Have you ever wondered what makes a real friend? This topic becomes increasingly important as modern relationships become more spread out and surface-level. The New York Times wrote that the typical American is acquainted with six hundred people. However, the same article said that the typical American only feels close to ten or twenty-five people. If you are looking at your list of acquaintances and wondering who you should include in your inner circle, consider these signs of real friendship.
When you feel upset, you want your closest friends to really understand what you feel. This requires that they do their best to set aside their emotions and not interrupt. Although you might want their input afterwards, it’s important that they understand your feelings and perspective on the situation. This skill can apply to any emotion you want to share. Happiness, anger, guilt, or anxiety are all emotions that humans naturally want to share with people they trust. If someone can’t take the time or apply the emotional energy to understand your feelings and where they are coming from, you probably don’t want them in your list of close friends.
They Celebrate Your Success
When you are celebrating a personal achievement, you don’t want someone who will try to steal that spotlight. A real friend doesn’t downplay your talents and successes out of their own insecurity. Just like listening, a quality friend sets aside their own feelings to acknowledge yours. Hopefully they have been there with you as you’ve struggled and worked for this goal. A real friend will cheer you on when things are tough and feel proud of you when you conquer that challenge. Ultimately, a real friend wants you to become a healthier, happier version of you. This means they aren’t threated by every triumph you have because they didn’t need you to match their misery. Even if they’re personally hurting or in a hard place, they don’t take that out on you to feel better. This shows that they value you as a person and not a background character of their own story.
They Show Up When You Need Them
When you reach the end of your rope and call a friend, you know whether or not you matter to them based off their answer. If a loved one dies, you’re really sick, you’re going through a breakup, or your car breaks down – a real friend will prioritize what you need. They will show up, comfort, problem solve, take stressors off your plate, and be present. Maybe they won’t do it perfectly, but you will know they care about you. Nothing is worse than relying on someone who just flakes out of any tangible support. Sure, brunch buddies are fun – but when the fun stops, you need friends who will stay anyway. If someone only shows up when you are doing good, then you probably don’t want to list them as someone you can count on.
They Like You for Who You Are
When you are able to be yourself around your friends it means that you are able to trust that they won’t ridicule or shame you for your identity. So if you feel like you can’t be yourself around your friend, consider if you can even trust them. Although many people feel anxious about showing their genuine self while getting to know someone, that should subside as they show interest in your personality. If you always feel like you have to keep up appearances to avoid judgement, this person is probably not a real friend. When you are grieving or struggling, you want people around you who will comfort and encourage you without pretenses. Plus it’s exhausting to pretend to be someone you aren’t, so for your own mental health think about if you want to redirect this energy into healthier, more supportive relationships.
They Don’t Gossip Behind Your Back
The idea that a friend would take the information you trusted them with and spread it carelessly is heartbreaking. If you trust someone with your feelings, ideas, vulnerability, and secrets, they need to keep that trust long-term. If you’ve found out that one of your close friends has leaked private information behind your back, question if you can trust this person in the future. Maybe they didn’t do it maliciously, but don’t feel bad if you don’t share sensitive information in the future. If the amount of people most people can be close to is limited, don’t waste your time or energy on people who have lost your trust. This person can still be an acquaintance if you feel comfortable with that set up but think about the other people in your life who can be in your closest circle. At the end of the day, life is too short to spend with people who don’t make you feel accepted and supported.
Gelman, Andrew. (2013). The Average American Knows How Many People? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/science/the-average-american-knows-how-many-people.html