What Are The Qualities Of A Good Friend?

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated February 6, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Quality, balanced friendships can bring many positive things to your life, but it can be challenging to identify the qualities of a good friend. While close friends can be a beneficial force in your life, toxic friendships may negatively affect you. Learning how to identify and build good friendships can be a valuable skill. 

If you struggle to make and maintain in-depth connections, consider speaking to a therapist, either face-to-face or online, to learn more effective communication strategies and how to build relationships with the people in your life. A therapist can help you identify the qualities you may want to seek in others and ways you can be a better friend to yourself and others.

What Role Does Friendship Play In Our Lives?

While some people are comfortable without close companionship, many find close friendship an essential aspect of their lives. According to researchers at the University of North Dakota, close friendships can build your self-esteem, emotional stability, and interpersonal skills while reducing feelings of anxiety and hostility. 

Many lean on family in times of trouble, but that isn’t possible for everyone. For some, friends are the entirety of their support system and a necessary part of their lives. Either way, friends can have an undeniable impact on your life. 

Why Is It Harder To Make Friends As An Adult?

The American Psychological Association (APA) published a podcast with psychologist and friendship expert Marisa Franco, Ph.D., who said adults often find it much more challenging to make and maintain friendships than they did during childhood. Adults live complicated lives, with obligations to work, relationships, children, and other responsibilities that are often prioritized before a social life. 

Adult friendships require more effort, but they also come with greater rewards. It may help to think of time to maintain friendships as part of your self-care. It’s important to remember that friendship goes both ways. Try to be there for your friends, too. Ensure you listen well when they need to talk and do what you can to support them.

Traits Often Found In Good Friends

It may be common sense to think good friends are trustworthy, honest, dependable, and loyal, but that isn’t always the case. Friendship may mean something different to each person, but you can set the standard in your relationships by treating your friends well. 

Categories Of Friendship Traits

  • Integrity: You should be able to trust good friends to be there for you and display qualities like honesty, loyalty, and dependability.
  • Caring: Good friends should show empathy, listen without judgment, and offer their support in troubling times. 
  • Congeniality: Spending time with good friends should be fun. If they can see the funny side of things and make you laugh, it may keep you from taking life too seriously. Confident friends can help boost your self-confidence, too.

Good Friends Can Be Trusted

Many people turn to their close friends to tell their secrets and depend on their friends to keep them. You should feel confident trusting your good friends. If you ask them not to tell certain information, you can trust genuine friends to honor your wishes. They can be trusted to defend you from others, help you when needed, and support you through times of emotional turmoil. 

You Should Be Able To Depend On Good Friends

Generally, life is full of moments spanning the spectrum of emotion—elation and sadness, joy and despair, triumph and frustration—and they can be easier to handle with friends by your side. You should be able to depend on your good friends to support you through difficult times and celebrate your successes with you.   

They Listen And Show Empathy

One of the more important traits of a good friend is the ability to listen and show empathy. Many people turn to their friends to talk through problems and moral dilemmas. Close friends will often empathize with you and may feel sadness when something terrible happens to you, and happiness when good things happen. 

You Feel Better After Spending Time With Them

Whether you’re going out with a group of friends or spending the night in a small group at home, spending time with your close friends should make you feel good. Building a positive, supportive environment among your friends can help recharge your emotional batteries.

“Social isolation places older adults in jeopardy for poor health and low psychological well-being,” said the authors of a paper about the importance of friendships for elderly adults.

Good Friends Make You Laugh And Lift Your Mood

While humor isn’t an essential part of every friendship, it can be beneficial. Recent studies have shown that laughter can have therapeutic benefits for mental health. With all the stressors your face in everyday life, it can be essential to relax and laugh with your friends. Try to make time to enjoy the humor in your life and have it with those who are closest to you. The laughter should help both of you relax and can result in a boosted mood. 

You Can Be Yourself Without Judgement

Beneficial and genuine friendships ideally mean that you can be yourself without worrying about judgment from your close friends. That doesn’t mean friends will always agree with what you say and do. They should feel comfortable telling you when they think you’re making a mistake and help you find a way to make things right. 

They Respect Your Boundaries

Because friendship means something different to each person, and everyone isn’t comfortable with the same level of emotional intimacy, it’s important to have friends who respect your boundaries. 

Healthy Friendship Boundaries

  • They let you be alone when you need time on your own.
  • Good friends shouldn’t put you in situations in which they know you’ll be uncomfortable.
  • They let you say “no.” 
  • Good friends are often willing to compromise. 

Good Friends Can Be The Core Of Your Support Network

Your closest friends will often be the core of your support network. They should help you when they can and encourage you to seek help elsewhere if you need it. If you don’t have close, supportive friends or feel uncomfortable telling personal issues with them, a trusted therapist can be a helpful addition to your support network. 

How Important Are Online Friendships?

While little research has been completed about the importance and benefits of friendships that take place online, a recent study found that for gamers, online friendships were of significantly higher quality than their offline counterparts. The same study showed the opposite results for non-gamers, placing a higher value on offline friendships. 

Friendships Can Change Over Time

Research suggests that people go through phases in their lives, and friends can be part of those phases. Some friendships may be precisely what you need at a particular time in your life, but you later find you’ve outgrown the friendship. It’s natural to grow and change; sometimes, certain friendships don’t survive the transition. 

Some friendships, however, take deeper roots and become a foundation of your life. These are usually deep, multi-layered connections that tie your life to your friends. You likely feel comfortable expressing your genuine thoughts and feelings and can trust that they will do the same. While you and your close friends may disagree, you can both trust that you will discuss the problem and find a solution. 

How Therapy Can Help You Build Stronger Friendships

Many people find it challenging to identify the desirable qualities in a good friend. Past experiences can shape how a person feels about the treatment they receive, and therapy can be an effective tool to help learn healthy patterns. A qualified therapist may be able to guide you through developing your ability to communicate and relate to your friends, making it easier to build lasting, genuine, in-depth friendships. 

If in-person sessions with a licensed therapist aren’t accessible or don’t sound like a good fit for you, consider online therapy from a provider like BetterHelp. You can choose from multiple appointment formats—phone, video call, or online chat—to maximize your comfort and convenience.  

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a popular treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, and recent studies show that online therapies can be as effective as face-to-face appointments, often at a lower cost with more accessibility. 

Takeaway

Learning the qualities that you may want to seek in a genuine friend is one of the first steps toward building stronger personal friendships. Speaking to a therapist can help smooth the process by helping you create the communication skills that will make you a better friend. Identifying the qualities of a good friend can also make it easier to recognize toxic friendships. 

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