Updated December 01, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Rashonda Douthit , LCSW

How can you define a friend? Many of us have these relationships without often thinking about them. A friend can be someone you've been close for years, or they're someone fairly new in your life. They could be someone you bond with over a favorite sport or tv show, or perhaps a new friendship you formed at school or work. A friend can come from all aspects of our lives and it's important to reflect on what characteristics are important in friendships, how friends shape our lives, and what true friends look like.

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Friendship Is Essential Part Of Life. How Do Friends Impact Happiness?


What Is Friendship?

The definition of a friend for most of us is someone who is there for us throughout our daily lives. We are here to make sense of all things friends. What makes a good friend? What makes a bad friend? Let's first look at the definition of a friend, and what aspects of that definition are the most important for a friend to have.

What's A Friend?

A friend is someone that you share close affection with. You share some common beliefs and values with friends. Friends can be in person or online, your next door neighbor friend or a friend 1,000 miles away. Often, a friend is someone you trust or enjoy being around.

Some friends are casual; you may talk sometimes. You're more close to other friends. Once you start talking, it's like no time has passed. This friendship just feels secure, and this friend may make it easy to pick up where you left off.

Then there is the social media definition of a friend, in which the two of you have your accounts linked together on social media, but maybe you don't talk much. You should not consider social media 'friends' to automatically be real-life friends, as being a friend is more of a verb than a passive act.

Friend Vs Acquaintance

What is the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? An acquaintance is a person who you talk to on occasion, but the bond of a friend is just not there. Some people are friends waiting to happen. An acquaintance likely won't be the person you talk to when problems are happening, as you would a friend. Alternatively, some acquaintances become friends, if we only give them a chance. The main characteristic of a friend in this case is someone you share more time and trust with.

Signs Of A Good Friend

Here are some ways to know that you have a true friend and a quality, healthy friendship:

A Friend Is Always There For You

A good friend will always be there for you. A friend isn't going to run away because you lost money, or because you moved further away. Friends know that life throws many trials, and friends will stick through those trials to the end. A good friend stays by your side.

A Friend Listens

A good friend is someone you can be vulnerable and open with. This is because friends trust friends, and are there to support you.

You Feel Good With Them

A good friend will be one who you enjoy spending time with, and most importantly, a good friend makes you feel good about yourself when you're around them.

They Are Empathetic

A good friend is empathetic to your struggles or what you're going through, and shows that they care by validating your feelings.

girl bends over crying as two people next to her touch her shoulder


They Bury The Hatchet

In a long term friendship, there are likely to be arguments. A good friend knows this. Good friends can forgive each other and move on.

Signs Of A Bad Ones

If you've been questioning your friendship with someone, there are a few sings that someone may not be a good friend to you. Here are some signs that someone might not be a great friend:

The User Friend

Some "friends" only want you when they need something. They became friends conveniently, and when you've given them what they need, they stop acting like a friend.

Friends should help each other, but if the help is one-sided, this may be a sign that you're being used by a friend.

The Trash Talker Friend

If your friend is always talking trash about their other friends to you, then they could be saying bad things about you to their friends. If this friend is always speaking badly about others, they may be a bad friend. 

The Friend Who Can't Take Criticism

Friends should help each other, and sometimes we let friends know when they're wrong. A good friend will take criticism as a well-meaning tool for growth, while a bad friend may feel attacked when you say something they don't want to hear.

The Friend Who Can't Tolerate Differences

Friends are going to have some differences, be it hobbies, outlooks on life, or perhaps even some values. If your friend is always putting you down for what you believe, they weren't much of a good friend, were they? 

The Flakey Friend

The flaky friend is one who is difficult to be friends with. If you're the friend who is always making plans and they're the friend who never hangs with you despite always saying how much they miss you, they may not be a good friend. Some friends may have social anxiety and find it difficult to commit to plans. If it seems they’re having trouble committing to plans, try talking with them about it. Let your friend know you’re not trying to judge or guilt them, but just want to better understand what might be going on.  

The Pushy Friend

If you have obligations such as work, school, or family, and your friend gets angry whenever you're busy, then this can be a sign of a bad friendship A good friend knows that life is busy. Be patient, and wait for a good chance to see your friend.

Many friends may have a problem or two, but if these happen often, it may be a sign that you should part ways.

Look at your friends and see who is a friend, who is an acquaintance, and who may be a bad friend. Don’t be afraid to have open and candid conversations with friends to help figure this out.

Seek Help!

If you're having trouble with your friendships, want to figure out who your real friends are, or need help making friends, there is no shame in visiting a professional for help. Seeking counseling can help improve your interpersonal relationships and strengthen your friendships. You only have one life, so fill it with friends who will care about you.

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Friendship Is Essential Part Of Life. How Do Friends Impact Happiness?


Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy in treating a variety of issues, including communication skills, friendship problems, relationship troubles, anxiety, depression, and more. Specifically, 98% of BetterHelp users have experienced significant improvement in their mental health, personal growth, and friendship journeys, 94% prefer it to in-person therapy, and 100% find it to be convenient.

Additionally, online counseling has the added benefit of being accessible anytime, anywhere – you’ll just need an internet connection to get started! Sessions are fully customizable, with many of our therapists operating at non-traditional hours and offering sessions via video chat, phone call, instant messaging, and live voice recording. Continue reading below to find reviews of some of our board-certified therapists from people seeking help in with their friendships.

Counselor Reviews

“I've been talking with Rebecca since February and she has helped me immensely! A lot has changed in my life and she's helped me create a positive mindset and space to navigate the changes and pursue the type of life, friendships, and relationships I want. Along with this, she's provided me with resources I can use outside our sessions.”

“Danielle is amazing! She's helping me grapple with incredibly difficult challenges in one of my most important relationships. She listens well, synthesizes my scattered thoughts & feelings, and offers helpful tools, activities & resources to work on outside of our sessions. Danielle provides honest feedback and creates a safe space. I can feel that she genuinely cares.”

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