How to Be a Great Friend: 9 Must Knows

Best Ways to Be a Great Friend

How Can I Be an Amazing Friend?

Friendship is one of the best gifts life has to offer. Being a great friend means making an effort to show your friends you care.

I never thought I would write an article on being a great friend. But I am amazed how many people reach out to TheHopeLine who down deep are lonely and need a good friend. The fact of the matter is we are all wired for meaningful relationships. Studies show if you have good friends throughout your life, you will live longer.

There is a lot of truth behind the common saying, In order to have a great friend, you must first be one. I hope to help you gain some insight on how to be a great friend.

Being an enthusiastic listener, spending quality time, and sending encouraging cards or gifts; all these can go a long way toward strengthening a friendship. If your friend is going through a tough time, offer support. If you're not sure what to do, or if you feel they need more help than you can offer, there are support organizations, mentors, and counselors your friend can get connected with.

Friendship also involves learning how to set and keep healthy boundaries. None of us can be everything or do everything, even for the people we're closest to. It's okay to ask for alone time, or to not answer calls or texts immediately. You should also let your friend know what you need, when you are hurting, and how they can help if you are going through a difficult time. Strong friendship is a two-way street, where there is a healthy give and take between you.

What makes someone a bad friend?

Friendship is hard. One minute, we’re all playing together on the same playground, and the next, we’re competing for solos in the show choir, playing opposite each other in sports, or changing schools. You might wake up one day to find you have absolutely nothing left in common with someone you used to be able to talk to for hours. Or maybe you’ve had the same “best friend” your whole life, and you find yourself wondering if they even like you. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to be a good friend, but how do you spot a bad one? Here are a few signs someone isn’t living up to the definition of the word “friend.”

1. You can’t trust them. Trust is the foundation of any friendship, and breaches of this trust can strain the relationship. Someone who struggles to keep things confidential or shares your personal information without consent might be a bad friend. 

2. They’re consistently negative. Friends should uplift and support each other. If someone constantly brings negativity into your life, whether they’re critical of you and others, they’re always gossiping, or they’re just generally pessimistic about life, it could be a sign you’re in a toxic friendship.

3. It’s a one-sided relationship. A healthy friendship involves mutual give and take. If you find that you're consistently putting in more effort, or your friend only reaches out when they need something, that’s not a fair dynamic.

4. They lack empathy. A good friend is understanding. If your friend consistently dismisses your feelings, fails to listen, and can’t (or won’t) ever see your point of view, there’s a lack of emotional support, which is key to any friendship.

5. There’s a sense of jealousy and competition. Healthy friendships celebrate each other's successes. If a friend seems consistently jealous of the good things happening in your life or gets overly competitive with you about everything, that’s another unhealthy dynamic that may lead to resentment.

6. They’re unreliable. Someone who frequently cancels plans, arrives late, or fails to follow through on commitments isn’t prioritizing your friendship or treating it with respect. Reliability is essential for building trust, which we talked about in #1.

7. They betray your boundaries. Respecting each other's boundaries is crucial in any friendship. Whether they’re texting your boyfriend or asking to copy your homework, if a friend constantly crosses your boundaries without consideration, it may be a red flag.

8. They don’t apologize or take responsibility. Everyone makes mistakes, but a bad friend may struggle (or refuse) to apologize or take responsibility for their actions. If there's a consistent pattern of blame-shifting, that’s another red flag.

9. They’re a negative influence. If a friend consistently pushes you to do things you’re not interested in or participate in activities that don’t make your life better, that’s not uplifting (see #2). Whether they drag you into unhealthy behaviors or encourage poor decision-making, it's time to reevaluate whether this friendship is good for your well-being.

What do you do if you think you have a bad friend? You don’t have to “break up,” but you should definitely try talking to them. Start with curiosity and empathy—a lot of the above may be signs that your friend is struggling with their mental health… A little support could help them get back to a place where they’re able to be a good friend. However, if you talk to them, and they can’t acknowledge their issues (see #8), it’s probably time to distance yourself until you see change.

So, how can you learn to be a great friend? What does it take?

If you're struggling with making friends or resolving conflicts in a friendship, it may help to find support from someone you trust, or to get help from a mentor or counselor. 

Here are some qualities of a great friend. As you learn how to be a good friend, in turn, you'll be teaching your friends how to become better ones.

Here are 9 Ways You Can Become a Great Friend:

1. Be real. People are turned off by those who are constantly trying to be someone they are not. We are most comfortable around others who are comfortable in their own skin. So just be yourself. Even though you aren't perfect, the way you handle your strengths and faults with humility and confidence will give other people permission to be real and relaxed with you, as well. Real friends are relaxed around each other.

2. Be honest. Keep your promises and do what you say you're going to do. Be reliable. Nobody wants to be friends with someone who lies. And lies always have a way of coming to the light. Also, friends will say the truth to one another, even when it's hard. The wisest man in the Bible, King Solomon, said: Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. 

Shannon got caught up in an eating disorder until her friend called her out: I was addicted to being skinny and looking absolutely perfect. I never really understood what I was actually doing to myself until a good friend of mine talked to me about it.

3. Take an interest in the details of your friend's life by being a good listener. Don't watch television or text while your friend is sharing something with you. Most times people need more than good advice, they need someone to listen to them as they talk through their feelings. Ask them what's going on in their life and how they feel.

Mari commented: Kyler is my best friend because he listens. No matter what is going on he is genuinely interested in how I am. He always has my back and would drop everything if I needed him.

4. Make time for your friend. Time is one of the greatest gifts we possess. When we share extra time with a friend, we are giving back to them that gift. No friendship can develop overnight. It takes time. A real friend will take that time.

5. Keep their secrets. Prove yourself to be a trustworthy person who will guard their secrets with your life. A good way to prove you are trustworthy is to be free to share some of your own secrets with your friend. King Solomon also said:  Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. Are you willing to be a friend like that?

6. Encourage your friend. Everyone needs encouragement. Find specific ways to encourage your friend. Even in the depths of their struggles, show them what you see to be special about them and be willing to pick them up when they are depressed or feel like life is pressing in on them from all sides.

7. Be loyal to your friend. This is unconditional acceptance, even when your friend makes a mistake or really screws up. Be there when they are experiencing their highest highs and their lowest lows. Laugh with them, cry with them, don't just talk about always being there. Prove it in your everyday life! Delaney wrote to me and said: I have great friends who are always there for me and always know how to make me happy.

8. Be willing to work through conflict. Every relationship will hit a speed bump at one time or another. Show your friend you are willing to work through the difficult times of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Sometimes friendships grow stronger through the difficult times. Don't give up on your friend just because you are having difficulties.

9. Watch out for your friend. When you see your friend getting into a dangerous situation whether it's with drugs or alcohol, or maybe even a destructive relationship, be bold enough to step in and protect your friend from the harm you see coming their way. Narda commented: My best friend is more than a best friend, she's more like a sister. And she feels that same way. We both have each other back, now and forever.

It takes a lot of work and commitment to be a great friend. But it is worth it. Keep in mind there are people all around you who are looking for friends. So, continue developing good friends and your life will be far better for it.

Making friends can be a very difficult task for some. Are you having a hard time making friends? Here are 4 steps to help you make friends. 

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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14 comments on “How to Be a Great Friend: 9 Must Knows”

  1. Hey so I am having a difficulty in finding interest in my best friend's life, can someone give me some tips? Because my friend seems to have more fun with others rather than with me and I believe that it is my fault, what can I do?

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