We’ve been having plenty of conversations online lately about “green flags.” If you haven’t heard of them before, green flags are positive actions or traits that we see in other people. These actions or traits reveal to us that the other person is safe and that we can expect to have a healthy relationship with them.
These conversations tend to happen in the dating space, with men and women describing what they see as green flags in a potential mate. But today, I’d like to share the green flags I look for in a friend.
#1. They love my kids.
This was obviously not something that mattered when I was younger. But once I became a mom, it was instantly the top green flag. When I’m with my friends, we usually have our kids with us. It can be chaotic. I need to know that my friends see my children as their own, love them as their own. And I love their kids as mine. We can so much better enjoy our time together when we trust that every mom in the group is looking out for all the kids because they’re all our kids.
#2. I can talk to them about hard stuff in my marriage without them hating my spouse.
We all need friends we can trust to let us blow off steam when it comes to our partners. I need to know that I can speak to my friends about my spouse — just to let them know my frustrations or worries — without them deciding to resent or despise him. Of course, I want my friends to be honest with me and to let me know if I’m tolerating things I shouldn’t in my marriage. But, in general, I just need friends who understand that all relationships have trouble, and that it’s okay to share without worrying that my friends won’t be kind to my partner anymore.
#3. They are willing to keep it real with me.
Importantly, in order for me to ever find friends who will keep it real with me, I need to be the kind of person people can keep it real with. That’s what therapy has been for! Now that I’m learning how to receive critical feedback from my friends, I need to know that my friends can be honest with me. I will never grow and improve if my friends, who I know have my best interest at heart, don’t call me out on my shit from time to time.
#4. They will let me keep it real with them, too.
No one-way streets. If I’m going to be open to having my shit called out, I need friends who are willing to have their shit called out, too. The right friends for me are the ones who are interested in being the kind of friend I need them to be, and are willing to listen when I tell them I need to be treated better.
#5. They don’t view us as in competition with each other.
This one should be obvious, but sometimes, especially among women, it seems like competition is just a part of the natural anatomy of the friendship. But as I’ve gotten older and made friends who are more confident and secure, I find that it’s easier to find friends who don’t see themselves as in competition with me. I need friends who celebrate my successes, who allow me to celebrate with them in theirs, and who see our individual success as a success for the friendship.
#6. They can be there at a moments’ notice.
Listen, this isn’t always possible. That’s why this is a “green flags” list and not a “dealbreaker” list. I know not all friends can be there at the drop of a hat. But the ones who can? The ones who will move heaven and earth to try to be there for me, changing up schedules and rearranging their calendar when I need somebody, those are some serious green flag friends.
#7. Don’t engage in gossip.
I’ll admit, I used to enjoy gossip. Now, as I get older, I really struggle when friends gossip about other friends in the group. It’s so unkind, and a real downer. Green flag friends are more interested in being present with me than spending our time talking about someone else.
So, those are my main green flags. I’m sure there are many, many more. These are the ones I’ll be using as filters as I begin finding the friends who sit at my table. What green flags do you have? You can log in and leave them in the comments!
Amber Wardell is an author and cognitive psychologist. Join the free newsletter to receive free exclusive digital content and weekly blog delivered directly to your inbox.