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How to Be a Good Friend: 49 Traits & Friend Codes that Define a Real Pal

Everyone thinks that they’re a great friend, but in practice, are you as good as you could be? Learn how to be a good friend and know for sure. 

how to be a good friend qualities traits

Everyone needs friendship in their lives. A good friend will carry you through the hard times and be by your side throughout it all. Most of us think we’re the best friend possible, but do you really know how to be a good friend?

You don’t have to have a huge squad of friends to feel blessed in the friendship department.

It’s true that quality is far more important than quantity. If you only have one or two really good friends, consider yourself very lucky indeed.

There are far too many people out there who call themselves good friends but they’re actually super-toxic. Understanding the traits to look for in a friend helps you avoid those people like the plague. Knowing what to do to be a good friend to others is also vital. Friendship is a two-way street, after all!

[Read: What makes a good friend – The art of honing your friendship skills]

Why is friendship so important?

So, why is friendship so important in the first place? Basically, we all need friends to be happy, supported, and healthy. Without friends, you’d be pretty lonely, and loneliness is a slippery slope to go down.

Friends help you to remember what is important in life. They lift you up when you’re struggling and they tell you what you need to hear, not only what you think you want to hear.

A day with a true friend can take you out of a perpetual funk and remind you of why it’s so important to smile. Basically, without friends in your life, you’ll become pretty miserable.

But, it’s equally as important to know that you need to look for quality and not numbers. You don’t need people stabbing you in the back when you’re not looking.

By understanding what makes a good friend, you can attract more of the good ones in your life and know when to avoid the ones who simply try to act a certain way. Then, you can learn how to be a good friend too. [Read: Bad friends – 25 kinds of friends you MUST unfriend from your life]

The BFF code – How to be a good friend

Friendship involves caring for someone the way you do yourself. It means being honest, and knowing when to push and when to hold fast. If you want to know how to be a good friend, these are the rules that make you an excellent person to be around. 

1. You can go to a pity party

If you are in a friendship and the other person has recently had a traumatic incident, it can become difficult to allow them to wallow. Understanding how to read the signs when someone just needs a hug or some sympathy is the best way to learn how to be a good friend.

There will be some people who respond to a kick in the ass, while others need a little coddling to bring them back to life. [Read: Good friends are like stars – 18 ways to build lasting relationships]

2. You know when to make vodka lemonade out of lemons

Some people will sit and stew for years without ever just moving on. There are times when, instead of attending their pity party, you need to show up with vodka lemonade to turn those lemons around.

Sometimes, someone needs to be presented with the other side and given a little push to move on. Then they’ll see that their world isn’t disintegrating.

3. Have heavy shoulders

When you are friends with someone, it’s easy to get your feelings hurt. There are going to be times when your friend is having a hard time or going through drama. Hard times don’t always bring out the best in people, and sometimes they need somewhere to deposit their anger.

The first likely candidate is someone they love and feel safe around. Although difficult, sometimes you have to allow someone to vent, even if it feels personal, and not take it personally.

Having heavy shoulders means being their sounding board and sometimes their dumping ground. [Read: How to stop being so sensitive about everything all the time]

4. Be honest

If you don’t agree with their side of the story, or you see them holding onto the belief that they were in the right, then you have an obligation to be honest and tell them. Sure, it isn’t a fun thing to tell your friend that you saw their boyfriend with another girl.

But, if you want to know how to be a good friend, you need to be honest even when it hurts. Just make sure you stick around to pick up the pieces after you tear it all apart. [Read: Being brutally honest – 13 scenarios when it’s an obligation]

5. Don’t say what they want to hear, but what they need to hear

Sometimes we turn to the friends who tell us the best “story.” That means we don’t want to hear what we should; we want to hear what we want to hear.

It always feels better to be the good guy, but it isn’t always best for our friends.

Telling someone what they need to hear may be a harder road to go down. However, if you want to know how to be a good friend, you have to tell them what they might not want to hear instead of what will make them feel good. [Read: How to make a friend feel better – 21 ways to help a sad friend]

6. Only play devil’s advocate when it is warranted

We all have those friends who are very good at putting things into perspective and showing us the opposite side of a story. There are times when that is a good thing. However, other times it sounds like they are negating our hurt or trying to convince us that what we feel isn’t real or true.

Playing devil’s advocate sometimes can feel non-supportive. At times, it may be better to just hold your tongue, nod your head, and wait to tell them the other side. [Read: Why you should tell the truth even if it hurts & why it matters]

7. Be there not only for the parties, but when the music dies

Everyone is a good friend when times are awesome, and life is a party. The real friends are the ones who stick around even after the music dies.

It is really simple to be someone who wants to be there during the fun times, but also hangs out to clean up afterwards. That takes more care and concern. Be the friend who is still there long after people have vacated.

8. Don’t always give in

Knowing how to be a good friend isn’t always about giving in and putting your own needs and wants aside. Being the martyr doesn’t make you a good friend.

Most people who play the martyr are doing so because they are trying to gain acceptance by being “nice,” not by being their genuine self. You don’t have to be someone’s pin cushion to be a good friend. In fact, that isn’t a real friendship at all. [Read: 13 signs your friends are ruining your relationship]

9. Respect their space

There might be times when your friend is getting too close, or things are just not clicking. Being a good friend means that you have to know when to take a break and give your friend some space.

Blowing up their phone when they are obviously trying to gain some distance will tax the relationship and could potentially drive your friend away. [Read: Clingy friends – What makes them clingy all of a sudden and 22 ways to fix the friendship]

10. Make them a priority

If you make plans with a friend, then you keep plans with a friend. If that hot guy calls and asks you out after a year of pining over him, then surely your friend will understand if you cancel.

But if you never make concrete plans, or are always looking for something better to come along, that doesn’t scream friend, that screams shallow. [Read: Why flaky friends are the worst kind of friends to have!]

11. Understand and be empathetic when they are going through a rough time

Knowing how to be a good friend involves putting your own wants aside. If your friend is going through a breakup, then don’t suggest a chick flick. Being empathetic means that you can put yourself in your friend’s shoes.

12. Make sure the relationship is going both ways

It isn’t always the case that birds of a feather flock together. If you are a mountain person and they are more of a Sunday afternoon drive, then make sure that you are doing what they want as much as they are doing what you want. Be there for them as much as they are for you, if you want to know how to be a good friend.

13. Don’t dominate the drama

We all have that friend who is all drama. They are entertaining enough, but sometimes they are nothing more than sheer entertainment.

If you are the drama queen, then it might be time to check yourself and let someone else have the stage for a while. Drama is fun once in a while, but if that is all you have and all you talk about, it is bound to get old quickly. [Read: Drama queen alert – The big steps to calmly deal with the diva]

14. Do the small things to brighten their day

Being a good friend is about keeping friendships in your thoughts. We can’t always pick up the phone or get together. However, if you know that it has been a long time since you’ve got together, send them a nice “hi” in a text message just letting them know you are thinking about them.

In our chaotic world, it is easy to become busy and stop communicating with the people we love, but don’t take for granted they will always be there.

Make sure to let them know how much they mean by doing the unique things that keep you connected. [Read: How to be a good person – 12 small changes to transform your life]

15. Don’t be possessive

It is hard when a new person joins the group or when you see your BFF getting along with someone new. A key tip for how to be a good friend is letting your friend have many friendships. Different people fulfill the various needs that we have in life.

One person can’t be everyone to you, nor can you be to them. Try not to take it personally when you find that they had a party that you weren’t invited to, or that they went out and didn’t invite you to come along.

It isn’t a competition; it is a friendship. And, you should both have many friends to fill the spaces and needs in your life.

16. Let things slide

Try not to have hot buttons or be too serious. If you want a friendship to survive, then you have to learn to roll with things. Even if you are sensitive and hurt at times, you have to learn to confront or forgive.

Carrying around a whole lot of baggage is just a waste of energy, and it does nothing to make your friendship better. It only weighs you down and makes you behave distantly. [Read: How to make new friends as an adult – 15 ways to do it right]

Being a good friend is a two-way street. It is human nature to be selfish, to only see one side of a story *typically ours* and to want to be liked. Being a good friend isn’t about always giving in, or always taking. It is about a balance between giving and taking care of yourself while still caring for someone else.

The adage, “treat others as you would want to be treated,” is the best advice. Easier said than done; sometimes you have to either play the good guy or bad guy.

17. Always be cautious with who you date

This one should be obvious, but never, ever date a friend’s ex. You may adore them, but you should never date them. Can you imagine the pain it would cause? Can you imagine the anger that will come your way?

Seriously, it’s just not worth it and it will only drive a wedge between you and your new beau anyway. Forget it and find someone without the baggage. [Read: The ultimate reasons never to date your friend’s ex]

18. Always stay true to who you are and don’t accidentally morph into your friend

This one might sound odd, but you’d be amazed at how many BFFs end up being borderline clones of one another.

When you’re spending a lot of time around each other, it’s easy to start liking the same things. However, you have your own style too and that needs to be stuck to! If you start cloning yourself, even by accident, your friend is going to feel awkward and it’s going to start messing with your friendship.

19. Key rule: If you go together, you leave together

Want to know how to be a good friend? Stick to the code and never leave your bestie behind. If you go out together, you leave and go home together.

Ditching your friend for any reason just isn’t cool. It doesn’t matter if you meet the person of your dreams, your friend comes first! You can always give them your number and meet them at another time.

20. Go to battle for your friend if you have to

If you hear someone talking behind your friend’s back, it’s your duty to stick up for them. Of course, you expect them to do the same for you.

You have to defend their honor whether they’re in front of you or on the other side of town. It’s not cool to let someone chat rubbish about your friend and just let it happen.

Roll up those sleeves and get defending! That’s how you learn how to be a good friend. [Read: How to deal with bullies – 13 grownup ways to confront mean people]

21. It’s your responsibility to tell her if she has lipstick on her teeth

Odd, but true! Never let your friend walk around with anything on her face, body, or anywhere else that could embarrass her.

If she has half of her sandwich stuck in her teeth, tell her. Maybe her lipstick has migrated up her face, tell her! Perhaps her skirt is tucked in and she’s flashing her underwear, definitely tell her! You’d want her to do the same, right?

22. NEVER let a guy take over your girl time

There is nothing worse than your friend meeting a new beau and talking about them ALL THE TIME. If this is you, check yourself, fast. Sure, share details if you want to, and never allow your friend to feel pushed out.

However, you should definitely not cancel time with your friend for your new crush. Also, you shouldn’t dominate the conversation with talk about how wonderful they are. Remember, friends time is sacred time! [Read: Madly in love – How to balance your life when you’ve fallen hard]

23. Your lips are sealed

Never repeat anything your friend tells you. It doesn’t matter how juicy the gossip is, your lips are totally and utterly sealed.

When your friend tells you something in confidence and you repeat it, even by accident, you’re betraying their trust.

It’s the most basic of rules, but you should never gossip. Never talk behind your friend’s back or tell anyone else something about your friend that they wouldn’t be comfortable with. To be on the safe side, don’t tell anyone anything!

[Read: When your best friend ignores you – The why and the ways to fix it]

The most important traits and qualities of a good friend

We all know what it means to be a good friend, we feel it. But, sometimes we forget what a real two-way friendship looks like. And plus, when you’ve been a friend with someone for so long, you’re used to them acting a certain way. But now, it’s time to change

Yeah, you may know your friend for years, but if you’re not getting anything out of the relationship, what’s the point? It’s time you refreshed your memory and remember how to be a good friend. That means you should know the key traits of a great BFF.

1. They actually listen

Okay, we know sometimes we’re glued to our phones when our friends tell us a story, we get it. But if your friend never looks up from their phone when you’re talking and simply replies with “Yeah, cool” that’s not a friend.

A friend takes the time to actually listen to you, no matter how many times they’ve told you this story. [Read: Why phubbing is the rudest thing you can ever do]

2. They support you

Why else do we have friends, like seriously? As a friend, you have your friend’s back when they walk through hard times. If they get wasted, you carry them out of the club and take them home. That’s a real friend. [Read: 20 fun questions to ask a friend and get to know them better]

3. They accept your flaws

Your friend probably sees all your bad sides, and you know what, they’re still around so they accept your flaws.

This is actually the best way to see if your friend is an actual friend. They’re not only around you when you’re on your high, they’re also there when you act like a complete asshole.

4. You can talk about the dirty things

We’re not only talking about sex, we’re talking about the personal shit in your life that you wouldn’t share with the old lady sitting next to you on the bus.

Your real friends should be able to listen to your personal and intimate thoughts without judging you or posting it on Facebook. The time you shit your pants, remember that? Yeah, so do they, but they kept that to themselves.

5. When you’re down, they make you smile

They know you like the back of their hand, so when you’re down in the dumps, they know exactly what makes you smile. You guys have inside jokes and crack up laughing just by glancing at each other. [Read: Good friends are like stars – 18 ways to build lasting friendships]

6. They’re straight up with you

Someone has to be honest with you, and it won’t be anyone else other than your family and friends. This is what separates your friend from someone on the street. They tell you when you’ve drunk too much or that what you’re wearing makes you look like a fool.

They’re not doing this to make fun of you, they do it because they care about you. They’re not going to give you a fake smile when you don’t deserve it.

7. They push you forward

People who try to knock you down instead of supporting you aren’t friends. They’re jealous and waiting for you to fail, two things you don’t need to surround yourself with.

Your true friends should encourage you regardless of your goals. If they say your goals are a waste of time or stupid, they’re not having your interests at heart. [Read: How to recognize and end toxic relationships]

8. Your secrets are kept

Your secrets, the ones you shared with them, are actually kept secrets. Now, that’s a good and true friend.

You may have done some things a little shady, and yeah, they know you did it. But, they’re not going to tell anyone because your dirty secrets are safe with them.

9. They’re reliable

We all have those friends that flake out and you just learn to not depend on them. But then, those aren’t good friends.

A good friend should be someone that’ll be there when they say they will. A person where you don’t have to wonder what’s going on with them, you just know they’ll come through.

10. They don’t judge you… that much

Of course, we all judge each other, this isn’t something new. However, whatever you do whether it’s good or bad, they don’t hold it against you. They chose you as a friend, so by judging you, it only makes them look bad. [Read: How to surround yourself with positive people]

11. They show love

We know this sounds corny, but it’s true. One of the best qualities of a good friend is that they will give you love however they choose to give it.

Everyone loves differently, but you’ll be able to feel the love from them. Maybe they came by when you were sick and dropped off some soup or watched movies with you the night your partner broke up with you.

12. Your successes are their successes

Competition between friends is normal and on some level, it’s healthy. However, a real friend is going to celebrate your successes with you because you’re their friend.

It directly affects them because you’re in their life and they love you. If your friend is pouting in the corner because you got a new job, well, that’s lame and they need to learn how to be a good friend. [Read: 16 secret signs of a jealous friend and how to deal with their envy]

13. They’re there even if they don’t agree with you

How many times has your friend done something where you think, “What the hell are they doing?” We think we’ve all been there, but since they’re your friend, you stick it out. They may not agree with what you’re doing but they accept you.

14. They stick it out when times get rough

We have all been through hard times. Perhaps a loved one passing away, a nasty breakup, but your friend is there through whatever you experience.

They’re not going to be there just in the beginning, they’re going to be there until the very end. [Read: 5 unique traits that make a person trustworthy]

15. Time is irrelevant

We all take different paths as we grow up. Some of us will move or get married or have children, but when you meet up with your friends, it’s like time hasn’t passed. You’re not making small talk, you just jump back right where you left off. [Read: 18 ways to build lasting friendships]

16. The ability to make you laugh, no matter how you feel

A true friend is someone who puts a smile on your face to take your mind from any heartache or negativity you might be feeling. Of course, they also know exactly what to say or do to raise that smile. They know you inside out.

It takes compassion and empathy to recognize when a friend is in need, and it takes strength of character to be able to hold them up and make them smile.

Is this something you do on a regular basis? If not, work out their sense of humor hotspots, and use them wisely, when required.

17. Selflessness when you need them the most

What makes a good friend different from all the rest lies in their ability to be there for you when required. Of course, this doesn’t mean they should always drop absolutely everything to be at your doorstep whenever you have a bad day. But it does mean that when you really need them in the hard times, they’re there for you, whether in person or on the end of a phone.

How many times in the recent past have you been selfless with your friends in need? Most of us find it easy to have too much on our own plates. Sometimes a friend in need is someone you need to be there for, above all else. [Read: How to stop being selfish – 20 ways to stop hurting and using others]

18. They do their best to understand you

We’re all different. For instance, you may have a friend that is a very different personality from you. Despite that, you do your best to understand them and love them for their differences. That’s what makes a good friend.

If we were all the same, life would be very boring indeed. By allowing ourselves to see different character traits and accept and appreciate them, we learn to become better friends and more accepting of people in general. [Read: What is a best friend? 15 signs you’ll never find someone better]

19. They have your back, whether you’re there or not

Let’s be honest, we live in rather bitchy times. There aren’t many friends who will have your back whether you’re with them or not. If they hear someone talking badly about you when you’re not around, would they go over and back you up? Probably not.

What makes a good friend quite literally amazing is the ability to stick up for you through thick and thin.

You’re their lobster, to quote a Friends episode, but in a strictly friendship-based way. This is a friend you should keep in your life no matter what. [Read: 50 nice things to say to your friend to brighten their day]

20. Loyalty in the face of adversity

Humans are selfish. We all are. That means that sometimes we find it hard to put the best interests of others before our own. Of course, sometimes you should put your own interests first, but not always. A friend who is loyal to you and sticks by you is precious.

What about being loyal in the face of adversity?

Would they put their own needs before yours all the time? This is something to think about, and something for you to explore in terms of what you would do for your own friends. [Read: Why flaky friends are the worst kind of friends you can ever have]

21. Valuing the friendship above all else

What makes a good friend? Understanding the value of friendship from the get-go. How important is friendship in your life? Do you lean on it and cherish it, or do you simply assume it will be there regardless of what life throws at you?

A true friend is someone who values your friendship and understands the importance you bring to their life.

Examine how you feel about the friendships in your life. Do you feel you could live without them? If so, maybe they’re not as special as you think they are, or maybe it’s your take on what friendship is, which needs a slight adjustment. [Read: The real art of true and meaningful relationships]

22. They encourage you to do better

A true friend will always be your biggest cheerleader. They’ll push you to do things even when you don’t believe in yourself and they’ll give you the strength you need to keep going.

They won’t stand for any “…but I can’t do it” nonsense, they’ll tell you straight that you can!

23. They don’t let arguments fester

A good friend won’t let an argument between the two of you go on for too long. Of course, you’re going to argue sometimes, it’s normal, but it won’t turn into a major problem. Instead, you talk it over and get through it. Or, you just laugh about it – more likely!

24. Spending time with them makes you feel good

When you spend time with a good friend, they raise you up and make you feel happy. The bond you have between you is a true feel-good factor and it helps you to overcome anything that life throws at you.

You know you have a good friend when you can sit in silence and still feel comfortable. [Read: How to have fun with friends – 40 ways to beat boredom]

25. You can simply be yourself around them

When you’re around someone who is a close friend, you can just be yourself. You don’t feel the need to be someone you’re not or act a different way. You’re both just who you are and you know that you’re accepted and happy.

You feel calm and centered when you’re with them and it allows you to open up and talk about anything, knowing that you’ll never be judged.

26. They don’t expect too much from you

A good friend will never ask for too much. They’ll never push you to do something that you’re truly not happy or comfortable with either.

If someone does this, know that they’re just not a good friend and they don’t know you at all. When you’re in the company of a good friend, they’ll challenge you, for sure, but they’ll never make you feel awkward or uncomfortable. [Read: How to tell if a friend is toxic and brings unhappiness to your life]

Good friends are like stars…

You’ve no doubt heard the saying about good friends being like stars. Basically, it means that you don’t need to be around them all the time to know that they’re there. That’s often the case with the busy lives we lead these days.

When you have a good friend in your life, you know that you can pick up the phone and it will be like you’ve never spent any time apart.

That’s how you know you’ve got a true friend in your life. [Read: Real friends vs fake friends – 21 ways to instantly tell them apart]

If you need to constantly be around each other and demand too much, that’s not a good sign. A good friendship feels comfortable and warm. Of course, you have to put the work in because it’s a relationship at the end of the day, but you don’t need to work so hard.

You have each other’s backs and you know one another inside out. If there’s a problem, you talk through it and fix it. There’s no need to stress or push anything.

So how many of these friends do you have in your life? And more importantly, can you see yourself as this friend? After all, you can’t expect to get a true friendship if you’re not giving your friend the same in return!

[Read: 18 honest reasons why you don’t have true and genuine friends that honestly care about you]

Figuring out how to be a good friend is never easy. But, if your heart is in the right place, you will always be the best friend you can be.

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...