1. Criticize you for being flawed.
As flawed as you might be, as out of place as you sometimes feel, and as lacking as you think you are, you don’t have to hide all the imperfect pieces of yourself from a true friend. They see your flaws as features that make you interesting and beautiful.
The quality of the happiness between two people grows in direct proportion to their acceptance, and in inverse proportion to their intolerance and expectations. True friends love and appreciate each other just the way they are.
2. Walk away when times get tough.
True friendship and good character is all about how a person nurtures another person when they are vulnerable and can give very little in return. Thus, it’s not who’s standing beside you during good times, but the ones who stick by you through tough times that are your true friends.
So take note of who remains in your life when times get tough, especially the people who sacrifice the resources they have in their life to help you improve yours when you need it most. Seriously, when you come out the other side of a difficult period in your life, look around you. The people still standing beside you are your true friends.
3. Discourage you.
Unfortunately, some who seem like your friends will try to hold you back from your full potential. It may be difficult, but don’t let these negative imposters bring you down. Don’t ever let your so-called friends turn your sky into a ceiling. Beware of friends who try to belittle your ambitions. Small hearts and minds always do that. The greatest hearts and minds – the people you should spend time around – make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Remember, encouraging things happen when you distance yourself from discouraging people. Doing so doesn’t mean you hate them, it simply means you respect yourself. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
4. Hold a grudge over your head.
Some people will refuse to accept that you are no longer who you used to be – that you’ve made mistakes in the past, learned from them, and moved beyond them. They may not be able to stand the fact that you’re growing and moving on with your life, and so they will try to drag your past to catch up with you. Do not help them by acknowledging their begrudging behavior. Let go of their negativity, find peace, and liberate yourself!
A true friend never holds the unchangeable past against you; instead, they help your repair your present and future. If someone relentlessly judges you by your past and holds it against you, you might have to take matters into your own hands, and repair your present and future by leaving them behind.
5. Lie to you.
When you keep someone in your life who is a chronic liar, and you keep giving them new chances to be trusted, you have a lot in common with this person – you’re both lying and being unfriendly to YOU.
If you know someone who avoids the truth by telling you only what you want to hear, they do so for their own benefit, not yours. They are not a true friend and they don’t deserve to be treated as such.
6. Pretend like they have all the answers.
If you think about the people who have had the greatest positive effect on your life – the ones who truly made a difference – you will likely realize that they aren’t the ones that tried to give you all the answers or solve all your problems. They’re the ones who sat silently with you when you needed a moment to think, who lent you a shoulder when you needed to cry, and who tolerated not having all the answers, but stood beside you anyway.
Don’t look for a friend who will solve all your problems; look for one who will face them with you. (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)
7. Take from you without giving back.
You deserve to be with friends who make you smile – friends who don’t take you for granted – friends who won’t leave you hanging. When you notice that a friend is always taking from you without giving back, you might need to distance yourself from them for a while. If they care, they’ll notice. If they don’t, you know where you stand.
You should want to give, but you shouldn’t be forced to always give more than you get. If you feel like you are being taken advantage of, respect yourself enough to confront the situation. This doesn’t mean you have to stop being friends with those who you feel are at fault, but you need to evaluate your friendships and realize where to draw the line when you give yourself to certain people.
8. Bully you.
It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but just as much to stand up to your friends. Sometimes bullying comes from the most unlikely places. Be cognizant of how your friends treat you, and look out for the subtle jabs they throw. When necessary, confront them or distance yourself from them – whatever it takes to give yourself the opportunity to grow into who you really are.
Life’s too short to be hanging around people who try to control and manipulate you. Anyone who does so is not a true friend. Gain your independence by taking off the shackles and freeing yourself from these bullies. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
9. Make you feel like you’re burdening them.
True friendship is never burdened with stressful promises and obligations. What true friends do for each other should be done because they care and because they want to do them. Period.
So don’t chase people. They don’t need to be chased. If someone is a true friend and wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever force yourself on someone who continuously overlooks your worth.
A true friend who understands your tears and troubles is far more valuable than a hundred friends who only show up for your smiles and joys. Because a true friend accepts who you truly are, and also helps you become who you are capable of being.
Friendships like this require more than just finding the right person, they also require you to be the right person. When someone believes in you enough to lift you up, try not to let them down. True friendship is a sweet responsibility to be nurtured, not an opportunity to be exploited.
An acquaintance has a little something in common with you and merely enjoys your company for a short time. A fair-weather friend flatters you when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. A true friend, on the other hand, has your very best interests at heart and would NEVER…