10 ways to know if someone is a true friend, according to psychology

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Friendships are a bit like detective work.

We’re always looking out for clues that suggest whether someone is a true friend or a fair-weather one.

Psychology can lend us a hand in this investigation, offering up some key indicators that signal true friendship.

These aren’t just about who sticks around when times get tough.

They’re more nuanced than that, and psychology helps us understand these subtleties better.

In this article, we’re going to explore the top 10 ways psychology says you can identify if someone is truly your friend.

These points will help you gauge your relationships and figure out who really has your back.

Let’s get started!

1) They show empathy

One of the cornerstones of any true friendship is empathy.

This is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, to really get where they’re coming from.

Empathy isn’t about feeling sorry for someone.

It’s about being able to step into their shoes, to see the world from their perspective. It’s a quality that defines a true friend.

When someone is truly your friend, they’ll show empathy towards you.

They won’t just listen to your problems; they’ll try to understand them, feel them with you.

And most importantly, they’ll respect your experiences and emotions.

2) They’re there in times of crisis

A friend in need is a friend indeed. This old saying holds a lot of truth, especially when it comes to identifying a true friend.

I remember a time when I was going through a particularly rough patch.

It was one of those moments where everything seemed to be falling apart.

One friend, in particular, stood out during this time.

Despite having her own problems, she made it a point to check in on me regularly, offering words of comfort and even just lending an ear when I needed to vent.

This is exactly what Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, meant when he said, “Friendship is an art of keeping distance while also being close.”

True friends know when to give you space and when to hold you close.

They can sense when you’re in crisis and are there for you, offering support and understanding without judgment.

So look out for those who stick by your side during the worst times.

They’re likely your true friends.

3) They’re not afraid of your flaws

Being human means being imperfect. We all have our quirks, our shortcomings, our little (and sometimes not so little) flaws. And true friends?

They’re not scared off by them.

I’m talking about the kind of friends who’ve seen you at your worst, yet still choose to stick around.

They don’t just tolerate, but accept your flaws, understanding that these imperfections are part of who you are.

True friends aren’t frightened by the prospect of accepting you completely – warts and all.

They don’t expect you to be perfect, nor do they want you to be.

They appreciate you for who you are, flaws included.

4) They celebrate your success

We’ve all had those moments of triumph – the big promotion, the successful project, or even just a personal goal achieved.

The joy is doubled when you have someone to share it with, especially when that person is genuinely happy for you.

I remember when I got my first book published.

Amidst the congratulations, one friend’s reaction stood out. His eyes lit up as he heard the news, his excitement matching mine.

He didn’t just say he was happy for me; he showed it.

A true friend doesn’t compete with you or feel diminished by your accomplishments.

Instead, they see your happiness as an extension of their own.

Their support doesn’t waver based on the highs or lows you experience.

It’s these moments that truly show who is willing to be with you through everything, cheering you on and standing by your side. 

5) They challenge you

It may seem counterintuitive, but a true friend isn’t always going to agree with you.

In fact, they’ll challenge you when it’s necessary.

Why? Because true friends care about your growth.

They’re not just interested in maintaining the status quo if it means you’re not reaching your full potential.

They understand that real growth often comes from stepping out of your comfort zone, and they’re willing to be the nudge you need—even if it might cause a momentary strain in the relationship.

This isn’t about being contrarian for the sake of it; it’s about pushing you towards choices that foster your development and well-being.

Real talk — true friendship can handle the truth.

If you have a friend who isn’t afraid to push you, to tell you the truth, at the risk of causing a little strain, be grateful. Not everyone has that kind of honesty. 

6) They respect your boundaries

Having your boundaries respected is a critical part of any healthy relationship, including friendship.

True friends understand and respect your personal space, your needs, and your limits.

They don’t push you into anything you’re uncomfortable with.

Instead, they respect your decisions, even if they don’t fully understand or agree with them.

7) They make time for you

We all lead busy lives.

But a true friend will always find a way to carve out time for you, no matter how packed their schedule is.

I remember during my university days, juggling classes and part-time jobs made it hard to find time to hang out.

Yet, one particular friend always seemed to make time. Whether it was a quick coffee catch-up between classes or a late-night chat after a long day, he was there.

Better Up’s Elizabeth Perry puts it succinctly: “Dependability is their middle name.”

Of course, they may not always be there at the exact moment you need them, but you still get the sense that they will adjust what they can to ensure you remain an important part of their life. 

8) They keep your secrets

True friendships are built on trust, and a big part of that trust is knowing that your secrets are safe.

There’s an intimate bond that forms when you share your deepest fears, hopes, and dreams with someone. And when they hold those secrets close, it strengthens that bond.

According to Relationship Fluent, “Trust in a relationship is all about honesty, reliability and vulnerability. To truly trust a friend we must rely on and confide in them without fearing that they will break that trust.”

9) They can be silent with you

Counterintuitively, you can gauge the depth of a friendship not just by the conversations you have, but also by the comfortable silences you share.

A true friend doesn’t need constant chatter to sustain a connection.

They understand that silence isn’t always awkward, and that sometimes, it’s in these quiet moments that we feel most understood.

The bottom line is, with a true friend, you can be yourself.

You won’t feel the need to talk on and on – if you feel like being silent, they’ll sit right there with you. 

10) They keep you grounded

MentalHealth.org talks about another aspect of true friendship: “Our friends can keep us grounded, help us get things in perspective, and help us manage life’s problems.”

Indeed, this grounding role that friends play is crucial.

They act as a reality check when we might be losing touch with our circumstances or ourselves.

By reminding us of who we are and what matters, they help us navigate through life’s twists and turns.

Whether it’s a gentle reminder of your strengths when you feel weak, or a firm nudge back to reality when you’re lost in the clouds, true friends provide a balance that is invaluable.

Having someone who can help you manage life’s challenges not only alleviates stress but also enriches your capacity to deal with adversity.

It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone in your journey.

If you’ve got people like this in your corner, consider yourself blessed.

You’ve got true friends who make your life so much richer and happier! 

Ethan Sterling

Ethan Sterling has a background in entrepreneurship, having started and managed several small businesses. His journey through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship provides him with practical insights into personal resilience, strategic thinking, and the value of persistence. Ethan’s articles offer real-world advice for those looking to grow personally and professionally.

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