8 Qualities of a Good Friendship

Valentine’s Day is intended to celebrate love between two consenting people. It symbolizes a bond that brings fulfillment into the lives of many. While this can seem highly exclusive towards those who are single or those who have lost a loved one, the principles that come with choosing a mate can also be applied to choosing good friends. In fact, attraction may be the only difference. So, whether you are on the hunt for a new and better friendship, or you are reassessing your current friendships, take these characteristics into account:

Honest

Are your friends honest? I don’t mean “brutally honest” or the type of honesty that makes you feel bad. I mean do they lie to you about where they were or who they were with? Do they tell you that they are happy to do the favor you asked but then gossip to others about how you made them do something they didn’t have time for? Do they let you know, in a productive way, if you hurt their feelings? It isn’t always easy to tell if someone is lying to you exactly, but with some observation it can be easy to start noticing if your friends are being their authentic selves with you. If your friends put up guards around you and avoid getting into deeper conversations with you it may be because they aren’t feeling safe to tell you their true feelings. This may not be your fault, and perhaps just takes some time with some people. But having too many friends like this will make it difficult for you to maintain the deep relationship that is necessary to help you feel safe in that relationship. I have noticed that I am less open with those who are less open with me, and the friends who have been dishonest with me make it difficult to trust- another essential friendship quality.

Respectful

John Gottman, the guru of relationships, states that contempt, or lack of respect, is one of the top four reasons for divorce. While you are not romantically involved with your friends, respect is still going to affect the longevity of that relationship. It is inevitable that you will have differing personality traits, belief systems, and interests than your friends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. The deciding factor is whether or not you respect those differences. Believe it or not, people who have completely opposite political views can be friends. The trick is to avoid believing that you are better, more educated, more of anything. Treat your friends like their opinion matters and their experiences are valid, and choose friends who will do the same for you. Some people simply need a little boost. If you feel disrespected, let them know that you will keep trying to be respectful toward them, but that you would like the same treatment in return. Show them that you care about them, so they don’t take it too harshly.

Reciprocates

This is a lesser known, but just as important part of a friendship. Relationships where one person gives more than the other rarely last. Eventually the giver burns out or starts trying hard to cash in their “investment.” Have you ever invited someone to do something and they said, “no thanks!” but never seemed to offer another time to get together? This may be a sign that this is the type of friend who is not in a position to help with the maintenance of the relationship. There doesn’t have to be an equitable distribution of favors in the relationship, but there does need to be a lot of give and take. If you see that you are the only one giving, then it’s okay to take a break from that friend. Maybe when you branch out, you will find someone who is willing to put forth the effort. However, avoid using this as a tactic to force your friends into doing things for you. If they do bring up the fact that you haven’t been calling as much lately, be honest and let them know that you feel like you have been giving a lot more than you can handle and needed to take a break. Let the conversation be honest and respectful. Keep in mind, also, that some people just don’t require as much “friend time” as you might. So, being aware of your friends’ needs might help you only put forth the amount of maintenance that is necessary and not too much more.

Kind

This is a no-brainer, but choose friends that are kind. If you have a friend who is constantly putting you down, or tries to frequently force you to do things you don’t want, then they aren’t the friends for you. They should be respectful of your boundaries, and never try to actively punish you for your mistakes. When you make a mistake, it will be natural for them to be hurt, but when you apologize or try to fix the problem, a good friend is forgiving and willing to go back to a better state of friendship.

Cheers you on

Friends who act jealous or try to downplay your successes may not be the type of friendships you need.  While different people express their feelings differently, there is no need to be friends with someone who doesn’t want to celebrate your accomplishments with you in some way or another. If, however, you have a friend who is honest about their feelings of jealousy, but doesn’t seem to be trying to punish you for their lack of success, acknowledge their negative feelings and let them know that you weren’t trying to make them feel bad. There are some times when a good friend is just in a bad place in their lives, but can shake off their feelings eventually. However, if a friend is consistently treating you like your growth doesn’t matter, then feel free to let that one go.

Attentive

With the new age of technology, it is hard to not go out and see someone on their phone, tablet, or computer. Good friends are willing to put those things down to spend time with you, particularly when you are in need of their support. Attentive friends don’t interrupt you or change the subject when they get bored. Friends who constantly revert the conversation back on themselves may be a sign that they can be too self-centered to be around for long periods of time. A good friend is the kind of person who is aware of the needs and desire of those around them and is willing to talk openly about it.

 Follows Through

Have you ever had a friend who starts to make plans with you, but then drops off midway through the planning process? Or a friend who you made plans with but then flakes out last minute or simply doesn’t show up? These behaviors are toxic to a relationship because the person who isn’t following through is showing that they deem their time to be more valuable than yours. Friends who value one another’s time and efforts show that they care by acknowledging your efforts or by communicating during the process if something may not work out. Some people are just busy, or have jobs that make planning social things difficult. However, the difference is in those who don’t take the blame for their misbehavior. If they don’t apologize or acknowledge fault, or if they always blame circumstances, it shows that they may have a difficult time changing that behavior.

The most important tip that you can gain from this article is this: be the type of friend that you want to have in your life. Your example of friendship will far outweigh any lecturing that you may do to compel your friends to do a better job. Additionally, when you set your sights on being a good friend rather than having a good friend, you will often attract better people into your life. It’s okay to have boundaries and to communicate what you expect from your friendships, but having realistic expectations and then appropriately managing your friendships with foster and develop them the best.

As you may have discovered, having good friends is highly beneficial to your mental health. When you are feeling like your relationships are predictable, safe, and enjoyable, your mental well being can be greatly improved. It provides nourishment to your self-confidence and guides your success in recovery. If you are looking for a good out-patient or residential treatment center in the Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA areas then consider Lifeline Connections. We offer state of the art care for mental health treatment and customized one-on-one counseling. Email or call us any time with questions or to express interest in our facilities: admissions@lifelineconnections.org or 360-397-8246 ext. 7580

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