You want to be the life of the party, surrounded by friends and acquaintances who want to be closer to you. But while short-term connections are easy to come by, learning how to be a good friend is something plenty of people struggle with. That's because friendship isn't just a matter of being likable and knowing the most people. There's more to it than just being popular!
Being a good friend starts with genuine care and effort. It starts with a bond built on trust and understanding, and transforms into a genuine connection where you are there for someone through life’s highs and lows. The secret to being a good friend is honesty and compassion through life’s many trials.
Studies about Modern Friendships
There’s a shortage of good friends these days, either because people are way more isolated than before or because you search in the wrong pond.
“One out of every four of us is walking around with no one to share our lives with.” – Says Matthew D. Lieberman in his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
The numbers Lieberman mentioned in his book were part of a 20-year study that started between 1985 and 2004 in which participants were asked about how many people with whom they can freely discuss important personal matters. In 1985, only 10% of the participants said they had zero close friends. But, in 2004, the number almost tripled as one of every four participants (25%) said they don’t have close friends at all.
And, you know what’s even worse?
This was almost 20 years ago which probably means that almost half of our generation is lonely and doesn’t have true friends.
This can be as bad as cancer in some cases.
Sounds like an exaggeration?
Studies have shown that having no friends is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes every day and is twice as harmful to one’s well-being as obesity. No matter how advanced we’ve become with technology, there’s no substitute for friends. Life is hard, and part of dealing with it is having a strong support system that helps you out through thick and thin. And because reciprocity is one of the universe’s standing laws, you need to be a good friend first so you can attract friends of the same caliber.
That’s what I’m about to show you in this article. How to be a good friend and what to look for before choosing a best friend. And, let’s start with the first one…
How to Be a Good Friend
Finding the right friends, and building strong relationships take time but, as I said earlier, it’s totally worth it. In the following two sections, I will show you how to be a good friend along with the qualities you should look for in a friend. But before we start, let’s just cover a major topic that very few pay attention to which is the quality of your friends.
Before learning how to be a good friend, you must pick the right people first
Before knowing how to be a good friend you first need to decide who should be your friend. You shouldn’t just let anyone be your best friend. Not everyone is cut out for that role. Don’t stick your hands down the trash and pick a disloyal downer then try to be a good friend to him. Picking your friends and picking your partner are the two most important decisions you’ll ever make relationship-wise. So, choose wisely. You don’t want people who’ll bring you down. You want to surround yourself with friends who will bring out the best in you.
First, you need to trust your gut.
If someone doesn’t seem like a good person, then he probably isn’t. No one will change for you. If everyone says Jack is a nut job then don’t go befriend him then come back crying. A man’s reputation is all he has, so try to look for thoughtful, trustworthy people who will add to your life and be there for you, or at the very least won’t stab you in the back.
Second, you must understand that there are friends for different occasions. There are good friends, occasional friends and there are “real buddies.” The first are people with whom you have mutual admiration but don’t talk as often. The second are friendly neighbors and coworkers, or friends of your friends. You just happen to be in the same social circle, but your friendship isn’t that tight. You can grab a drink together but your friendship barely scratches the surface. The third one is your buddies. The ones who know your deepest secrets and the ones you don’t filter yourself around. You should never let anyone into this circle without deep filtration.
Get a pen and paper, list down the qualities you want in your friends, and look for those with the same values and goals as yours. It takes work, but it’s a necessary process if you want good lifetime friends.
Do you want a friend who goes with you through thick and thin?
Then be one.
You attract who you are, and if you appreciate trust, you will attract like-minded friends.
But first, you need to be trustworthy because it’s the foundation of any strong relationship. You can’t be vulnerable and show your true self around backstabbers who’ll use everything you say to hurt you later. And you shouldn’t make a buddy out of some guy if you don’t believe they will be there for you when the going gets tough
A good friend should be honest and reliable. They should live up to their promises and be there for you when you need them.
Don’t talk about yourself all the time
Nobody likes a needy, self-absorbed person, especially a man. Women can afford to be needy. But men must be grounded and calm. So, don’t always be emotional around your friends and hijack every opportunity to talk. This isn’t the right way to communicate with a friend. People need friends to vent and talk about themselves. If you’re the one always talking, this means you’re denying your friend the exact same benefit they befriended you for.
Pick up the phone
Don’t stay out of the picture for so long then get mad that your friends have changed on you. They say “Far from the eye, far from the heart.” To build deep bonds with people, you need to stay on each other’s radar at least verbally.
People get busy as they grow older. Some people may actually like you, but they have too much on their plate and they barely have time to hang out with old friends. Contact them. One of you should, or else the friendship will fall apart. So, take it upon yourself to be the one who picks up the phone and makes plans. The more you do this with your friends, the more of a leader they will see you and the bigger your social circle will be.
Gossiping can be fun sometimes, but too much of it makes you unworthy of people’s trust and will make you look like you don’t have a life and you’re trying to fill an inner void by talking about other people. It’s even worse when the one you’re gossiping about is a dear friend.
People also gossip. So, don’t expect your friends won’t know you’ve talked behind their backs. Someone will eventually tell them and you’ll lose their trust.
Give them space when they need it
Spending so much time with your friends is as bad as not seeing them at all. We all look forward to the times we spend with our friends especially as we get older and loaded with responsibilities. But, try to see your buddies every day for two weeks and you’ll nag like couples.
Because you’ll build so much familiarity that you’ll get bored of one another. There’s no sense of newness or anticipation anymore. Your conversation will become stale and repetitive and you’ll hate each other as you get on each other’s nerves consistently. Plus, the more time you dedicate to your pals, the less time you’ll give to your wife, kids, work, and other relationships.
Have proper hygiene
Not all your friends will be gym rats and underwear models, but at least they should have the basics of good hygiene. Some people are really nice and helpful. But their terrible cleanliness makes it hard for others to stick around for too long – and I’m not talking here about messy hair and baggy pants. I’m talking about stinky breaths, public farts and not showering for weeks.
A good friend should make you proud. We love to associate ourselves with celebrities and important people because it makes us look good. I have a friend who can’t stop talking about the time he shook hands with Tom Cruise in the elevator. Why? Because we love to brag about our friends, yours should make you look better.
Know when to give advice
Some people care so much about their loved ones, they keep showering them with advice on how and why they should change their life.
People don’t need you to tell them how to solve their problems. They already know what they’re bad at and what they need to do. Maybe they’re too weak to change, but since when did words change someone?
I’m the best to talk about this topic because it’s who I am. I’m the type of man who wants his friends and family to be and do their best. And, I used to give so much advice all the time…
But, I noticed that:
- Nobody actually listened or changed. In fact, bombarding people with options and solutions may confuse them
- I started to sound boring. No one wants to be with someone who constantly reminds them of how much they suck in life
Don’t be a broken radio. Your words and tips are valuable when they’re scarce and when people ask for them. Constantly trying to change people – even if you have good intentions – won’t make them take any action but listen to you less or cut you off from their circle.
We all like to be unfiltered around our closest friends AND do and say what we want even If IT includes swearing and making fun of each other.
But that should stay between both of you.
You should never show your dirty laundry to other people or make a friend, a material for your jokes. Some people will accept being treated this way, but the majority won’t. And, they will resent you for it.
Be generous with them
Three words: Unexpected, personal gifts
Gift giving isn't everyone's love language, but it's one way to show someone you care. It's an easy way to tell someone, "Hey, this thing reminded me of you" or "I know you well enough to know that you'd like this little gift." That shows genuine effort and care, which in turn makes you a great friend.
Give them space when they need it
We’ve learned that to be a good friend you should be there for your buddies through thick and thin. But what if they need some space? What if they’re feeling bad about something and they don’t want to talk about it? What if they just lost someone or their job and need some alone time to grieve…. Should you leave them alone or push them into a conversation?
You should do both. But you should be quick to give your friend some air when they say so and not take it personally. When someone tells you they need time to think about something or they can’t talk about a certain topic, don’t assume it’s because of you.
We all go through moments when all we want is just to sit down and stare at the ceiling, and we don’t want our friends to nag us about our problems or remind us of how bad we suck. In fact, by stepping back they show us how much they respect our boundaries which encourages us to come back to them when we’re in a much better headspace.
Don’t be a downer
Negative people seem to be more intelligent than positive people, according to studies, but who cares if you seem to suck the energy out of every living soul you meet? We go out with friends to cheer up and throw stress behind us, and putting people down and making them feel like the sun won’t rise again hurts everyone, especially you.
Accept their imperfections
None of your friends are perfect, and neither are you. So, look for “good enough” friends, and don’t be quick to cut all ties with someone just because you don’t like his style or because he doesn’t go out so much.
Don’t mess with their girl
This should be pretty obvious. You don’t get involved with your friend’s chick no matter how hot she is or how bad he treats her. This is the quickest way to lose a guy. Plus, you’ll never fully trust the girl because, after all, she’s already betrayed another guy for you.
Keep contact with your friend’s women – be it a sister or a love partner – to the bare minimum. The world has over 3.5 billion women, and you’ll eventually find someone better. This fling isn’t worth losing a friend for.
Respect their boundaries
Your friends’ boundaries can be as simple as:
Not being called certain names
Not speaking about certain, sensitive topics
Or not showing up at their place uninvited
Some of these relationship rules might be silly to you, but they’re important to other people, and your role as a good friend is to respect those rules and act accordingly, or else people won’t like being around you. Recognize their triggers and avoid what drives them crazy. This is not about avoiding conflicts altogether. It’s about not creating unnecessary drama and making people hate you one conflict at a time.
Show up physically and emotionally
Keep your promises (big and small)
Be on time
Remember their important dates and events
Offer help when you can
And, carry their best interests in mind
It’s as simple as that.
Qualities of a Good Friend
So, we’ve already discussed how to maintain a good friendship and make people like you. Now, in this section, I will show you the six must-have qualities of a good friend that you need to look for before calling someone your buddy. These qualities should also be part of your identity so you don’t attract losers and evil people into your life. Here they are:
He celebrates your wins as if they were his
It’s easy to stay faithful when your friends share the same level of success with you. Yet, it’s how you react when they succeed or climb up the social ladder that defines your friendship.
One of the findings about happy relationships that Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky from the Department of Psychology at the University of California, has found is one’s ability to celebrate others’ wins as if they were his. In her book, The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does, Lyubomirsky explains that intimate relationships are judged not by being there when the other person is down, but by how we react to their good news.
It’s having genuine enthusiasm and delight towards your friend’s wins that make you a good buddy because it goes against our innate need of being the best.
He gives you a safe spot to share your deepest thoughts
Don’t rebuff your friends’ attempts to communicate with you by being offensive, obnoxious, or uninterested. At times, you should be a shoulder to cry on to your close friends. It can be emotionally overwhelming sometimes, but remember, you too need someone to listen to your problems and not make fun of you.
A 2010 study that was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, showed that just by seeming interested in what other people are saying and asking them to elaborate has twice the chance of making them like you than if you just said nothing or tried to change the topic.
He’s honest and has a good reputation
As I said earlier, how you choose your friends contributes to your happiness. Befriending downers and dishonest people hoping they’ll change someday may cost you more than just time.
To put it in a better scope, if life is a battlefield and you’re the king, then friends are your close generals. A king’s nightmare is investing his time and resources prepping a bunch of ill-reputed generals just to be stabbed in the back in critical moments.
Don’t allow anyone with low integrity into your inner circle. It’s like inviting misery into your life. They’ll bring you down to their level and, in many cases, will cheat on you, steal from you, or worse. Before vouching for someone, pay close attention to how they treat their friends, parents, partners, and those beneath them. If you notice any misbehavior or signs of weak morals then draw a line between you two.
He has great goals (or at least will support your goals)
You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with, so you’re better off choosing those with goals over useless, downers who will negatively impact the quality of your life.
The environment has such a great influence on us that very few people notice. Where you live and who you surround yourself with will affect your life just as much as your IQ and emotional intelligence levels.
Your clubbing friends can be fun and cool, but try to see them every day for a week or two and notice how negative you’ll feel especially if you’re an ambitious person. One stupid friend with one stupid mistake can put you in jail for the rest of your life both physically and mentally. So, when searching for new friends, seek ambitious people with values and great goals. Look for them in gyms, libraries, and business seminars. They’re quite different than most people, but so is their impact on your life
He hates the same things you hate
Liking the same things as our friends is good but it’s even more important to have common enemies as well. At least that’s what studies show. Sharing the same negative emotions towards a third party (or a common enemy) can increase familiarity and closeness between people. When you look for a close friend, ask yourself what are the things you hate in life (especially the things that go against your values), and look for those who share the same feelings towards those things. More likely, you’ll be good friends in no time.
Not a cheapskate
Who wants to befriend someone who won’t be there for them when the going gets tough?
A cheapskate is probably that person who’ll abandon you if it goes against their benefits. Cheapskates make the worst friends because they tend to be cheap with everything, including their emotions, efforts, and support. Cheapskates are flat-out selfish. They value money over relationships and will only offer support under the condition that it doesn’t involve money. Avoid them at all costs, they’re far from being reliable.
Conclusion: Put Your Eggs in Eight Different Baskets
Having a lifelong buddy who’ll be there for you until death brings you apart is a fictional story that rarely takes place in life. Studies show that we lose half of our close friends every seven years either for natural reasons – travel, marriage, death – or because our personalities have changed.
Studies show that humans seek so many things from a friend that can hardly be found in just one person. In his book, Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without, Tom Rath and a team from Gallup Institute researched the different types of “vital” friends that we need for our lives to be “full”
They surveyed thousands of people on what makes a good friend and found that to reach relationship satisfaction your social circle must include eight types of friends:
Someone who's highly loyal and always believes in you. A champion prides himself on being your friend, celebrates your wins like it's his, and praises you around other people.
The gym buddy, the bro who watches soccer with you at 4 am, and the one you call for an unplanned trip to Mexico. The collaborator is someone who shares similar tastes as yours and enjoys spending time with you doing the things that both of you like.
Remember when Monica woke Chandler up at 6 am to go for a run because he wanted to drop a few pounds? That’s a builder. A builder is a coach and motivator. He’s someone who shares his self-improvement plans with you and asks you to hop in because he wants to see you improve. He’s not only a natural goal-seeker but also crazy about helping others achieve theirs. We all want a builder in our lives because motivation runs out easily, so be on the look for one and add him to your squad of friends as soon as possible.
You know that friend who seems to know everyone? The one you call when you need a good plumber or a girl to date because you can’t seem to find a good one for yourself? That’s a connector. They’re social butterflies who seem to make friends pretty easily. We all need a connector to expand our social circle, especially the shy of us who can’t seem to make friends on our own. A connector will expand your social horizon and introduce so many opportunities to your life. They may be a bit consumed by the sheer volume of people in their life, but a good one will always make time for you.
This is the joker who always makes you laugh even if you don’t want to. Energizers are pretty famous and time flies pretty easily around them. They are great storytellers and know how to laugh about themselves as well. They may not help you land a job or lose some weight but they will add a different flavor to your life unlike anyone else you know.
A companion is what Gustavo Gaviria was to Pablo Escobar. A crime buddy who will always be there for you no matter how much shit you’ve gotten yourself in. He knows you better than your parents and partner and he’s the first name that pops into your mind when something good or bad happens.
The mind opener
Mind openers may not know much about sports or games but their conversations with you tend to be deep and mind-changing. You can talk to them about anything in mind and they will be respectful and helpful.
A mind opener is close to a cooperative nerd. He’s not only a bookworm who reads and asks a lot of good questions, but he shares those ideas with you and opens your mind to a whole new horizon. Charlie Munger is the perfect example of a mind-opener in the way he helped Warren Buffett expand his way of thinking to incorporate different mental models into his business analysis.
Some life mistakes can be fatal, and approaching life through trial and error can cost you time and resources. That’s why you need someone with experience to mentor you along the way, and this person is the navigator. A navigator is an older mentor. Someone with great experience in life whom you seek when you feel lost or don’t know what to do. He’s more of a father figure than a friend and can also be your father, uncle, or great-cousin. He’s someone who’s been there and done that and whose experience can help you avoid many fatal mistakes in life.
As I said earlier, you want to have all eight friends in your social circle. Each one of these types has specific qualities that you need in your life. Some people may have a few of these traits, but you’ll rarely find a friend who embodies all of them at the same time.