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What Makes a Good Friend?

How one treats another person should be more important than looks or income.

Key points

  • While there is no perfect person, some personalities will work better with others in friendships, and this is OK.
  • While we all look for different qualities in a friend, there are some essential qualities most of us want, including kindness and compassion.
  • A good friend is someone who you can be yourself with, and around whom your mood improves.

Think about your best friend. What makes them your best friend; the friend above all others? Maybe you have several best friends. In childhood, it might have seemed easier to make friends, but in adulthood, it can feel quite difficult at times. I once asked a young client what made her best friend the "best" of her friends. Her answer? "Because we both love the color pink." Seemed logical to me.

Source: Hữu Thanh Cái/Pixabay
Source: Hữu Thanh Cái/Pixabay

Some of us have had many good friends, even if some lasted for only a while. I have not had the luxury of having the same best friend for my whole life, but I have had many good friends along the way who I credit for teaching me what a good friend is, each one entering my life when I needed them.

While specific personality traits might differ from person to person, here are some of the qualities most of us look for in a friend:

  1. They show empathy and basic kindness. Some people are naturally programmed to respond in a compassionate way, while for others, this approach is not always easy. We all exist on different areas of the empathy spectrum, but look for, at least, a minimum understanding of basic kindness and understanding. Treating others with respect should be the bare minimum.
  2. You feel good when you are with them. A good friend is someone who you can be yourself with, and around whom your mood improves. They make you feel good about yourself and who you are.
  3. They are willing to apologize and admit when they’re wrong. The ability to admit to shortcomings is a highly undervalued quality in a person. A lot of growth can come from the ability to admit when one is wrong and to apologize accordingly. It shows maturity, compassion, and high self-esteem. The ability to admit when there is an area that we do not know enough about, or perhaps need to reexamine, makes us more agreeable. In my experience, this level of maturity improves with age. Disagreements or personality conflicts are an inevitable part of being human, so it's essential to find a friend who can handle this with grace and maturity.
  4. They have time for you. In today’s era of constant availability, it can be difficult to imagine not being easily accessible. However, if you find that the person is not responding to messages or calls, or seems to never have time for you, this might be a sign that they are not able to be a good friend to you right now, for whatever reason. Know your worth and when you are not being fully valued. If you feel ignored or pushed aside, this is a clue that the person might not have enough time for you or might not share the same desire for time together. Having differing priorities than ours does not make the other person unhealthy, but it will improve the chances of our connecting on a deeper level while decreasing the need for unnecessary pain or arguments if they are more aligned.
  5. They are trustworthy and reliable. This is very important. Pay attention to how you feel around this person emotionally and physically. Do you feel like you can be yourself, complete with your opinions and desires? Someone who cares about you will be there when they say they will and hold themselves accountable to promises made. They will follow through, and you can rely on them.
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