If you’re like most people, you have many acquaintances and only a few close friends. You might feel closer to some of your friends than you do your family. What are the rules of friendship that make it all work?

Ralph Waldo Emerson revealed the secret to lasting friendship when he advised that “to have a friend, you must be a friend.” Do you remember being nervous as the “new kid” in school and wondering if you’d ever have a close inner circle? You probably used the rules of making friends that your parents taught you.

As long as humans have been on planet earth, friendship has existed. Human beings are social creatures, and companionship is a basic need. However, some people are better at making friends than others.

Are you an extrovert who never knows a stranger, or do you have difficulty opening up to people you don’t know? Even if you’re a people person, real friendships take time and effort from both parties. You must work and cultivate a friendship if it’s going to last.

The Importance of Having Friends in Your Life

rules of friendship
Friendship plays a vital role in people’s lives. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., notes that “One of the most important and yet least understood areas of psychology concerns the role of friends in our lives.”

And we all have different categories of relationships. For example, some of the friends you have as an adult may have been with you since childhood. Many people consider their coworkers and colleagues as buddies, but maybe not their best friends.

There is a gray area in friendship for people who are known as “frenemies.” These are people who act like your friends, but they aren’t. Although there are many fake pals in the world, they are outnumbered by the ones that are true blue.

How do you define a friend? Is it someone who you can trust and someone who will stick up for you? Is your friend loyal and would never betray your confidence? The qualities you want in a friendship are the same ones that others look for in you.

The Ten Golden Rules of Friendship

Would you like to widen your circle of friends or cultivate relationships you already have? It’s a lifetime of work, but it’s worth every minute. Here are ten rules of friendship that you should always keep in mind.

1. Be Genuine

Have you ever wondered what brought you and your friends together? They were attracted to you because of who you are. Just like snowflakes, there are no two people in the world who are exactly alike.

So, why would you want to act like something you’re not? Good buddies are always genuine, no matter the setting or who is with them. The world is full of fake people, and you needn’t be one of them. Be proud of who you are and be genuine with your strengths and shortcomings.

2. Be Loyal

A friend is a person who you know always has your back, no matter what. It’s a basic rule of friendship that can’t be broken. You would expect that enemies would turn their backs on you when you are down, but not your buddies.

Loyalty means that you will stand up for each other even when others won’t. When you are in need, your friends are the first ones there to help. If you can’t trust your inner circle, then who can you trust?

3. Be Honest, Even When It Hurts

Another one of the golden rules for relationships is honesty. Have you ever asked a friend for their opinion about a decision you need to make? You did that because you trusted that they would be honest with you.

Sometimes, being honest can hurt. Maybe you are too close to a situation and can’t see the whole picture. A true pal always tells the truth, even if it’s not what you want to hear.

4. Know How to Apologize and Forgive

It takes a lot of guts for people to admit they are wrong and ask for forgiveness. However, if someone is your friend, they will gladly do it. Selfish people can only create toxic relationships, and they will often shift the blame on everybody else.

If you have made a mistake, be a friend and own up to it. Apologize sincerely and try to make amends. Accept your friend’s forgiveness, learn from your mistakes, and try not to make them again.

Nothing can ruin a good relationship more than holding a grudge. Forgiveness not only benefits the offender, but it is more of a gift to the offended. It doesn’t excuse the wrong that the other person did, nor does it mean you can forget it.

Forgiveness gives you both the freedom to get past a transgression and start the healing process. Sometimes, hurtful words or actions may be too great for you to want the relationship to continue. In those cases, forgiveness can allow you both to go your separate ways in peace.

5. Spend Time Together

Do you enjoy outdoor gardening or raising houseplants? What would happen if you stopped watering and caring for your plants? They would wither and die, the same way an uncultivated friendship would.

Friends enjoy spending time together, whether it’s chatting on the phone or going to a favorite restaurant. Remember that quality time is worth more than quantity. Try to get together in person as much as you can, instead of resorting to texting or messaging on social media continuously.

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6. Don’t Break Confidence

If trust is one of the golden rules of friendship, then confidence ranks right beside it. When you tell close friends something in confidence, you expect that it will go no further. In the same token, you should respect your friends’ privacy and trust.

Never assume that just because your friends ask you not to tell anyone about something, it’s okay to broadcast it. Pals know each other well enough to understand when something needs to be kept quiet. It’s often challenging to mend a friendship that’s been broken because of a breach of confidence.

7. Avoid Aggressive Confrontation

Since we are all individuals, we all have different opinions that are going to clash occasionally. It’s going to happen even in the best of friendships. However, how you handle differing points of view can make or break the relationship.

Just because you and your friend don’t see eye-to-eye on a subject doesn’t call for a confrontation. If you do get into a heated debate, step away, and give each other some space. If you’re real friends, you will both apologize and learn how to “agree to disagree.”

8. Help Each Other

Who can you turn to if you can’t go to your friends? Nobody ever makes it high enough in this world that they don’t need anyone else to stand by their side. When your friends need help, are you there to listen or give them a hand?

You’ve probably heard some people labeled as “fair-weather friends.” These people are happy to be your pal when everything is going well, but they will abandon you in your time of need.

Being there for each other is one of the essential rules of friendship. When your friends are hurting and feeling down, they don’t need dismissive clichés or advice. Just being by their side to listen and share their burden is one of friendship’s greatest gifts.

9. Be One Another’s Cheerleader

In 2018, psychologists acknowledged that one of the best benefits of having friends is the moral support you give–and take–from each other.

This is one of the rules of friendship that people may forget after knowing somebody for years. Not only do your friends want you to share in their hardships, but they want you to be part of their victories. When they are trying to do something, they need to hear your cheers of encouragement.

Words like “you can do it” or “I’m on your side” can be the inspiration they need to cross the finish line. A real friend will be happy for each other’s accomplishments. Petty jealousy has no place in a real friendship.

10. Keep Give and Take Equal

Sherry Gaba, LCSW, states that “healthy relationships are designed to be a give and take.”

The Ancient Romans called it “quid pro quo,” which in modern terms means “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” There’s give and take in every friendship. However, the ratio should be as close to 50/50 as possible.

It’s another one of the friendship rules that reminds you never to take more than you give. Almost everyone has had at least one friend in the past who was continually wanting their time and resources but never reciprocated. That one-sided friendship is something that nobody needs.

Being a friend doesn’t mean that you must be someone’s doormat. If you have a buddy who is only there when they need you, it may be time to part ways. Real friends know that a relationship is a two-sided street, and they won’t use others, nor will they be used.

rules of friendship
Final Thoughts on the Rules of Friendship

All the friendship rules can be summed up by saying this–always treat others how you want them to treat you. When you have a friend for life, you’ve found a treasure that money can’t buy.