Define Friend: A Good Understanding Of The Friend Definition
By: Marie Miguel
Updated February 11, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
Friendship should be something easy to define and understand…but, we’re human, and humans are complicated! The base definition of a friend for most of us is someone who is there for us, and whom we’re there for in return. Sometimes, though, friendship has ups and downs; sometimes friendships are formed in the most unlikely of people and circumstances; and sometimes, friendships don’t really wind up being that at all, and we get hurt.
So we are here to make sense of it all. What makes a good friend? What makes a bad friend? Friendship is one of those concepts you think would get easier as you grow older, but sometimes it seems to get even more complex. We're here to solve this puzzle. Let's first look at the definition of a friend.
What Is A Friend?
A friend is someone other than your family or partner that you share close affection with. You share kindness, sympathy, empathy, compassion, loyalty, fun, and probably some common beliefs and values with them. They can be in person or online, your next door neighbor or 1,000 miles away.
There are different degrees of friendship. Some friends are casual; you may share a couple of interests with them, and you may talk sometimes, but you're not as deep as you could be, and that's just how the friendship is. Other friends you're more close to. You spend time whenever you can, and you've been through it all. You may have had a childhood with them and have experienced ups and downs, and yet they're still good friends of yours. The two of you can go for a long time without talking, but once you start talking again, it's like no time has passed. The relationship just feels secure.
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 actually talk at all. You should not confuse social media 'friends' with real-life friends.
Think about it. If you have 500 friends on Facebook, could you see yourself becoming deep friends with all 500? Probably not. They are just numbers on social media. When it comes to friendship, less is often more. Many of those friends on Facebook are more acquaintances than anything else, but that doesn't have the same ring to it. "I acquaintanced someone on Facebook today," just doesn't sound right.
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 friendship bond is just not there. Maybe it would be there if the two of you talked more, but odds are, the person is someone who is nice and good to talk to on occasion, but it just doesn’t feel as though there’s a bond. They likely won't be the person you talk to when problems are happening. They aren't going to be the person you see yourself spending a lot of time with. Alternatively, some friendships blossom from acquaintanceships, if we only give them a chance.
Look at your social media, as well as the people you know in real life. How many of them would you say are friends? How many are just acquaintances? Perhaps the biggest problem with friendship today is mixing the two up. Odds are, only a handful of people in your life are worthy to be your friend, while the others are actually acquaintances.
Signs Of A Good Friend
Here are some ways to know that you have a quality, healthy friendship:
Always There For You
A good friend will always be there for you, no matter what your situation is. They aren't going to run away because you lost money, or because you moved further away. Friends know that life throws many trials, and they will stick through those trials to the end.
Listens And Keeps Secrets
A good friend is someone you can be vulnerable and open with, and you know they won't gossip about whatever you tell them. When you say, "please don’t tell anyone," they won't tell anyone.
You Feel Good With Them
A good friend will be one who you enjoy spending time with. Pay attention to your energy; while we all have good days and bad days, if your energy around someone is consistently good, that’s saying something. Conversely, if being around someone consistently generates negative feelings and brings your energy down, that’s a clear sign that something is off in the relationship.
You're Empathetic With Them
If something bad happens to your friend, you feel bad as well, even if you were not directly affected. Friendship needs empathy for it to work. A friendship where friends are not taking into consideration each other's feelings is not a good friendship, but is one that either is or will become one-sided.
The Hatchet Burier
A long term friendship isn't going to be perfect. There are likely to be arguments and times when the two of you won't talk to each other – this is actually healthy, and important for the two of you to learn how to better understand one another and resolve conflict. A good friend knows that this is part of life, and they are willing to bury the hatchet and try again. Most arguments are not grounds for ending friendships. Good friends can forgive each other, not hold the past against the other friend, learn from their mistakes, and move on.
Signs Of A Bad Friend
If you've been questioning your friendship with someone, think about what they're doing. Here are some signs that your friendship with someone might not be so great:
Some so-called friends only want you when they need something. Be it a ride, money, or any other need. They became friends conveniently around the time when you had good fortune, and once life goes down the drain for you, they are nowhere to be found.
Don't get us wrong - friends should be helping one another, the key words being “one another.” If the help is one-sided, this may be a sign that you're being used.
The Trash Talker
If your friend is always talking trash about their other friends to you, then don't think you're an exception. Once you're not within earshot, they are probably talking trash about you.
Everyone has said something about someone else they won't say to their face. Sometimes, the truth hurts, and we're afraid to hurt our friends. However, if this friend is always talking trash, and not even making any good criticisms, they may be a bad friend. Speaking of criticisms…
The One Who Can't Take Criticism
As friends, the two of you should help each other. And one of the ways you should help someone is sometimes to give them a pill that's hard to swallow. A good friend will take the criticism to heart and realize it as a well-meaning tool for growth, while a bad friend may feel attacked, become aggressive, and perhaps cut you out of their life when you say something they don't want to hear.
The One Who Can't Tolerate Differences
Friends get along because of their similarities. It’s not incredibly often that people bond over their differences (though it does, of course, happen!). With that said, the two of you are going to have some differences, be it hobbies, outlooks on life, or perhaps even some values. If your friend is always harping on you for what you believe and even stops talking to you because of the difference, they weren't much of a good friend, now were they? For example, if one of you is religious while the other is not, you should both be able to be open to those different viewpoints and respectful of them even if you don’t necessarily agree with one another.
The flaky friend is one who is difficult to be friends with because they often have a reason to avoid you. There is a big difference between having real reasons to cancel plans and always making excuses. If you're the one who is always making plans and they're the one 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. This one is certainly situational, so try not to completely discount someone just based on this – if it seems they’re having trouble committing to plans, try talking with them about it. Let them know you’re not trying to judge or guilt them, but just want to better understand what might be going on.
The Pushy One
On the other hand, if you have obligations such as work, school, or family, and your friend gets angry whenever you have to say no, then this can be a sign of a bad friendship as well. A good friend knows that life, especially adult life, is busy, and sometimes the two of you can't see each other. Be patient, and wait for a good chance to hang out.
Many friends may have a problematic tendency or two, but if these tendencies 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 them to help figure this out.
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 people who will care about you.
Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy in treating a variety of issues, including communication skills, relationship troubles, anxiety, depression, and more. Specifically, 98% of BetterHelp users have experienced significant improvement in their mental health and personal growth 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! You don’t have to commit to commuting to sessions at a particular day and time each week. Sessions are fully customizable, with many of our therapists operating at non-traditional hours and offering sessions via video chat, phone call, instant messaging/texting, and live voice recording. This is especially useful if you have a busy schedule, and/or live rurally where going to traditional in-person counseling isn’t really a feasible option for you. Continue reading below to find reviews of some of our board-certified therapists from people seeking help in their relationships.
“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 and relationships I want. Along with this, she's provided me with resources I can use outside our sessions.”
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