A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

24 Little Things You Can Do to Be a True Friend

People share the small but meaningful things their friends do that make a big difference in their lives.

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Outdoor portrait of beautiful young women having fun with ice cream.
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Be a true friend: Show up and listen

“I was having a horrible day dealing with job and divorce stress and my friend brought me ice cream. Just having her show up to listen to me whine was exactly what I needed.” —Tracy Clark

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Smiling woman using a smartphone

Be a true friend: Send a quick, thoughtful text

“I send random texts to my best friend, I just want to let her know she has someone in her corner hoping that today goes great for her.” —Niki Bailey. These are the types of close friends every adult woman should have.

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happy young people eating pizza, drinking beer, having fun, friends party at home, hipster company together, two men one woman, smiling, positive, relaxed, hang out, laughing, funny emotions

Be a true friend: Rehash your inside jokes

“I once freed my friend from a giant lizard mob boss from an alien desert planet, with the help of my sister (who was also my friend’s girlfriend), and his big bear friend. Wait, that wasn’t me and my friend, that was Luke and Han in Return of the Jedi. Oops, my bad. But my friend and I are so cool we’re basically Luke and Han anyhow.” —Ted Williams

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Female hand with jar of fresh lemonade on textured background
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Be a true friend: Know their favorite treats

“My best friend always comes to see me when I’m sick. She even brought me Arby’s pink lemonade almost every day I was pregnant with twins and had to be in the hospital for weeks because she knew it was all I wanted to drink.” —Alison Marie

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Office people eating chinese noodles holding boxes at lunch time, young woman and man employees enjoy japanese thai meal, colleagues tasting asian food at workplace, takeaway delivery service concept

Be a true friend: Make a rough day better

“One of my friends and co-workers would bring me some of their dinner from the night before and leave it in the fridge at work when I was in the middle of a long trial, so I wouldn’t have to worry about feeding myself on late nights.” —Adrianne McMahon 

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Alushta, Russia - June 8, 2017: Man holding iPad Pro with multinational entertainment company Netflix provides streaming media and video on the screen.
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Be a true friend: Share your Netflix account

“I came down with a horrible stomach bug when my husband was out of town. My best friend came showed up with saltines, sprite, essential oils, and—the best part—her Netflix password.” —Megan Simecek. Find out how to turn an online friend into a real-life friend.

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Mommy and kid daughter having pillow fight together, young babysitter nanny playing funny game with kid girl at home, happy mother and child enjoy spending time together, family leisure fun activity

Be a true friend: Babysit on occasion

“I have a great friend who will pick up my son from preschool if my baby is napping so I don’t have to wake her up. She’ll also just show up sometimes to pick up my kids for an afternoon to give me a break.” —Lia Flynn

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Portrait of a young beautiful blond girl holding plate with birthday cake and blowing candles making a wish

Be a true friend: Bring them a birthday cake

“Today is my birthday and I know my friend is making me a cake. Sometimes when you’re an adult no one thinks to do that for you!” —Tamara Castellari. Surprise your bestie with these 54 gifts for every friend in your life.

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Two girls hug on the sidewalk. Feel joyfull and happy together.

Be a true friend: Be there even when you’re busy

“My friends are a bunch of super-moms and we’re all incredibly busy. But any time someone has a problem we’ll all drop everything to help her out. Sometimes friendship is recognizing that it takes a village and knowing that no matter how over-burdened we all are, we’re still there for each other when things get tough.” —Emily Pfeiffer

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Group Of Female Friends Enjoying Meal At Home
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Be a true friend: Stop by with dinner for no reason

“My neighbor stops over once in a while after I get home from a long day of teaching with dinner or dessert to share. It is such a welcome happy thing to brighten my day.” —Jan Theobald

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Always available for him. Beautiful young woman smiling and holding smart phone while lying in the bed at home

Be a true friend: Remind them how beautiful they are

“My best friend of over 26 years and I text each other every morning with ‘Good morning beautiful!’ or ‘Hello gorgeous!’ That way each of us starts out our days with a smile.” —Katrina La Force

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gift basket on grey background

Be a true friend: Make up a holiday just for them

“I hate Mother’s Day. One year in particular I was struggling with it a great deal. After barely managing to get through church I got home to find, on my porch, a little gift bag full of treats and a note wishing me a ‘Happy Non-Specific Random Sunday.’ My dear friend knew I was in a hole and in a very sweet way brought me some love and giggles. It was a small thing, but it went miles in soothing my soul.” —Elizabeth Boehme

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Shot of a woman hugging a friend and holding flowers.

Be a true friend: Don’t leave without saying good-bye

“A friend of mine was moving to the other side of the country and even though she was crazy busy with everything she took the time to get someone to drive her to visit me, bought me flowers and said goodbye. We haven’t seen each other in person since but I’ve always considered her a true friend since that day, and I still cry when I think about her kindness and how much that visit meant to me.” —Suzi Fevens

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Two fitness women doing push-ups exercise working out at home. Side view

Be a true friend: Push them to do better

“My friend just challenged me to do a push-up challenge for a cause. It helps me and it helps the charity too. Nothing like crushing it with friends!” —Leslie Gunterman

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Kitchen porter cleaning white plates in sink in professional kitchen

Be a true friend: Do some dirty work

“I have one friend who every time he comes over, he does my dishes or sweeps my floor. He doesn’t ask (and if he did I’d tell him not to) but really it’s such a nice thing and makes my life easier. I’m a single mom and he knows I don’t have a lot of time to myself, much less to do chores.” —Carolyn Abbot

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Portrait of happy african american woman holding smart phone

Be a true friend: Make them forget a bad anniversary

“My fiance walked out on me three days before our wedding. Now every year on the anniversary of the day I would have been married my best friend texts me a hilarious (and completely inappropriate) picture, reminding me I dodged a bullet. His humor makes a hard day better.” —Jason Woods. Make sure you know these 11 ways to move past a fight with a friend.

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Two young female friends gossiping in a bar.

Be a true friend: Be present

“When my baby was in the hospital, my friend came to see us as often as she could and would bring me meals. And later on when I had to sneak off to pump [breastmilk] every few hours she’d come sit with me so I wouldn’t have to be alone.” —Kasandra Raux

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nail polish
ersin ergin/Shutterstock

Be a true friend: Have a weekly ritual

“My best friend comes over and we do each other’s nails while we lay in bed watching TV like high school girls.” —Shannon Hagen.

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Close up and front view Cropped view of woman hand writing in notebook and sitting at table with laptop. Copy space concept
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Be a true friend: Boost their self-esteem

“One night after teaching a late class, I found a sticky note on the window of my car. It read ‘You are beautiful inside and out’ with a little heart. I still don’t know which one of my friends left it for me but it is still on my dashboard and means more than anything to me!” —Jennie Berglund.

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Fitness people exercising with battle ropes at gym. Woman and man couple training together doing battling rope workout working out arms and cardio for cross fit exercises.

Be a true friend: Break a sweat together

“My best friend and I are both trying to lose weight so we text each other every day to check in. He encourages me to work out when I don’t want to or to put down the ice cream. It really helps me stay on track.” —Rick Nelson

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Happy motherhood concept. Picture of cute joyful young European mom with ginger hair babysitting adorable infant at home, enjoying maternity leave, bonding with her baby, having cheerful smile

Be a true friend: Surprise them on a bad day

“My friend will show up and take my kids when she knows I’m having a rough day. By just showing up instead of calling, she knows I can’t tell her not to come!” —Courtney Clements

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Rattan tissue box and crumpled tissues on table - cold and flu season concept, grief, concept (selective focus)
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Be a true friend: Let your emotions out

“When my mom passed away, my little circle of friends brought me a mother-daughter statue and hugged me and cried with me. That meant so much to me.” —Sara Lybbert

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Close up young black american wife embracing husband. Portrait of woman with closed eyes, man rear view. Attractive affectionate couple in love, romantic relationship support and gratefulness concept

Be a true friend: Offer a much-needed hug

“I have this wonderful friend who brought me chocolate and a much needed hug when I felt like I was falling apart awhile ago. It sounds like such a small thing but it was exactly what I really needed.” —Carrie Speed. If you’re not there to give an actual hug, try these 19 secrets for maintaining a long-distance friendship.

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Two teenage girls relax, talking together at home
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Be a true friend: Play bad cop

“My husband loves surprising people and my best friend knows how much I hate surprises. So she always gives me a heads-up when my well-meaning-but-forgetful hubby starts planning something for me. That way I still act surprised but I don’t have to deal with the anxiety or irritation of actually being surprised. But don’t tell him I told you!” —Anonymous. Check out these other 14 amazing things real-life friends have done for each other.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a health, lifestyle and fitness expert and teacher. She covers all things wellness for Reader’s Digest and The Healthy. With dual masters degrees in information technology and education, she has been a journalist for 17 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. She lives in Denver with her husband, five kids and three pets.