T he cornerstone of a good friendship is appreciating admirable qualities in another person. In an interesting survey, when people were asked to rate the most important qualities they were looking for in a friend, there was a strikingly recurring theme. More than any other trait, people responded that they prized trustworthiness and confidentiality (safeguarding others’privacy). While you might think these characteristics are obvious and can be assumed, they’re actually quite precious and can be hard to find in a friendship. They also can be hard to maintain. Indeed, many friendships thrive or end based on these qualities alone.

So what makes these two qualities so precious? First, we human beings crave a feeling of belonging. Almost as much as we need food and a place to live, we need to belong somewhere and to someone. As a result, we seek out friends and want to know they’ll be there when we need them. Second, dependability is the safe feeling that comes from trusting in a friend and being assured of their love. Feeling safe is a powerful need! Third, there is a key area in which a specific kind of safety is built — the area of confidentiality. If a friend shares a private matter with you, or two friends share a personal experience, there’s usually an expectation that it be kept between them.

Malky* finally built up the courage to share her feelings about her little sister’s illness with her friend Shiri*. It wasn’t public information yet, but Malky needed someone to talk to who she could trust wouldn’t tell anyone else. Keeping a friend’s privacy in that way shows there’s a very unique and individual place in your life just for her.

So how does one “do” trustworthiness and privacy? These concepts can seem really hard to figure out and much research has been done on defining trust and making it doable. One thing that has been found is that trust is born of many little moments and small decisions. To quote one famous relationships researcher, Dr. John Gottmann, any time one could choose to avert one’s eyes and not notice another’s need, but instead one looks her way and chooses to make a relationship, trust is established.

“I had just come home after a long and tiring day when my friend’s number popped up on my caller ID. My first reaction was to ignore the call and go chill on the couch with a book, but knowing she was in a tough situation and probably needed to unload, pushed me to answer her call.” Perhaps you’d give yourself a ten-minute time slot and only talk for that long, but you’d still choose to notice the need and respond instead of looking away. With this in mind, here are some simple ways to be a reliable and true friend. (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 667)