Friendship can be difficult. It requires frequent care and nurturing (a bit like a little houseplant) and we can sometimes be left doubting whether we’re doing a good job at supporting those we care about.
It’s also easy to get caught up in a trap of self-doubt, particularly when we really value the people around us. You might be wondering if you’re doing enough, if you’re being as great a friend as you’d like to be.
In this article, I’ll share nine signs you are. Hopefully, they’ll be enough to assure you that you’re a great friend, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Let’s get started!
1) You’re present (and not just on social media)
Friendship can be a little funny in today’s online world. It means more than consistently liking a friend’s Instagrams, or keeping up your Snapchat streak.
You might have left fire emoji comments on all of your friend’s holiday posts, but do you actually know what they’ve been up to and how they’ve been feeling?
Although it’s easier than ever to stay in touch and to even make friends online, a great friend is also available and present offline.
They initiate hanging out in person and show up when you do make plans. They reach out regularly and ask how you’re doing, and are there if you need someone to talk to.
2) You value their time
Maintaining long-term friendships as you get older can be difficult.
It’s easy to keep up with friends when you have the time to go clubbing every weekend, or to catch up on weekdays.
However, as life gets busier, you’ll find some ‘friends’ dropping off the radar. Things like work, relationships, and children start to get in the way of keeping up with friendships.
Great friends know how busy life is. They’re also likely dealing with their own responsibilities, but they still value other people’s time and prioritize your friendship.
They’re not late, and even if they are too busy to fit seeing you into their schedule, they’ll let you know rather than ghosting you for months.
3) You let them be themselves
Life sometimes feels a bit like a theatre stage on which you need to perform for others.
However, great friends don’t leave you feeling pressured to put on a show and act like someone you’re not.
Letting your friends be their true selves without having to only show their good sides is a hallmark of great friendship.
If your friend doesn’t hide their Star Wars collectibles or handmade taxidermy collection (not that they should), it’s probably a sign that they really trust you.
The same goes for a friend opening up and being honest about mental health issues or when they’re feeling down.
Great friendship means creating a safe space where both of you are comfortable with being your authentic selves and encouraging all aspects of your character.
4) You’re empathetic to their own struggles, even if they don’t match your own
Being able to put yourself in your friend’s shoes when they’re struggling with something and see it from their perspective is a sign of empathy.
This might at times be challenging. Maybe you didn’t just get fired, or your dog didn’t die, so you struggle to say the right thing to a friend going through these experiences.
Nonetheless, if you’re able to try and feel the emotions your friend is feeling to better support and advise them, you’re doing a great job.
5) You’re honest and call them out when they’re in the wrong
As such a big part of friendship is being honest and turning to one another for advice, a great friend won’t blindly tell you that you’re always in the right – even when you’re not.
If your friend is doing something that goes against your morals, you’ll let them know in a polite and substantiated manner.
If they’re being unnecessarily mean to someone for no reason, you won’t be grabbing your guns and igniting their fire with your own insults. Instead, you’ll tell them to act more appropriately.
Or if they’re dead set that mammoths are still alive, you don’t tell them they’re stupid. Rather, come with some printed-out studies and kindly show them that they’re about 10,000 years too late.
But when they do need you…
6) You have their back
Whilst being a great friend means being honest and not blindly backing up your friend when they’re in the wrong, it does mean being ready to ride at dawn when they do need you.
Say you’re out and you see your friend’s partner flirting with someone else. They’ve been together long-term, your friend really loves them, and you know that informing them will be awkward and heartbreaking. It might even land you in the firing line.
Still, if there’s no doubt in your mind that you’d take the initiative to tell your friend, even if it backfires on you, you can count yourself a great friend.
The same goes for having their back in other situations. Some people enjoy petty gossip and demeaning others. If you’d retaliate against someone criticizing your friend even in their absence, you’re one of the good ones.
7) You keep their secrets
If you’re listening to someone else gossip about your friend (and hopefully taking a stand against it), you can be sure that you’re not the source of that gossip.
A sign of being a great friend is being incredibly trustworthy. If a friend shares confidential information with you, there’s no doubt that you’re taking it to your grave.
Fostering a safe space in which your friends feel comfortable sharing secrets with you is one mark of great friendship. Keeping those secrets safe and sound is another.
8) You’re able to apologize when you’re the one in the wrong
Even the greatest, most reliable friend in the world can sometimes mess up.
If you’re able to acknowledge when you’re in the wrong yourself and apologize, you’re doing a lot better than most people. Saying sorry is difficult and takes a lot of humility.
However, being able to put your friendship above your own ego and knowing when to apologize is a true sign of being a great friend.
If you end up in an argument with your friend over who left out dirty dishes or what happens in the afterlife and let your emotions get the better of you, it can be difficult to own up and say sorry.
Having the self-awareness to know where you personally went wrong and putting your friendship first is an indicator of great friendship qualities.
9) You aim to make each other the best version of yourselves
I was about to write that great friends aim to make each other ‘better people’, but the truth is, we’re already great. Great friends know that, and encourage their friends to accept and improve upon their best qualities.
This doesn’t mean trying to change someone, but rather being aware of their insecurities so that you can actively help them to improve their self-esteem.
I have a pretty amazing best friend who is a great example of this. She knows how anxious I get about attending parties, and how I’ll often bail at the last minute.
More often than not, she will premeditate this and ‘swing by’ my house beforehand for what she claims is a catch-up or to borrow some clothes.
A great friend knows their friends really, really well. They lift their friends up with compliments and encouragement, and premeditate their insecurities with gentle support.
Eeek! I didn’t relate to all of these points, am I not a great friend?
This isn’t a great friend quiz. If you didn’t relate to one of these points, or think you could work better at being a good friend to someone you care about, take it as a sign of where you could improve.
None of us are perfect, particularly when it comes to maintaining healthy friendships. There are areas where all of us could do better.
Just remember to treat your friends as you would like to be treated, and avoid moving mountains for people who would not do the same for you in return.