If you think back to your grade school days and are also haunted by memories of ex-friends and life-changing arguments, you’re in good company. I’ve been there–– I’m not sure what it is exactly about growing up that makes relationships so uncertain, but I’ve learned a thing or two about what it means to be a friend.
Although I’ve lost friends over the years, I know that the ones who are by my side today are my true friends. They make me feel included and valued whether we are hanging with a group or one-on-one. Of course, I always try my best to do the same for them because it’s important to me that they know how much I care. This caring might look different for everyone, though, so I’ve always made a point to stop and notice what it is that makes a true friendship feel so fulfilling. Although there are so many more, here are 8 signs a friend truly cares about you.
1. They don’t need a reason to talk or hang out
Having an excuse to talk to someone can be a great way to introduce yourself or get to know someone a little better, but if you’ve been friends for a while you shouldn’t feel the need to have a reason to talk. Otherwise, it may feel like you’re trying to use one another, only coming around when you need something. Even if you are coworkers or lab partners, it’s important to let someone know when you value them as a friend as well. There is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy each other’s company, just because.
2. You’re not the only one who starts conversations
Something as simple as a text from a friend can significantly lighten someone’s day (and strengthen your friendship!), so don’t overlook the little things. I know I always feel appreciated when someone reaches out, even if they need advice or just want to share a meme. It shows me that they value both me and our friendship. This can be more of a challenge for introverts, especially those who are friends with other introverts! Everyone communicates in their own way, so be patient.
3. They want to know how you are
I remember how excited I was to catch up with an old friend last year, only to be disappointed when they spent the whole three hours gossiping and filling me in on their life as if I’ve missed a season of the year’s must-watch TV show. It was clear that I could have been anybody; as long as they had someone to talk to, they’d be satisfied. These kinds of relationships feel very impersonal to me. It’s great to have someone to talk to, but it’s even better when communication (and listening!) is reciprocal.
4. You see relaxed body language
The tricky thing about communication is that words don’t tell the whole story. Someone may not know how to say what they truly mean, or they may feel pressure to act a certain way. Paying some attention to your friend’s body language might give you a clue into their true feelings. For example, they may say they’re comfortable coming with you to a party, but if they stand in the corner with their head down and arms crossed the whole night, you might think otherwise.
HelpGuide has some more helpful resources about body language in communication if you want to know more.
5. They’ve shown they’ll be there when you need a friend
Anyone can say they’ll be there for you, but those who follow through on their actions are your true friends. Of course, life happens, and your friend may not always be able to drop everything when you need them––but those who care will do what they can to support you, even if it just means sending a text to check-in. A real friend won’t disappear when things get difficult!
6. They don’t like you despite your flaws, they like you and your flaws
Someone who truly cares won’t just like a part of you; they’ll appreciate everything about you, even the parts you’re not a fan of. They’re willing to stand with you even when you’re not the easiest to be around. They’ll accept you for you and expect you to do the same for them since that’s what friendship is all about.
7. You can be honest with them, and vice versa
A real friend won’t tell you what you want to hear. They’ll be straightforward and honest, even when it’s difficult to confront you. For me personally, some of the most difficult conversations have been the most beneficial for my friendships. They helped me recognize who truly wants what’s best for me, and who just wants what’s easy.
If they care for you they’ll know they need to speak up, even at the risk of jeopardizing the friendship. The truest friends will value you as a person more than their relationship with you.
8. You feel more like yourself when you’re with them
You shouldn’t have a wall up when you’re with your friends. That’s not to say that you have to tell someone everything because they’re your friend, but you definitely should not feel like you have to hide any part of yourself. I remember how some ex-friendships made me feel: like I talk too much, like I have weird interests, like I have too many feelings… but those were not real friends! I didn’t know it then, but a true friendship won’t make you feel like you need to change a single thing about you.