Friends – how many of us have them? I have a lot of contacts in my phone, but there are only a small handful of people I consider my friends. They’re the ones that stuck with me as I transitioned from corporate shill to antihero, the ones who picked up the phone when I lost everything and desperately grasped for normalcy. I don’t call anyone my bff unless they meet these criteria.

1. A best friend listens to you.

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It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve said the same asinine thing – a true best friend never tires of hearing your ridiculous stories. Your best friend is one who listens to your work gossip, even if he or she doesn’t understand it.

2. A best friend always has your back.

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Some people act friendly to you, but when the chips are down, they turn their back. A high-quality best friend is always there. If you walk into a Hell’s Angels clubhouse to explain motorcycles are for pussies, your best friend is waiting outside with the engine running.

3. A best friend accepts you at your worst.

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Ever wonder if your friends are real? You’ll find out when you do something bad. Fake friends can’t deal with your vices, addictions or bad decisions. A real best friend loves you when you’re in the gutter with your middle finger in the air.

4. A best friend loves you.

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I have to admit, I have a few bromances – they’re those guys I hug a little longer, make an uncomfortable amount of eye contact with at parties, and have licked for a variety of reasons. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for these people because they’re high-quality best friends.

5. A best friend can talk about personal things.

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The most substantial and sincere friendships you have are with people you can talk openly with about all your personal business. High-quality best friends can take a conversation from breakfast to work to your diarrhea without batting an eye.

6. A best friend knows how to make you smile.

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We all have certain triggers that make us smile or laugh. Friends have inside jokes – best friends reference those shared moments anytime you’re down to make sure you have a smile on your face.

7. A best friend gives an honest opinion.

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Any stranger can be polite – as a decent human being, you should be polite to people as a default setting. What makes a high-quality best friend is their authentic voice. They’ll tell you when you look a hot mess instead of smiling to your face and telling everyone else.

8. A best friend sticks by your side.

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You’ll go through some crazy things in life. I’ve found people start to avoid you when you become too much of an inconvenience. Anyone who’s ever been through a major medical condition can tell you acquaintances sign a card, friends visit you in the hospital, and best friends sit with you while you sleep.

9. A best friend helps you even when he or she doesn’t agree.

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Whistleblowing taught me a lot about relationships. A lot of my friends and family didn’t agree with my decision to butt heads with the man, especially in such a public manner. My high-quality best friends were the ones who accepted me and my life decisions, whether they agreed or not.

10. A best friend encourages you.

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We have those people in our lives who want to outdo, outshine or down us. It’s OK to be competitive, but people who don’t have your best interests at heart aren’t your friends. An actual best friend encourages you in your endeavors.

11. A best friend knows your secrets.

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Co-workers, classmates and clients all have their places in our lives. We share time, space and experiences with these people. Your actual friends have been there when you’ve done things you don’t necessarily broadcast to the public. A solid best friend knows all your dirty little secrets, and keeps them that way.

12. A best friend traverses time and space.

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I spent the last week crashing on the couch of one of my high-quality best friends. We hadn’t seen each other in three years and talked maybe two or three times in that period. There are a lot of reasons for the original distance, and when I showed up on her doorstep, none of those reasons mattered; we hung out as though it was just yesterday we last saw each other.

13. A best friend is dependable.

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A high-quality best friend is one you can count on. My best friends know what they can expect from me, and I know what I can expect from them. We don’t cross each other’s boundaries, and we go out of our way to accommodate each other.

14. A best friend never judges you.

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Everyone hates being judged when it’s bad, but we all judge people. A high-quality best friend already judged you a long time ago when you met, so they have no need to do it ever again.

15. A best friend celebrates your success.

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One of these days, you’re going to succeed at something in life – that’s when the haters come out the woodworks. Some people you thought were your friends turn out not to be. Your high-quality best friends are the ones who celebrate with you, rather than let their envy get the best of them.

A friend bails you out of jail, but a best friend is in the cell next to you. Quality always comes before quantity, and in order to find quality best friends, you need to be a high-quality best friend yourself. Be the change you wish to see in the world, and go make quality friends.

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