post written by: Marc Chernoff

15 Things Real Friends Do Differently


15 Things Real Friends Do Differently

As we grow, we realize it becomes less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones.

Remember, life is kind of like a party.  You invite a lot of people, some leave early, some stay all night, some laugh with you, some laugh at you, and some show up really late.  But in the end, after the fun, there are a few who stay to help you clean up the mess.  And most of the time, they aren’t even the ones who made the mess.  These people are your real friends in life.  They are the ones who matter most.

Here are 15 things real friends do differently:

  1. They face problems together. – A person who truly knows and loves you – a real friend – is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else still believes the smile on your face.  Don’t look for someone who will solve all your problems; look for someone who will face them with you.
  2. They give what they can because they truly care. – One of the biggest challenges in relationships comes from the fact that many of us enter a relationship in order to get something.  We try to find someone who’s going to make us feel good.  In reality, the only way a relationship will last, and give us joy in the long-term, is if we see our relationship as a place we go to give, and not just a place we go to take.  Yes, of course it is okay to take something from a relationship too.  But both sides should be giving.  It can only be a ‘give and take’ if BOTH SIDES are GIVING.  That’s the key.
  3. They make time for each other. – It’s obvious, but any relationship without any face time is going to have problems.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot in someone’s life.  Never force someone to make a space in their life for you, because if they truly care about you, they will create one for you.  (Read The How of Happiness.)
  4. They offer each other freedom. – A healthy relationship keeps the doors and windows wide open.  Plenty of air is circulating and no one feels trapped.  Relationships thrive in this environment.  Keep your doors and windows open.  If this person is meant to be in your life, all the open doors and windows in the world won’t make them leave.
  5. They communicate effectively. – It’s been said many times before, but it’s true: great communication is the cornerstone of a great relationship.  If you have resentment, you must talk it out rather than let the resentment grow.  If you are jealous, you must communicate in an open and honest manner to address your insecurities.  If you have expectations of your partner, you must communicate them.  If there are any problems whatsoever, you must communicate them and work them out.  And communicate more than just problems – communicate the good things too.
  6. They accept each other as is. – Trying to change a person never works. People know when they are not accepted in their entirety, and it hurts.  A real friend is someone who truly knows you, and loves you just the same.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.  If you feel like changing something about your friend, ask yourself what change you can make in yourself instead.
  7. They are genuine, and expect genuineness. – As Leo F. Buscaglia once said, “Never idealize others.  They will never live up to your expectations.  Don’t over-analyze your relationships.  Stop playing games.  A growing relationship can only be nurtured by genuineness.”  Don’t play games with people’s heads and hearts.  Remember, love and friendship don’t hurt.  Lying, cheating and screwing with people’s feelings and emotions hurts.  Always be open, honest, and genuine.  (Read The Mastery of Love.)
  8. They compromise. – Real friends meet in the middle.  When there’s a disagreement, they work out a solution that works for both parties – a compromise, rather than a need for the other person to change or completely give in.
  9. They support each other’s growth changes. – Our needs change with time.  When someone says, “You’ve changed,” it’s not always a bad thing; sometimes it just means you’ve grown.  Don’t apologize for it.  Instead, be open and sincere, explain how you feel, and keep doing what you know in your heart is right.
  10. They believe in each other. – Simply believing in another person, and showing it in your words and deeds, can make a huge difference in their life.  Studies of people who grew up in dysfunctional homes but who grew up to be happy and successful show that the one thing they had in common was someone who believed in them.  Do this for those you care about.  Support their dreams and passions and hobbies.  Participate with them.  Cheer for them.  Be nothing but encouraging.  Whether they actually accomplish these dreams or not, your belief is of infinite importance to them.
  11. They maintain realistic expectations of their relationship. – No one is happy all the time.  Friends must keep realistic expectations of each other.  Notice when you’re projecting something onto the other person that has nothing to do with them, like a fear from a past relationship, and then make an effort to let it go.  Recognize when you’re looking for that person to do something for you that you need to do for yourself, like making you feel lovable or take care of your needs, and then release those expectations and do it for yourself.
  12. They honor each other in small ways on a regular basis. – Honor your important relationships in some way every chance you get.  Every day you have the opportunity to make your relationship sweeter and deeper by making small gestures to show your appreciation and affection.  Remember, making one person smile can change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  Your kindness and gratitude matters.  Make an effort to really listen – not just wait to talk.  See the other person as if for the first time.  It’s all too easy to take someone for granted.  Really notice all the wonderful things they do, and let them know what you see.
  13. They listen, and they hear every word. – Giving a person a voice, and showing them that their words matter, will have a long-lasting impact on them.  Less advice is often the best advice.  People don’t need lots of advice, they need a listening ear and some positive reinforcement.  What they want to know is often already somewhere inside of them.  They just need time to think, be and breathe, and continue to explore the undirected journeys that will eventually help them find their direction.
  14. They keep their promises. – Your word means everything.  If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT!  If you say you’re going to be somewhere, BE THERE!  If you say you feel something, MEAN IT!  If you can’t, won’t, and don’t, then DON’T LIE.  Real friends keep promises and tell the truth upfront.  (Read The Four Agreements.)
  15. They stick around. – The sad truth is that there are some people who will only be there for you as long as you have something they need.  When you no longer serve a purpose to them, they will leave.  The good news is, if you tough it out, you’ll eventually weed these people out of your life and be left with some great people you can count on.  We rarely lose friends and lovers, we just gradually figure out who our real ones are.

Photo by: Erika

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49 Comments

  • Great advice! Thank you!

  • You two continue to spread such possitive insights. :) Great post! I couldn’t agree more.

  • …and for the REAL friends I do have, I am thankful. Thanks for reminding me of this.

  • Good read! Great relationship lessons!

  • I agree with most of the points here, but this reminder actually makes me feel sad. I used to believe I had a real friend. But the time is proving now that he no longer is. It’s like we are growing out of each other. We used to face problems together. We used to make time for each other. We used to listen to each other. We used to read the smiles of each other because we knew that there were something behind. We supported and pushed each other to our dreams. But now we are coming to the place we dreamt of together, and the things changed. I just don’t understand. I’ve lost my REAL friend. At least, at the time, he used to be.

  • Great lessons. I need time to reflect and practice these in my relationships. Thanks.

  • Some good wisdom on what it means to be a true friend. Thank you.

  • Thank you for these wise words. Reading positive, thought provoking reminders makes my days filled with smiles. It’s infectious! Paying it forward is what it’s all about :)

  • To have a great relationship, we have to be a good person first. I always try to be the best version of me, hopefully. Thank you for sharing these great lessons and ideas, they help much.

  • Some great insights…again! I particularly recognize the importance of #10 - they believe in each other. I recently made a radical career change and have been shocked and temporarily debilitated by the negative comments by some of those whom I considered to be my oldest, closest friends. Your comment “If you feel like changing something about your friend, ask yourself what change you can make in yourself instead” is exactly how I dealt with those doubters. I realized that their comments to me illustrated their own fears and limitations, not mine. Since then, I am much more aware to support my friends and their dreams and question myself, if I have negative thoughts. Cool stuff!

  • “People don’t need a lot of advice” is a great reminder to listen attentively and remember that people already have the answers, they just need someone to notice that their feelings matter.

  • Great advice! Definitely good reminders. Thank you!

  • Love the article, all of it true, especially “life is kind of like a party” comparison. They do come, and they do go! The only challenging part of this article I had was point #6. I’ve had friends, friends I care deeply about. Then suddenly, one of those friends fell into a drinking problem, a drug problem,I couldn’t “accept them as they were.” It was affecting their life very seriously and our friendship, something had to change. Maybe this point applies 90% of the time, but there are some cases where it just doesn’t work. Lost that friend as they continue to suffer with their addictions, hope someday to hear better times for them.

  • Fantastic advice! It really makes me thankful for the friends I have, and I’m especially thankful for my true friends. :)

  • Loved this. I think it is important to note if you have “real” friends and don’t apply this when evaluating your friendship maybe it is time to let go. MarcandAngel have a fascinating article on that too.

  • Great post! But where can we find these friends?

  • You guys are awesome and always write about the most practical but useful things..great information always!!!

  • This is true friendship, “both sides should be giving. It can only be a ‘give and take’ if BOTH SIDES are GIVING. ”

    Reading the comment i ran accross this one from gluhp, “I agree with most of the points here, but this reminder actually makes me feel sad. I used to believe I had a real friend. But the time is proving now that he no longer is. It’s like we are growing out of each other. We used to face problems together. We used to make time for each other. We used to listen to each other. We used to read the smiles of each other because we knew that there were something behind. We supported and pushed each other to our dreams. But now we are coming to the place we dreamt of together, and the things changed. I just don’t understand. I’ve lost my REAL friend. At least, at the time, he used to be.”

    i would like you to remember that people do come and go in our lives. Some stay forever and others move on. When they move on sometimes the one left behind does not understand the why’s.

    As we get older our needs change and our wants change. Everyone that crosses our path, there is a reason for it. When that person has fullfilled that purpose things can change with the relationship. I have had friends come and go. When they where in my life i was blessed at that time and I still am blessed because they crossed my path.

    There is a reason for everything we just can not take it personal when on friend decides it is time to move on. You have fulfilled what was meant to be fulfilled for that time in there life. There is someone else out there that needs your friendship and love.

    My hubby has had a friend for many years. They don’t see each othe very often, but they both know that with one phone call the other would be there.
    You may not want to give up on this person, but just give them some space and if the friendship is meant to be, it well be there.
    Take care and this post is wonderful and full of great advice. It takes the give and take and both people giving like Marc and Angel say.
    Blessings to the 2 of you,
    Debbie

  • A timely reminder for me that I do have some great life long friendships, but also experienced some great short lived friendships!

  • Thanks for another great post. It is important to recognize that sometimes we do grow out of friendships. It can be difficult to recognize, but, there are times when we are just no longer able, or willing, to support another person’s behaviour. I think it’s important to recognize when it happens and exit gently and respectfully.

  • My experience mirrors that of gluhp. I did have the relationship I thought to be a true friendship. Turns out I was very wrong, really burned me.

    I’m still healing from the hurt, and still trying to make sense to the world I found myself living in actually - in this strange place where my best friends turns out to be a stranger.

    Rationally I understand the teaching behind my experience, I keep saying myself that people do leave, new people will come to replace the old ones, it’s all for the better… but my irrational proverbial heart still misses and craves after the friend-that-left.

    This is a great and very true article indeed, but somehow it also made me realize I have so few real friends left. But I guess that’s okay too.

  • Very true article, sometimes it’s just better to let go and give the real friends in your life a chance. They’re the ones who are worth it.

  • I like the one that says they listen to every word. Sometimes people don’t really listen to what you are trying to say. True friends are always wanting to hear what you have to really say. You can tell the difference…

  • Echoing the sentiments of gluhp and sara. My best friend since childhood and I went down different paths in our late teens/early 20s, after we both made some radical changes.

    But now we are back to being best friends, the only thing that changed is that we accepted our differences, didn’t let that get in our way, and let the other be.

  • Great food for thought!

  • This post leaves me in a pensive mood evaluating the friendships I have sometimes struggled to maintain over the years. Good food for thought.

  • This article is a testament to all the friends in our world who make it wonderful place to live in!

  • Wonderful thoughts on what is means to be a good friend. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • A perfect dedication to those wonderful people we call friends… they make life worth living in!

  • So true. I have best friends who are from my school days, and despite our differences and our ever increasing and ever changing geographical distances, friendships have survived precisely because of the 15 things you mentioned above.

  • Thank you for this great article. On #7 you suggested reading the Mastery of Love. I read it, and I must say that it is a phenomenal book…very transformational and eye-opening. :) Have a great day…

  • Great list. Compromise and having realistic expectations are huge in that list. Although that would assume emotionally mature individuals… although I guess if we’re both messed up that would work too. LOL

  • I agree with Debbie@homemaker! But I”ll also say that a lot of the people who cry about people not being there are too wrapped up in their own mess, so it really is a two way street.

  • thanks for sharing gluhp and Debbie.. i needed to hear there are others out there who feel like i do. the hard part is the realization.. that you were walking side by side with someone.. and next thing you turn around and they are gone.. mine happened fast. we struggled and shared on a daily basis.. both going through our own trial together. we both made it through and are still making it.. but when she made it through she left me behind. i thought we had the best and truest friendship there was.. i guess my friendship was different than hers. so i dont hold anger or resentment.. and i still love her.. and we werent even lovers.. but the emptiness is hard to ignore. i miss you buddy

  • Marc,
    Thank you for writing this wonderful article. I just did a presentation yesterday about Creating Loving Relationships - your blog post would have been a great addition to what I was talking about. What you have written here is not just about casual or close friendships, it is about intimate relationships as well.

    Warmly,

    Dr. Erica

  • Real friends do not leave you sitting in your house alone after a breakup.

    They don’t say “You need to move on” when it hasn’t even been a month.

    They don’t say, “Quit feeling sorry for yourself.”

    They do invite you over for dinner.

    They let you whine and vent without making suggestions or giving advice.

    If you need them to, they say hard stuff, but not until you are ready to hear it. A real friend knows when that is and it’s not the first day you tell them what happened, when you are crying so hard you can hardly breathe.

    They don’t have to be in the same town, but if they aren’t, they check on you.

  • It is a shame that it is usually when you really need your friends to come through for you that you get to see whether they are genuine or not. I have a friendship of 16 years that I’m starting to question whether or not I can be bothered to continue with, having always been there for this person, through break-ups, family breakdowns, all the heart break, etc etc, (even once actually getting in a fist fight and taking a punch to the face for them), when I had some major personal problems this year and the shoe was on the other foot, this person revealed that they really only care about themselves. Deeply saddening it was. I ask myself, why did I waste so much time and effort being supportive towards this person? I don’t know if this persons behaviour has become more disrespectful over the years, or whether my tolerance towards them is just diminishing.
    All I know is I want friendships like the above article in my life, but it seems you can’t have that type of friendship with everybody.

  • Thank you. You have told me that I don’t belong to a real friendship. I mean this sincerely- thank you. I know now that I needn’t try so hard because the right person will come.

  • These are great lessons for relationships. Iam challenged to become a friend, and not just an acquaintance. Thank you.

  • Great ideas here. Even though me and my best friend Chyna might not agree with everything that we believe , we talk it out and and the end of the day we are still best friends, :)

  • You mentioned some of my most beloved books and authors, such as Leo Buscaglia and Don Miguel Ruiz. I love your list and your candor about friendship. I would love to post this on my blog. Let me know if that is okay! Thanks and congrats on a fantastic post!

  • Thank you very much, wonderful thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  • A friend is someone who knows you and loves as the same. A friend is someone who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.

  • Thank you Marc for your useful insights. I am sharing this with others! I am discovering it takes being a friend in order to have a friend.

  • This is a very good article, indeed a good one to reflect on. Thanks for writing it.

  • Thank you very much Marc, this post was just what I needed.

  • Friendship is one of the most precious gifts of life. A friend in need is a friend indeed. That means if a friend is struggled or in need, that is what friends are for. A friend is honest, kind, caring, helpful, and other things.

  • I love these. I try to be this in all of my friendships because I expect the same treatment. The friendships that last are those that abide by these 15 things!!

  • I really love your analogy of life and friendship. I agree with you! These are the things that have maintained my friendship with my best friend. I wish more people knew this. My best friend’s grandma says, “you can count your real friends on 10 fingers.”

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