General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Who can be a true friend to you?

Asked by wundayatta (58693points) January 16th, 2009

What traits do all your true friends have in common? What do you have to do with a person in order to consider them a true friend? What are true friends willing to do for each other? What are the criteria you use in order to move a friend into your own personal true friend category? Do you have any litmus tests? If so, what are they? Can someone you have never met in person be a true friend?

For extra credit (that’s a joke) describe your hierarchy of friends from people you happen to know peripherally on up to true friendship.

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34 Answers

seekingwolf's avatar

Many of friends are older people… I don’t have many friends my age, but those who ARE my friends are mature, honest, smart, and not trivial. Almost all of them are like me in that they like to be alone and don’t have many friends. Basically it takes a long time for someone to become my friend because sometimes I am wary and don’t trust easily. While I can understand when my friends mess up on occasion, I don’t choose friends who frequently engage in illicit activities or excessive partying. I am very picky.

Basically, someone who is smart, mature, honest (even brutally honest), interesting, and changes my perspective on things is a friend to me.The more I talk to them and learn about them and trust them, then the closer they are to me. I don’t expect gifts or to see them/talk everyday, but I do like hearing from them at least once a week, usually more. I don’t go out with my friends very often, but when I do, it’s very low-key and we have a good time.

I do think someone who you’ve never met in person can be a friend too. You still have that connection with them, but it’s just over the web/phone/etc.

GAMBIT's avatar

Anyone can be a friend and I hope I can return the favor.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

@Grisson: hehe

As far as traits go, I think it’s really just a matter of compatibility. It’s a known fact that some people just don’t get along. I know we have to work and deal with people who we don’t get along with all the time, but I consider “friends” and “acquaintances” to be two totally different things…

In order to consider them a true friend…well, the truest of friends stick around, or if they can’t at least keep in periodic contact with you, I think. I guess that would be my measure of a “true friend.” And true friends, I think, are willing to do this as long as they live. (But I must admit, this is very hard to do! And my truest of friends maybe not be especially true. I’m not always so true.)

I can’t say I have any consious “criteria” for people becoming my friend. We either have a lasting connection or we don’t. It’s not really something you can control. The “litmus test” would be to just hang out with them for a bit and see if you sense that conection. If not, it’s probably best to leave the situation be.

And I do believe that someone you’ve never met can become your best, or one of your best, friends. I met someone through an online role-playing sight a few years ago and we still write to each other every now and then about things that are important to us and about what’s going on in our lives. It may be strange, but I find it almost easier to be friends with someone you’ve never met than with someone you have and then later must only communicate with via (e)mail and such. Once you have that phyisical tangibility with a person and start to lose it…I think that hurts more than anything and is very hard to deal with.

<_< So yeah. That’s my take.

And hierarchies suck. Seriously. If anyone feels they have to sit around and rank their real “friends” on some list they scrounged up, then maybe they aren’t being friends with those persons for the right reasons. Everyone is valuable in their own way, positive or negative, and no one is better than anyone else, not in their own right. Maybe people do that stuff because it makes them feel better, but I wouldn’t know; I’ve never made a hierarchy list.

seekingwolf's avatar


Totally agree with you on the hierarchy thing…I don’t know anyone else who orders their friends by ranks. :) Each is special in a different way.

jlm11f's avatar

A true friend, IMO:
1. Is still there for you and with you when you mess up (I don’t mean mess up as in “oops forgot to mow the lawn today” obviously. something on a bigger scale)
2. Isn’t afraid to tell you when you are wrong.
3. Defends you in public even if they don’t agree with you on that particular issue
4. Loves you for who you are but again, isn’t afraid to tell you how you can improve

Basically, it all boils down to loyalty and communication.

“What are the criteria you use in order to move a friend into your own personal true friend category? Do you have any litmus tests?” – I don’t spend my nights writing into a personal diary telling it “Dear Diary, today Stacy bought me an iPod. This moves her into my true friend category from the “Just another friend” category. My point being, the best litmus test is time itself. Those that stick around through the good and bad are easy to notice.

“Can someone you have never met in person be a true friend?” – Yes. There have been times where an online friend has gone an extra mile for me more than an IRL friend. True friendships, unlike a romantic relationship, is based on common interests/personalities alone (as in, there isn’t a physical attraction category) and so you can definitely make friends without having ever met the person.

“Describe your hierarchy of friends from people you happen to know peripherally on up to true friendship.” – I am not quite sure what you mean, but I will have to direct you back to the “personal diary” comment I made above.

Sakata's avatar

No idea. Doubt I’m even looking anymore. I’m content with just plain ol’ friends. I don’t need a lot of ‘em and the few I have are more than good enough.

cookieman's avatar

To me, a true friend:
• asks how you are before they talk about themselves.
• sometimes calls/drops by just to say “hey”.
• will kick you in the ass when needed.
• is drama free.
• is low maintenance.
• can engage you in thoughtful conversation.
• is there for you when times are tough.

Aside from my wife and daughter (who are my best friends), I know maybe 3 people who fit that criteria (two of whom are relatives).

Everyone else to me are acquaintences, colleagues, or strangers.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

Heh, and I’m probably just as picky about friends as Seekingwolf is (which is why I have only a few). I was born that way! :P

Bluefreedom's avatar

A true friend for me is one who has the following:

- honest
– loyal
– there for you when you need them
– compassionate
– understanding
– funny, yet serious when necessary
– non-judgemental
– kind
– a good listener

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” – Walter Winchell

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’d agree with @Bluefreedom‘s list, and add:

-is happy for you when the good things are happening

I’ve had “foul-weather friends” who were there for when I was feeling depressed or was in straits, but were gone as soon as things started looking up, as if they couldn’t take it that I was feeling better and wouldn’t stay in the pits with them. I’ve also known “friends” who were OK with me when I was below them somehow, but if I were “on par” or surpassing them in some way, would be quite nasty toward me.

wundayatta's avatar

@seekingwolf and @Introverted_Leo: you guys must have hierarchies, or else you couldn’t answer this question. There are reasons why you turn to the people you turn to first, otherwise, out of all the people you know, you would randomly pick one of them, because they are all the same.

They aren’t all the same, and I’m asking you to reflect on the differences between the various groups of people you consider to be friends. It’s not like there is some status difference, it’s just a way to see what you are looking for in acquaintances, friends, and true friends. It’s not like you give out points, and people move up the hierarchy. These things happen naturally, with us hardly thinking about them. I’m asking you to think about them.

seekingwolf's avatar


Ohh I’m sorry >< it’s just I’m not sure hierarchy is the right word for it. It somehow says that one or more friends may be more important than others and that isn’t true for me. (perhaps for others, but not for me)

You’re right, I don’t treat all my friends the exact same way…I like them for different reasons, and I confide certain things to some and not to others. However, all are EQUALLY special to me, and equally important too.

Sorry just wanted to clear that up :)

Shin00bi's avatar

mmm, tricky hard question:
I have a few true friends and very few of them have anything in common. Except they know the way I think and accept me for who I am. I kinda don’t have a criteria if I like you yeah we can be friend if I don’t I’ll avoid you.

and of course someone you have never met can be a true friend, all friend were once strangers too.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

So, what you want to know is how we percieve the differences between “acquaintances, friends, and true friends”... Well, it would have helped if you actually explained that before! :P lol

Well, differences. An acquiaintance is like a step-up (or just more developed) from the “familiar stranger,” someone I recognize but don’t necessarily know all too well. Our relationship is superficial in the sense that it isn’t very developed and probably based off of a need to communicate for practical purposes. If that makes sense. A co-worker or fellow student you see every now and then, for example.

A friend is someone I know pretty well. We may or may not hang out sometimes, but it’s someone I feel I have a more…mm, essential connection with than I would with an acquaintance.

A true friend is…well, we already talked about that. But to put it briefly, I think s/he is someone who’s in it for the long-haul. We’ll talk about all sorts of meaningful things and do lots of things together as often as our sceduled lives allow us to, and as much as considered is healthy. But I find that amount hard to gage. Even if a friend was my truest friend, I don’t think I’d want to spend all of my time with them, heh.

Um…I hope that helps this time, Daloon. If not, too bad! :P

wundayatta's avatar

Thank you. It does make more sense. I apologize for the way I phrased it. But you know how it is, communication is a tricky business.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

It could just be the avatar that threw me off. :P

wundayatta's avatar

Ain’t it grand?

cookieman's avatar

yes – like a canyon.

DrBill's avatar

Being a friend is easy, being a best friend is rising above the rest, it is being there when no one else is.

When there is evidence against you, your best friend is on your side because he believes you, it is someone you can trust above all others.

I know in my heart that my best friend would take a bullet for me, and I would take one for them.

Sakata's avatar

Have you seen the movie Appaloosa? That’s true friendship. Unforgiven too.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I have a friend who admitted, in all honesty, that he would take a bullet for me. We had been drinking, or I think that it wouldn’t have come up. I was embarrassed, because I don’t think I could return the favor. He doesn’t expect me to, I think, but it was an uncomfortable situation. Does being willing to take a bullet for someone mean you are a true friend? Now there’s a question for you.

Sakata's avatar

When I was in the Army (infantry) the “drunken bullet” was something that went unsaid. It was just common knowledge that even the guys you didn’t get along with would die for you. After returning to the civilian world things were a lot different. I’ve had quite a few friends give me the whole bullet speech, and I’ve always appreciated their intentions, but most people have no idea what a statement like that truly means.

Bottom line is that nobody really knows what they would do for someone else until they’re in a situation that requires them to find out.

@evelyns_pet_zebra: My opinion is that you should take it for what it is; a statement from a good friend who would do anything (within reason) for you.

augustlan's avatar

My 3 best friends are all quite different from one another, and all 3 have never even been in the same room together. Two of them I don’t even see anymore (life and distance gets in the way), but if any of us needed the other we’d be there. All three in their time were my closest confidantes, never judged me, let me cry and made me laugh. I did/do the same for them. One of them came to my grandmother’s funeral to support me, another was in the room when I gave birth to all 3 of my children. Then I’ve got my social friends. The ones I hang out with most are fun to be around, and interesting to talk with, but wouldn’t be with me, say, in a labor and delivery room.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I came up with this list after being stabbed in the back by someone I thought was a friend. This is the list I will refer to from now on when it comes to accepting applications for new RL friends.

* Anyone who claims to be always right should never be believed. They should be avoided.
* Anyone who offers to take you ‘under their wing’ will discard you as soon as things become less than rosy.
* Pay close attention to the stories people tell you; people always focus on the things that they have the most trouble with, or instances which they haven’t resolved. People are likely to do to you what others have done to them.
* There is a difference between someone with plenty of knowledge to share and someone who claims to know it all. It pays to know the difference.
* If anyone exclaims they don’t need you and can do it all by themselves, give them what they want as quickly as you can and don’t look back.
* There is nothing more important than your own backyard.
* Anyone can offer their advice; but if they try to force you to accept their point of view over your own best judgement, stand firm and tell em to back off. A friend will accept your honesty, anyone who doesn’t isn’t a friend.
* Real friends do not question the validity of your religious beliefs publicly, no matter what their private concerns are. Anyone who claims to be looking out for your own best interests concerning your ‘soul’ or your religious ‘wellbeing’ by criticizing what you believe is in error. No one has the right to tell you that what you believe is wrong. Those that do should be gently reminded to back off. Those that persist should be told in no uncertain terms to fuck off.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

my best friend has been my best friend for a little over 13 years or so now. i haven’t even really talked to her in 6 months, but i know she’s there for me regardless. i guess that’s a nice thing to have in a true friend, you know?
i never really take time to consider who i count as true friends though. like, i feel like i’m discrediting some friends that i don’t really hang out with as much/consider ‘close friends’ but if i did, i’m sure they’d be true too. but i guess to actually answer the question (lol right) my true friends have to be

-accepting. like not just of me, but of other people in general. i can’t be friends with someone who isn’t even relatively open-minded.

-and honest. i expect some little silly fibs here and there about things that don’t matter, but i want honest people around me.

-and funny people. the other day i was looking around at the people at my school, and i realized that when i’m walking to class with my friends, we’ll be like in tears laughing. and i don’t really see that too often in other people and their friends. and i started to feel bad for them.

-and people who are okay with staying in and just listening to music and talking all night.

-this isn’t part of like the criteria or something, but i definitely appreciate friends who will (try to) cook for me. i think it’s so nice.

90s_kid's avatar

I agree totally with blue freedom pointing out good listener and funny, yet serious when neccesary and finally there for you
Also, I can not stand people who just say “idk” [i don’t know] to any random question I ask on IM, or in person just because they don’t feel like thinking or helping. This is a reason I like fluther :).

cyndyh's avatar

My best friends are smart in many ways. They’re witty. Many of them have a love of language and turns of phrase. They all seem to enjoy conversation. Love of learning is a common theme. They all have interests that they pursue in a deep way and love sharing their knowledge. They’ve all taught me things. I’d say they’re all kind and caring, too.

Beyond that they’re all very different people. I think smart, kind, and caring gets a person a long long way. Basically someone I want to spend time with who wants to spend time with me is a friend.

maybe_KB's avatar

You must be @ least 3ft to get on my true friend roller coaster

Grisson's avatar

@maybe_KB So that miniature piano player probably doesn’t qualify.

cyndyh's avatar

Too funny. :^>

bridold's avatar

I have to say that my only true friends are my siblings.

I think the number one thing that identifies them as being my only true friends, besides being my family, is the fact that they are my friends completely unconditionally.

With my sisters, much unlike a lot of girlfriends I have, it’s never a competition. They are truly happy for me and don’t try to bring me down when I’m successful.

They are always on my side, even if they disagree, but they aren’t afriad to tell me when I’m being an idiot.

They are the first people I call when something hilarious or horrible happens.

And most importantly, everything listed above is reciprocated by me.

I’m sure there is much more that I’m leaving out, but you get the idea

cornets_01's avatar

people who are non-tupperware friends,

candacewells4's avatar

well my two best friends are both extremely honest. they both will tell me what they think regardless of what they know i want to hear.

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