only* when they need something. However, good friends contact you in general, Battle says. “They reach out and check on you ‘just because,’” he says. “Also, they make time to be there for you when you need them, in a sacrificial way, not just during their extra time.”
11. They’re Loyal & Help You Out, No Matter What
You know that friend who drops everything to help you out? That’s the definition of a good friend. “They are there for us when we need them and make our lives easier,” Dr. Gruman says. “They lighten our load and help shoulder the inevitable hurdles, stresses, and crises life throws at us. Friends can make what seems like an insurmountable mountain into a small hill that’s easily scaled.”
Battle agrees. “A good friend is a person who will help do something for you without expecting anything in return,” he says.
Along the same lines, Corbett also thinks you can tell who a good friend is based on how loyal they are, especially in challenging times. “A good friend will stand by you during good times and not-so-easy times,” she says. “If you go through a painful event such as a divorce, they’ll stand by you, but many people lose friendships during these difficult times.” In this case, Corbett says to ask yourself: “Were/are they really a good friend?”
As you can see, there are several qualities that make a friend a good friend and sets them apart from the rest. And, if you realize *you* could be a better friend, the good news is, it’s not too late.