9 things real friends do differently (keep these ones close!)

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From emotional support to practical advice, casual fun to serious conversations, different friends play important and varied roles in our lives.

But ‘real’ friends stand apart from the rest.

In this article, we’ll look at 9 things these treasured friends do differently, and why that makes them such a crucial part of our lives:

1. They’re with you through good times and bad.

You’ve likely experienced a ‘fair-weather friend’ before.

It’s someone who’s happy to hang out with you when you’re in a great mood, buying rounds of drinks, or holding awesome beach parties.

But when the difficult times roll around, they pull a startlingly effective disappearing act.

Your real friends, however, will set up a meal train to take care of you if there’s a sudden loss in the family, or if you’re struggling with a serious health issue.

They’ll take care of your kids in an emergency, offer a spare room if you need one, and won’t abandon you when things get ugly.

They’ll stand by you and protect you if you’re being mistreated.

They’re the ones who’ll help you find safe shelter and legal protection if your spouse or partner is abusive. They’ll defend you and remain true to you if others try to slander your name.

2. They’re honest with you (even blunt when needed).

Acquaintances and casual friends will offer encouragement when they admire or support your choices but will often remain silent in the face of topics that make them uncomfortable.

If you tell them about a choice you’re considering and they think it’s a Really Bad Idea, they won’t voice their true opinions for fear of causing friction.

In contrast, a true friend will tell you you’re being a complete imbecile and will try to talk you out of ruining your life by pursuing this course of action.

Whether it’s steering you away from dating someone who’s a walking red flag or offering alternatives to your dream of skydiving into a tornado, they’ll be completely honest.

Their concern for you is far greater than their concern for any backlash they may experience.   

3. They admit when they’re upset with you.

Casual friends often avoid confrontation or ill feelings by any means possible, but when a real friend is hurt by something you’ve said or done, they’ll tell you about it.

That’s because true friendship requires constant care and maintenance, just like relationships with partners, spouses, and children do.

If a conflict within a friendship isn’t resolved in a healthy, respectful manner, resentment can brew. Instead, by communicating honestly, steps can be taken to apologize and make amends.

These friendships often grow even closer after navigating muddied waters, because both parties realize they’re in it for the long haul, not just for shallow fun and silly times.

4. They encourage you to grow (even if it could mean growing apart).

When we truly care about someone, our greatest wish is for their happiness and fulfillment—even if that means they’re no longer part of our daily lives.

As such, real friends encourage you to grow and move in whatever direction is best for you, rather than selfishly trying to hold you back due to fear of loss.

For example, to avoid losing you, some friends may try to dissuade you from taking your dream job in another city.

In contrast, a real friend won’t just encourage you to follow their dreams: they’ll ask how they can help you get there.

5. They celebrate your success as if they were their own.

You know you have a real friend by your side when they’re bubbling with pride at your successes, especially if it’s something they wanted for themselves but couldn’t achieve.

People who feel insecure or unfulfilled in their own lives often put their friends down when they achieve things that they themselves wanted.

They may make disparaging or trivializing remarks so that they don’t feel so bad about not having ‘the thing’ themselves.

In contrast, a real friend won’t just hype you up if you succeed in something—they’ll celebrate right alongside you, regardless of any disappointment they feel inside.

They put their own feelings aside because they know you deserve to celebrate, and they feel blessed that they get to celebrate with you.

6. They accept you for who you are.

One of the most important—and wonderful—aspects of real friendship is unconditional acceptance.

True friends don’t try to change you into a version they think would be ‘better’ somehow. Instead, they encourage you to be as authentic as humanly possible.

Real friends encourage one another’s interests and preferences and support them instead of trying to adjust them.

And they’re accepting and encouraging as life changes occur, whether that’s due to unforeseen circumstances, personal pursuits, or uncovering parts of ourselves that were previously hidden away.

7. They call out your poor behavior.

An acquaintance may not draw attention to poor behavior on your part, but a real friend will.

In the same way that they’ll be honest with you if you hurt or disrespect them, they’ll also point out if you’re behaving disgracefully towards others.

Your real friend will pick up the piece of garbage you intentionally dropped and force you to throw it away properly or give you hell for shamefully speaking to your partner.

They’ll hold an intervention to find out why you haven’t showered or cleaned your home in months, or if you’re taking substances that are damaging you.

Real friends do difficult things because they love you, and that sometimes involves pointing out things you don’t want to hear.

8. They put in frequent effort (big and little).

Real friends make an effort.

This doesn’t mean they’re constantly doing outlandish things, but they are consistent with the time and effort they put into maintaining the friendship.

For some, this may involve near-daily texts and check-ins, even if it’s simply sending memes or videos, for others it may be monthly coffee catch-ups.

There will likely be big efforts for birthdays and other significant events, but it’s the ‘little things’ that happen in between that are often far more special.

In simplest terms, real friends take the time to show one another that they care—not that they’re simply paying lip service and showing up when there’s an open bar or cake involved.

9. They can always pick up where they left off.

If you have real friends, you’ve likely noticed that when life gets in the way, you can go for long periods without talking, and then pick up right where you left off the next time you catch up.

Sincere friendship stands the test of both time and space when both parties are invested.

The two of you might move to opposite sides of the planet, but you’ll still reach out to check in, catch up, offer support, and so on.

Your connection isn’t dependent on daily maintenance but is rather like a sturdy oak whose roots go so far down into the earth that even a hurricane couldn’t shake it loose.

About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.