“I find it really difficult to know whether someone wants to be my friend. I don’t want to assume people like me if they’re only being polite. What are the signs that someone is truly interested in being friends?”
If you’re unsure whether someone wants to be your friend, you’ll need to pay close attention to their behavior and how they talk to you. In this guide, you’ll learn how to tell when you’ve made a new friend, as well as the differences between friends and acquaintances.
To become friends with someone, you need to spend time together. Research shows that it takes around 50 hours to make a friend. If you are both enthusiastic about making plans, this shows you are both invested in your friendship.
If you meet someone at a group event and you hang out together one-on-one, it usually means they want an opportunity to get to know you away from everyone else. For example, if you met in a class or at work, inviting you out for lunch or to see a movie means they probably feel the two of you could be friends.
All friendships start with small talk in the beginning, but as the friendship grows, the conversations usually get deeper. For example, you might have talked about your work or studies when you first met but then start opening up about your families or political views after hanging out a few times.
Not everyone who has things in common automatically becomes friends, but commonalities are a good starting point for a friendship. It often feels easier to bond with someone when they are like you in some way. If you are both excited to have found someone who shares your interests, you’re on your way to becoming friends.
If someone invites you to meet their partner, their other friends, or their family members, they probably want you to stick around and be a permanent member of their social circle. If you are shy or socially anxious, meeting your friend’s new friends can be daunting. But try to make yourself go along. You might have fun, and it’ll be a great chance to practice your social skills.
This also works the other way around: if you think it would be fun to invite someone to hang out with other people you know, it’s likely you are starting to think of them as a friend.
Inside jokes are a sign of intimacy because they are based on shared experiences and memories that no one else understands. Banter and good-natured teasing are also signs that the two of you are developing a friendly bond.
For example, let’s say you and your new friend have discovered a shared love of horror movies. When they find an online documentary about old Dracula films, they send you a link. This kind of sharing shows that your new friend has been paying close attention to your conversations and that they enjoy bonding with you over your shared interests.
When someone decides you are their friend, they might make comments about the things you could do together in the future. This suggests they hope your friendship will continue.
[In the spring]: “Hey, you like camping, right? We should take a trip this summer!”
[In the summer]: “I’m already excited for my friend’s Halloween party this year. You should come with me.”
[Two months before a film is released]: “We’re going to have to see that movie as soon as it comes out. It’ll be awesome.”
When you feel comfortable with someone, you’ll probably start making similar comments and suggestions too.
If someone spends a lot of time complaining and talking about their problems without showing any interest in you, they’re probably just using you as a personal therapist. But if they occasionally ask you for your opinion about a specific problem and seem grateful for your advice, this suggests they are starting to trust you as a friend.
Likewise, if you feel able to trust someone with your personal problems, you are probably beginning to see them as a friend.
Friends try to make each other’s lives easier by offering practical help and emotional support. If someone is going out of their way to help you, and you’re happy to lend a hand in return, there’s a good chance that you are becoming friends.
Real friends do not put you down, lie to you, rudely dismiss your opinions, or make you the butt of unkind jokes. You should feel able to trust that your friend will always treat you with respect, even if you don’t always agree. You should be able to confide in them, knowing that they won’t gossip about you.
If they’re too busy to meet in person, a true friend will be happy to at least make time for a quick phone call or talk for a while via text. They like your company and seem genuinely glad to see you.
Real friends are genuinely pleased and excited when you achieve something great or have some good luck. They don’t try to one-up you. If they feel jealous, they take responsibility for their feelings instead of showing it.
Good friends make you feel better about yourself and life in general. You can’t expect your friends to be upbeat all the time, but as a rule, friendships should bring you joy.
When you’re hanging out with a real friend, there’s no need to put on a mask. You can relax and let your personality come through. You don’t need to worry about impressing a friend because you already know they accept you for who you are.
A friend will ask about the things that matter to you, and they’ll listen carefully to your answers without interrupting. Even if they don’t share your interests, they’ll be willing to talk about your hobbies if it makes you happy.
A good friend will ask follow-up questions that relate to previous conversations. For example, if you told them a few weeks ago that you’re looking for a new job, they might ask, “So, how’s the job search going?”
Occasional misunderstandings and arguments are a normal part of friendship. What really matters is how you and your friend handle disagreements. Ideally, you should both focus on trying to understand each other’s point of view rather than trying to “win.”
Healthy friendships are based on give and take, but true friends don’t get hung up over whether the relationship is always 50/50. They understand that it’s normal for one person to need a little extra help occasionally, and that friendships balance out over time.
If you’re still not sure whether someone is your friend, this list of 28 signs of a true friend might help.
If you try to agree on a time or place, they might give you vague answers like, “I’ll get back to you” or “Yeah, we should hang out sometime. I’ll let you know when I’m free.” Or they might claim to be busy, but you later discover that they didn’t actually have any plans or spent the time hanging out with other people.
If someone is slow to respond to your messages or return your calls, it’s possible they could lead a very hectic life. But as a general rule, when someone wants to be your friend, they will make an effort to stay in touch.
If someone quickly changes the topic of conversation when you’re sharing something about yourself, they probably don’t want to be your friend. Friends take an active interest in each other. Bear in mind that some people will happily offload onto you, but this doesn’t mean they will be a good friend. Healthy friendships are based on mutual support.
Not many people are rude enough to say, “I don’t want to be your friend. You should find someone else to hang out with.” But some people will gently push you towards someone else and hope that you’ll take the hint.
For example, they might say something like, “Thank you for inviting me, but I’m not really into [activity]. Have you tried asking [someone else]? That’s more their kind of thing.”
A person’s body language can give you clues about how they feel. Here are a few signs that suggest they don’t enjoy your company:
- Pointing their feet away from you
- Folding their arms across their body
- Leaning away from you
- Fake smiles; if their eyes don’t crinkle at the corners when they smile and the corners of their mouth don’t go up, their smile probably isn’t sincere
- Playing with their phone instead of giving you their full attention
However, you need to take their body language in context. For example, if someone folds their arms, they might just be cold. You want to watch out for patterns. If they always or almost always seem disinterested or uneasy, when you talk to them, it’s unlikely they want to be your friend.
If you aren’t sure which category someone falls into, ask yourself these questions:
Acquaintances only interact because they happen to be in the same place at the same time. For example, let’s say you take the same train every morning to work. If you fell into the habit of making small talk with a couple of other regular commuters occasionally, they would fall into the acquaintance category.
Friends go out of their way to meet up because they enjoy each other’s company. If you ask an acquaintance whether they’d be interested in meeting up somewhere at a specific time and place, you are taking the first step from “acquaintance” to “friend.”
Acquaintances usually stick to surface-level talk. They might swap names and a few general details, such as where they work, but they don’t tend to have deep discussions.
Friends know a lot more about each other. A friend will know where you live, where you work or study, what you like to do in your free time, major problems you’re facing in your life, your relationship status, other important background information like your age and where you grew up.
It is possible to have a very personal conversation with someone you barely know, but this doesn’t mean you suddenly become friends. For example, two strangers may meet in a bar and tell each other about their problems after a few drinks. But self-disclosure is only one part of friendship. Real friends are consistently helpful, trustworthy, and reliable.
Acquaintances usually offer sympathy if they hear you are having a tough time, but they don’t go out of their way to lend a hand.
Friends offer practical or emotional support in times of need. You feel comfortable calling or texting them when you have a problem and are happy for them to do the same in return.
This guide to the differences between acquaintances and friends goes into more detail. It also gives you practical advice on how to turn an acquaintance into a friend.