Let’s talk about friends — and how to tell if you have a real friend or a fake one. To start off, friends are awesome.
I’m not advocating that you constantly put your friends under the microscope and make sure you’re “getting something from them.”
That’s terrible and undermines the mutual trust one friend should always aspire to have for another.
It’s just that some of your friends might not be true friends, and it could be undermining your life in a lot of unknown ways. Here are a few ways to tell if you have a real friend or a destructive one:
Listen to your gut
Step one when it comes to friends is not to be too logical. I know that sounds insane, but think of your best friend. Does he arrive late to stuff sometimes? Does he occasionally (or frequently) tease you and give you shit? Has he ever disappointed you?
Possibly, and if you were grading on a logical scale, he might sound like a bad friend. But he’s not. Dude is awesome.
Why? Because of how you feel about him.
Believe me, I freakin’ hate touchy feely answers like that one. They’re the worst. But there is a place for your emotions, and friendships are one of the places where emotions are more important than logic. So, work your way through this article with your gut, not your head.
You can bring up problems with a true friend
Let’s say your friend just screwed something up big time. Maybe he got you into a huge mess with your girlfriend by saying something you told him in confidence, or he was supposed to help you with something and totally spaced.
Do you feel like you can talk to him about it openly?
With a true friend, it might be a bit uncomfortable, but you could do it, and your friend would listen and help you deal with the consequences. A shitty friend is going to avoid dealing with it and may even deny their role altogether.
If you feel like you can’t have a negative conversation with your friend, that’s a red flag.
You don’t notice the give-and-take
With all friendships, there is a back-and-forth. They pay for this round, you get the next one. You give them a ride to the airport, and they cover for you when you need someone to vouch for you.
Now, I’m not saying this is ever going to be 100 percent even, and I’m definitely not saying that you should keep track and make sure it’s one-to-one. That’s a huge mistake. Friendship is about giving without expecting something in return.
If you have a shitty friend, though, the lack of balance will become obvious. You’re always giving them rides. They owe you money and never really pay you back. You’re always helping them with stuff, and they’re never around when you need help.
If things are out of whack, it will become pretty obvious. A true friend gives roughly as much as he gets, so if you’re dealing with an all-take, no-give person, think twice.
When you’re taking a risk, they are honest with you and generally supportive
Note that I didn’t say they always encourage you. If you want to cheat on your girlfriend and your friend tells you that you’re an asshole, that’s a good thing that he wasn’t encouraging.
On the flip side, look out for a friend who is always shooting down your ideas. “Oh, you want to start a business? I don’t know if that’s a good idea for your skill set.”
OK, maybe they honestly feel that way, but damn, you might be better off with a friend who honestly believes that you would succeed.
You feel better when you’re with true friends, not worse
Ultimately, this is the true test. When you hang out with a true friend, you feel better — and “better” could mean happier, but it mostly means that you feel more like the “real you.”
A true friend accepts and likes that real you, so no matter what kind of shit goes down, your friendship will survive and thrive.
When you’re around a shitty friend, however, you walk away from interactions questioning yourself, feeling like you need to explain yourself, or feeling like you need to censor the “real you.”
Trust your gut. Is this person a true friend, or are they just somebody you hang out with sometimes? If they’re the latter, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes, that’s all you need at the moment. It’s just better that you know.