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What is a True Friend? The 18 Key Characteristics of Real Friends

We all need friends, but sometimes it’s hard to know the good from the bad. So, what is a true friend and exactly what is a best friend too? 

What is a True Friend

You can blame social media, the internet, or whatever you want, but it seems that friendship is not what it used to be. All too often we see fallouts, publicly played out on social media, and we see friends who have known each other for years never speak again over something small and petty. We’re left wondering, what is a true friend? And, what happened to the concept of having a very best friend of all? These days, we ask what is a best friend because we’re not entirely sure if those around us are true or whether they’re hiding another agenda.

The bottom line is that we all need friends.

You might think you can get by alone, or with just your partner, but having friends in your life makes everything so much better. They’re a support system, a source of joy, and you feel wonderful when you help them out too.

Of course, that doesn’t mean having an army of friends; just a select few can be all you need.

[Read: Good friends are like stars – 18 ways to build lasting friendships]

What is happening to our view of friendship?

You might look back and wonder where your friendships disappeared to. It’s normal for friendships to wane and even end as your life ticks on. But, friendship isn’t just being there. It’s about many other things too.

For instance, friendship is about trust. You might have had a large circle of friends at school, but as you grew up and moved away from the school situation, you might have realized that many of them couldn’t be trusted or didn’t seem committed to the friendship.

It’s sad to lose friends, but it teaches you a very important lesson. True friendship is something to hold onto. Even if you only have one true friend in your life, you’re blessed. When you’ve been through a drama with someone you thought was a friend, you start to question ‘what is a true friend?’ [Read: Real friends vs fake friends – 13 ways to instantly tell them apart]

How many true friends do you think you have in your life? If you’re not sure, break it down: what is a best friend? What characteristics and features make up this elusive creature? Let’s explore and allow you to come to your own *probably quite painful* conclusion. [Read: How to surround yourself with positive people]

What is a true friend?

To find out what a true friend really is, we came up with these important characteristics

1. Someone who is trustworthy

What is a true friend? Someone you can trust with your life. This is your ride or die. Someone who you know will be beside you, someone who you know you can tell anything to and it won’t be repeated. This is precious, and something quite scarce these days. [Read: 5 unique traits that make a person trustworthy]

2. A person who really listens

Of course, friendship works both ways, but a true friend is someone who listens to you and really understands not only what you’re saying verbally, but what you’re not saying too.

This person will know you inside out and read your body language, your tone of voice, speed of speech, etc. They’ll take the words you’re using and bring it all together into one realistic conclusion. That’s a special skill only a true friend has. [Read: What makes a good friend? The art of honing and improving your own friendship skills]

3. You know if you need them, they’ll be there

Need to bury a body at 3 am? Hopefully not, but you get the picture. This is someone who will be there for you when you’re in trouble, when you’re upset, when you’re hurting, and when you’re sick.

A true friend may not be there for you in person at all times, because it’s important to remember that they have their own lives.

But they will be there for you on the other end of the phone, and if they need to drop everything, they will. Of course, you should do the same for them. [Read: 15 qualities of a good friend that sets them apart from the lesser ones]

4. Someone who is understanding

Far too many people are closed-minded. They believe their view is the only one. Nothing else exists.

If you dare to have another opinion, you’re wrong. If you’re asking ‘what is a best friend’, it’s not them. A true friend is someone who can see your point of view and they do their best to understand it from your side, even if it’s not what they believe in or agree with.

5. They’re not afraid of tough love

True friendship isn’t about always agreeing and telling each other what you want to hear. It’s about having the guts to call them out and tell them when they’re wrong, when something looks stupid, or when they’re being ridiculous.

It might sting, but it’s always done with your best intentions at heart. That is the difference between a good friend and a flaky one. [Read: Being brutally honest – 13 scenarios when it’s an obligation]

6. They’ve got your back, even when you’re not there

Someone talking trash behind your back? Your true friend will call them out and deal with it, defending you even when you’re not there to defend yourself. That is loyalty. And it’s one of the biggest traits to tick off your list. [Read: How to be a good friend by following the BFF code]

7. You talk ‘just because’

Many ‘friends’ only call when they want something or when they’re bored. A true friend calls ‘just because.’ This means sitting and chatting about nothing, but enjoying every second of it. It simply means that you enjoy the time you spend together. Whether you are doing something epic or nothing at all.

8. They know you’re not perfect, and they don’t care

Many people waste their time looking for the perfect friend. They don’t exist, because a perfect person doesn’t exist. A true friend knows your faults. They accept them and love you for them. You do the same for them.

In the age of social media *so-called* perfection, everyone seems to be looking for the best-looking squad, or a team who can get them where they want to go. Isn’t that all very superficial and selfish? [Read: How to be perfect in everything you do and lead a fulfilling life]

9. You might not talk for a while, but you know they’re there

True friends don’t have to talk every single day. You might talk just once or twice per week, perhaps. At certain times, it might even stretch longer than that.

It doesn’t mean you’re losing touch. It means you’re living our lives, but you’re always there for each other when needed. Life ebbs and flows. A true friend understands that.

10. You laugh together over literally nothing

If you find yourself laughing about small things for no reason other than you feel like it, you share a friendship vibe that can’t be replaced. Silly moments are the glue that holds a friendship together in so many ways, and true friends have many of them!

11. Time might change, but they don’t

As time ticks on, people change a little. Their priorities alter and you might find that their personalities do too. A true friend might have life changes, but they stay the same when they’re with you. Your friendship remains static, always supportive, and always there, whether you’re far apart or side by side. [Read: The 15 qualities that set a good friend apart]

12. They don’t question or belittle you

What is a true friend? Someone who accepts you for you who are and what you believe. They don’t question your actions unless they believe it’s going to cause you harm.

A true friend never belittles your choices. Instead, they support you and lift you up. If you fall, they help cushion the blow.

13. They’re your biggest cheerleader

What is a best friend? Someone who will always cheer for you when you need a little pep talk. They’re someone who will encourage you to be the best you can be.

If you decide you’re going to take a class in something new, they’re the ones who will allow you to practice on them! Basically, they want you to do well, they’re always there cheering for you. [Read: How to make someone happy – 20 ways to help them sparkle]

14. They don’t remind you of your mistakes

We all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. A true friend forgives and forgets when the apology has been given. If you upset your friend in the past and you apologized for it. It’s done. They won’t regularly drag up the past and throw it back at you for ammunition in the middle of a disagreement. They don’t highlight your flaws either, they focus on the positives instead.

15. They don’t show jealousy

If you have a friend and they hate you being around other friends, they’re not true. A real friend won’t become jealous of you spending time with other people because they’re secure in the friendship that you have.

If anything, they think it’s great you have a wider circle because they know how important friendships are. [Read: How to not be jealous – An easy guide for the overly envious]

16. They compromise when they need to

This point is something that works both ways. A true friend will compromise to make things right.

That doesn’t mean they push things that need talking about to one side or pretend something isn’t happening. It means they appreciate the friendship and know that some things just aren’t worth risking it for. But of course, it also means that you need to compromise in return and meet them halfway.

17. They’re loyal

What is a true friend? Someone who is loyal and never causes you to question their loyalty. They will be by your side no matter what. And, even though they might always agree with what you do, they’ll remain loyal regardless. This isn’t someone who is going to disagree with you and then part ways. [Read: 18 honest reasons why you don’t have friends that care about you]

18. They don’t allow relationships to get in the way

Far too many friendships have been ruined when one friend ends up in a relationship. The other person either feels left out *with or without good reason* or they don’t like the person their friend has partnered up with.

This can often cause major problems and may even lead to the end of their friendships. A true friend doesn’t allow relationships to get in the way. You’re friends whether you’re single or coupled up.

How many good friends do you have?

Hopefully, you’ll have read that list of characteristics and realized that you have more true friends than you thought. If not, don’t worry. Nobody can have an army of true friends. These are the types of friends that are rare yet extremely special. If you only have one, you’re luckier than most! 

[Read: How to recognize a fake best friend before you get betrayed or hurt]

What is a true friend to you? Is it someone who encompasses these characteristics, or do you have a few others to add to the list? 

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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