As we go through life, we have the opportunity to meet a variety of different people. Some become casual acquaintances who we just smile and wave at when we see them and others don’t merit a second thought after they walk out the door, but a select few will make it into the inner circle and become friends.

There are different types of friends, however, and it often takes a while to determine whether the person you enjoy spending time with is a true friend or not. Sure, it’s great to get to know new people, and you might really enjoy hanging out with a particular group on weekends, but how do you feel when you’re around them? Do they elevate your spirits, or put you down? Would the person you go clubbing with on Friday nights come and visit you if you were really sick? What about bailing you out of jail? Would they come with you to break terrible news to your family, or be willing to go for a picnic in the middle of the night just because?

Let’s take a look at a few traits of solid, amazing friends.

The Ability to Listen

“A friend asks, ‘Tell me one word which is significant in any kinds of relationship.’ Another friend says, ‘LISTEN!’” – Santosh Kalwar

When we communicate with other people, we can usually tell whether they’re listening to us, or just waiting to speak. Their body language speaks volumes about whether they actually care about what we’re saying. If they interrupt us, text to other people while you’re talking, change the subject, or turn the conversation back to something about them, then they aren’t really paying attention, are they?

A true friend will focus entirely on you and actually hear what it is you’re saying. If you need to just rant away about a shitty situation, they’ll shut up and let you vent. If you need advice, they’ll listen to what you need, repeat back to you some key points to ensure they got all the information, and then give you some tips and pointers. Whether you’re heartbroken, elated, or just in need of a sympathetic ear, you can be sure that when you’re talking, your words are being heard.

Honesty/Sincerity

“We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

If you upset an acquaintance by saying or doing something unpleasant, they’ll likely just pretend it never happened and then bitch about you to everyone else behind your back. A true friend will call you on your behaviour and let you know that it was hurtful/upsetting/offensive because your relationship is important to them and they want to ensure that all snags are worked through. An acquaintance will pretend that everything’s okay and then whines about you to anyone who’ll listen doesn’t care about ensuring that everything’s okay. You’re replaceable to them, and if they don’t smooth things out with you, they can just hang out with somebody else from now on.

Complete Acceptance

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to: letting a person be what he really is.” – Jim Morrison

Do you find that your friends are constantly trying to make you into something that you’re not not, deep down? This could be as innocuous as someone continually urging you to wear clothes that you’re not wholly comfortable wearing, or more unnerving, such as pushing you to drink more, or behave in ways that you feel embarrassed about the next day. Some might do these things out of a desire to “help” you, in that they want to “improve” something about you to better fit their idealized view of you, while others might want to justify their own behaviour by getting you to join in with them. Either way, it’s not much fun for you, and doesn’t allow you to really be yourself around them, does it?

A real friend loves and accepts you exactly as you are, and doesn’t care if you live in overalls and striped socks, eat cheese and pickle sandwiches on raisin bread, or dress like you stepped out of a Renaissance Faire. They accept you as you are, “warts and all”.

Dependability

“You need not wonder whether you should have an unreliable person as a friend. An unreliable person is nobody’s friend.”
– Idries Shah

Have you ever had an experience in which you made sure you were there for a friend when they needed you, but when you needed them in turn, they weren’t available? If you have, you might remember how much that hurt, and how betrayed you may have felt at the time. It hurts like hell when you go out of your way to take care of someone, and then when you’re vulnerable and in need, find out that they’d consider it inconvenient to reciprocate. They might say that they’re too busy, or they might even “accidentally” miss your calls/texts, but there’s usually some excuse they come up with in order to get out of whatever it is you need from them.

A true friend is the person you can call in the middle of the night if you’re sick or heartbroken, and they’ll offer to come over to help you out however they can. They’re the ones you can turn to in crisis, or will keep secrets absolutely safe if you’re planning something spectacularly wonderful. There’s never any doubt as to whether they’ll be there for you when you need them to be; you can depend on them as well as they depend on you, in a perfect balance of giving and sharing.

Presence

“The warmth of a friend’s presence brings joy to our hearts, sunlight to our souls, and pleasure to all life.”  – Author Unknown

If you were to delete all of your social media accounts today, how many people do you think would still be in touch with you next week? If you no longer subscribed to anyone’s “feeds” for information about them, who would email you in order to keep you apprised of goings-on in their lives, or to check in on how you were doing? Who would text or call you? Or (dare I ask) even write you a letter? It might be worth doing a social media fast for a week or two just to see how many people would still reach out to contact you.

A true friend is one who makes a point to not only touch base with you on a regular basis, but also takes the time to be with you in person whenever possible. In some instances where distance is an issue, there might be Skype or Gtalk Hangouts instead, but it’s still face-to-face time wherein you can connect with them, and they with you. If someone is always too busy to dedicate time to you, or considers anything other than a Facebook “like” to be inconvenient, it might be worth re-evaluating your friendship with them.

The traits mentioned above are just a few that are associated with good, true friends, but there are many others. Keep people in your life who enhance your life, who make you feel appreciated and boost your spirits, and whom you would truly miss if they were gone. Life is far too short to spend with those who aren’t worthy of your time, or your friendship.

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Featured photo credit: Teenage Boys Sitting In Playground via Shutterstock

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