As a kid, I was always moving cities every three years. This mobility was not really by choice, but that’s just how things are when your dad was part of the army. In all those heady years, I made many friends spanning across different cities. Luckily, I was a social kid and didn’t necessarily have a tough time finding and making friends in the city I shifted to.
Was this social trait in me natural or had it developed over time? An answer to a question I still seek even today. I’d managed to stumble across some really cool people along the way and honestly, it still surprises me that they willingly chose to hang out with this short, squeaky-toned kid. I clearly did something right in their eyes.
As much as I would have loved to maintain those relationships, along the years they fizzled out. The common reasons behind this were due to the lack of communication, distance, or just naturally, as we each entered new phases in our lives. But despite the lost friendships, I learned a lot from each one of them. They helped me discover a side to me that I didn’t know existed in the first place.
As I reflect upon my friendships across the years, I realize that I have had many best friends along the way. Although, I’m not entirely sure if I understood the true meaning behind the term at the time. This term always raised many questions in my mind, more than I should be pondering about.
As the title of this article suggests, here are five important traits I believe a true best friend must possess. These are traits we desire to be found in each of our best friends and may also help us be better best friends to all our friends.
1) They are incredibly loyal.
One of the first qualities you should look for in your best friend is loyalty. Loyalty is extremely underrated these days. Pretty sure you will agree that finding this trait in people is usually hard. I have had my own share of ups and downs seeking this trait in my best friend.
During the years of shifting cities, I witnessed changing loyalties and priorities. People made promises and commitments, which were never kept. I blamed distance and communication as the major reasons behind this, but deep down I knew that these are just excuses to pacify myself from the truth.
In no way do I mean that best friends need to support you when you are heading in the wrong direction, doing the wrong things, and applaud you while you slowly destroy your life. That is not my intention at all.
By loyalty, I mean that you should find someone willing to stick with you through the tough times and willing to go that extra mile for you. They must have your back, be your support system, and never abandon you when you need them the most.
“Janet no longer sought a “best friend” (as Wendy had been), but learned to manage several close friendships — friendships with limits, friendships with less predictability and loyalty built in.” — T. E. Apter, Ruthellen Josselson, authors of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships
It’s important to find someone who will listen to you and support you during your breakups, family emergencies, and other misfortunes. Ideally, this is someone you can always count on, no matter what, as they are not bound by distance or time.
2) They are brutally honest.
This trait holds a major percentage for someone to qualify as my best friend. You could have a best friend who says, “Nitish you are such a coward, why don’t you do/try this, it’s good for you.” The activity here could refer to anything I wouldn’t normally do, most likely resulting in trouble of some kind.
However, the act of getting in trouble would hold less weight to me than losing my best friend. Let’s face it, many of us are people pleasers, in some way or another — it could be your boss, your wife/girlfriend, your friends, or your best friend. We all love spending time with people who always agree with us or boost our ego.
However, despite popular opinion, this is not a trait you want your best friend to possess. You want your best friend to call it like it is, even if you don’t want to hear it. You want them to be brutally honest with you even if you are trying to deceive yourself by claiming it’s the right thing to do.
“When you make a mistake, share the problem with your Champions. You can expect honesty and nonjudgemental support from them.” — Tom Rath, author of Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without
This could start off with something small like you look awful in that new outfit or your new haircut doesn’t suit you as much as you thought. They should question your lousy judgements and help you step out of your comfort zone to try new things.
At first, you may even hate this friend for being blunt or harsh, because nobody likes criticism. However, this is actually the person who appreciates you the most, cares about your well-being, and is someone you can trust with your important life decisions.
Obviously, you need to be wise enough to differentiate between people who are actually trying to insult you and the ones who are gently trying to inspire you to be the best version of yourself.
3) They are non-judgemental and trustworthy.
I cannot stress the importance of trust in a best friend relationship. This friendship cannot exist without mutual trust for each other. After all, this is someone you should be comfortable sharing your everyday details with, someone who knows your darkest secrets.
The hardest realization for me was when I had personal stories revealed to people I barely knew. I wouldn’t place this as active malice against me, but it cleared my head about people I could actually trust with my deepest secrets. Trust goes a long way for me.
A true best friend knows everything about you and chooses to keep their mouth shut when offered the opportunity to share your fears, doubts, or humiliations with anyone else. After all, you don’t want to choose someone as your best friend who doesn't value the fact that you chose them as your confidant.
“I trust some more than others, and I trust any given person more than about some things than about others and more in some contexts than in others.” — Russell Hardin, author of Trust and Trustworthiness
They should be non-judgemental and would do anything in their power to keep your trust. They might even have access to information that you hide from the world (including yourself at times) and love you no less because of them.
Most importantly, a real best friend won’t talk about the things you shared with them in confidence, even if your friendship were to end. They would never use the skeletons in the closet to blackmail you, especially to a random stranger.
4) They are accepting and respectful.
Do you remember how in movies they show kids adjusting their behaviour to fit in with the “cool” kids? Well, that’s life. You try to fit in pretending to love music you can’t really stand, and behave differently just to be accepted by people who don’t really care about you.
Even if they do care, they fail to respect you as a person, which clearly means that they don’t love you as much as you may think they do. My life was no different. I went through this phase in my life where I was pleasing people without recognizing that I was losing my true self in the process.
Your best friend should possess the ability to completely accept you for who you are, along with your flaws and imperfections. They will respect and celebrate your individuality instead of making a mockery out of it.
“Accepting a friend means choosing to invest and love despite differences.” — Janice Peterson, author of Becoming Gertrude
A best friend won’t care if you both don’t share the same taste in sports, music, hobbies, or other interests. They will never try to change the essence of who you truly are in order to convert you to match their imaginary standards of perfection.
They trust you to make good judgements for yourself and will always respect your time, personal space, and effort. You are never a “second choice” in their lives and they don’t act like they are doing you a favour by hanging out with you.
5) They are fun to be around.
Finally, now that we covered all the serious traits, never underestimate the importance of fun in your lives. Your best friend should be someone you can have a blast with.
This is someone that brightens your day, and you can never get enough of hanging out with them. Ideally, a best friend is someone who is always up for your fun suggestions, someone who supports your crazy ideas, and is ready for an adventure with you.
The last thing you want is a pessimistic best friend shooting down all your fun ideas and ruining your mood with unnecessary stress and tension. You don’t want someone who is always picking fights, always complaining, never satisfied, and just spreads negativity all around.
“People who are fun to be around are better company than friends who walk around with a dark cloud hanging over their heads. The former enjoy life, handle challenges in proactive ways, and keep negative experiences in perspective.” — Dr. Suzanne Degges-White in Psychology Today
A true best friend is willing to cave in to your spontaneous plans since they feel extremely comfortable around you. They are usually the people you share the wildest and dearest memories with and who make your life worth living.
They are someone who is always available to make you laugh, especially during your darkest moments. They are someone with the mental capacity to help you stand up to your fears and fight your own battles.
All the five traits above can be narrowed down to just knowing who would make an ideal best friend to you. You are happiest when you are around them. They make you feel safe without double-guessing yourself and most importantly, they bring out the best in you. Something we all crave.
Think about it this way, if you are always treading on thin ice while having important conversations, maybe they aren’t your best friends after all. A great way to describe a best friend using an analogy I stumbled upon recently would be —
“A best friend is like a pretty doll, it is all ears when you need someone to share your problem with. A best friend is like a nice puppy, it replaces your sorrow and sadness with its natural jokes and laughter. A best friend is like a clown, it smiles and laughs at your jokes even at the silly ones. A best friend is like a wheel, it goes along with you through your good and bad days.” — Donald Johnson, author of Faith, Family, Friends
The great news about having a best friend is that your friendship won’t crumble over one bad fight, a nasty comment, or a wrong move made by either one of you. To err is human, and your relationship is built on the foundation of trust and belief. You shouldn’t undermine each other’s commitment to this friendship and must safeguard it with all you’ve got.
It should be a reciprocal relationship. Don’t be afraid of sharing your insecurities with each other, knowing that you won’t be judged. I found some interesting versions of the definition of a bestfriend on Quora.
It’s important to closely inspect your feelings for your best friend, which shouldn’t be hard after numerous interactions you have with them. You will then discover if they are truly best friend worthy or not.
A best friend is someone that truly understands and fulfills you. If that’s what you have now, you hit the jackpot. If not, don’t worry, you still have 7.8 billion people in the world to choose from.