5 Green Flags of Friendship :: What I Look For in a Friend

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People often discuss red flags when referring to a new friendship or relationship. The focus is on the warning signs and what to look out for when meeting new people. While these are very valid concerns, it can be helpful to shift your mindset to what you would like to see in a relationship. What about green flag friends?

Learning to look for green flags allows a person to concentrate on what types of behaviors could be healing in a relationship. Oftentimes, we look to our traumas or “bad relationships” and how they decreased our trust. But what then? What do we do with a heart that fears to let others in?

I have had many friends in my lifetime, but they did not all stay around–sometimes by their choice and sometimes because I felt I could not truly be myself and feel accepted in their presence. For a time, I tried to “fit in” and force myself to like certain hobbies or join discussions that truly didn’t interest me.

I also had friends that apparently struggled with control issues and felt a need to tell me what would be best for my life. They did not listen to my thoughts or feelings but instead instructed me through unsolicited advice or downright pushiness.

I often left these interactions feeling more lonely than if I had just stayed alone.

For some time, I began to close off, believing that I just wasn’t going to find the people I could feel comfortable hanging around. But then I realized that I could begin focusing on finding friendships that would help lift me up. And I could also try to do the same for them.

The following is a list I’ve compiled through personal experience. These five factors help me feel safe and free in my friendships and other relationships.

Flag 1: Validating Feelings

There’s nothing more frustrating than telling someone about a painful, vulnerable experience and receiving a reply of “Well you don’t need to feel sad” or “Why don’t you just get over it?” When I hear this type of response, I put up walls around my emotions and no longer want to share with this person.

However, having a friend say “Man, that must have been really scary for you” or “I’m honored you’d share this tough situation with me. Is there anything I can do to be there for you?” is an incredibly reassuring green flag. I know I don’t have to stifle my emotions for their comfort, and I know I have a friend I can reach out to and process my feelings as I try to make sense of them.

Flag 2: Respecting Boundaries

Have you ever had a friend become passive-aggressive, or even aggressive, when you told them you can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do something with them? I tend to find myself feeling extremely defensive if I have to explain my reasons multiple times. The desire to make plans with this individual fades into possibly never.

On the other hand, green flag friends understand all the multiple reasons someone might have to cancel, reschedule, or sometimes even decline an invitation.

They do not immediately take the news personally or feel the need to pressure you into anything. The deepest green flag for me is the friend who can empathize with my situation and truly understand my reasonings for not being able to do something at the time.

Flag 3: Celebrating Your Successes

Nothing hurts more than sharing a success story with a friend to only be met with criticism, one-upping, and passive aggression. It’s like the joy is immediately sucked out of your gut, and you’re left questioning if your success was even important.

However, friends that squeal for you, clap for you, and celebrate you to others can really lift up your spirits and encourage you to try for more goals in the future. I feel so relieved when I find a friendship like this. It shows that the person is secure enough in themselves to also want me to feel like the best version of myself.

Flag 4: Embracing Uniqueness in Friendship

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, a non-Christian spiritual person, and an adoptive mom, it can be difficult to find friends that fit in the same “box” as me. There have been times that my uniqueness caused a divide among other parents and I did not feel welcome.

To find open-minded individuals who love meeting people with diverse mindsets and lifestyles was healing to my ability to trust others. I began to celebrate how my family looks a bit different instead of trying to hide and fit in. Fitting in is the opposite of being authentic, and authenticity is what truly brings me the feeling of freedom. These green flag friends lift my heart and help me soar.

Flag 5: Communication in Good or Bad Times

I probably couldn’t count the number of times a “friend” would ghost me after I was honest and vulnerable. Not to mention even more exposing interactions, such as saying “Can we please not visit the gift shop during our playdate because we’re tight on cash?” only to be met by silence or a lack of understanding. These times create a distrust for future conversations.

Green flag communication includes being raw, open, and assertive.

It’s being honest with your needs and boundaries and feeling safe to speak within those friendships.

When you trust that your friends will honor their truth and share that with you, you can problem-solve or resolve the issues at hand. Lots of conflicts can arise during friendships, including issues between the children. It is important for the parents to feel strong in their connection in order to mediate and move forward.

No Friendship Is Perfect

While it would be amazing to find friends that exhibit all of these, most likely this will not be the case. Every human continues to learn each day of their life. It helps to realize that even having a few green flags is a positive. We can teach each other what we need to build trust in our friendships as we learn for ourselves.

You may have a very different list of green flags you look for and that’s fantastic! Just spending some time to reflect on what we need and want in a friendship is healing even before we begin making connections.

We may not have all interests or beliefs in common, but as parents, we all have one thing in common: we love our children unconditionally. It is hard to make adult friends, but it is not impossible. Sometimes it just takes a bit of trust and putting yourself out there.



The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.

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Tori was born in Denton, TX, and attended Texas Woman's University to complete a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Counseling. She previously worked as a mental health therapist and a dog groomer. She married her wife at a Scarborough Renaissance Festival and welcomed a daughter in 2016. The family relocated when her wife got a job at UNM in 2018. Since then, Tori has grown to love the desert and the mountains. She currently enjoys finding educational and fun activities around Albuquerque for her daughter. She loves to connect with other moms and create a welcoming community for others. She enjoys doing yoga and crafting any chance she gets. Follow Tori on Instagram.

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