4 Ways to Know You’re a Good Friend

Let’s get real about friendships between guys.

I’m of the general opinion that bros give up on them far too easily. It’s just easier to not care about someone if you don’t see the personal value for yourself, especially when it’s generally pretty easy to just find new friends. This is particularly true if your friend has wronged you in some way, but even then I think it’s kind of crappy to dump him. You can’t dump your parents, siblings or girlfriend if they do one thing you don’t like. Why should you be able to dump your friends?

And really, the biggest thing that your friendships have in common with romantic relationships is that they are never about you, i.e. you don’t enter into a friendship or romantic relationship just to satisfy your personal needs. At least you shouldn’t. You do it to make someone’s life better, to be there for them when they need you and to generally enjoy the crap out of our short time on this planet with them, even if you’re not all that close. Public Service Announcement: never give up on your friends.

This is all assuming, of course, that you’re the type of person that allows yourself to have healthy friendships with your bros. As in all relationships, friends can use and abuse each other. Those are not the types of friends you’re supposed to have.

So what is a good friend? In my experience, it’s the following:

You’re okay with the parts of you’re lives that don’t overlap

I have a lot of friends who are just really, really into music. A few of them, including my roommates, operate our campus radio station and they love every minute of it. I, for one, am much more apt to spend my time binge-watching TV than searching for new music online or reading Vice, and that’s fine with everyone involved.

That’s a pretty light example though. Maybe your friend is a different religion than you. Maybe they’re dating someone who—while they may not be an ax murderer—you just don’t really approve of. Maybe they’ve even decided to marry that person. A good bro, i.e. a true friend, will find ways to maintain that friendship beyond the things they disagree with.

You’re willing to have tough conversations when it’s necessary

Everything I said above is all fine and dandy, but what about when there really is something actually kind of messed up happening with your friend? I find that far too often, bros in this generation are way too afraid to have confrontations. And I’m not talking about arguments. Confrontation can merely mean bringing up an issue that needs to be raised, i.e. you owe me $400, you should stop blacking out every night, stop seeing that ax-murderer, etc. etc. The biggest barrier to being able to have tough conversations is that you just don’t know how to bring them up in a rational, non-threatening way. Believe it or not, it’s possible. If your bro freaks out while you kept your cool, it says more about them than it does you.

You accept each other for who they are no matter what

What is the worst possible thing that your best bro could do? Is it sleeping with your girlfriend? Maybe. But what if your best, best friend in the entire world, the guy you’ve pounded countless beers with, lived with for years, always had your back during club sports games and always knows just what to get you for Secret Santa, turned out to be gay and might even have a crush on you?

This was the case of a fascinating Reddit story I stumbled across a few weeks ago. These guys are pretty much the best of friends that they could possibly be, but one of them discovered that the other was gay, possibly in love with him and went to Reddit for advice on how to help the guy in any way he could. In other words, he didn’t run for the hills, beat the guy up or tell him to get the hell away. The biggest thing he was concerned about was how his friend felt. A true bro, and we should all be as lucky to be friends with one like charleswidmore1.

In the long run, should we really be congratulating him for being a standup guy? No, because sexuality is not something that we should base friendships off of. But when we typically think of straight bros as incapable of being friends with gay bros, a good example deserves applause. The big takeaway is that no matter what your bro confesses to you, put his needs before your own.

You can admit when you’re wrong and actually mean it

Being able to apologize and actually mean it is one of the most important life skills a bro can possible learn, because it will definitely come in handy for the small stuff (I forgot to refill your car with gas) and the big stuff (about that $400…). People hold apologies to a really high standard, to the point that they think it’s only necessary when they’ve really screwed things up. Not true. An apology goes a long way to simply letting someone know that whatever it was you did, you wish you’d done something different and you are aware of that fact. That’s it. Apologizing and actually meaning it is a normal part of interacting with other people. So if you’re a bro who can’t really remember the last time you had to say, “I’m sorry,” you’re probably also someone who thinks they’re right in every argument or who just doesn’t care, which is not okay even when it comes to your bros. And if you don’t actually mean it when you apologize, well, that’s worse than not apologizing at all. And you’re probably not a good friend.

Dylan Connell is a college bromo who aspires to be the next Don Draper. Find his blog here, and follow him on Twitter.

[Photo: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock]