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The 5 Fundamental Qualities of a Good Friend

Two women who show these qualities of a good friend, laughing together outside in the sun.

Carrie Bradshaw said, “Dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.” And while Carrie had questionable style and tastes in men (we’re looking at you Mr. Big), when it came to the importance of friendships, she was right on point.

A 2009 Harvard study found that friendships promote better brain health, because friends help us cope with stress and make better lifestyle choices. Recent research also suggests that supportive friendships are an even more crucial indicator of well-being than strong family connections.

Of course, like most things in life, when it comes to friendships, it’s about quality versus quantity. So what constitutes a good friend? Well, when it comes to finding the Joey to your Chandler, or the Rachel to your Monica, these are the fundamental qualities your friend should have.

1. They’re trustworthy.
It’s called an inner circle for a reason. Your friends should make you feel safe sharing your inner thoughts, dreams, fears, and the stuff you hate about your boss. Your friend should honor your secrets like their own, while giving you the space and security you need to express your authentic self. Trusting another person takes vulnerability, honesty, and loyalty. So when you’ve found a friend who’s truly trustworthy, you know it’s special.

2. They’re empathetic.
Empathy is the backbone of all relationships. It’s the ability to understand what someone’s going through and share in that feeling. Empathy allows us to step outside of ourselves and get where someone else is at. It’s the bridge to understanding, forgiveness, and kindness. When we empathize with someone else’s perspective, we’re able to give compassion no matter how tough the situation they find themselves in, which in turn creates a space for support and healing.

3. They help you step up your game.
We are the company we keep. When it comes to friendships, surround yourself with people who inspire you to be your best self. Quality friendships spark your interest and expose you to new ideas, beliefs, people, and cultures. Their successes will help you to tackle a new job promotion, and their life experiences will encourage you to take that trip around the world. They’ll challenge you to be more generous or do more community service. Their being better makes you better. A friend who helps you step up your game means you’re learning and experiencing more, so you can be a better person—and friend.

4. They listen.
Everyone knows someone who talks too much. They can never let someone else have the floor. You go to them for support, and next thing you know, the conversation isn’t about you—it’s about them. Then, you leave feeling unheard and unsupported. A quality friend listens well with fairness and respect. They wait their turn. They listen to your fears, dreams, funny stories, venting, and questions not because they have to but because they care. They want to understand and acknowledge you by allowing you to spill whatever you need to.

5. They’re just plain fun.
Friendships should be fun. No one wants a constant Debbie Downer. That’s not to say that your friends can’t have down moments, but part of friendships is having good, old-fashioned fun. In other words, you should enjoy being around them. Friends who are fun can see the humor in life and navigate its challenges with a positive attitude. A friend who can make you laugh, including at yourself, is a friend worth having. Not to mention, they’re the best type of friend to travel with.

If you have a friend who possesses all of these qualities, know that you’re fortunate. There’s always an opportunity to thank them for their friendship, so make sure you do on occasion.

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