How to recognize the quality of your relationships and How to recognize a friend who is good for you
If you have suffered from an eating disorder, PTSD, anxiety or any hardship that has distorted your perceptions about the personality or character traits of other people, you may not recognize the qualities of a good friendship. Past emotional wounds can leave you doubting the motivations of others. You may be in an almost constant state of mistrust.
You need a reliable criterion to evaluate your friendships or potential friendships. A good friendship canhave a positive and uplifting impact on your life. It's important to recognize the signs of a healthy and supportive friendship. Moreover, being with a good friend can teach you how to be a good friend yourself.
Signs of a good friendship
Trust and Reliability:
In a good friendship, there is a strong foundation of trust. You can rely on your friend to keep promises, be there for you in times of need, and maintain confidentiality. Trust is the foundation of a strong friendship.
You and your friend have confidence in each other's honesty, loyalty, and dependability. You can trust them with your secrets, rely on them to keep their commitments, and feel assured that they have your best interests at heart.
- Example: Your friend keeps your confidential conversations private and follows through on their promises to meet up or help you with something.
Mutual Respect There is a high level of respect between both friends. You appreciate each other's opinions, boundaries, and individuality. Respect is shown through kind and considerate behavior. You value each other's autonomy. Respect is shown through kind and considerate behavior, even when you may have differing viewpoints.
- Example: You engage in discussions without belittling or dismissing each other's ideas. You appreciate and acknowledge each other's perspectives.
Open Communication: Healthy friendships are built on open and honest communication. You feel comfortable expressing your thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and your friend listens to you without judgment. Both of you can communicate openly and resolve conflicts in a respectful manner.
You feel comfortable expressing your thoughts, feelings, and concerns to your friend, knowing that they will listen attentively and respond with care. Both of you can discuss issues, resolve conflicts, and provide feedback without fear of judgment.
- Example: You can have a heart-to-heart conversation about a problem in your friendship, and both of you actively listen and work together to find a resolution.
Support and Encouragement: A good friend supports and encourages your personal growth and success. They celebrate your achievements, provide a shoulder to lean on during challenging times and offer constructive advice when needed.
They celebrate your achievements, offer encouragement during difficult times, and provide a safe space for you to share your aspirations and dreams. They believe in your abilities and motivate you to reach your potential.
- Example: Your friend attends your important events, cheers you on when you accomplish a goal, and offers words of encouragement and motivation when you face challenges.
Shared Interests and Activities: Good friends often have common interests and enjoy spending time together engaging in activities they both enjoy. Shared hobbies, outings, or experiences contribute to the bond and create lasting memories. Whether it's a shared passion, or simply hanging out and having fun, shared experiences strengthen the bond and create lasting memories.
- Example: You and your friend go hiking together, play a sport you both love or enjoy watching movies and discussing them afterward.
Empathy and Understanding: Your friend shows empathy and understanding towards your feelings and experiences. They try to put themselves in your shoes, offer a listening ear, and provide emotional support when you need it. They listen attentively, validate your emotions, and offer support and comfort when you're going through a tough time. They offer you a compassionate perspective.
- Example: When you're feeling down, your friend actively listens, offers a shoulder to lean on, and provides words of empathy and understanding, making you feel heard and supported.
Non-Judgmental Attitude: A good friend accepts you for who you are without judgment. They embrace your strengths and weaknesses and do not criticize or belittle you. You feel comfortable being yourself around them.
They embrace your strengths and weaknesses, celebrate your uniqueness, and do not criticize or belittle you for your choices or imperfections. You feel safe and comfortable being yourself around them.
- Example: Your friend appreciates your quirks, understands your flaws, and loves you unconditionally, without trying to change you.
Equality and Reciprocity: There is a sense of equality and balance in your friendship. You both contribute to the relationship, take turns supporting each other, and invest time and effort into maintaining the connection. The give-and-take dynamic is present, ensuring that both parties feel valued and appreciated.
- Example: You and your friend take turns initiating plans, offering help, and being there for each other. There is a balanced effort in nurturing your friendship.
Healthy Boundaries: Good friends respect each other's boundaries and understand that everyone needs personal space and time apart. They do not overstep boundaries or impose their opinions on one another. They allow each other to have individual preferences and needs.
- Example: Your friend respects your need for alone time and doesn't pressure you when you need space. They understand and honor your boundaries.
Longevity and Consistency: A good friendship stands the test of time. It is not based solely on convenience or situational factors. Good friends remain supportive and present through various stages of life, and the friendship remains consistent over time. Good friends remain supportive and present through various stages of life, adapting to changes and maintaining the connection.
- Example: Even if life circumstances change, such as marriages, childbirth, moving to different cities or countries, pursuing different interests, vocations or hobbies they stay in touch and maintain the friendship. You and your friend make the effort to honor the enduring nature of your friendship.
Friendships can evolve and change over time, and it's important to nurture and communicate with your friends to maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Friendships require ongoing effort and nurturing. By recognizing and appreciating these signs of a good friendship, you can cultivate and strengthen the bond, leading to a fulfilling and supportive relationship.
How Your History May Hamper Your Ability to Establish Genuine Friendships
Ability to Discriminate: It’s possible that if you have a history of being abused or betrayed you will doubt or spurn overtures of genuine friendship. The approach of a new friend can seem too good to be true. You may feel you are being set up, and lured into a friendly relationship that will turn sour quickly. You may be angry in advance of the coming exploitation you are sure will follow the friendship overture.
Learning how to discriminate between an approaching charmer who attempts to deceive you to get what they want and an approaching friend who is looking for a warm and honest bond is your growth challenge. Taking time to get to know someone under different conditions, enjoying what is offered with no expectations or commitments, and gradually learning if this person is trustworthy is the nature of developing a friend.
How to Assess: Developing the ability to assess without accepting too soon or dismissing too soon is part of your ongoing growth challenge. You learn to hold your feelings, discriminate between what feelings you had when you were exploited, and compare those situations to what is going on in this relationship in the here and now.
Strong feelings can influence your perceptions. If your feelings come from past associations that do not relate to your present situation your perceptions can be distorted and incorrect.
Distorted Perception: It's important to recognize that strong emotions have the potential to influence your perceptions. If your emotions stem from past experiences that are unrelated to your present situation, they can distort your perceptions and lead to incorrect judgments.
By actively comparing your past associations with the present relationship, you can gain a clearer understanding of whether your suspicions are warranted or if they are based on unfounded fears. This process allows you to navigate your emotions more effectively and make more informed decisions about the trustworthiness of a potential friend. Your fears may be real and strong, but they may not be related at all to the exchange you have with the new person.
Furthermore, as you continue to grow, it becomes crucial to develop a deeper self-awareness that enables you to recognize the origins of your feelings and perceptions. By understanding the sources of your emotions, whether they arise from past traumas or present experiences, you can better discern their relevance to the current friendship.
Self-awareness: In order to avoid falling into the trap of dismissing genuine friendships out of fear or accepting toxic relationships due to misguided trust, it is essential to engage in mindful observation. Take the time to objectively evaluate the actions, words, and intentions of the person extending friendship to you.
Evaluate too, your own internal responses and judgments that rise up in your consciousness. Use your skills and growing maturation to stay in the present. This process involves considering the consistency of their and your behavior, their willingness to listen and understand and yours, plus the alignment of their actions with their words and that alignment within yourself too.
Boundaries: It’s crucial to maintain healthy boundaries and not rush into deep commitments or complete withdrawal. Allow the friendship to unfold naturally over time, revealing its true nature and depth. By gradually building trust through shared experiences, open communication, and mutual respect, you can develop a more accurate assessment of the person's character and intentions.
Every new friendship is a unique opportunity for growth and connection. While your past experiences may have influenced your outlook, it is important to approach each relationship with an open mind and the willingness to let go of preconceived notions. By actively challenging your own biases and giving people a fair chance, you create the possibility of forming meaningful and authentic connections.
More Signs of a Good Friendship
Shared Values and Beliefs: A good friendship often aligns with shared values and beliefs. You and your friend have similar principles and moral compasses, which create a sense of harmony and understanding. This shared foundation allows for deeper connections and mutual respect.
- Example: You and your friend share core values such as honesty, integrity, and compassion. Your friendship is built on a common understanding of what is important in life.
Celebration of Differences: In a good friendship, differences are embraced and celebrated. You and your friend appreciate and respect each other's unique qualities, perspectives, and backgrounds. These differences bring diversity and richness to the friendship, fostering growth and learning.
- Example: You and your friend come from different cultural backgrounds, and instead of letting it create barriers, you both appreciate the opportunity to learn from each other's traditions and experiences.
Reliability in Times of Need: A good friend shows up for you during challenging times. They are there to offer practical help, a listening ear, or simply a comforting presence when you're going through a difficult situation. Their reliability and willingness to support you create a sense of security.
- Example: When you experience a family crisis, your friend rearranges their schedule to be by your side and provide the support you need.
Laughter and Joy: A good friendship is filled with laughter, joy, and shared moments of happiness. You and your friend find delight in each other's company, share inside jokes, and create memories that bring smiles to your faces.
- Example: Spending time with your friend always leaves you feeling uplifted and laughing together, whether it's through silly conversations, watching funny movies, or reminiscing about hilarious experiences.
Growth and Acceptance: In a good friendship, both friends support each other's personal growth and accept each other's evolving identities. You encourage each other to pursue goals, learn from mistakes, and embrace new experiences. The friendship provides a safe space for personal development and acceptance.
- Example: Your friend encourages you to take on new challenges and celebrates the growth and positive changes you make in your life.
Forgiveness and Understanding: Good friends have the ability to forgive and understand each other's mistakes or shortcomings. They recognize that everyone is human and can make errors, and they choose to focus on the overall bond and shared positive experiences rather than holding grudges.
- Example: When you make a mistake that affects your friend, they communicate their feelings, but they also forgive you and work together to repair the friendship.
Honest Feedback: In a good friendship, both friends provide honest feedback to help each other grow. They offer constructive criticism with kindness and care, knowing that it comes from a place of love and support.
- Example: Your friend gently points out areas where you can improve or offers suggestions for personal development, and you appreciate their honesty and willingness to help you become the best version of yourself.
Ultimately, a good friendship involves unconditional support. Your friend is there for you through thick and thin, without judgment or conditions. They offer a safe haven where you can be vulnerable and know that you will be accepted and supported. Regardless of the circumstances, your friend stands by your side, offering unwavering support and love.
A good friendship requires effort and reciprocity from both sides. By recognizing these signs, you can cherish and nurture your valuable friendships, fostering happiness, personal growth, and a sense of belonging.
(Note: Certain qualities are not here. Friendship is not dependent on money, status, fame, celebrity, power, or connections. Relationships based on these variables may be valuable in business and your profession, but they are transactional. As long as both parties know this there is no deception and no foul. But be careful not to let transactional friendships be confused with genuine friendship.)
If you find you continually are disappointed in your friendships, if your expectations are unfounded, and if you doubt the trustworthiness of others too quickly, this may be a signal that psychotherapy is needed. You may need support and encouragement to develop beyond your relationship fears that are founded in past wounds that are still raw today.
Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at