I have written many times about the topic of friends. I have at least one piece on friends from the old days who turned out to not really be my friends at all. As I said about that, I could have gone to my grave believing that these people were once my friends. Thanks, Facebook!
I have also written about scammers who pretend to be your friend, only to take advantage of you.
And I also wrote a tribute to my old friends, including ideas on how to make new friends.
I haven’t linked to any of those, because it’s not necessary to send you there in order to understand this. You can go through my writings and read them, if you like.
The one thing I have NOT written about before is how to spot a REAL friend. I’ll be noting these details in the segment headings, and will include examples of good and/or bad friends.
A REAL FRIEND TELLS YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO HEAR
By this, I mean they will tell you the hard truth to your face in a way that is not judgmental or cruel.
The words they use might sound cruel to an outsider. But between us, it involves the friend’s understanding of me, and my understanding of them. This gives their words context, which is valuable.
I had a person who was a real friend in college my first year. He sat me down and told me to my face that my current girlfriend was obsessive, abusive, and aggressive.
If I did not consider him a friend, then I might get upset at the idea that it seems he is “bad-talking” my girlfriend.
As he was telling me about his perspective and perception on my relationship, my then-girlfriend called his phone in his room. He said it was her and handed it to me. She yelled, “You better not be talking about us with anyone!!!” and hung up.
He was right. So I dumped her like yesterday’s garbage.
A REAL FRIEND CALLS OR WRITES ON OCCASION
One of my real friends and I would call each other on occasion to chat. Then we lost touch for a handful of years. After that, we started talking again. Every month or so, one of us calls the others, or sends a text, or writes.
It’s a truly low-maintenance thing, to call someone once every month or so. It is also a VERY thoughtful thing.
Another real friend calls me twice per year, and I call him a few times per year as well.
There is no requirement with regard to frequency. It just has to happen.
And if someone doesn’t write to you in 37 years, then it is very possible that they did not care. I once wrote someone after 37 years, not because I didn’t care, but because she got married so many times and her name changed so many times that I couldn’t keep up. Her family also doesn’t like her, so they weren’t of much help.
Meanwhile, I never changed my name, and I have been searchable online longer than Google has existed. I am probably the easiest person to find online, so there really is no excuse.
A REAL FRIEND CAN LISTEN
Some of my real friends listen, and that’s enough. Others listen, and then have some constructive feedback. It all depends on the person, the connection, the issue, and the context.
When I talk to friends about issues, I’m typically not seeking solutions from them. And I most definitely am not asking them for money. I just want someone to hear about how things are and what’s up.
People want to be heard.
A REAL FRIEND WILL WANT TO HANG OUT ON OCCASION
This one is particularly difficult, as the majority of my real friends do not live nearby.
Because of that, I count spending time on a phone call as “hanging out.” I would also count a video call.
But when I lived in California, I had a few real friends nearby. One would come over to hang for a bit, or I’d go to his place to hang out. We’d have dinner and drinks.
Another real friend would call and invite me to go guitar shopping. We’d drive from Ventura all the way down to Hollywood, just to look at guitars.
Another real friend would give me guitar lessons. He also sold me my guitar collection. I knew he wasn’t in it just for the money, because there were times when he would NOT sell me a guitar because it would be a redundancy on what I already owned. It helped that he had intimate knowledge of my guitar collection.
That said, I do have one real friend here, and we live together. We have been friends since 1999 and we work together in a very respectful way. In that regard, I am very fortunate.
A REAL FRIEND WILL GIVE YOU SPACE
We all have our times when we need to be alone for a while. None of my real friends got intrusive or overly-concerned. They would express their concerns when I was going through some difficult times. They cared. They just didn’t smother me or get overly-involved.
They would somehow figure out that I needed some space, and then I’d have it.
A REAL FRIEND WILL UNDERSTAND YOUR EMOTIONS
I know this will be hard to believe, but I am not a very perky person. I know ust how shocked you are by this news.
Sometimes I come off as depressed. If we were to hang out today, I’d come off as simply being. Not happy or sad, just here. A real friend would know me, and not be concerned or bothered by this.
A REAL FRIEND WILL NOT PUT YOU IN A BAD POSITION
This one is a negative story about someone whom I thought was my friend. As it turned out, I don’t think she even liked me at all.
I took her with me to Mr. Video, my favorite video rental store. We were talking with the co-owner, Mrs. Video about things. She is British.
As an Autistic person, I will sometimes mildly mimic another person’s accent or speech pattern. This is 100% subconscious, so it’s not something I set out to do. It’s also something that neurotypical people do as a way of building common ground with someone else.
This is my context.
So the three of us are talking, and I slipped into a British accent for a few of my words. The female “friend” I was with interrupted the conversation with her statement.
“He’s making fun of you.”
I don’t know if this was an attempt on her part to destroy my friendship with Mr. Video’s wife. It could have been a case of jealousy, since this friend was also considered to be my girlfriend at the time.
The thing is, a real friend would NEVER do that to me, or anyone else. She effectively suggested that I was mocking my friend’s accent, doing it consciously and on purpose, and ended up creating a very awkward situation that threatened the future of this friendship.
Fortunately, the person who did this to me is no longer a part of my life, and I have since repaired things with Mrs. Video.
A real friend will not assume that you have bad intentions, especially when it is clear that you do not. A person who has gotten to know me does not need to ask. They know and understand.
So if someone told you that I’m a cancer scammer, and you ask me if it’s true, then I will know that you do not know me. Knowing who I am means not having to ask about weird accusations like that.
I’ll give one more example.
A “friend” from work was riding with me. I usually lock my doors while I am driving. While we were on our way to where we were going, I noticed that my doors were unlocked, so I locked them. I was paying attention to the road while I was doing this.
This “friend,” however, was looking out the window and saw a few Mexican people on the sidewalk when he heard my door lock.
He turned to me and yelled, “You just locked your door because there are Mexican people on the sidewalk! YOU’RE A RACIST!!!”
He didn’t know that my ex-wife is Mexican, or that my son is half-Mexican. He also assumed that I was paying attention to people on the sidewalk, when I was not doing that because I was driving and paying attention to noon time traffic in LA, which can be intimidating.
A person who knows me would not suggest such a thing. It’s not how I live my life.
A REAL FRIEND WILL ACCEPT YOUR FLAWS
I’m not perfect. I mess up at times. Conversely, some of my real friends have made mistakes as well. I won’t even bother giving any examples here, because I don’t hang onto those things and sit in judgment, or stew in frustration. It just doesn’t happen.
They accept my flaws, and I accept theirs.
A REAL FRIEND DOES NOT BUY INTO GOSSIP
In late 2013, up to mid-2014, there were lots of rumors flying around about me, suggesting some rather horrible things. My real friends know me, and so they didn’t buy into the gossip or rumors.
They didn’t even ask me if any of them were true. They already knew the answer.
So when someone on Facebook wrote to me about these things and asked, “Is this true?” I knew that I was not talking with a real friend here.
To be really clear, it’s not that they are blindly supportive of me, no matter what I do. It’s that they know me. They know who I am, how I behave, and what motivates me.
A REAL FRIEND SHARES THEIR KNOWLEDGE
This is a very fortunate feature of real friends that I have always appreciated. Music, art, poetry, and other topics of the day come up in discussion.
One real friend of mine recently wrote and told me how I could alter the set-up of the guitar I am currently playing, so that I can get better performance out if it. And his advice worked!
A REAL FRIEND WON’T DUMP YOU
Unfortunately, it happens. When it does, you know that they are no longer a friend of yours.
This is something that happens to me frequently, thanks to my Autism and MDD. To be fair, I know how exhausting it can be to interact with me when I’m having a serious bout of depression.
A person from Australia who said she was my friend ended up dumping me. The trouble started when we were writing while I was in a big bout of depression. I wrote something to her, and she misunderstood it.
I can give the benefit of the doubt, that maybe I wasn’t articulate. But when I point back to some of the other points here, if she REALLY knew me, then she would not have misunderstood.
I figured it out after about 3 months, when I realized I had written to her a few times and she had never responded.
I can only conclude that she’s not really a friend of mine. Time to move on.
IN THE END
The list could go on, but I’m going to put a cap on it here. For most of my life, I had no idea of what comprised a real friend, let alone how to make a friend. Now that certain things are coming into focus, I get the sense that maybe I’ll have a less Autistic experience in the future. Hopefully.
If you have a friend who has Autism, then this might give you a slight glimpse into how their lives are going, or how their minds might be working. No two Autistic people are exactly alike, so keep that in mind.
And if you have an Autistic friend, then try to understand them as best you can. Understanding is key.
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