June 24, 2023




7 scientifically-backed tips on how to be a great friend

At a glance

Today’s Fast Summary:

  • Making friends is among the hallmarks of the human experience.

  • There’s no sense in making friends if you don’t know how to keep them. To maintain friendships, you must learn how to be a good friend.

  • Friendships are built through intimacy. Intimacy is built through self-disclosure.

  • The quality of your friendships is more important than quantity. It’s easier to be a good friend to someone you feel good about.

7 scientifically-backed tips on how to be a great friend

In many newsletters, I discuss the importance of spending your time wisely. However, who you spend your time with is similarly important.

Friends are our fallback. They’re there for you when you need support. Making friends is among the hallmarks of the human experience.

Being a great friend is emotionally satisfying. It allows you to connect with others on a more meaningful, trusting level.

I stumbled upon these facts about friendship, and I encourage you to check them out.

  • 34 hours is the time necessary to turn a superficial acquaintance into a trusted friend

  • 66% of people are actively searching for new friends

  • 58% of people claim they need good friends to feel content

  • 83% of people claimed to be a good friend to others

The same study noted that people look for the following characteristics in friends (ranked from most to least highly).

  • Humor and wit

  • Similar interests and beliefs

  • Trustworthiness

  • Reliability

  • Being there for you during tough times

These results point to dissonance in friendship formation: We aren’t taught how to be a good friend.

I’ve seen this firsthand. 83% of people think they’re a good friend. This doesn’t mean they are in practice. If this were true, the percentage of those looking for friends would be much lower.

There’s no sense in making friends if you don’t know how to keep them. To maintain friendships, you must learn how to be a good friend.

Being a good friend is emotionally fulfilling. You glean from it a sense of purpose. Supporting others is inherently meaningful.

Good friends attract great ones. The following are 7 scientifically-backed tips on how to be a good friend.

  1. Putting In The Time

Scientists found that it takes nearly 200 hours for 2 strangers to become close friends. It requires up to 11 encounters, and each interaction must be over 3 hours long.

This is much longer than your normal coffee date. The 9 to 5 work schedule doesn’t allow you this time.

Hence the importance of meaningful interactions.

Friendships are built through intimacy. Intimacy is built through self-disclosure.

Sharing your favorite color is insufficient: Emotional self-disclosure breeds intimacy. As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the currency of human connection.”

Engage in deep conversations. Let your guard down.

  1. Reconnecting With Old Friends

New friends are great, but don’t be afraid to reach out to friends you made 5, 10, or 20 years ago. The longest friendships last for 29 years.

You might think you two no longer have anything in common, but that’s far from the truth. You have years of time together and shared experiences to discuss.

Rebuilding trust based on past experiences is much easier than starting from scratch. It also builds empathy.

  1. Seek Out New Friends

Acquaintances don’t need to stay acquaintances.

Decentralized friend groups are those that are varied and scattered. Centralized friend groups are cliques: All members think and act the same.

Decentralized friend groups are paramount to diverse experiences.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to an acquaintance, regardless of whether you have anything in common with them. You might find you do.

After a while, they won’t be ‘just’ an acquaintance anymore.

  1. Sharing Resources With Others

Great friends give what they have to those around them. These gifts don’t have to be monetary. You can give and share:

  • Introductions

  • Job opportunities

  • Small gestures—like buying coffee

  • Tips

  • Books

  • Advice

Sharing resources is another means of building empathy. Sharing is a sign of commitment and care for their well-being.

You must give in order to receive.

  1. Run To The Rescue

Who do you call during your darkest hour?

Celebrating a friend’s wins is one thing. Showing up for them during their darkest hour is another. One requires obligation. The other shows character.

Reliability and being there for a friend during times of need are both statistically-proven valued traits of great friends.

We remember those who are there for us during our darkest hour.

Be willing to help your friends, even when it is inconvenient. They will remember this and will be there for you too.

  1. Listen To Your Friends

You can’t expect others to listen to you if you aren’t willing to listen to them.

Active listening involves

  • Being present in the conversation

  • Maintaining eye contact

  • Asking open-ended questions to encourage a thoughtful response

  • Withholding judgment

  • Noticing (and using) appropriate non-verbal cues

Those who listen actively listen to understand, not to reply. Mutual understanding can only be achieved when you know what you must understand.

To practice active listening, try the following.

  • Maintain eye contact when appropriate

  • Restate what the other person says

  • Nod or lean forward when the other person is speaking

  • Do not interrupt

  • Ask open-ended questions such as, “What happened?” or, “How did this make you feel?”

  • Reflect what the other person is feeling

Great friends listen when others are speaking and react accordingly.

  1. Quality is more important than quantity

Acquaintances are good. Close friends are great.

The quality of our friendships is more important than quantity. Having friends is silly if you cannot rely on them.

It’s easier to be a good friend to someone you feel positively about than it would be otherwise.

Choose your friends wisely. Select a few close friends and devote your emotional attention.

Be a Good Friend To Have a Good Friend

Most of us are looking for new friends. But you can’t have good friends if you don’t know how to be one yourself.

Choose people who uplift you. Uplift them in turn.

Be the friend you’d like to have.

This week, I ask you to honestly reflect on your relationships. Don’t make light or overlook facets of your friendships. Consider the relationships you engage in in their entirety. Being honest about those that you choose to invest in.

  1. Do you have good friends? 

    a. Think about one friend you have. Based on the newsletter, which characteristics do you feel they embody? Why or why not?

    b. Where are they lacking? Which of these characteristics do they not employ, or which don’t align with what you know about them?

    c. How might you improve these behaviors? How can you bring this to their attention?

  1. Are you a good friend? 

    a. Most people feel they’re a good friend, but this isn’t always the case. This time, think about how you interact with others. Which of the above characteristics do you feel you embody? Why do you feel that way?

    b. Which of these characteristics do you not embody? What’s lacking?

    c. Consider your recent interactions. How might the characteristics you feel you’re lacking alter your interactions with others?

  1. What practical, one-time changes can you make to be a better friend? 

    a. What can you do to put these to work? How can you practically make them a reality? You can set a recurring calendar invite with your friends to ensure you spend time together, or you can add their birthdays to yours and make sure to get them something small.

    b. How can you practically incorporate empathy into your day-to-day? Think about what empathy means to you, and consider which personal information you feel comfortable disclosing to others.

Consider what you’ve realized. Think about it thoughtfully.

Use this information to be a better friend.


I’d love to hear from you:

  • Were you surprised by these statistics? Why or why not?

  • What do you feel are the components of friendship?

  • Do you feel you’re a good friend? How might you use this information to improve?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Have a wonderful, Wednesday all.

Until next time,


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