One of my best friends just had a bad month. A really bad month.
He lives across the country but decided to fly to Boston to see some family and close friends, myself included. He needed to get away and seek the support of the people who care about him.
We spent a great couple of days together last week. Then unexpectedly, he texted me Tuesday morning asking if I wanted to hang out once more before he left.
I’ve been behind lately on some work stuff, specifically an idea for an article for this week. With my retreat on the horizon, some site changes in the works, and my first time mentoring someone to be a coach — I’ve got a lot on my plate.
Inviting my friend over would potentially mean not posting for over two weeks. I haven’t done that in maybe…ever. And in the end, it directly impacts my bottom line.
But saying no to him never even crossed my mind. This is someone I love like a brother. He’s always been there for me and I would do anything for him.
He is a true friend. So I invited him over.
(Coincidentally, hanging out with him inspired this article!)
As my wife and I talked with him, he spoke about how lucky he was to have amazing friends through these tough times. This got us talking about how true friendship is critical to long-term happiness. And also how rare those type of friendships are.
Most of us have only a few people we’d consider at that level, and many we’d consider acquaintances or casual friends. Some of us don’t have any of these kinds of friends at all.
That’s because to consider someone a true friend, they have to have some very specific qualities. We are critical of the people we let get that close to us.
Eventually, our conversation led us to try and answer, “What should you look for in a true friend?” Here’s what we came up with.
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They can be vulnerable with you
There are so many awesome reasons for friendship…
You get to laugh with your friends and let loose from the daily stresses of life. You can go out with them and meet other people. You get to pursue your hobbies with someone by your side. You can take trips, go on adventures, and create unforgettable stories together.
What makes a friend a close friend, though, is their ability to have real, meaningful conversations with you.
This means that when you open up about something personal, they relate back with some depth. They don’t just keep things surface level or try to change the subject because it’s uncomfortable.
In turn, they open up to you when they’re hurting or need someone to talk to. They’re not concerned with maintaining a facade of always being fine and unfazed by life.
A close friend should be able to share their true feelings with you. They should be able to reveal their own struggles and insecurities at times. They should be willing to engage in hard conversations to support you and grow together.
Strong connections stem from vulnerability. When someone is willing to be seen and judged, we know they have “skin” in the relationship. This allows us to see their true character and begin to trust them on a deeper level.
Finding these close friends are worth it because when you face the inevitable hardships of life, you’ll want someone who can make you feel understood…and also make a well-timed dick joke.
They proactively show they care about you
Maintaining any substantial relationship is hard work.
The only way things thrive is when both people continue to invest in one another.
True friends understand this and because they value your relationship, they make time to see you. Or, at the very least, they reach out you periodically just to see how things are.
They send you something funny just to brighten your day. They check-in to make sure you’re okay and see if there’s anything they can do. They miss you and put in the effort to reconnect.
I know that we’re all busy, but there have never been more ways to reach out and connect with people. Most of my closest friends live out of state, but we make a conscious effort to text and call each other regularly. And when we can, we plan trips to meet up in-person.
A true friend also wants you to be happy. They don’t put you down, use you, or try to sabotage you. They’d never cockblock you for a random woman or treat you differently in front of people they admire.
I think the most obvious sign of a caring, close friend is…they actually take interest in you.
They listen when you talk. They aren’t waiting for you to finish so they can get the attention back on them. They don’t try to show you up with a better story when you share yours.
And most importantly, they actually ask YOU questions. They’re curious about your world and your perspective. It seems so simple, yet it’s so incredibly sad how rare this is.
I’ve had hour-long conversations with people I’m genuinely interested in getting to know better. I’ve asked them all about themselves and they basically shared their life story. But at no point did they ever have the self-awareness or actual interest in asking questions to learn more about me.
Those situations are when I realize they might be a cool person to hang out with, but they’re not best friend material.
They show up for you, especially when it’s hard
It’s not difficult to get your buddy to show up at your party. Or to come play video games with you. Or to go on that weekend hiking trip with all the guys.
Getting a friend to hang out for good times is easy.
Getting a friend to show up for significant moments in your life is much harder. The times when you’re suffering or could really use some help will challenge their loyalty.
A true friend has to make sacrifices to support you. They will have to give up their time and energy and as we talked about earlier — be vulnerable with you. They’ll have to endure hard conversations and may even have to take care of you.
I invested many years in a friend of mine and was there for him when his father passed away. When I invited him to my wedding 9 months in advance, he told me a couple weeks before the wedding he couldn’t come because he had already planned a vacation.
I’ve processed it and I don’t hold any hard feelings. I just understand better now where his priorities lie and the nature of our friendship today.
Close friends know the value of strengthening your relationship. They are willing to compromise and be there for you, because they know you’d do the same for them.
That’s the loyalty of a true friend.
Maybe it’s because I’m from Boston, but Robin Williams’ quote in Good Will Hunting has always stood out to me…
“Why does he hang out with those retarded gorillas, as you called them? Because any one of them, if he asked them to, would take a fucking bat to your head, okay? It’s called loyalty.”
In the movie, all four friends fight and rag on each other. Their opinions and beliefs clash at times. They have different levels of intellect and different interests. But they care and respect each other so deeply that none of that matters.
They don’t abandon one another because of some tension or disagreements. They accept each other’s differences and stick together. Their close friends aren’t just friends, they’re family.
True friendships may be hard to come by. But you can start finding and strengthening your existing ones right now.
You just have to stop waiting around for everyone else.
Embrace these qualities and lead with them yourself. It will nudge your true friends to reveal themselves and return the same.