7 Characteristics of a Real Friend

As the saying goes, “a real friend is like a four leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have.” With today being St. Patrick’s Day, we’re reflecting on the ways you know you’ve made a friend that you’re lucky to have by your side. Finding a real friend can be tough for any of us, and for  someone with a social skills disorder it can be even tougher. When you struggle with social skills, it can be hard to understand other people’s motives. That makes it difficult to know who is a real friend, and who is just taking advantage of you. That’s why we’ve thought long and hard about the ways to tell if you’ve found a friend worth keeping.

So here are 7 Characteristics of a Real Friend:

  1. A real friend can be trusted. Being able to trust your friends is important, because it means you don’t have to worry. You don’t have to worry that your secrets will somehow be leaked to your classmates, or that embarrassing photo of you will wind up on a social networking site. You never have to stress over whether or not your friend will come through when they’ve promised to, or wonder if the opinions they offer are meant to help you or manipulate you. If you find that you’re often worrying that your friend will let you down or hurt you in some way, then this is not a friend you can trust. A good friend will prove to be reliable and genuine, and will put your mind at ease instead of causing you anxiety
  2. A real friend sees you as an equal. You’ve got to beware of the “friend” who is always putting you down, bossing you around, and trying to be the leader. A real friend is never threatened by your happiness or success, and makes you feel as if your opinions are worthy of their attention. They will show you this in a variety of ways such as letting you make decisions about how you spend your time together, complimenting the things you do well, and praising your successes to others.
  3. A real friend respects your decisions. If you tell a friend you need to finish your homework before you hang out, that’s okay by them. If you say you’re too scared to see the movie they want to go to, they understand. That’s because a real friend wants you to make choices you feel comfortable with, and would never want to sway you to do something you don’t feel good about. Sure, sometimes our friends encourage us to try new things outside our comfort zones. But once a real friend senses that what they’re suggesting makes you unhappy, they won’t keep pressuring you to change your mind.
  4. A real friend shares the spotlight. At some point or another, most of us will meet friends who always put themselves first. And while it’s unfair to expect our friends to be totally selfless all the time, there’s got to be some give and take. A real friend can listen to you without relating everything you say back to himself (or herself). He or she will show up to your basketball game, drama performance, band concert, etc. even if there’s nothing in it for them. They are able to be supportive of your achievements and sympathetic to your struggles, without becoming concerned that you are getting more attention than them. They understand that sometimes it’s okay for things to be all about you if the situation calls for it.
  5. A real friend sees your point of view. Even best friends have disagreements, and if both people are passionate about their side, things can get pretty heated. However, a real friend will show a willingness to negotiate, rather than just a desire to win. You may not be able to sway them to do exactly what you want, but they will certainly hear you out and try to understand why you feel the way you do. In the end you might find that neither one of you gets your way, but you should be able to arrive at some kind of compromise.
  6. A real friend knows how and when to apologize. Sometimes even real friends will say things they don’t mean when they’re angry. Other times, they might hurt your feelings completely by accident. Everybody makes mistakes, but a real friend can recognize when they’ve crossed a line, and will try to make it better by offering a sincere apology. You will know the apology is genuine if your friend avoids saying/doing the thing that hurt your feelings in the future.
  7. A real friend lets you be yourself. Odds are, your friend isn’t going to have all the same interests, thoughts and opinions as you. But a real friend is not only okay with this-they see it as a good thing. They embrace the things that make you different from them, welcome your unique point of view, and appreciate the things that make you –you. They don’t see any point in trying to change you, because they like you exactly the way you are.

Of course, it’s important to remember that friendship works both ways. If you want to attract real friends, then you need to be a real friend. That’s part of why social skills are so important. They are what allow people to successfully navigate the social world. They help you to meet new people and develop relationships. They also help you to know when someone is being a real friend, or not.

While you may have many friends in your life, real friendships are rare. That why it’s important to know how to recognize, and hang on to, one if you’re lucky enough to find it!

Posted in


Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More