Most of us will agree that friendships enrich our lives and make us happier. Additionally, research shows a positive correlation between intensity and quality of friendships and life-satisfaction, suggesting that we tend to benefit more from close associations and active social relationships that we can rely on.
Conversely, researchers also agree that a lack of close social ties can impact our well-being and life-satisfaction. As social beings, we clearly feel the need to find our tribe, since we crave human connection and the sense of belonging that we derive from true friendships. So, how does one make the cut, as it might be, to become a true friend and not just a mere acquaintance?
Most of us consider true friends as people who we can trust and rely on. Indeed, when I was down with COVID-19, some of my closest friends made it a point to supply fresh, homemade meals and remedies for me and my family members – regardless of their own shortcomings and personal situations – until I regained my strength well enough to be able to cook again.
Clearly, this is not the sole criteria for the way I define my close friendships. Some of my strongest friendships were struck in the oddest of situations, like when an acquaintance offered me timely advice during a spontaneous emotional outburst, or when I met a knowledgeable and supportive fitness enthusiast at the gym. Over time and after extensive bonding, I began to consider these individuals as my real friends as well.
Indeed, not all friendships are the same, and true friendships take shape in different ways for different people. We often attract friendships based on core traits which are important to us, like trustworthiness, honesty, etc. Jamie Gruman, author of Boost: The Science of Recharging Yourself in an Age of Unrelenting Demands describes this phenomenon as ‘relationship attraction’, wherein individuals choose their relationships based on common interests and core traits that they value the most.
While there is a distinct set of qualities that we inherently seek from close social connections, most of us have never really taken a moment to consider what these are. Chances are, you’ve also sometimes wondered if you possess the qualities to build and maintain true friendships with like-minded individuals around you.
There are several characteristics that can help us distinguish close friendships from casual social ties. Identifying the essential traits of true friendship can also help you determine the social connections that are important to you and enable you to nurture lasting friendships.
So, a true friend:
There’s no denying that we lead busy lives, and that the demands of our fast-paced lifestyle can leave us with too little time to be able to connect with friends. However, true friendships are based on the mutual desire to share experiences and spend quality time together. Close friends take a keen interest in each other’s lives. If you’re wondering if someone is a true friend, observe if they exhibit similar interest by asking questions about your day or following up on the topics discussed in previous meetings.
“True friendships are based on the mutual desire to share experiences and spend quality time together. Close friends take a keen interest in each other’s lives.”
Even if they haven’t met up in a while, real friends keep in touch via social media or messages in an effort to keep up to date regarding events in their lives. If a friend tries to maintain a close relationship with you despite the physical distance, and makes you feel heard and appreciated, they’re undoubtedly a true friend of yours. However, remember that it’s not their responsibility alone, and you should reciprocate the efforts as well to sustain the friendship.
True friends will respect your choices and judgement even when they do not necessarily agree with you, since they trust your decision-making process. If they were to disagree with you, a true friend would offer constructive criticism objectively and gracefully. Furthermore, they will refrain from taking offense or exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior if you reject their advice.
True friends accept you the way you are, and even encourage you to embrace your imperfections by bolstering your sense of self-worth and self-confidence. They believe in your wisdom and stand behind your decisions, instead of pushing you to think and act in the manner they want you to.
While all of us may have traversed a rough patch at some point in our lives and no one is exempt from difficult times, how your friends react in such situations is a great way to identify true friendship. Real friends stay with you through difficult situations like trauma, setbacks, illnesses and grief. Contrary to fair-weathered friends who tend to be around only when you’re prospering in life, a real friend is always supportive and has got your back no matter what.
A true friend will always tell you how it really is! shutterstock/CREATISTA
“Good friends show up for the tough times,” reveals Varsha Mathur, a dating and relationship coach. While it’s easy for us to count on our friends to show up for the happy occasions and milestone events like birthdays and weddings, real friends also show up for the tough times. It could mean that their presence is warranted during a funeral, the search for a lost pet, a medical appointment that’s making you anxious, or simply to clean up after everyone has left the party. In fact, the lack of steadfast support could very well be one of the signs your friend doesn’t care about you.
A true friend takes interest in your personal growth and success. What's more, they encourage you to unleash your fullest potential and achieve your goals, even in the times when you don’t fully believe you’re capable of the same. While they accept you for the way you are, they’re also your biggest cheerleaders when you succeed. Instead of trapping you in constant criticism or negativity, real friends keep you accountable along the journey towards your goals and celebrate your accomplishments – big and modest ones alike.
True friendships are based on honest communication and mutual trust. Good friends not only listen mindfully without judgment, but also believe in open, positive communication when their advice is sought. They also offer their unbiased perspective to help one view a situation from a different vantage point, albeit with kindness and while being objective.
“True friendships are based on honest communication and mutual trust. Good friends not only listen mindfully but also believe in open, positive communication when their advice is sought.”
Real friendships require us to be our authentic selves and confide in each other – even if it makes us feel vulnerable. If your friend shares their personal feelings or thoughts with you, it means that they hold you in high regard and trust your integrity. Being a true friend requires you to be able to confide in your friend as well, as this shows that you place trust in the friendship too.
An easy way to identify true friendship is to gauge how you feel when you spend time with a person. Real friends always make us feel special and valued. If you consistently feel good in their company, leave aflush with good vibes and a jovial mood after hanging out, and look forward to meeting them soon again, you likely have a true friend.
In addition to supporting each other through difficult times, true friends also help us see the positive side of an adversity, by even adding in a little humour at times. Their cheerful disposition and positive outlook can help us deal with the curveballs life tosses along our way with greater ease.
It’s important to bear in mind that everybody exhibits varying levels of these qualities in their relationships. Indeed, true friendships bring in a generous abundance of these qualities, thus enriching our lives and boosting our happiness levels and well-being. However, cultivating and exhibiting the characteristics stated above can help you identify your true friends and hone yourself into becoming a real friend as well.
Being self-aware and taking some time for some honest introspection can help you examine your own behaviors, and actions, thus enabling you to decide if you need to up your ‘friendship quotient’ to nurture true friendships. •
Main image: shutterstock/Giulio_Fornasar
Do you agree with Sonia's list of qualities of true friendship? Is there any she missed? What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below. If you're interested in discussing friendship issues further, check out our forum on friendship, love and relationships.
Fitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.
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