What Is The Definition Of A Good Friend?

Updated March 23, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

How can you define a good friend? What is true friendship? Many of us may feel that we have close, true friendships, but may not give too much thought to how we would actually define such a thing. A friend can be someone you've been close to for years, or they could be someone fairly new in your life. They could be someone you bond with over a favorite sport or TV show, or perhaps a new friend you made at school or work. A friend can come from all aspects of our lives. 

In this article, we’ll reflect on what friendship is and how to recognize a good friend versus a bad friend using a few possible signs. 

Navigating Friendships Can Be Confusing Sometimes

What Is Friendship?

So what is friendship? The definition of a friend for most of us is someone who we feel connected to and who is there for us in some way. A friend is often someone that you share a bond with. You may share some common beliefs and values with friends, and often, a friend is someone you trust and enjoy being around. Friends can be in person or online and can vary in distance. You might have a next-door neighbor friend, or a friend thousands of miles away. 

Some friends may be casual; you may talk sometimes and enjoy each other’s company, but the connection may not be very strong. With close friends, you may feel more deeply connected and like you can rely on them for support. You may be able to talk and laugh easily and share openly. This friendship may feel very reliable, and this friend may make it easy to pick up where you left off. Good friendships and good friends can often stand the test of time. These relationships are often made from mutual respect and care for each other's well-being. 

What is the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? An acquaintance is a person who you may talk to on occasion and maybe see at a dinner party or other social event, but the bond of a friend or personal relationship is not there. An acquaintance likely won't be the person you talk to when problems are happening, as you would a close friend. That said, some acquaintances may become friends, if we give them a chance. The main characteristic of a friend in this case is someone you spend more time, trust, and connection with.

Possible Signs Of A Good Friend

Now that we have a sense of friendship in general, let’s consider a few possible qualities of a good friend. Here are some possible ways to know that you have a true friend and a quality, healthy friendship:

  1. A Friend Is There For You

A good friend is often someone who will be there for you consistently, whether that is through simple words or grand gestures. A good friend won’t desert you because you are having a hard time or experiencing sadness. Good friends often recognize that life can be tough sometimes, and they will be there for you when that happens. A good friend stays by your side and a real friendship is one that goes through these trials and remains strong.

  1. A Friend Listens To You

A good friend is often someone you can be vulnerable and open with. They are often someone you feel comfortable talking honestly with, because you feel like they are genuinely listening and care about what you have to say. 

  1. You Feel Good When You're Around Them

A good friend will often be one who you enjoy spending time with, and they may also make you feel good about yourself when you're around them. With a good friend, you may laugh, have fun, feel connected, and generally enjoy each other’s company. Rather than worrying about being judged, you can often feel comfortable and confident when you are around good friends. 

  1. They Are Empathetic Towards You

A good friend is often empathetic to your struggles or what you're going through and shows that they care. A good friend will often try to understand where you’re coming from and give you the space to express your feelings. A good friend typically won’t be judgmental or dismissive. 

  1. They Are Able To Apologize And Forgive 

In a long-term friendship, there are likely to be some arguments at times. Good friends typically recognize this reality and are able to both apologize and forgive, within reason of course. Good friends can forgive each other and continue nurturing a positive friendship.

Possible Signs Of A Bad Friend

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

  1. They Are Only Around When They Need Something

Some "friends" may only want to spend time with you when they need something. They became friends and formed that relationship conveniently, and when you've given them what they need, they may stop acting like a friend. Friends can help each other, but if the help is one-sided, or if the friend is only around when they want something from you, this may be a sign that you're being used by a friend. These are probably not positive friendships.  

  1. They Frequently Bad Mouth Other Friends

If your friend is frequently saying bad things about their other friends to you, then you may consider if they could be saying bad things about you to their friends. If this friend is always speaking badly about others, they may not be someone who you can trust.

  1. They Don’t Tolerate Differences

Friends are often going to have some differences, be it hobbies, interests, outlooks on life, or beliefs. Good friends can typically accept these differences and accept you for who you are. If your friend is always putting you down for what you believe, they probably aren’t a very good friend.

  1. They Are Often Flaky

The flaky friend can be difficult to be friends with. If you're the one who is always making plans and they're frequently making excuses or not showing up, you may wonder if they care about the friendship. Importantly, there can be legitimate reasons for this behavior, such as if a person has social anxiety, so it may be best to try to talk with this friend to gain an understanding of what might be going on. 

  1. They Are Pushy And Not Understanding

If a person is pressuring you to do things you don’t feel comfortable with, such as attend a certain party or try certain things, they are probably not a good friend. A good friend can respect your boundaries. Additionally, 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. 

Many friends may have a problem or two at times, and these signs are not automatic indications of a bad friend. But, if you are feeling unsure about the quality of the friendship, considering some of these signs may be useful. Oftentimes, having a conversation with your friend about your concerns can be helpful. 

Help With Navigating Friendships

If you're having trouble with your friendships or want support in figuring out whether or not a friendship may be positive, speaking with a professional can help. Working with a therapist may help you understand your feelings, make sense of different friendships, and learn ways to strengthen your relationships. 

A wide mix of factors can affect our friendships, including stressful life events, mental health conditions, communication skills, and more. Research has found that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for a variety of concerns. For instance, one research study conducted a comprehensive review of studies on the effectiveness of internet-based intervention for a variety of concerns. It found “no differences in effectiveness” between face-to-face and internet interventions in 14 studies that compared the two.

Often, it can be difficult to juggle the many different parts of our lives all at once, such as school, work, hobbies, and friendships, and if you are working on strengthening your friendships, you may want to spend as much of your free time with friends as possible. For some, this can make the prospect of finding time for therapy a bit difficult. But, with online therapy through BetterHelp, you can meet with a therapist wherever is most convenient for you—including from home—which may make it easier to schedule as you won’t have to worry about a commute.

Continue reading below to find reviews of some of our therapists from people seeking help with similar concerns.

Navigating Friendships Can Be Confusing Sometimes

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.”


A good friend is often someone who is there for you, who listens to you, and who you enjoy spending time with. If a friend is often pushy and not understanding, or only seems to spend time with you when they need something from you, they may not be a good friend. If you would like support in navigating your friendships with others, online therapy can help.  

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