What makes a good friend?

Having good friends who love and support you for who you are is really important for your happiness. Figure out what makes a good friend, and learn how you can be there for your friends when they need you most.

This can help if:

  • you’re not sure about a friendship

  • you don’t know what to do or say to a potentially toxic friend

  • you want to figure out what true friendship looks like

  • you want to know how to be a good friend to the people in your life.

Boy and girl dancing at gig

Why good friends are so important

Research has shown that the better the quality of your relationships, the more likely you are to be happy. So, being a great friend to someone and having friends support your back is good for your wellbeing. But, when you really think about it, what makes a good friend?

Qualities of a good friend

Friends will come and go in your life. No matter how long your friendships last, the most important thing is your friends’ acceptance of you for who you are. A good friend walks the talk and shows that they care by their actions – big and small.

A good friend:

  • is there for you, no matter what

  • doesn’t judge you

  • doesn’t put you down or deliberately hurt your feelings

  • is kind and respectful to you

  • is someone whose company you enjoy

  • is loyal

  • is trustworthy and willing to tell you the truth, even when it’s hard for you to hear

  • laughs with you

  • sticks around when things get tough

  • makes you smile

  • is there to listen

  • comforts you when you cry.

How to be a good friend

If you treat the people around you in the ways described above, then you’re already a good friend to them. But it’s not always easy to know how to be there for your friends.

Listen to your friends

Try to understand a situation from your friend’s point of view. Ask questions to get a sense of the problem or issue, but the main thing is to listen to them. You don’t have to have all the answers, and don’t assume that your friend wants advice – they might just want to talk so that they can work it out for themselves. Being an empathetic listener is one of the most crucial qualities of a good friend.

Get the facts

If your friend has a medical or mental health issue, a good way to offer support is to learn about what they’ve been diagnosed with. Being interested in what they’re going through shows you care, and that you plan to stick around no matter what’s going on.

Read about Maddy's experience of supporting her friend with bipolar disorder here.

Ask them what they need

If you’re worried about a friend and you want to be there for them, ask them what they need. You’ll then know what they find helpful during tough times, and you can offer them support in a way that’s genuinely helpful. Being a good friend means being there for them in the harder times.

Physically show them you care

If you’re a hugger, ask your friend whether it’d be okay to hug them. Once you get the thumbs up, hug away! Hugging your friends can be a great way to show you care for them. Physical contact can be comforting, especially when someone feels alone.

Keep in touch

Even if you don’t live nearby, show your friends you’re there for them by making an effort to keep in regular touch through social media, texts or calls. True friendship knows no distance!

Tell them how you feel

You don’t have to make a big deal about it all the time, but you can make a real difference to how someone is feeling just by letting them know how important they are to you. Although actions speak louder than words, vocalising your feelings is an important part of being a good friend.

This article has some great tips on how you can give your friends compliments that aren't just about their physical looks.

Be willing to make a tough call

If you think your friend’s safety is at risk, you might need to act without their consent and get help. It can be a tough call, particularly when you’re worried about how they’ll react, but remember that good friends care enough to step up, and that you’re doing it to protect them from harm.

How to be a good friend in other ways