11 Qualities Of A Good Friend + What To Watch Out For, From Therapists
Our friends are our chosen family, so it's important to choose wisely. But what really makes a good friend? And further, what are the glaring red flags that warn someone isn't actually a good friend at all?
Here are the qualities to look for in a good friend, plus qualities to watch out for, according to relationship experts.
11 qualities of a good friend:
You like being around them.
First things first: You will like being around a truly good friend. That may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people don't actually realize they feel bad around certain people. It's important that your friendships feel warm and fun, according to relationship expert Ken Page, LCSW, because that fun and playful aspect creates feelings of belonging and safety.
It'll be easy to laugh and have fun with a good friend, licensed marriage and family therapist Tiana Leeds, M.A., LMFT, adds, and further, "Deep conversations also come easily and leave you feeling nurtured and filled up."
Further, she adds, there will simply be a natural click with good friends. "When the chemistry is there, conversation flows, there is playfulness, and you can let your guard down. Looking at whether someone has the qualities of a good friend is important, but go beyond the checklist and trust your gut to make sure there is also friend chemistry—this is what leads to finding friends who are truly kindred spirits," Leeds explains.
They boost you up.
Good friends support you and lift you up when you're down, with Page noting they can be our biggest champions. And as Leeds says, "A good friend is also someone who is committed to their own growth and encourages growth in you," adding that they won't feel jealous or competitive with you, and they'll inspire you to be the fullest version of yourself.
They're there for you.
When the going gets tough, good friends get going. Just like our romantic relationships require effort, maintenance, and care, so, too, do our friendships. As Page puts it, being a good friend requires choice after choice to elevate the importance of your friendship.
"It's this unconditional sense of being there for them, even when you see your friend acting out the same mistakes again and again," he says. Whether they're a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or simply an overall positive force in your life, good friends are there for you when you need them.
They share in your happiness and pain.
The best friends in our lives are the ones who can celebrate our wins with us but also share in our pain. Page says you know you've got a good friend when you accomplish something and can tell your friend is truly happy for you. "They feel pride for you, they feel joy for you, and they celebrate with you—and a true friend will also hurt for you when you're hurting," he explains, adding that in the hardest times, having good friends to cushion our landing is so essential.
They're honest with you.
There's a difference between being supportive and enabling certain behaviors. While a good friend will help see you through hard times, you'll also be able to trust in their honesty with you. Or as Page puts it, "You can trust your friend to be kind but also be truthful."
And what's more, a good friend can also remind you when you're acting out the same old patterns in your job, relationship, family, etc.—because in plain terms, they know you well enough to call you on your BS. "In long-term friendships, you see the long arcs of patterns, and so good friends are invaluable because they can point this stuff out," Page explains.
You can be your truest self around them.
We all need people we feel we can really be ourselves around—no phoniness, no social mask, and no pretending. As Leeds tells mindbodygreen, good friends are trustworthy, understanding, and supportive, so in their presence, you'll be comfortable to show up authentically, which further leads to relaxation and a sense of belonging. "Typically," she adds, "those who have the qualities of a good friend offer a high level of openness, integrity, and acceptance."
And as psychotherapist Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, Rh.D., CHt, previously told mindbodygreen, "Being able to have fun and share special memories are the result of having a trusting relationship that feels safe."
They're emotionally mature.
Good friends have the emotional maturity to understand healthy conflict resolution and general relationship maintenance, with Leeds noting that people who make good friends typically have an emotional depth, safety, and authenticity to them. Especially in long-term friendships, there will undoubtedly come a time when you butt heads—but that won't send a true friend running.
"Just like in a romantic relationship, you have to cultivate friendship," Page explains, mentioning a quote from Marianne Williamson where she says, As I grow emotionally, my friends become more like lovers—and my lovers become more like friends.
They make time for you.
No one wants to be friends with a total flake, and one basic necessity of a good friend is that they make time for you. Tying back to the idea of general friendship maintenance, Page explains that a good friend will be there for you even when it's not convenient for them and requires their physical or emotional availability.
And as Leeds adds, good friends are also great listeners and skilled communicators. "They show up to the friendship with consistency, kindness, and nonjudgment, [...] putting in effort and prioritizing spending time together," she explains, adding that they'll also be willing to take responsibility for their share of the friendship (i.e., initiating plans and reaching out to check in).
You can trust and be vulnerable with each other.
Quality friendships have a high degree of trust, openness, and vulnerability. You probably wouldn't want to pair up with an emotionally unavailable partner, and the same ought to be true for our friends. They'll be willing to get vulnerable and share truths with you (and you'll feel like you can do the same), Page explains, whether they open up about their relationship, family, or a tough time they're going through.
There's an equal give and take.
Friendships can become one-sided when there isn't a balance of effort and care between both people, but a good friendship will feel reciprocal. As Leeds tells mindbodygreen, you'll feel a balance between being supportive and supported, with good friends having a generosity of spirit that prevents the relationship from slipping into one-sidedness.
They make you feel validated and seen.
Last but certainly not least, good friends will make you feel seen, understood, and validated. In some cases, Page says, they can even remind you of your best qualities when you're feeling down about yourself. "Our friends can instruct us around who we are and our deepest gifts when we don't see them ourselves," he explains. "They appreciate and point out and recognize these gifts, so that's another deep gift of friendship—there are some ways we wouldn't even know ourselves if our friends didn't help us see," he adds.
5 signs of a bad friend:
They don't respect you.
Mutual respect is a fundamental key to any healthy relationship, including friendships. Whether your friend disrespects your boundaries, your time, your efforts, or is just generally self-centered, that's not a good friend, according to Leeds.
And as Page adds, an unhealthy friendship is one where your friend's feelings of jealousy or envy are so strong that they can't feel happy for you, or they may not empathize when you're upset, instead just telling you what you're doing wrong, he notes. Overall, the respect just isn't there, and they don't make you feel good to be around.
They're a fair-weather friend.
A fair-weather or one-sided friend is one who only seems to want to hang out when it benefits them in some way. But when you need them? They're nowhere to be found. As Page notes, these friends can be fun to have for certain activities in some instances, but they should be considered in your outer circle, not your innermost one.
Manipulation is never a sign of anything positive, so if your friend engages in bullying, guilt tripping, possessiveness, sabotaging, gaslighting, blaming, or any other number of manipulative tactics, watch out. As psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, Ph.D., LMFT, previously told mindbodygreen, toxic friends "may place blame on you, like everything is always your fault, and you're to blame for everything in the relationship."
Keep your eye out for excessive gossiping, as well. According to Leeds, "Some gossip is normal in most friendships, but if gossip takes on a large role or feels mean-spirited, this is a sign that this person is likely talking about you behind your back too, which will erode the emotional safety in the relationship."
They drag you down.
If good friends boost you up, bad friends tear you down. Page explains that it's a major sign of a bad friend if you don't feel truly supported by them, they're competitive with you, or they simply don't feel good to be around.
"Other qualities to be wary of," Leeds adds, "are not feeling aligned with your friend's values, dishonesty, and if they are critical or frequently very negative." She explains that friends with these qualities will likely drag you down, and if you have to contort who you are in the friendship, "it's fair to assume that you are not comfortable with your friend [or] they are judgmental or not understanding."
They're emotionally immature.
Emotional maturity is required to maintain any healthy relationship, and friendships are no exception. According to Nuñez a toxic friend will always find a way to circle the conversation back to themselves, for instance, or they'll find a way to blame you for everything.
And as Page tells mindbodygreen, emotionally immature people will have a hard time getting vulnerable or even working through issues in the friendship, which will make it very difficult to sustain.
What are 5 signs of a good friend?
Five key signs of a good friend include a natural chemistry between the two of you, reciprocal effort and support in the relationship, and authenticity, empathy, and trust.
What makes someone a bad friend?
A bad friend is someone who is disrespectful, competitive, jealous, self-absorbed, lacks empathy, and generally doesn't make you feel good to be around.
What makes a friendship strong?
A strong friendship requires authenticity, openness, trust, vulnerability, empathy, and reciprocal effort, support, and care.
We tend to give a whole lot of thought to what we want in a partner, but figuring out what we want in our friends is just as important to our overall well-being and life satisfaction. As Leeds says, we are deeply influenced by those we are close to, "so look for friends who inspire you to be the fullest version of yourself."
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.