The following nine types of friends are to varying degrees useful, pleasurable, and virtuous. If you are lucky enough to have someone in each category (or even just one friend who encompasses all nine types), then consider yourself blessed.
1. The smarter friend.
Consider it a passive form of education. Be it cryptic crosswords, social graces, sales-talk or discovering a new genre of music — having friends “in the know” is the easiest way to keep your life intellectually stimulating, challenging, and engaging. All you have to do is shut up and listen.
2. The active listener.
They make an effort to listen, even if what you’re saying is unequivocally irrational.
Most friends will eventually tire of your relentless moaning about something (or they will jump in with practical advice or a solution), but this friend will listen to your tales of woe until you tire of it yourself. They know that sometimes you just want to be heard. So they nod sympathetically and offer words of consolation and understanding. They are genuinely caring by nature and will teach you to be kinder, gentler, and more empathetic. Try to return their listening ear, at the very least.
3. The hippie.
Not necessarily a hippie, but any kind of person who makes different lifestyle choices and/or holds different opinions to your own. This person is not your natural match — they are the kind of person with whom a friendship requires time and effort to find common ground and understanding.
Yet this friendship is, above all else, valuable because it keeps us open-minded. There is nothing more insular than surrounding yourself with only like-minded people. This is not to say that you should befriend a member of the KKK in order to practice broadmindedness; it’s unrealistic to expect a true friendship to exist without similar core values. But having friends with whom you wouldn’t naturally gel, people who may not be your favorite type, but still display the same core values — there’s something beautiful about that.
4. The socially-awkward friend.
Because you aren’t perfect either. At times you’ve said the wrong thing, spoken too loudly, acted embarrassingly, or have just been inappropriately drunk. And you were forgiven. So you should return the goodwill.
Moreover, accepting this quality in a friend will ultimately help you to accept these types of qualities in yourself. We judge others in the same way that we judge ourselves. As such, friendships like these will help you to accept those parts of yourself that you’ve always resented.
5. The wise one.
The life coach or old-soul, this friend gives good counsel when you need it most. They don’t need to practice what they preach — it’s still solid advice and you know it.
Whether it’s because of their age, experience, intelligence, or insightfulness — they have a good understanding of human nature and various situations — you respect their opinion.
6. A reliable drinking buddy.
This person will show up, and even on short notice. A rare friend indeed. And it’s not just about the drinking because they’d also show up for tea and scones. Whoever occupies this role at the moment (different people will occupy this role at different stages of your life — that’s unavoidable) will be a great support.
They will commiserate with you after a tough day, discuss issues, and plan fun things to do together. The plans might not always crystallize, but just the planning itself can make it worth it.
7. Someone who has their shit together.
This is the friend whose redeeming qualities rub off on you through osmosis. Basically some element of their life inspires you to be better at your own. Perhaps you could do more volunteering, exercise, or simply adopt a more cheerful attitude.
This friend is reason enough to keep trying.
And think about it: not having a single friend who has managed to get their shit together would be pretty depressing, wouldn’t it?
8. A friend who knows your full history.
They’ve met your family, they know how awkward you were in high school, they’ve been with you through bad break-ups, ill-health and unemployment, and yet they STILL like you.
You may not be in regular contact but this doesn’t change the nature of the friendship. It’s the kind of friendship that survives arguments. They can (and will) tell you the hard truths without fear of repercussion. It’s the kind of friend you’d choose to be the best man or bridesmaid at your wedding.
They’ll give you a sense of history and belonging, yet perhaps even more important is their ability to keep you grounded and true. This is a friend worth keeping around.