Our friends are an important part of our lives. Our friends keep us grounded, make us laugh, and inspire us to be our best selves. While having lots of friends (especially on social media) may seem like the ideal situation, the real gift is having a true friend. A true friend can change our lives for the better.

I know this from personal experience because I had it happen in my own life. I met my best friend when I was 13 and 44 years later we are still best friends. She is a true friend who I know will always be there for me (and me for her).

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So what defines a true friend? These 12 key characteristics are a good start. Let’s dive in.

1. A true friend is supportive

With a true friend, you know they have your back. A true friend is supportive.

They check on you when you are sick and help out where they can. They comfort you through relationship and family conflicts and listen to you when you talk about your problems with your boss.

Everyone needs support and a true friend provides the best support of all.

In the book, Frientimacy – How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness, by author Shasta Nelson you can learn about the 3 elements of the friendship triangle – positivity, consistency, and vulnerability. This book can help you nurture and strengthen your friendships.

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2. A true friend listens to you (as in really listens)

When we are talking to our friends we listen to them but a true friend really listens.

A true friend thinks about how a particular experience feels for the friend telling the story. A lot of the time when people are talking to us, we tend to think about how we would feel in the situation, not how the person we are talking to feels.

We tend to view things through our own experiences and life stories.

You can tell a true friend has been listening by how they follow up with you. If you have a job interview coming up, a family member or more casual friend might ask how it went afterward but a true friend will remember a conversation where you expressed a specific fear or vulnerability about the interview and ask how that part went. A true friend will remember the small details (because they know that stuff is important to you).

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3. The friendship is balanced

One-sided relationships suck. Being in a one-sided relationship is no fun at all.

One-sided relationships can make us feel like we are doing all the work. They can make us feel like we are chasing someone who doesn’t seem to be all that interested in us.

Whilst it’s perfectly normal that one person may be going through a hard time in their life and need more attention and support than the other, it’s not ideal for that situation to be a constant in the relationship.

Ultimately in a good friendship, all that being there for each other balances out in the end.

An excellent book on friendship is How to Break Up With Your Friends: Finding Meaning, Connection, and Boundaries in Modern Friendships by Erin Falconer. I’m really enjoying this book which is fundamentally about nurturing our friendships. However, there is a chapter on how to break up with a friend, so if your relationship is totally unbalanced and you think the friendship might be at an end then this book is for you.

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4. They are respectful

A true friend treats you with respect. This includes respecting you, your home, your possessions, your work, and your other close personal relationships.

It can also mean respecting your choices (which let’s face it, isn’t always the easiest thing).

Forgiveness is also a part of respect. We all make mistakes. We all screw up in life and our true friends forgive us for that.

Related post –  10 Life-Changing Quotes on Forgiveness

5. A true friend shows they care through their actions

Telling someone you love them is the easy part. They are just words after all.

It’s showing people you love them that can be the hard part. But not with a true friend.

You don’t have to question whether a true friend cares for you because you know. You know because of their actions. You know because their actions are showing you how much you mean to them.

6. They stick around for the tough times

A true friend isn’t just there for fun times and laughter. They are there for the tough times as well.

When we struggle a true friend can be our guiding light out of the darkness. Their support and comfort can make a huge difference in our lives. Even when we are going through a tough time, a true friend can add an element of positivity and inspiration to our lives.

While we don’t want our friendships just to be about getting each other through difficult times (there has to be some fun in there as well), a true friend doesn’t bail the minute things start to get hard.

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7. They celebrate each other’s success

A true friend is not intimated by another friend’s success. Instead, a true friend is joyful and happy when their friend succeeds.

A good friend will help you celebrate, cheer you on when you hit a roadblock, and brainstorm ideas with you where they can.

If they are feeling any envy (we are all human after all) a true friend keeps it in check so that it doesn’t affect the friendship. They show genuine happiness because they are genuinely happy for their friend.

Related post – Does Other People’s Success Make You Feel Bad About Yourself?

8. They are trustworthy

You can trust a true friend. They keep confidences. If you tell them a secret, they don’t go running around town telling everyone.

Another element of being trustworthy is that they do what they say they will do.

If you make a plan to meet for dinner, they turn up. If they have to cancel an appointment (which let’s face it, we all do occasionally), they let you know with as much notice as possible. They don’t just leave you hanging time after time.

With a true friend you know they won’t bail on you, they won’t ditch you for a better offer, and they won’t make up lousy excuses or downright lies to justify flaking on you.

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9. They balance their judgment with respect

You might be thinking but that’s not right, my best friends don’t judge me!

I know a lot of people probably think that but let’s be honest for a moment, humans by nature are judgmental.

The difference with a true friend is that they balance any judgment they are feeling with respect and love. This generally means they keep their judgments to themselves.

Let’s look at a scenario. When your friend takes back the person who cheated on them, you might be secretly thinking ‘what the hell are they doing?’ That’s judgment. But you respect your friend’s choice and support them.

If it happens again, that can lead to a different situation which takes us to the next point.

10. They tell you the truth (even when it’s hard)

A true friend is going to be the one who sometimes tells you the blunt, hard truth. And yes, some of it might be stuff that you aren’t too keen on hearing.

When they are a true friend, telling the truth won’t blow up the relationship. It might foster some uncomfortable deep conversations and openness. There may be raised voices and some tears but also a lot of understanding and compassion. There may be some of that forgiveness that we talked about earlier.

While all of the above might sound challenging, it leads to a deeper connection. That’s the beauty of a true friend, those rocky moments make your connection stronger.

Friendship, where conflict is completely avoided, might sound ideal, but usually, it just means that one person is unwilling or too afraid to fully engage in the relationship. Pretending everything is okay is definitely not the same as having a solid relationship.

Related postHow to Have Those Hard Conversations

11. You can be yourself around them

You can be yourself around a true friend.

No putting up walls, pretending to be something you are not, or trying to impress someone to feel better about yourself. Just you being your wonderful, flawed, amazing self and proud of it.

You can laugh, cry, be sad, be joyful, be overwhelmed, or whatever other emotions you are feeling and feel safe while feeling them.

Related post – How to Stop Lying to Yourself About Your Actions and Feelings

12. They grow with you as a person

One of the reasons our friendships sometimes end or fade out is because we outgrow our friendships.

This isn’t about being (or feeling) superior to other people.

It can simply be a case of outgrowing a relationship. Two friends might be on completely different paths that lead them in a very different direction from each other.

Often our friendships end because our values change over time.

Brendon Burchard has a good YouTube video about the 3 Kinds of Friends and Why Growth Friends Matter Most.

A true friend is an absolute treasure in our lives. They make us feel seen, heard, and loved and that connection is what life is all about. A true friend can make all the difference and every single one of us can be one.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please share the friendship love on social media. 🙂

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