What Good Friends Look Like

Today’s Fast Summary:

  • Good friends are those whom you feel comfortable going to in a crisis. They’re there for you when you’re down. 

  •  Those with a close group of friends are generally happier and less likely to experience depression and anxiety than their counterparts. 

  • Every relationship in your life has its own unique characteristics. Some are better than others, and a few are simply unhealthy.

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What Good Friends Look Like

You have a good idea of what good friends look like already. Good friends are those whom you feel comfortable going to in a crisis. They’re there for you when you’re down. And likely, the two of you have been friends for a while. 

For an overview of the science and inner workings of friendships, check out tips on how to be a good friend. 

Every relationship in your life has its own unique characteristics. Some are better than others, and a few are simply unhealthy. Some serve you, while others don’t. 

Hence the importance of evaluation. 

Here’s how to effectively evaluate your friendships and decide which are worth keeping.

Tim Urban’s “Does This Friendship Make Sense” Matrix

Tim Urban provides a look at friendship from a qualitative standpoint. Use this powerful matrix to evaluate your friendships and to discover which relationships are worth maintaining. 

Friendship health is on the x-axis, and enjoyability is measured on the y-axis. Highly enjoyable friendships feel easy and natural. With these friends, conversation flows without awkward pauses. They make you feel stimulated and excited. 

Highly enjoyable friendships pass Tim Urban’s traffic test: You and the friend are in the car together driving home. If you’re rooting for traffic because the conversation is so good, they pass. 

If you encounter traffic and feel a sense of dread, they don’t pass. 

These friendships:

  • Make everything—even airport delays or long restaurant wait times—fun

  • Stimulate your mind

  • Make you excited to see the other person

  • Involve common interests and shared experiences

Low-enjoyability friendships are those that feel like a chore. If you’re considering canceling on the other person, despite not having other things to do, they’re likely a low-enjoyability friend. 

In low enjoyability friendships: 

  • Conversation feels awkward or boring

  • You don’t look forward to seeing the other person

  • You leave feeling exhausted

  • Are guided by obligation or necessity

Highly healthy friendships feel positive and supportive. You would do anything for them, and they would do the same for you. 

These friendships take years to form, but they’re worth every moment. They’re built on love and respect.

You’re genuinely happy when these friends succeed. There’s no resentment or jealousy. 

Highly healthy friendships are: 

  • Rooted in positivity and love for one another

  • Trusting

  • Absent of a lopsided power dynamic

  • Supporting

Unhealthy friendships, or those with a low health rating, are generally toxic. These friendships are rooted in obligation, blame, and mutual disdain. 

For example, if you’re on a coffee date with these friends, you can’t wait to leave. You’re not just bored, you’re annoyed. 

Unhealthy friendships are often lopsided: One of you feels strongly for the other, and wants to maintain a connection, while the other does not. 

An unhealthy friend feels jealous when the other receives a promotion or accomplishes a goal. There is envy present. 

These friends are: 

  • Full of residual blame, disdain, and jealousy

  • More enemies than friends

  • Rooting for the other’s failure

  • Generally negative 

Let’s think more specifically. 

Q1 friendships are healthy and enjoyable. Friends in this area are Tier 1 friends, and you’d do anything for them. Not only that, but you’re genuinely happy for their accomplishments. 

These friends will give speeches at your wedding, and you’ve formed an eternal relationship. If the two of you encounter a disagreement, you’re both confident that your friendship will survive. 

These are 50/50. You give and receive. 

Family and close friends are Tier 1 friends and relationships. 

Q2 friends are healthy, but not enjoyable. They might be loose friends, acquaintances, or coworkers. 

These relationships don’t involve the blame and resentment present in Q4 friendships, but you don’t look forward to seeing them regularly. 

For example, let’s say your co-worker helps you manage a project deadline. The two of you have a healthy relationship, but you wouldn’t ask them to speak on your wedding day. 

These relationships can become Q1 friendships over time. Keep this in mind. 

Q3 relationships aren’t healthy, but they’re fun. Romantic relationships and those with your childhood friends often fall into this category. 

These involve an unhealthy power dynamic, resentment, and blame, or are unrequited. 

If you’re excited to be around the other person but know that you’ll need to be guarded in some way, you’re likely looking at a Q3 friend. 

These people drain your energy, make you feel self-conscious, and generally, aren’t there for you if need be. 

Q4 friends aren’t friends at all. These people would be enemies, or those you generally avoid. 

These friendships could be those that have fizzled out or those you can’t stand to maintain. Most of us have a few Q4 friends, and it’s time to get rid of them. 

Avoid Q4 friends at all costs. 

Notes on Good Friends

“I get by with a little help from my friends.” - The Beatles

Good friends are easily available, but great (Q1) friends are difficult to come by. 

Friendships are an important component of socialization. Keeping and maintaining positive friendships isn’t easy, but understanding others’ role in your life is crucial. 

Use this tool to evaluate the viability of your friendships. Maintain those you feel are worth keeping.

This week, I ask you to consider the four quadrants of the ‘good friend’ matrix, and to rationalize examples for each. Journal and write down your results.

  1. Tier 1 (or Q1) friends. 

    a. Who is your best friend? Come up with 1 name. 

    b. Is your relationship enjoyable? Why or why not? 

    c. Is the relationship healthy (ex. Absent of blame, resentment, or a power dynamic)? 

    d. Is this person truly a Q1 friend? Or, should they be moved elsewhere? 

  1. Tier 2 (Q2) friends. 

    a. Who do you consider a Q2 friend? Keep in mind that these relationships, while healthy, aren’t enjoyable. Write down their name. 

    b. Why is the relationship healthy? What sustains it? 

    c. Why is the relationship unenjoyable? Consider 2-3 concrete reasons. 

    d. Could the Q2 friend become a Q1 friend? What is needed for this to occur?

  1. Tier 3 (Q3) friends.

    a. Who do you consider a Q3 friend? Keep in mind that these relationships aren’t healthy, but they’re fun. Write down their name. 

    b. Why is the relationship unhealthy? Consider 2-3 concrete examples. 

    c. Why is the relationship fun? Come up with examples of this. 

    d. Could the Q3 friend change quadrants? What is needed for this to occur?

  1. Tier 4 (Q4) friends. 

    a. Who do you consider a Q2 friend? These relationships are neither healthy nor enjoyable. 

    b. Consider a few concrete reasons why this person is a Q4 friend. 

    c. Evaluate their role in your life. Why do you keep them around? 

    d. Could you fix the relationship? Why or why not?


I’d love to hear from you:

  • What did you learn about friendship? 

  • How many Q1 friends do you have? 

  • What is the health of your friendships?

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

Have a wonderful Saturday, all.

Until next time,


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