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The best friends are the people we know we can count on.

In many ways, like a successful romantic relationship, a successful friendship is much more subjective than objective. People often find they are simply on the same wavelength as each other and can become friends with relatively little conscious effort, especially when circumstances create opportunities for shared experiences such as happens in school, in the neighborhood, or at the workplace.

But in fact there can be a more objective way to analyze what makes for a good friend, and it involves looking at the traits most people rate as positives in other people.

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According to a number of studies that were analyzed and cross-referenced by experienced researchers, there are dozens of positive traits people look for (or appreciate less than consciously, in most cases, when not specifically asked) in friends. And there are a few most desired friendship traits that are important enough to most people that they can be the make-or-break basis of a friendship forming and lasting. And so too are there negative traits that can end a friendship or serve as a barrier to it ever starting.

The Most Important Trait for a Good and Lasting Friendship: Honesty

young people having a chat by the lake on sunny day

Honesty and trustworthiness are widely noted as the foundational pillars of any partnership, as in the relationship between romantic significant others. As it turns out, honesty is also the most important trait for a lasting and profound friendship in the eyes of most human beings. Which makes sense, really: if you can trust a friend to be honest, direct, and open with you, and to hold your confidence closely, it’s very easy to overlook many other traits they may have or that they may be lacking.

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Friends are the people with whom we enjoy the good times, to be sure, but they are also often the people we turn to when life gets tough. Knowing that you can trust and count on your friend is essential for the friendship to develop, to thrive, and to last.

The Other Most Important Friendship Traits

Shot of a young couple enjoying a summer’s road trip together

Beyond the most important friendship trait of honesty, there are a few other key friendship traits that emerged as the most important when that wide group of people was surveyed and the data was analyzed.

Much like honesty, most people also put a very high value on the ethics of their friends. Which, really, means we value ethics in general, because whereas a person being honest with us affects us directly, a person being generally ethical means we value how they relate to the wider world. (That speaks well for humanity, does it not?)

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Another friendship trait that was very highly valued was one that may seem almost a bit trite at first blush, but is really anything but: pleasantness. To appreciate why it’s so important for our friends to be generally pleasant people to be around, consider instead a stranger. If you were to see a perfect stranger engaging with, say, a cashier at a grocery store, and this person was perfectly pleasant and agreeable even as their purchase had some issues, you’d have a favorable opinion of them as a first impression – and the opposite would be true if they were rude and derisive. We may know our friends well and be far beyond that first impression, but it’s quite likely we only got to that stage of deeper friendship because the person was, and remains, pleasant to be around and interact with.

One more critical friendship trait is that of availability. This does not mean someone has to consistently drop everything in life and go running when a friend asks them to, but it does mean they are almost always at least available to lend an ear or, when a true need emerges, that they will indeed make the effort to be there in person or to help out however needed.

The Least Desirable Friendship Traits

young woman in allley way sad

Perhaps it will come as little surprise that the things people most often point out as the characteristics that are least attractive in a friend are those that are the opposite of positive friendship traits. The thing that most people most dislike in a friend (or would have been friend, perhaps is more to the point) is dishonesty. If you cannot trust a person, if you don’t feel you can confide in them, and if you doubt they will mean what they say and do what they promise to, you really can’t have a good friendship with that person.

Other traits that many people say are the biggest turnoffs to someone who would otherwise perhaps have been a friend include impatience, being competitive, and being rude and unpleasant. And none of those are surprising, really.

Why Being a Good Friend Is So Important

2 men hugging in a crowded room

When we say it’s important to “be a good friend,” we’re not using the “to be” verb in a passive voice; you genuinely have to exert time, effort, and energy to be a good friend, it does not just happen. But those efforts are necessary if you want to have good friends – who of course in turn owe you the same dedication and effort.

Unlike with family members, where the relationship is created through the bonds of blood and/or marriage and can, in many cases, for better or for worse, be taken for granted, and unlike the relationship you have with coworkers, fellow members of a school cohort, or those with whom you attend a church or synagogue or volunteer organization – people with whom you have to coexist and get along, but not necessarily relate to warmly – the friendship bond is one forged through mutual choice.

If two people are not both committed to a friendship, that friendship dissolves, at least in any meaningful sense. Therefore you have to make sure you put in the effort to be the trustworthy, ethical, kind, and dependable person you would want a friend to be if you want your friends to indefinitely choose to stay in the friendship relationship with you. If you’re able to do that, you’ll cultivate a powerful bond, supported by platonic love.

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