- Step 1
True friends are loyal. Loyalty is a quality we all treasure in our true friends. A loyal friend, as opposed to a "fair weather" friend, is someone who stands by your side and does not abandon you ever, even when (or perhaps especially when) you are going through a difficult time. (In contrast, a "fair weather friend" only sticks around when times are good, and is quick to "abandon ship" when life gets more challenging.) When people are loyal to their friends through thick and thin, this character trait speaks volumes about their inner character.
- Step 2
True friends, in addition to being loyal, are also honest. Honesty does not have to be cruel or excessively sharp, mind you. But your true friends should be able to speak to you directly and candidly. When a true friend offers you criticism, it is typically meant to be constructive, not destructive or hurtful. You can usually tell by the way someone offers criticism (and by how you feel when you are on the receiving end of their criticism) whether it is well intended or not.
- Step 3
A true friend is often on the same general wavelength with you in terms of humor. This does not mean that the two of you need to have identical senses of humor, but that each of you should "get" (and appreciate) what sorts of things make the other one laugh. People that are not "in synch" when it comes to humor can sometimes have a hard time remaining friends over the course of time because humor is one of those key areas that can bring friends closer or drive them apart. (For instance, if someone persistently uses humor that you find offensive or excessively sarcastic or hurtful, this can be a "red flag" that ultimately calls their character into question for you.)
- Step 4
Regarding true friends, it helps when the two of you have a lot of interests and passions in common, but not all of your passions and interests need to intersect exactly with your friend's interests, because it is also enriching (and adds some "flavor" and "texture" to a friendship) when the two of you have some differences in your interests as well.
- Step 5
In addition to loyalty, honesty and humor, another way to spot true friends has to do with a particular friendship standing the test of time. As you already know, sometimes talking to an old true friend can be particularly satisfying because your oldest true friends often know the most about your history, and often share the greatest amount of common history with you, which means that each of you has a lot of "insider" knowledge about the other (insider jokes, etc.), and the two of you therefore have a sort of "friendship shorthand" together, where you don't have to rehash a lot of old stories from the very beginning, because you were both there, or you both know what was happening in each of your lives at a particular time.
- Step 6
Of course, while older true friends are great for many reasons, including your shared history, newer true friends can be precious to you in other, equally important ways. For instance, you may meet a new true friend by participating in new hobbies and passions, and the two of you may have that particular passion or hobby (such as skiing) in common, whereas your older true friends may or may not share this particular interest with you.