Nine Characteristics of Good Friends

True friendships reveal themselves over time, through good times and bad. Here are nine of the characteristics that distinguish them.
Nine Characteristics of Good Friends
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 08 November, 2022

There are a number of characteristics of good friends that you really ought to know about. That’s because not all friends are really good friends. In fact, you need to be selective and remind yourself that life is short. Therefore, you should make sure you spend it surrounded by genuine people, who are both emotionally and intellectually nourishing.

The playwright Tennessee Williams said that our existence is shaped by what we do and also by what we share with friends. This reminds us of the need to open the doors of our hearts to those genuine friends who give meaning to our lives.

Although it’s true that some friendships run their course and these friends subsequently disappear, new people always come along. However, knowing how to recognize which of them are worth your emotional investment is extremely important. Let’s take a closer look.

“I’d rather walk with a friend in the dark than alone in the light.”

-Helen Keller-

Friends hugging symbolizing the characteristics of good friends

The characteristics of good friends

You sometimes stumble across good friendships, but you mostly have to build them and work on them. Furthermore, with these kinds of relationships, you must always remember that they’re reciprocal.

For this reason, you mustn’t forget that you have to do your part so the friendship is lasting and genuine. Reciprocity is key. Indeed, good friendships provide you with a source of well-being and happiness.

Psychology has always been interested in knowing what defines genuine friends. In this respect, the University of Miami conducted research that specified good friendships must exhibit the characteristics identified by Aristotle. These were utility, pleasure and virtue. This is how you obtain hedonic well-being (enjoyment) and eudaimonic well-being (human flourishing, happiness).

When it comes to friends, these are traits that act as real pillars for satisfaction. You should remember that it’s also important to examine your own dynamics in these types of relationships. In other words, you should give your friends what you expect them to give to you.

1. Good friends are people you can trust

Genuine friendship is sustained and forged on one essential foundation: trust. If this doesn’t exist, the relationship won’t be of any use to you, neither will it be genuine. That’s because, in these friends, you often seek refuge of the kind that you don’t get from your family or even your partner.

Therefore, you have to know that you won’t be betrayed, and that what you share with them remains confidential. Furthermore, that they’ll never judge or criticize you for what you say.

2. Good friends appreciate and cultivate honesty

Honesty is an important quality in a friend. In fact, this exceptional virtue encompasses sincerity, honor, consideration, humility, and authenticity. Qualities that are extremely important in any relationship.

As a matter of fact, honest people are beautiful people. They’re also extremely deserving of your affection.

3. They practice compassionate empathy

You might think that the most important characteristic of a good friend is that they show you empathy. However, you must be careful. Because sometimes even a narcissist can make you believe that they’re empathic by acknowledging your emotions and feelings.

However, it’s one thing to feel and another to understand and act. Therefore, one of the characteristics of good friends is compassionate empathy. This means that you should always try to build links with people who both understand and connect with your emotions, and act in such a way that gives you help and support.

4. Good friends are loyal

Shakespeare said that loyalty means following someone until your last breath. However, it isn’t really necessary to go to these extremes. Nevertheless, good friends will demonstrate a firm commitment that’s not tainted by selfishness or hidden interests.

Loyalty means acting with fairness, respect, trustworthiness, and commitment to friends.

5. Good friends know how to listen

It sounds easy, but not everyone knows how to genuinely listen. As a matter of fact, most of us tend to judge, reproach, or contribute our point of view when all the person wants is to be listened to.

Good friends listen with their senses and their heart. They’re also good at reading between the lines.

6. Good friends are there for you in the good and the bad times

Most of us love to have friends with whom to spend good times. To laugh with, go on holiday with, enjoy ourselves with… However, really good friends are also by your side in the bad times. 

In fact, they know how to be with you when you’re feeling sad as well as sharing your triumphs and happiness in the good times.

Friends eating in a restaurant symbolizing the characteristics of good friends

7. Good friends strengthen your self-esteem and help you to be a better person

Columbia University conducted research that highlighted the benefits of friendship. They mention its potential to save you from loneliness, to be your daily support, and to even improve your physical health.

However, there’s another crucial aspect. Good friends make you a better person and make you value yourself much more. They nourish your self-esteem and enhance your psychological well-being.

8. Good friends have a sense of humor and share your values

You often make new friends due to sharing common interests. However, the most significant and stable friendships, as well as sharing similar hobbies, also share the same values.

It’s always comforting to find someone who shares your outlook on life. You enjoy spending time with them and having a laugh with them. That’s because a shared sense of humor and perspective on life makes for a genuine bond.

9. Good friends don’t get jealous: they don’t need an “exclusivity” contract

Some friendships, like romantic relationships, involve jealousy. Indeed, some people like to think they’re your only friend. In other words, they take it for granted that you belong to them and that you’ll share your time and your experiences exclusively with them.

However, you should avoid this type of person. Because genuine friendship, like genuine love, doesn’t enslave you. In fact, it liberates and enriches you. For this reason, make sure you try and fill your life with the kinds of people who lighten your life at every turn.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Anderson AR, Fowers BJ. An exploratory study of friendship characteristics and their relations with hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2020;37(1):260-280. doi:10.1177/0265407519861152
  • Lu, P., Oh, J., Leahy, K. E., & Chopik, W. J. (2021). Friendship Importance Around the World: Links to Cultural Factors, Health, and Well-Being. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 570839.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.