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Squad goals! 6 tips to recognize (and keep) good friendships

May 23, 2022 - 14 min read


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The many types of friendships

What are the hallmarks of good friendship?

Do I have a bad friend?

How to have a healthy friendship

The bottom line

Think of your fondest memories from high school. 

They probably have nothing to do with that lesson from math class. (Why do we need to know how many melons fit in a submarine, anyway?)

What you probably remember are your closest friends. Perhaps you purposely chose classes to be with your best friend. You roamed the halls with your squad at lunch. You constantly made plans to see each other on weekends.

But if high school drama was intense, maintaining relationships as an adult can be even more challenging. After all, being an adult comes with responsibilities — both in and outside of work. And finding time to do things that are important to us, like spending time with loved ones, isn’t easy.

But friendships are important for adults, too — maybe even more so. BetterUp’s research has found that people are lonely, even before the pandemic, and more so now that remote work arrangements have changed our patterns of movement and interaction.

Yet, friendships and close relationships are important for our health and well-being and help us experience a sense of belonging and greater life satisfaction. They even shape our careers and success.

Our research found that those who cultivate friends at work experience +41% more personal growth and +48% more professional growth. 

The average person can maintain about 150 social connections at once, with around 5 people in their inner circles. These close friendships take an average of 200 hours to develop. And to have the most meaningful friendships possible, you have to be true to yourself.

According to psychologist and author Marisa Franco, if you feel like your identity is shrinking, you might need different friends. Having a larger friend group allows you to explore your interests with others who share those interests and passions — your favorite sports team, passion for nature, or love of cooking. Friends don't have to be like-minded (in fact we all benefit from friends who challenge and surprise us), but sharing some interests, and importantly core values, is critical. 

We’re already so busy with work and other commitments, we have to be mindful about whom we spend our time with. Bad friends can leave you feeling drained and stressed, but good friends will fill you up and improve your mental health and well-being.

Finding good friends isn’t always easy — especially if you're making friends as an adult. But maybe these tips can help.



The many types of friendships

You may have a lot of friends or just a few close friends, and whom you want to hang out with can change over time. But there are many types of friendships, and all of them improve your social health in some way.

Here are common friend types we might pick up along the way.

1. The lifers

These are the friends who’ve been there from the beginning. They know every story, every life event, and every embarrassing moment — because they were there.

2. The best friends

We all have a best friend — the one we love spending time with. We trust them with anything and everything. We feel perfectly comfortable around them, which is the true definition of a good friend. 

Although the mantle of “best friend” was a coveted one in high school, it’s normal to have a few best friends. You might have a best friend at work, a best friend from childhood, and a best friend from spin class.

3. The second-hand friend

There are those people who you only run into at social events. They’re friendly and you enjoy speaking with them, but you don’t make plans outside of larger group gatherings.

4. The hobbyists

You might connect with someone with similar interests, like your weekly hockey game or Dungeons and Dragons session, but the friendship doesn’t go beyond that.

5. Friends of convenience

These are the folks you carpool with to work or only see at your kids’ sporting events. You don’t plan to see them, but they’re often at the same places as you.

6. Acquaintances

Conversations with an acquaintance are kind and cordial, but you don’t shed too many intimate details. You might chat a bit on the sidewalk, but then you part ways. This might be someone you met once at a party or used to work with on a large team. 

It’s challenging to be vulnerable and make new friends. It requires confidence and faith that you’ll get along with them. A BetterUp coach can help you understand yourself in order to navigate the relationships in your life, including with yourself. You might find that some self-awareness and compassion go a long way toward opening up friendships you never thought possible.

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What are the hallmarks of good friendship?

Everyone has a different list of important qualities of a good friend. Some people want a buddy to go out with every weekend, while others want a companion to binge a TV show with. But good friends always share some common elements:

1. They’re there when you need them

Life has many ups and downs, and we need people who we can count on to be there on the bad days. These friends are willing to come to your home if you can’t afford to go out, bring you ice cream after a bad breakup, or help you grieve a loss. They’re essential to getting through bad times of any form.


2. They don’t just speak; they act

We all know that one person who bails on everything they commit to, but best friends don’t do that. When they say they’ll help you move, they mean it; they’ll be there with a smile on their face, knowing they can help a friend.

3. They’re trustworthy

You know they’ll take it to the grave if you tell them a secret. The last thing you need is someone who gossips about your personal life.

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4. They know how to communicate

When something’s bothering them, they don’t just let it fester. They’ll bring it up with you kindly and respectfully, and they know how to be a good listener. They’ll always hear your point of view.

5. They don’t judge you

You can be ultimately yourself around them and you know you can talk to them about anything. True friends never make you feel bad for who you are.

6. They’re patient

A good friend knows that life can be busy. They don’t hold it against you if you can’t always hang out, and when you do see them, it’s like no time has passed at all — whether it’s been a week, a month, or a year.

These friends can show you empathy and understanding when life gets in the way. Patience really is a virtue.

Do I have a bad friend?

For one reason or another, you may have a bad friend in your life. It’s natural to assume the best in people and accept their behavior as normal, but this could blind you to some serious red flags. Here’s what to look out for:

1. They’re draining

Bad friends feel draining to be around. After hanging out with them, you might feel worse than you did before.


2. They only talk about themselves

They always find a way to circle the conversation back to them. They rarely let you talk for more than a few minutes and seem distracted when it’s your turn.

3. They don’t respect your boundaries

Don’t feel like doing something? A bad friend doesn’t care. They push you into situations you’re uncomfortable with.

4. They belittle you

If they shame you for any reason, they’re not a real friend. They should be supportive of you and your desires. Belittling, gaslighting, and shaming are toxic traits that might signify a deeper issue in the friendship.

How to have a healthy friendship

Reciprocity is key to a lasting friendship, and being a good friend is something to be proud of. If you want to be a better friend, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Make time for them

As adults, our calendars fill up quickly. A good friend understands that. But if you brush them off for too long, they might feel secondary to the rest of your life. Make them a priority, show them that they’re important to you, and schedule time to see them.

2. Be vulnerable

Friends want to feel part of your life. Sharing your insecurities builds trust and shows you care enough to let them in.

3. Remember the little things

Do they have a big meeting they’re nervous about? Ask them how it went. When’s their birthday? Have a gift ready to go. It doesn’t take much to show them that you care.


4. Look out for them

They value your opinion, so use it when it matters and keeps their best interests in mind. If they’re dating a toxic person, tell them. If it looks like their job is hurting them, they might need a wake-up call. Be gentle in your approach. But if you’re good friends, they’ll value your input.

The bottom line

You might be wondering: Why is it important to be a good friend? And the answer is that true friendship adds value to our lives, offering us a safe place to land when we need rest or support, reinforcing our values, and keeping us grounded.

Friendships are different than when we were in high school; those might have been fun times, but adult connections are much richer. 

You likely know by now that true friendship is about more than adding each other on social media. You need to be there for your loved ones, even through the tough times. You have to trust each other, laugh together, and learn from each other. 

Navigating these relationships can be difficult. Thankfully, BetterUp can help. Our professional coaches can work with you to practice your listening skills, root out what isn't helpful in your life, and make time for what is important, including your friends.

Being your best self can start with being a great friend.

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Published May 23, 2022

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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