25 qualities of a good friend: People you can really count on

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There’s a friend in mind as I write this. She’s more sister than friend. She’s more family than my blood siblings.

How I lucked onto such an amazing human being is beyond me, but I did, and it’s wonderful.

Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful we travel the cosmos together via this big, varied Earth.

This connection wasn’t simply pulled from the ether, nor does it maintain itself by sparkles and rainbows.

There are certain qualities that must be shared in order to form the bonds of good and true friendship.

Here are 25 characteristics that make someone a great friend.

1. They are kind

You’d think this was a given for any type of human interaction, but kindness is often overlooked.

We’ve likely experienced that “bend over backwards” kind of kindness that, to be honest, makes people a little uncomfortable.

The kindness of a good friend is more the “stand with you” variety. Rather than give you the shirt off their back, they’ll make sure that both of your needs are tended to so that there’s never a need for either of you to greet the world half naked.

2. They are honest

Another of the main qualities of a good friend is that they will let you know when they’re hurt by you, confused by you, see you being foolish, and can tell when you’re hiding.

A lot of people don’t want to do any of these. It’s easier for them to hide behind “I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”

Thing is, good friends share. Even pain. Discomfort enters everywhere in life; it’d be dishonest to pretend it avoids friendship altogether.

3. They are individual

A sense of identity creates amazing bonds. Good friends aren’t trying to become you, they’re fully-realized unto themselves.

Their sense of individuality plays off your own, and even enhances areas in both of you that may have gone unnoticed before.

And while dreams, goals, and temperaments are often similar, even the best symbiotic friendships know there are times when each individual must pull away to reflect and rejuvenate on their own.

4. They are adventurous

Boredom is the absence of stimulation, be it mental, emotional, or physical stimulation.

Good friends satisfy all three of those areas; they’re adventurous in that they like to do things, think things, feel things, and share in those things with you.

This doesn’t necessarily mean mountain climbing or bungee jumping; a trip to a new restaurant will do.

The desire and willingness to experience the world is an inseparable part of friendship because it says “take my hand and let’s see what’s out there!”

5. They are playful

If not for good friends, milk would never have snorted from your nose in junior high; you wouldn’t have half as many stories about the things you did in college; half of those stories wouldn’t involve nudity in one fashion or another, and today, as adults, there’s still a chance of liquids snorting from your nose. Except now it’s wine.

Friends play with us. They make us laugh at the most inopportune moments (devils) and catching a twinkle in their eyes is like the promise of Christmas morning.

The world pretends to be a serious place, but playtime stops it dead in its tracks every time.

6. They are protective

Jimi Hendrix was probably thinking about a good friend when he came up with the lyric, “I stand up next to a mountain, I chop it down with the edge of my hand.”

Good friends aren’t protective of you in a self-interested, possessive way; they’re protective of you, all the oddly shaped, precious, intrinsic bits that make up your traveling soul, because those are the bits that truly gravitationally attract us to bright, brilliant souls.

It is a mission they take upon themselves often without knowing they’ve done so, but they’ll do it from here to eternity, whether standing up to a mountain, shielding you from impending harm, or even at times protecting you from yourself.

7. They are trustworthy

There are people we trust only as far as we see them. Those don’t make good friends.

Then there are those whom we’d place everything that makes us “us” into an egg, give it to them, and allow them to race on pogo sticks across a booby-trapped, rubble-strewn field while we sip lemonade during the wait for them to return it.

We trust our good friends to be good people. If not: splat.

8. They are nurturing

Yes, a good friend holds your hair aside for you while you perform the gutbucket serenade, but she also makes sure you’re eating enough, getting enough rest, sinking into bubble baths at least once a month, and listening wide-eyed as you recount to her your latest achievement or newfound goal.

Good friends become friends, parents, lovers, doctors, and confidants all in one without it ever seeming squicky or difficult.

9. They listen

Compassion and empathy combine to make our good friends excellent listeners because, honestly, who wants to project “Me, me, me” all the time at anyone?

It’s good to be silent and allow our friends to fill us with themselves, as they do with us.

Another key characteristic of a good friend is that they listen to your hopes, fears, questions, dreams, foolishness, musings, prattlings, and more, not out of obligation, but because they genuinely care.

10. They are helpful

A good friend has your back. Not in a pinch. Always.

If you’re tired, they take on your load. If you need help figuring something out, they’re your research partners. They neither tally nor begrudge, and if one task is done and you need them for more, they have no problem being there. Period.

11. They have clairvoyance

Perhaps not Stephen King-level clairvoyance (couldn’t hurt though), but good friends often seem to know what you need before you need it.

Miraculously, they call at just that point during your work day from hell when you’re about to fling staplers like throwing stars, then immediately you’re calm enough for one more meeting before quitting time.

Is this merely a function of knowing your moods and routines, or is a deeper connection at play? The fun in certain mysteries is in not even trying to figure them out.

12. They are optimistic but practical

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!” – Let the good times roll – is the rallying cry of friends everywhere, but it’s one that a good friend tempers with the knowledge that impermanence is part of life.

Good times end, or sometimes have to wait, but that doesn’t stop the joy of having a friend live in your heart one bit.

13. They are respectful

Respectful of you, respectful of your time, respectful of your right to make mistakes: these are hallmarks of someone worthy of being allowed into your life.

Respectful of the things you love, the things you fear, the things you avoid. Without respect, friendship slips into becoming just another of narcissism’s mirrors: you see the other as little more than an extension of you until they’re no longer useful.

14. They are fearlessly huggable

Hugs are so necessary in this life. A good friend is one who hugged you yesterday, the day before, and sees no reason why they wouldn’t today.

Everyone’s frequency varies, but living as though there’s no rule against serial hugging tends to be a win-win scenario.

15. They are open-hearted

Friendship is like an extreme sport of soul-to-soul connectivity: we’re slamming about on this Earth never knowing where we’ll bounce or who these people we bounce off of are. Extreme humaning.

It takes guts to open yourself to someone who feels as randomly placed on a planet as you do. But good friends do this. They open their hearts, bare their souls, and leave space for you to tuck away a piece of yourself in there for safekeeping.

It’s a long journey, this extreme humaning; good friends not only make the trip bearable, they transform it into a rowdy, wild, absolute delight.

16. You can be your real self around them

One of the often overlooked characteristics of a good friend is that they are accepting of who you are – the good, the bad and the ugly. Because of this, you feel totally comfortable around them and can let every little aspect of your personality out.

Whether it’s the way you do a little dance when you’re happy or the impulsive nature of your drunken self, you don’t feel the need to hold back when you’re in their company.

17. You can sit in silence without awkwardness

Following on from the ability to be yourself, another good sign of a deep friendship is your ability to share a moment or period of silence together. When a friendship is more superficial, silence is often deafening and tense, which makes it something to avoid.

I always think a good test of friendship is living together (or perhaps going on holiday together). When you spend enough time in each other’s company, there are bound to be bouts of silence and how you feel during these is an indicator of how close you are.

18. You are genuinely happy for each other when good things happen

When you see someone who has what you want, the instinctive feeling is one of envy; this holds true for most superficial friendships.

When that person is a true friend, however, you are deeply happy for them and you don’t begrudge their fortune. If they find love, you want to meet the new person in their life; if they have success in their career, you want to hear all the details; and if they buy a nice house, you can’t wait to go and visit them in it.

If you find yourself wishing you were in their shoes, or believing that they get all the luck, then they probably aren’t one of your closest friends.

19. The conversation goes beyond small talk and “catching up”

In certain company, you will feel obliged to keep the conversations light and avoid discussions that may hit personal barriers or shine a light on differences of opinions.

Another of the main qualities of a good friend, however, is that you can talk about almost anything you like. You don’t just meet up to discuss what you’ve both been up to or what you think of the latest TV show; the topic of conversation goes a lot deeper than that.

You can talk about the bigger things in life; your dreams, your fears, religion, politics, the meaning of existence. Debates are not uncommon, and they can even get a little heated, but your conversations are most certainly not drab.

20. They confront you if you are self-sabotaging

Because a real friendship is one in which you can communicate on the deepest of levels and one that embodies trust in the fullest sense, a friend will always seek to prevent you from causing yourself harm.

They are the ones who know you well enough to notice when you’re not acting yourself. They see when you’re drinking too much, not eating enough, taking reckless risks with your safety and wellbeing, jeopardizing your career, or doing something else that you’ll later regret.

As hard as it might be for them to confront you about such things, it’s a sign of a real friend that they would find it even harder to sit back and watch you capitulate.

21. They will encourage rather than disparage you for trying new things

Your hobbies, tastes, and opinions are bound to change over time and your friends will, no doubt, have something to say about it.

Those who question you for trying new things; the people who laugh at the very prospect; they are not truly your friends.

A real friend will be supportive of you and your growth as a person. Whether you are learning to salsa, volunteering for a charity in your spare time, or exploring your spiritual side, they will wholeheartedly encourage you to go for it.

And should you change your mind later on in time, they won’t be the ones saying ‘I told you so’, they will be the ones who congratulate you for giving it your best shot.

22. They will forgive you for (almost) anything

One of the most important qualities of a good friend is that they will do everything they can to forgive you when you do wrong by them. They will try to understand the reasons you acted as you did, they will talk to you about it, and they will try and help you resolve any troubles you may be facing.

That’s not to say that they will let you get away with absolutely anything. It is possible to destroy friendships with a single act, no matter how true and deep they are.

They may well forgive you for what you have done even if they decide that it is best to part ways.

23. You are genuinely excited to see them

Have you ever arranged to meet up with a so-called friend, but secretly hoped that they would cancel? If so, it’s likely that you don’t really count them as one of your close friends.

When you plan to see a real friend, on the other hand, you get mentally and physically excited by the prospect. And if they have to cancel for any reason, you feel bitterly disappointed by it.

24. You do not feel guilty about turning down an invitation from them

As strange as it may sound, if you’re feeling a sense of guilt when you don’t want to go to a friend’s event, you may not be as close as you think.

Chances are that you’ll be worried how they may take your rejection and what they’ll think of you because of it. You suspect that they may begrudge you or find some sort of insult in it and this is what will cause the guilty feelings. It may even push you into doing things that you’d rather not do – hardly a trait of friendship.

Conversely, when a true friend invites you to something and you feel the need to decline, there is always a sense that they will understand unconditionally. You know, deep down, that they won’t hold it against you or feel any differently about you or your friendship.

25. You feel comfortable enough to ask them a favor

Relating closely back to the point on someone’s willingness to help, if you would be happy to ask someone for a favor, there’s every chance you consider that person a close friend.

This is because you are confident that they will do whatever they can to assist you and because should they not be able to help, you won’t take it as a rejection. If you ask a more casual acquaintance for a favor and they say no, you may well be left wondering what their reasons are.

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