What Makes a True Friend? 26 Signs to Look For

How do you know if someone is a true friend or not? Finding someone you really click with can be quite a challenge.

Let us first look at the definition of a true friend:

A true friend is someone you can rely on when you need it. They treat you with respect, and being around them makes you feel good. They have your best interest at heart. You feel comfortable being yourself with them, and you can trust them. A true friend can also be called a good friend or a real friend. 

In this guide, you will learn signs that can help you understand the qualities of what makes a true friend.

Sections

  1. 26 signs of a true friend
  2. A true friend isn’t perfect
  3. Quotes about true friendship
  4. Books about true friendship
  5. Examples of famous friends
  6. Is this person a true friend or not?

26 signs of a true friend

It’s not always easy to figure out if someone is a good friend or not. Here are some signs you can use to determine if someone is a real friend. Here are 26 signs and qualities of a true friend.

1. They make you feel good

You should feel good hanging out with a friend. And after you’ve hung out, you should leave with a good feeling.[2,4]

If they put you down or make you feel bad regularly, there’s something important missing in your relationship.

2. They accept you for who you are

You don’t have to pretend to be someone else to fit in or feel accepted when you’re with a true friend. They don’t try to change you or make you behave in a certain way.

With your friend, you can put down your mask, relax, and be yourself.

3. They make you a better person

A true friend makes you better in so many ways…

  1. They call you out when you’re wrong (in a constructive manner).
  2. They make sure you’re grounded and have both of your feet on earth.
  3. They keep you accountable for your values and your goals.
  4. They help you live up to your full potential.
  5. And finally, they expect you to be the amazing person you are.

4. They are honest and trustworthy

Honesty is an important part of any healthy friendship. It’s important that you can trust your friend to tell you the truth and keep their promises.

If you notice that they’re lying to you or others, it’s a sign they’re not that trustworthy. Another sign they’re not trustworthy is if they often promise you things or say they will do something.

5. They share personal and intimate things with you

The closer and more intimate you are with each other, the stronger your friendship is.[3,5]

This is about them opening up about the private parts of their lives and their feelings to you. And it’s equally important for your friendship to open up to them. If they open up to you, it means they trust you and value your friendship.

6. They apologize when they’ve hurt you

We get hurt even by those we love, mostly by accident. But a true friend apologizes when they realize that they’ve hurt you.

7. They care about your feelings

You can tell that someone cares about your feelings if they make an effort to make you feel good and comfortable around them. They don’t just ignore how you feel when you see each other it’s important to them that you feel good.

Your feelings are important and carry weight.

8. They want to do stuff you both like

A true friend doesn’t need to decide everything themselves. They’re not dominant and bossy. They want to do stuff that you both like.

It’s even been seen that people strongly prefer friends who look less dominant.[1]

9. They support you

You know that when you’re in a rough spot, your friend is there to support you. Same thing if you’re aiming for a new goal in life, your friend supports you to keep going.

A true friend always has your back.

Note that a true friend shouldn’t always agree with you. When you’re clearly in the wrong – they will let you know (in a supportive manner). Letting you know you’re wrong is also a kind of support – they support you in making good choices throughout life.

10. They listen to you

When you have something important to say, or when you want to be heard, you know your friend will listen. It’s important to feel heard in a true friendship.

It’s a bad sign if your friend ignores what you say and keeps talking about themselves.

11. They respect you

Respecting someone means that you value them as a person. You hold their feelings, thoughts, opinions, and rights in high regard.

A true friend should respect you by listening to you, being honest with you, and trying to keep a good relationship with you. So, respect is something that’s mirrored in most of the signs we talk about in this article.

Read more: how to get more respect.

12. They are interested in your life

A true friend shows interest in your life by asking questions about what’s happening and being curious about any new things happening. A good way to tell if they’re truly interested is if they follow up on things you’ve talked about other times.

13. They keep in touch with you

They call, message, or text you when you haven’t heard from them in a while. They make an effort to keep up to date with your happenings, and they also share what’s happening in their lives. They can also keep in touch through common social media like Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook.

Remember that it’s not all on them, you have a responsibility to keep in touch with them too.

14. They make you feel included

Here are some ways a true friend can make you feel included:

  • They introduce you to their friends and maybe even their family
  • They invite you to social activities with common friends
  • The talk with you in group conversations
  • They don’t leave you alone at social events
  • They don’t make you feel left out

15. They don’t judge you

We all have our flaws and secrets, but any person worth their salt doesn’t make you feel ashamed for that. We should be able to open up to our friends, knowing that they won’t judge us. They let us be whoever we are without judgment.

16. They don’t deliberately hurt your feelings

A REALLY bad friend regularly tries to put you down, dominate you, guilt trip you, or make you feel bad.

In best cases, a true friend never does any of these things. But the important part is that they apologize and try to make it right when you tell them that they hurt you.

Read more: How to deal with people who try to dominate you or make fun of you.

17. They make you laugh and laugh with you

Humor is important. Not everyone can be a comedic genius, but all you need is a stupid joke to share a laugh. Everything doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. With a true friend, you can laugh at life’s challenges.

18. They are happy for you when something good happens to you

When you have good news, or you achieve something in your life, your friend is happy for you.

They don’t get jealous, try to put you down, or try to one-up you.

19. They don’t joke at your expense

Ever had someone said, “It was just a joke,” even if it wasn’t funny? Or “Can’t you even take a joke?”.

Jokes that make you feel bad about yourself are not okay and true friends try to avoid them.

Read more: How to tell fake friends from real friends.

20. They tell you when you’ve (accidentally) hurt them

Sometimes we hurt our friends without even knowing it. It could be something we said or something we did, maybe we didn’t invite them to an event they really wanted to go to.

A true friend would tell you about it so you could apologize and try to fix the situation. A bad friend wouldn’t tell you. Instead, they’d get bitter or start avoiding you. Maybe they’d even become passive-aggressive or talk bad about you to other people.

Note that telling you that you’ve hurt them requires emotional maturity, good communication skills, and that they value your friendship. So, if your friend constructively tells you this, they’re a keeper!

21. They tell you when you’re wrong

A true friend does not always agree with you, they also tell you when you’re wrong or misguided. But they do it in a kind and constructive manner.

Being told when we’re wrong helps us grow as persons and strengthens our friendships.

22. They forgive you

A true friend doesn’t hold a grudge against you because of your past mistakes. They forgive and move on. And If they’re really upset, they bring up the issue with you so that you can solve it together.

Forgiving and forgiveness are important qualities in a true friendship.[6]

23. They don’t just talk about themselves

It’s normal for someone to talk about themselves, but when every conversation is dominated by talking about their life, their relationships, their dreams, their opinions, and their interests, that’s not a good sign.

Read more: What to do when friends only talk about themselves.

24. They are dependable

When you need your friend, they’re there for you. You know that you can count on them to help you out. They’re reliable and true to their word. If they make you a promise, they keep it.

An unreliable friend will often say they’ll do stuff and don’t do it or don’t show up when you’ve made plans.

25. They care about your friendship

Any true friendship should be important to both you and your friend. It means that you value your friendship and hold it in high regard. It means you’re willing to make an effort to keep it going. And it means you’re willing to let go of your ego and apologize if that helps you save your friendship.

26. They don’t feel like a rival

A friend should not be your rival, they should be your ally. That means that anything good that happens to them feels good to you, and good things happening to you feel good to your friend.

You also don’t regularly fight or bicker with each other.[3]

A true friend isn’t perfect

Many points in this list might give the impression that we should expect perfection from our friends. And I want to make clear that isn’t the case. If you expect perfection, nobody can be a good enough friend for you.

Nobody is perfect. Everyone has flaws, and even the best of friends can at times behave badly. So don’t judge anyone too harshly on just one sign from this article – look at the bigger picture. Are they a good person? And are they a good person for you? As long as you’re willing to listen to each other and take feedback, your friendship will grow stronger with time.

If someone respects you and loves you for who you are, you’re lucky to have such a gem of a person in your life.

Quotes about true friendship

Quotes about true friendship can remind us about the important place friendship has in our life.

1. “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” — A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

2. “The best kind of laughter is laughter born of a shared memory.” — Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

3. “Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend”
― Albert Camus

4. “Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
― Mark Twain

5. “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”
― Helen Keller

Books about true friendship

Books can be a great way to get insight into what constitutes a true friendship because we get to see interactions between people and the inner thoughts and feelings behind them. Here are some recommended books that include examples of good friendships.

The Outsiders by S.E Hinton

The Outsiders is about two significant weeks in the life of Ponyboy Curtis. His relationships with his brothers and group of friends, and particularly his best friend, Johnny, are at the heart of this book. Johnny and Ponyboy share their deepest thoughts with each other and stick together when things get even more difficult for them.

”We’re all we’ve got left. We ought to be able to stick together against everything. If we don’t have each other we don’t have anything.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Charlie starts school with no friends but quickly gets to know Patrick and Sam, who are happy to welcome him to their group of friends. Sam and Patrick accept Charlie as he is. They laugh and have fun together, but they’re also there for the tough times and work things out when conflicts arise.

“We didn’t talk about anything heavy or light. We were just there together. And that was enough”

Harry Potter by J.K Rowling

Harry, Ron, and Hermione are a now-famous trio (although in the books, only Harry is famous) who become true friends after facing a troll together. Sure, that’s not something that will happen to you,  but the book does highlight the important aspects of friendship: loyalty through the good times and the bad.

The book series follows Harry (and his friendship with Ron and Hermione) from age 11 to 18.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Jess and Leslie become friends when she beats him at running, and they quickly bond over imagination games. Through his friendship with Leslie, Jess learns more about the world and becomes a better person.

This book is one of the more famous books centered on a friendship between kids.

“We need a place,” she said, “just for us. It would be so secret that we would never tell anyone in the whole world about it.” … She lowered her voice almost to a whisper. “It might be a whole secret country,” she continued, “and you and I would be the rulers of it.”

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Geared towards an older audience than the other books on this list, A Thousand Splendid Suns follows two women in Afghanistan: Mariam, a 15-year-old who is sent off to marry a man thirty years older, and Laila, who joins their household two decades later. Mariam and Laila develop a close bond that helps them survive their hardships.

“We’ll take care of each other,” Laila said, choking on her words, her eyes wet with tears… “I’ll take care of you for a change.”

Examples of famous friends

Books and quotes give us insights into what makes up a good friendship, but sometimes it helps to see that real people are out there making good friendships last for a long time. Here are five examples of five real-life famous friendships.

1. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart have known each other for over forty years but became good friends when they worked together on X-Men twenty years ago. The pair knows how to laugh and have fun together, and they’re there for the important moments: Ian McKellen officiated Patrick Stewart’s wedding in 2013.

2. Oprah and Gayle King

Oprah and her bestie are so close that there are rumors they are a couple. While there is nothing wrong if that’s the case, it could be that society doesn’t know what to make of such a close connection that is not romantic or sexual. The pair have been friends for 50 years: they’ve traveled together, laughed together, and supported each other through their successes and hardships.

3. Bette Midler and 50 Cent

Although they have a 30-year age difference and very different backgrounds, the two bonded over a project when they joined forces to open a community garden in the community 50 Cent grew up in. The two have publicly praised each other and value their friendship.

4. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon grew up together and bonded over their shared interest in filmmaking. They acted together in films and eventually co-wrote (and co-acted in) Good Will Hunting, which they won an Oscar for. Over the years, the two worked together, had fun together by watching sports, and publicly defended each other.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

The two met when they starred in Titanic together in their early 20s. Although they were young adults when they met, they have now been friends for half their lives. DiCaprio walked Kate Winslet down the aisle when she got married in 2012, they’ve vacationed together, and most importantly, they value each other.

Are you unsure if someone is a true friend or not?

Describe your friend and your relationship in as much detail as possible in the comments below. I will personally answer the first ten comments and give my best advice.

Show references +

Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages SocialSelf’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. Hm. I’m actually in my Sophomore year of high school, and sometimes I find it hard to make decent friends myself. If I’m being honest, I kinda wish I came across this article sooner, before I had to learn the hard way. 😂 Before my BF, I used to have ‘friends’ but they were usually manipulative and took advantage of my kindness whenever they could. Just like others, I also didn’t want to let them go because I felt I’d be lonely afterward. And I did, for the first while. I’m glad I let them go though because I’ve been much better off since. ✌😁

    Reply
  2. We were 12 ppl in our circle. They’re my coworkers. Back then, we bonded so much. Going to beaches, food trips, campings, and etc. Yet, these days, they planned to go camping without inviting me, and just earlier this day, they talked in front of me, like planning all those stuff and activities without telling me “you should come”. Like I was invisible and I was really out of place lately. They’ll just talk to me if they have a favor or something.

    Reply
    • Yeah, they’re not your friends. If they’re excluding you from activities and then doing so in front of you? That’s just downright mean. And if they’re contacting you only when they have a favor, they’re just using you for what you can give. I’d leave ’em. ✌

      Reply
  3. I have a really good friend and wanted to see if they were a true friend (I already knew it in my heart), and literally every box checks. Thanks, Andy, you make my life better, you really really do.

    Reply
  4. This really sounds good and beneficial, but am confused about some things, I really thought that if u should have a friend it should be firstly a God-fearing person.
    and also you said that u should not expect perfection, I understand does it means that u should not expect ur friend to be as good as she or he is supposed to be, or u should just ignore everything she or he does?

    Reply
  5. I left work due to alcoholism, I had been friends with guys for 30 years, I had hit rock bottom, not any of them ever called me or text me, I texted in the beginning but stopped, I have been sober for months and have grown as a person, I’m back to work next week, but I know theses people are not my friends now, it’s sad but I’m not overly hurt anymore, I have made new friends through sports and hobbies.

    Reply
  6. I Don’t Really Know Why, But I Compared My Old Friend To One of My Other friends using this list. It really helped me see how much better and happier I have been feeling. I guess sometimes you miss the memories and not the person my old friend was bossy and never and I mean NEVER said sorry about anything. I felt like whenever I opened up to her about something she would change the topic. She made me feel worse and worse about myself every day and poor past me put up with her for almost 3 years. I eventually broke it off with her and for months I was regretting my decision because I had no one to talk to or cry on but finding out who is not my friend really helped me find out who my real friends are there supportive and super positive they always listen to me even if I’m talking about something they don’t really care about they are amazing and I loved this list so much thank you 🙂

    Reply
  7. Please please please tell me. ???????? My friendship is pretty happy, as far as I can tell. We talk every single day, and we trick each other, and we comfort each other when we’re down. We don’t really have a rivalry, and we don’t get jealous of each other, but… Whenever we message I get kinda weird because I text this person a lot and they don’t text me back nearly as often. Sometimes it says just ‘sent’ beat it and that’s okay, cus I know they’re not online. Period. But I get weird when it says ‘delivered’ because that means they’re online and haven’t read their messages, and I get even sadder when they don’t respond to a message even when it says ‘read’ although, when we do text each other, they’re really fun conversations. So I have a question. Is this person just busy, or is he ignoring/avoiding me??

    Reply
  8. At first, I didn’t have any friends, the majority of them were backstabbers. But now I am in a friend group of 6. IT’S LIKE HEAVEN!! We understand each other, we talk every day from the moment we are up to the time we go to bed. We are always together, always laughing and just genuinely having a good time. We do have our arguments but we always get through them. We tell each other literally everything and share thoughts, interests, and ideas. We always joke about each other in a fun-loving way but never with the intention of hurting each other. It’s like we are sisters from different parents really and we will have our 2 year anniversary as a friend group this year in April…It’s been amazing and I couldn’t thank God enough for them

    Reply
  9. I have a friend that I met in camp about half a year ago. I really like her, and I feel happy whenever I see her. She seems to enjoy my company and sits next to me whenever the seats next to me aren’t occupied. I think of her as my friend, but I’m not sure if she trusts me. She never speaks about herself or her personal stuff. Is this just because we’ve only really been together in public, or does she just not trust me? I respect her privacy either way. I just like being trusted.

    Reply
    • Hmmm, well maybe she has trust issues, maybe coz of her past something happened so she’s not being able to trust? Just be open with her, and try not to show signs as if you’ll judge her, just show her that u can help her. You’ll always be by her side! Show her that u do trust her! You’ll see, one day she’ll open up, have a NOICE day buddy 😉

      Reply
      • Thanks, Anonymous S. That helps a lot. *smiles* (Oooh, just a single letter for a name… How mysterious of you XD)

  10. That person is a coworker. They have shared their most intimate and dark secrets with me at work. We have bonded closely with coworkers. We have developed this trusted relationship as coworkers.
    But I think we could be cool friends beyond work.

    Yet still, there is no contact from that person after work
    90% of the time, I initiate the text, calls, or Whatsapp messages.

    Noticed that there was slight jealous behavior now again.

    Sometimes I feel I want to end this without hurting their feelings as it is a one-sided friendship or am I looking for too much and just accepting the workplace relationship.

    Reply
  11. 1)She is always tired and busy when we want to chat as friends
    2) She never has time for me
    3) I always think of forcing myself talking to her and when I do so she always tells me she is tired

    Reply
    • She may be tired but if this is a reoccurring issue, then she probably isn’t your friend. If you are the only person putting forth the effort, then she may not be your friend for you.

      Reply
    • Hmmmhmmm, maybe she’s actually tired? And maybe wants help? But she’s just not being able to coz of her self-esteem. Go ask her out if she’s ok. Sometimes when people are mentally exhausted and got diagnosed with depression often say this. Check for other signs of how she speaks nowadays lately.
      I hope everything goes well, have a NOICE day 😉

      Reply
    • The only sure way to avoid jealousy is for you and your friend(s) to have confidence & self-esteem. If not then there will always and I mean always be jealousy. Also, jealousy is not gender specific. So it doesn’t matter if you have friends of the same gender or opposite gender. As long as you both are comfortable in your own skin it will definitely be a lasting friendship.

      Reply
  12. I have a friend who is an introvert but enjoys hanging out with his friends. He is smart and gentle and caring for everyone. I always trouble him by calling or texting but he never gets irritated. Whenever he sees me outside by coincidence he tries to grab my attention. He does not share anything about personal life much but tries to meet me whenever possible. He doesn’t introduce me to his friends. Is it a sign that he is my true friend?

    Reply
    • Sounds to me that this person has more than friends’ feelings towards you lol. Maybe he doesn’t want his friends to meet you because he’s afraid they will like you as well and ask you out before he has the nerve to do so. Just let whatever happens to happen. Don’t ask him anything about liking you in any other way than a friend because he might feel uncomfortable and it can sure ruin a good friendship. Just go with the flow and enjoy whatever keeps you both happy.

      Reply
  13. I have a friend but my last bday she did not remember. We always remembered and participated in each other’s bdays. She texted me last year and I mentioned my bday after she was telling me of her upcoming bday plans. She asked me when was my bday. I was shocked. I knew hers but she had forgotten mine. So to make up for this, she texts me and tells me she was in town and she got a gift for me; but at this time she was trying to get me to come to her bday. I called her previously and told her I might not make it; not cause of my bday that she missed but because I had low funds to attend. I did not. Ever since all this we been distant. I texted and called her to communicate bout everything she replied but I have not heard from her since. Im not going to keep trying when shes not. What is your take?

    Reply
  14. I have a friend from my school days. We grew closer and would share everything with each other. After one year I changed my school and he remained in the previous one only. We used to chat on social media almost every day. But since the last two years we are not in touch with each other. It’s always me who calls him and ask about him how is everything going. I even tell him to remain in touch however he never makes the effort to call me. He is a great friend but we are no more connected the way we used to be.

    Reply
  15. I made a good friend a couple years ago. We were very close. We have very different personalities but we complemented each other. Unfortunately, things changed. He began to get tired of me & tell me what was wrong with me. We had terrible fights & he hurt me a lot. Now, we talk sometimes, but about half the time he still gets mad at me, because I don’t say the right things or make him happy enough. We help each other with certain things in our life but I get the feeling our friendship has passed. It’s hard to believe, since we had such good times once.

    Reply
  16. At this present time I’ve cut off all friends good and bad!. I dnt know who to trust anymore and I’m not sure ppl like me can get by in todays society.

    Reply
    • I feel the same way, its interesting that i live in this society with no friends, i just dont trust anybody and its hard for me to talk to anybody about my personal life

      Reply
    • Trust yourself, and just go in. Try to make a new friend, but not awkwardly. Be yourself, and if they can’t accept who you are, then they aren’t a good friend.

      Reply
  17. I don’t have any friends who make it a point to be in my life. I feel like I’m the one who has to initiate everything and if I don’t I would never see any of them. It really hurts not having anyone, I know they aren’t the greatest friends in the world but I keep them because without them I’d have none at all.

    Reply
    • This is a little long, but it comes from a heart of empathy and kindness.

      I don’t know where you are at in life. Yet I have been where you are at. Keep engaging with people, don’t be afraid to branch out *try new things* this is a great way to meet new people! By doing this, I have found new friends that reciprocate and embody the ideas featured in this article. Two more things: in trying to find new friends, I offend jeopardized myself by being too upfront and aggressive. Be patient! It’s challenging, but necessary friendships don’t develop overnight; they take time. Try to engage with them ask them what they’re doing this weekend or this week. By doing this, you take an interest in them and the things they are doing. When there are opportunities to do things or invites you to do something, SAY YES (but don’t overextend yourself). Even if you don’t like the activity 9/10 times, there will be conversations and the opportunity to meet new people and make connections!

      Reply
  18. I have a couple of close friends, one of them, however, although is good, during a conversation, almost always deliberately taking the opposite and critical side no matter the subject. This makes me tiring to have a normal conversation because it rather seems more of an argument which both likes to win. And I am keeping myself distant. is this normal?

    Reply
  19. My boyfriend cares a lot about me and is dependable and always says sorry but is very hard on me and critical when I leave I don’t feel good about myself but can’t tell if I am over reacting.

    Reply
    • Do you want to feel unhappy forever? Take it from someone who stayed – you’ll regret it. You may feel it’s ok because you had similar treatment with your family of origin, but when you wake up old and alone and it’s too late to find anyone else, you’ll regret it. You are NOT overreacting. You are reacting to a bad situation. Get out now.

      Reply
    • You should never feel down on yourself when you leave a friend or boyfriend. Anyone who truly cares about you will always uplift you and make you feel good about yourself. If they make you feel bad about yourself then that’s their personal issue they need to work on.

      Reply
  20. I have a friend we were away on holidays in 2019 for a week but I found he started to push my Buttons to get a rise out of me, we both suffer from SA so I was surprised by his behaviour he acts like he’s an athourithy on everything but we have a lot in common so I’m willing to overlook his personality faults as we all have them but I will have to see if he tries to make fun of me for his own enjoyment wether the friendship has a future long term …

    Reply
  21. I have a best friend. She qualifies all of these characteristics. She’s genuinely amazing and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend. We have a lot in common and have the same personality, mindset, lifestyle etc. We both like the same things. But recently (over the past year or so) whenever we meet up or spend time one on one together, things get awkward and there are plenty of silences and the conversation feels forced. What’s weird is that we text almost every day and have amazing conversations while texting. I don’t know what to do. She tries to initiate one on one meetups but I avoid them because the awkwardness kills me every time. I can’t stop being friends with her, I’ve known her for 16 years and she plays a major role in my life. But I can’t get us to bond and vibe like we used to before.

    Reply
  22. My closest friend always makes me feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders, loves to joke around with me to get me to laugh, and we talk about things that bother us and we support each other through it.

    Reply
  23. I have a childhood friend . I used to live in another country but I didn’t have his number. After 5 long years, we came in contact through whatsapp and used to chit chat so long. But just after 2 years, he seems changed. He doesn’t text me anymore and I always make the effort to text him anything. He doesn’t even reply me after reading my text ????

    Reply

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