I study and write about one's emotional response in relationships to improve well-being for a healthy perspective with self-awareness.
Do you spend time with people you consider to be your friends but you always feel a lack of something? Maybe your interests and abilities are different than theirs.
Nevertheless, you spend time with them anyway. After all, they are good people. You care for them, and you think they care for you too.
However, the reality is that you are much more intelligent than they are. Yet, somehow you befriended them anyway.
The fact of the matter is that you have many more meaningful interests. You understand things much better than they do. So when you try to explain anything to them about something important, you find the effort totally in vain.
Maybe it's time to give some thought to the kind of people you have been letting into your life. Are they indeed offering any value to you?
Here are eight characteristics that you should pay attention to when considering the qualities of good friends.
1. Friends Worthy of a Lifetime Friendship
What happened to those friends who had the same vision as you about the world? The friends you remember that you were able to talk with about fascinating topics?
What happened to those people? Maybe they were friends you had in college, but you didn't stay in touch. Perhaps they were acquaintances you had in prior employment, and you let them go when you moved on.
You may not have developed those acquaintances into friendships, but they are the ones that would have made a difference in your life.
Try to find them and make a connection again. Life is short. It's never too late, and they may feel the same as you.
2. Real Friends Will Always Steer You Right
I learned many great things from friends who steered me in the right direction with difficult decisions in the past. I didn't have all the answers, and good friends were always there to teach me something new that helped improve some aspect of my life.
You can tell when you have a true friend who wants to be helpful. Some friends just tell you what you want to hear so you'll like them. Those are not real friends. They are only thinking of themselves and don't care about your success.
They are more afraid that they will lose you as a friend for telling you something that you don't want to hear. Is that what you want?
3. Good Friends Will Always Lift Your Spirits
As we get older, we make more mature and carefully considered decisions. Sometimes we even need to reconsider friendships that we come to realize are not genuine.
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I've moved on from friends who had destructive tendencies. Why stay friends with those who are going in the wrong direction? We want a positive influence. Right?
If you find yourself struggling to be happy with a friend who has negative energy, ask yourself why you feel the need to spend time with that person. You may realize that they are holding you back.
Life's too short to spend it with people who don’t inspire you. You’ll feel better when you have relationships with people who lift your spirits and give you reasons to be your best.
4. True Friendships Are Worth Nurturing
Sometimes we don’t always give any thought to how others are treating us. Some people have toxic behaviors. Are they evil, or are they just functioning on a different level and really mean well?
Good friendships are worth nurturing. As we get older, we begin to realize what a genuine friend is and how they affect us. Therefore, we need to reflect on the positive attitudes of those who are genuinely good friends.
Think twice when you are disappointed in someone. Instead, consider their good qualities and compare that to what you want in a friendship relationship. Nobody's perfect.
5. A Helpful Friend Will Give Constructive Criticism
Do you find yourself seeking friends who always side with you, even though it was not in your best interest? Come on now. You know the truth.
Have you ever asked a friend for advice, and the answer was what they figured you wanted to hear? I don’t consider that helpful when I'm looking for constructive criticism. These people are not interested in your success.
Sometimes we don’t want to hear what is the best thing for us, but a real friend would be willing to guide you in the right direction with truthful constructive criticism.
If we're going to be successful with any particular endeavor in life, we need that kind of reliable guidance. It's sometimes thought of as Tough Love!
6. True Friends Respect Advice
People with destructive tendencies usually never look for methods of improvement. Instead, when they seek advice, they are just looking for someone to confirm their behavior.
When a friend asks us for help, it's frustrating when they don't listen. We need to know when to back away from trying to help—even if they ask.
If they are the kind of person who just wants confirmation for doing things the wrong way, they end up hearing your response as criticism. As a result, they refuse to accept the valuable options that you are trying to give them.
On the other hand, some people are aware of their flaws and want to find solutions. They want to listen, and they want to learn. They want to be successful, and it's a joy to help them. They genuinely wish to hear what you have to say, and they make good use of it.
7. A True Friend Will Appreciate Your Values
It’s best to know in your heart what you want in life, how you want your future to turn out, how you want to treat people, and how you want to be treated. Then, conduct your affairs with these thoughts in mind.
For example, I like to let people see that they can trust my commitments. When I say something is going to happen—it does. Once I commit to doing something or meet someone somewhere, I don’t let anything get in the way. I only make promises when I know I can keep them, and I expect to be treated that same way in return.
Some people think I’m too rigid when they want me to change plans, and I don't. I have no problem changing plans as long as it doesn't affect someone else with whom I made a commitment.
However, if those changes negatively affect other people, I feel I’m doing the right thing keeping my promise. Those are my values. I find it amazing that some "friends" don't appreciate that.
8. The Influence of a Good Friend Can Be Life-Changing
If you are fortunate enough to have a few friends who are honest with you, consider them worthy of a lifetime friendship. Their input can change the course of your life. Those who are influential are good to keep around.
It works both ways. Some of my most outstanding achievements came from ideas envisioned by helping others.
If you feel comfortable giving valued constructive criticism, then you will be helping your friends too. Those who appreciate where you're coming from will value your friendship.
We are all in this life together. Our success or failure is mainly related to our interactions with the people in our lives. So choose your friends wisely and value the influential ones. As the saying goes, “It’s all about who you know.”
Questions & Answers
Question: I have friends who call me only when they need me. Are they true friends?
Answer: They probably are not true friends, but it would be helpful to look at it the other way around. So ask yourself these questions:
How do you behave? Do you do the same thing? Or do you call them just to stay in touch and to make plans for social engagements? And when you do, what is their response? Do they have excuses for being too busy, or are they interested in pursuing a friendship relationship?
What about your own reaction? Did it ever happen that they did try to reach out to you for purely social reasons, and you were too busy?
When you answer these questions, you’ll have a better feel for the truth. It takes some honest reflection and self-awareness, and it’s worth the exercise.
I’ve experienced both extremes in my life. I had a couple of friends I determined were toxic, and I decided to let them go. However, I was also able to look inward and realize that I wasn’t paying attention to another friend's needs when it was required. It’s a two-way street, so to say. I hope I’ve helped enlighten you on the issue.
Question: I'm sure I have fake friends, and I want to leave them. However, I also have a guy friend whom I don't speak with in person. What should I do?
Answer: My advice is, don’t waste time with people who you only know on a casual basis. True friends are those you visit and do things with in person. That guy friend you mentioned sounds like an acquaintance and not a friend. Otherwise, you'd be communicating in person.
If you're not motivated to reach out to someone other than a virtual relationship, give some thought to the reason why. You probably already know that person is not of value to you as a trusted friend.
© 2012 Glenn Stok