- Recognising a toxic friendship
- What you can do about a toxic friendship
- Ending a friendship
- Getting help
- How to Deal With a “Toxic Friend,” According to Someone Who Was One
- The Signs of a Toxic Person
- Can you Fix a Toxic Person?
- What if a Toxic Person Wants to Come Back?
- What if I’m a Toxic Person and I Want to Change?
- 6 Types of Friendships That Are Bad for Emotional Health
- 1. The Toxic Friendship
- 2. The Slippery Friendship
- 3. The Ghost Friendship
- 4. The Self-Loathing Friendship
- 5. The Wet-Blanket Friendship
- 6. The Placating Friendship
- 8 Strategies for Dealing With the Toxic People in Your Life
- What is a Toxic Friendship?
- Characteristics of a Toxic Friend
- 1. Trait: Self-Absorbed
- 2. Trait: Insecure
- 3. Trait: Short-Sighted
- Identifying a Toxic Friendship – Signs of a Toxic Friend
- Common signs of a toxic friend include:
- The Psychological Impact of Toxic Friendships, and Why We Keep Toxic Friends
- 1) Longevity of Friendship
- 2) Possible Positive Networking Opportunities
- 3) You Genuinely Still Believe in the Friendship
- Is Your Friendship Salvageable?
- Related posts (article continues below)
- Related post (article continues below)
- How To Deal With Toxic Friendships
- Dealing With Toxic Behavior
- When To Move On, and How To Break Up With Your Toxic Friends
- Three Ways To Break Up With Toxic Friends
- 2) End The Friendship Formally
- 3) Cut Them Out Entirely
- Are You The Toxic Friend?
- 1. Your friend hangs out with other people but not you
- 2. You never hear about bad (or good) news from them
- 3. You have a history of failed relationships
- Why It’s Important To Weed Out Toxic Friendships
- You may also like reading:
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Recognising a toxic friendship
If you’re wondering whether your friendship with someone is toxic, there are signs you can look out for. A toxic friend might:
- gossip about others or about you
- criticise you or other people, either subtly or not
- constantly remind you of your past failures
- try to manipulate you into feeling a certain way or doing something you don’t want to do
- stress you out
- demand too much, without giving anything back
- have an angry or negative attitude towards life.
The best way to decide whether a friendship might not be healthy is to be honest with yourself about how you feel when you’re with that person. Do you generally feel worse when you hang out with them? Do you feel drained of energy whenever you spend time with them? Toxic friendships are bad for our mental health and wellbeing. If you can’t improve the relationship, you should think about letting it go.
What you can do about a toxic friendship
None of us likes the idea of losing a friend, and some people deserve a second chance. Your friend may not be aware that their behaviour bothers you. It might be worth talking to them and establishing some healthy boundaries:
- Say ‘no’ when your friend asks for something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Point out to them when they’re acting mean or being critical of you.
- Tell them when their behaviour is unwanted and unacceptable.
- Talk to them about how their behaviour makes you feel.
- It’s okay to tell them that if they aren’t willing to treat you better, then it might be best if you parted ways.
Ending a friendship
If the steps you’ve taken don’t improve things, then it might be time to pull the plug:
- Write down a list of reasons why you think the friendship should end. Keep the list handy in case you need to look at it.
- Sit down with your friend and explain as best as you can that the friendship isn’t healthy.
- Try not to point the finger at them or to make them feel bad.
- Instead, tell them how the time you spend with them makes you feel. Nobody can ever take your feelings away from you.
- Listen to their point of view and try not to argue with them.
- If either of you gets angry, calmly remove yourself from the situation.
- End the conversation as politely as you can, for their wellbeing and yours.
Sometimes we need professional help to deal with the effects of ending a relationship. Also, if you think your toxic friend needs to talk to someone, or that they’re a risk to themselves or others, encourage them to seek help.
Check out our getting help section for information on who can help.
If you feel like you need to talk about what’s going on, contact a phone counselling service such as Lifeline (13 11 44) or Kids Help Line (1800 55 1800).
How to Deal With a “Toxic Friend,” According to Someone Who Was One
“Toxic” is a tricky buzzword slapped on practically anything from skincare products to teas claiming to rid the body of harmful…somethings. It’s an umbrella term with a suspiciously vague definition, often showing up in pop psychology and self-help as a catchall for anything unmistakably bad. This also extends to relationships with co-workers, romantic partners, and friends. If you haven’t commiserated with someone about a “toxic friend,” perhaps you think you’ve been one.
The internet is saturated with checklists of so-called “warning signs” of a toxic friendship, like lack of trust, a feeling of competition, and jealousy. Much of this advice hinges on the premise that a friend who bullies, gossips, or puts down others should be cut off immediately and without question, and it’s not entirely wrong. It can be difficult to find the energy to put into a friendship that just doesn’t feel good anymore, and some people really aren’t great at being friends. But calling someone “toxic” misses the point: People are more complex than a numbered list of negative actions, and usually, the reasons behind their behavior are much more complicated. The concept of so-called toxins in our bodies has largely been debunked, so let’s take that a step further and consider that there is no such thing as toxic people, only people in crisis. I know, because I was one.
A few years ago, I experienced a period of severe depression that coincided perfectly with a flare-up of my autoimmune disease and a string of failed relationships. I missed birthday parties and nights out because I was too sad and too tired to get dressed. I never told any of my friends how badly I felt because I figured no one would miss me anyway.
I was wrong. I lost friends because I didn’t show up and didn’t seem to care, and some of them eventually stopped calling because they were tired of being ignored. I wasn’t a good friend, but I also wish someone would’ve just asked me what was up.
Dr. Andrea Bonior, licensed clinical psychologist and author of The Washington Post’s “Baggage Check” mental health advice column, believes the word “toxic” can be inaccurate and hurtful when used to describe a difficult friend. “It’s overused, and it runs the risk of maybe pathologizing individual people,” she says. “It’s a loaded word, and I think we have to be careful when we use it.” A friend can be flaky, dishonest, or unreliable, but simply calling her “toxic” doesn’t leave any room to examine why; it’s a dismissal that undermines the friendship of which she’s supposedly one-half.
“There are so many possibilities regarding why a friendship might start to feel ‘toxic,’ and curiosity is a great first step,” says Amanda Zayde, Psy.D., Attending Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “If you have a friend whose behavior suddenly becomes problematic, checking in with them about what you’ve noticed and expressing a desire to understand the thoughts and emotions underlying their behavior may help them to feel safe enough to open up.”
RELATED: How to Make Social Media Less Depressing — Without Enduring a Dreaded “Digital Detox”
A friend who doesn’t answer texts, starts missing birthday parties, or always seems to steer the conversation back to their own problems is still a friend, and it’s important to approach them with empathy. “Maybe you have a friend who’s really struggling, whether it’s depression, substance abuse, or dysfunctional patterns with romantic relationships,” Dr. Bonior says. The explanation for their change in behavior might not be easy for them to describe in a quick text or over brunch, but that doesn’t mean no explanation exists.
Living with trauma from an abusive upbringing, an emotionally draining romantic relationship, or grieving the loss of a family member can all impact someone’s ability to focus on being a good friend, and these experiences can trigger a variety of emotional responses. “They may isolate themselves, feel less excited to do things they used to enjoy, and their mood may be pessimistic, hopeless, or irritable,” Dr. Bonior explains. A friend in crisis may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to speak openly about their feelings, potentially causing them to pull away from their relationships and social life. Chronically bad moods, constant one-way conversations, or total silence can be annoying at best, but may also indicate someone struggling.
Those “toxic friend” survival guides would instruct you to see your way to the door. Can’t return a text? Didn’t show up to my party? That’s it, we’re through. What if, instead, we consider our own role in the friendship? Sometimes, being a friend means showing up for a person even — especially — when they are unable to reciprocate that kind of care.
“I always advise people to try and see the other person’s perspective, because sometimes when a friend needs the most help is when they’re actually the toughest to be around,” Dr. Bonior says. Forget the so-called signs of “toxic” friendships — express a willingness to listen. They may be ignoring calls or “being a downer,” but simply sitting and listening can mean a lot. “I try to take the path of, ‘Hey, is everything okay? I noticed that you haven’t seemed yourself lately, or you haven’t been as excited, or you haven’t been following through on plans, and that’s not really like you,” Dr. Bonior added. “I want to listen, I want to hear what’s going on.”
RELATED: Adult-Onset, Stress-Induced Eczema Is On the Rise — Here’s What It’s Like
Instead of writing someone off as toxic and immediately cutting ties, Zayde suggests trying to specifically identify what’s going on with the friendship, whether it feels emotionally draining, dysfunctional, one-sided, or even destructive. This helps avoid a full-fledged confrontation or accusatory rant, which can damage the friendship even further. Sometimes, Zayde says, the relationship may just need a temporary pause or reboot. This doesn’t always mean the relationship isn’t special or meaningful — it’s normal for people and friendships evolve. “When the friendship is a longstanding one, I think we owe it to our friends that we have a history with, and are really intertwined in their lives,” Dr. Bonior says. “You have to make a good faith effort because, to me, that’s what friendship is all about.”
As painful as it is to watch a good friend struggling, jumping in to help might not always be effective. Offering well-intentioned but unqualified advice to a friend in the midst of severe depression or a mental health crisis, for example, isn’t helpful or safe. “It’s really hard in those situations to draw your own line because you don’t want to abandon the person, but it also doesn’t do any good for you to drive your own mental health into the ground just for the sake of trying to help a friend,” says Dr. Bonior. “It’s almost like you’re a paramedic. The first thing that you learn is not to endanger yourself when you’re saving someone else.”
In some cases, ending a friendship is necessary for the sake of everyone involved. “You have the right to say, ‘I feel like you need something more from me and I don’t know how to give it, and I do need to take care of myself. I love you, I care about you, and I want the best for you, but I also need to be able to regroup and get some space for my own self-care.’” This is an exit strategy, yes, but it’s not flushing a toxin from your life as much as it is honoring the difficulty that you and your friend are both experiencing. And that’s real.
The Signs of a Toxic Person
There’s an old myth that frogs will pull down other frogs trying to escape a pot of boiling water. That’s likely the stuff of folklore, but the dynamic is real: In everyone’s life, there will always be people who will resist, threaten and sabotage the possibility of self-improvement. These are some of the signs of a toxic person.
This general group of people — whom we can safely call “toxic” — might resent your progress for any number of reasons. Perhaps they think you’ll no longer be in their life if you improve too much. Maybe they feel like your improvement exposes their own shortcomings. Or perhaps they’re just threatened by the idea of change.
The causes are less important than the effects, which can take the form of anger, resentment, frustration, manipulation or cruelty (or a debilitating combination thereof). At any given moment, you might be finding yourself dealing with toxic friends, family members or colleagues who — consciously or unconsciously — are sabotaging your happiness and growth. Identifying these individuals and understanding how to manage them is absolutely crucial to your well being, success and happiness.
So in this piece, we’re going to discuss how to recognize toxic people and navigate the often difficult and emotional process of removing these toxic people from your life.
Because in a very real way, your future depends on it.
“Toxic” gets overused a lot these days, so let’s be clear about what we mean.
Some people in life are kind of a drag — annoying, difficult, demanding, or otherwise unpleasant. These people are not “toxic,” in the strict sense of the term. They’re just generally undesirable. With this (admittedly large) group of people, you might want to create a little distance, but you won’t have the same urgency to cut them out of your life.
Toxicity really exists on a spectrum. On one end, there’s your old friend from high school who won’t shut up about how you don’t spend enough time together. On the other end, there’s your ex-girlfriend who is still capable of manipulating you into fits of rage. Your friend might be frustrating, but your ex-girlfriend is probably toxic.
Of course, tolerance for toxicity is relative to each person — you have to decide when someone requires distance and when they need to be cut out of your life. Those lines vary from person to person. For example, your sister will probably get more leeway than a coworker, but everyone’s sister and coworkers are different, and everyone has a different threshold.
What we’re talking about here is true toxicity — the kind that infects, metastasizes, and takes over your life. Here are a few classic signs of toxic people.
- Toxic people try to control you. Strange as it might sound, people who aren’t in control of their own lives tend to want to control yours. The toxic look for ways to control others, either through overt methods or subtle manipulation.
- Toxic people disregard your boundaries. If you’re always telling someone to stop behaving a certain way and they only continue, that person is probably toxic. Respecting the boundaries of others comes naturally to well-adjusted adults. The toxic person thrives on violating them.
- Toxic people take without giving. Give and take is the lifeblood of true friendship. Sometimes you need a hand, and sometimes your friend does, but in the end, it more or less evens out. Not with the toxic person — they’re often there to take what they can get from you, as long as you’re willing to give it.
- Toxic people are always “right.” They’re going to find ways to be right even when they’re not. They rarely (if ever) admit when they’ve messed up, miscalculated or misspoken.
- Toxic people aren’t honest. I’m not talking about natural exaggerations, face-saving or white lies here. I’m talking about blatant and repeated patterns of dishonesty.
- Toxic people love to be victims. The toxic revel in being a victim of the world. They seek to find ways to feel oppressed, put down and marginalized in ways they clearly are not. This might take the form of excuses, rationalizations, or out-and-out blaming.
- Toxic people don’t take responsibility. Part of the victim mentality comes from a desire to avoid responsibility. When the world is perpetually against them, their choices and actions can’t possibly be responsible for the quality of their life — it’s “just the way things are.”
Do any of these sound familiar? They might help diagnose toxicity in the people around you, even if the toxic pattern isn’t always or immediately obvious. In fact, toxicity can easily go unnoticed for years until you stop to consider your own experience of a difficult person. Though our thresholds for toxicity are relative, that’s often because we fail to recognize the symptoms.
So how do you go about removing toxic people from your life?
Removing Toxic People from Your Life | Why It’s So Important
It’s rare for a toxic people to totally sabotage your attempts at self-improvement, but it does happen. At the very least, they will certainly slow your progress. More to the point, would you want someone in your life who’s actively opposed to making your life better?
The answer, of course, is no. And yet that can be hard to accept until you begin to recognize the effects of toxicity within you.
Under the influence of a toxic person, you might second guess yourself on an important decision. You might feel sad, uncomfortable and downright ashamed about your own progress and well-being. You might even take on some of the same toxic qualities you resent in others — something that happens to the best of us — because toxic people have a peculiar way of making you toxic yourself.
(In fact, the contagiousness of toxicity is a natural defense mechanism. Howard Bloom in The Lucifer Principle explains how increased toxicity of cyanobacteria was one of the first evolutionary adaptations — bacteria actually evolved to get more and more toxic in order to survive. The same applies to humans on the macro level.)
And more of than not, the pattern happens without us even realizing. If you’ve ever had a toxic boss, then you know how this works: His behavior makes you irritable and bitter, so you lose your temper with the team working under you, which causes your employees to become increasingly difficult with one another, which causes them to bring that attitude home to their friends and family, and before you know it, the poison has unconsciously spread.
That’s how toxicity works. It’s contagious and insidious, even in kind, well-adjusted people. That’s what makes it so dangerous, and that’s why removing toxic people from your life is so critical.
How to Cut Out the Truly Toxic People
First, a quick warning: Cutting toxic people out of your life can blow up in your face. That’s part of the disease. With that said, it’s absolutely crucial to remove these people from your life in a healthy and rational way.
So how do you go about getting rid of toxic people from your life and reclaiming the time and energy you’ve been giving them?
- Accept that it might be a process. Getting rid of toxic relationships isn’t always easy. They don’t respect your boundaries now, so it’s likely they won’t respect them later. They might come back even after you tell them to go away. You might have to tell them to leave several times before they finally do. So keep in mind that distancing yourself is a gradual process.
- Don’t feel like you owe them a huge explanation. Any explaining you do is more for you than for them. Again, tell them how you feel, which is a subject not open for debate. Or, if you prefer, keep it simple: Tell them calmly and kindly that you don’t want them in your life anymore, and leave it at that. How much or how little you tell them is really up to you. Every relationship requires a different approach.
- Talk to them in a public place. It’s not unheard of for toxic people to get belligerent or even violent. Talking to them publicly can significantly diminish the chances of this happening. If you run into problems, you can just get up and leave.
- Block them on social media. Technology makes distancing more difficult, so don’t leave any window open for them to bully or cajole you. You’ve set boundaries. Stick to them. This includes preventing them from contacting you via social media, if appropriate. Shutting down email and other lines of communication with a toxic person might also be in order.
- Don’t argue — just restate your boundaries. It’s tempting to fall into the dynamic of toxicity by arguing or fighting — that is precisely what toxic people do. In the event they do return, make a promise with yourself to avoid an argument. Firmly restate your boundaries, then end communication. You’re not trying to “debate” the person into leaving you alone. This isn’t a negotiation. You can, however, make it less and less attractive for them to keep bothering you. “Do not feed the trolls!”
- Consider writing a letter. Writing yourself a letter is a sort of dress rehearsal for an in-person conversation. You’re clarifying your thoughts and articulating your feelings. You can also refer back to the letter later if you need to remember why you made the decision to cut someone out. Because toxic people often do everything they can to stay in your life, you’ll need all the help you can get.
- Consider creating distance instead of separation. Remember the person we talked about above — the one who’s not toxic, but just a drag? You don’t have to cut these people out of your life completely. You just need to create distance by occupying your time with other friends and activities and agreeing not to feed into their dynamic.
And in many cases, you might not have to “do” anything at all.
For many toxic relationships — especially with friends and colleagues — you’ll only need to make an internal decision to create some space, without having a bigger conversation with the toxic person again. Remember: You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You can just slowly ghost out of their life to the degree necessary, until you’re no longer affected by the toxicity That might seem obvious, but it can be tempting to think that you have to make your distancing obvious and vocal, when in fact most of the work is on your side of the equation. Like a fire, you can simply stop feeding the flames.
Still, there’s one specific scenario in which you might have to handle things a little differently: when toxic people are your blood relatives.
What to Do When a Toxic Person Is a Family Member
A toxic relative is a sticky situation. There are no easy answers, and no standard answers that are right for everyone.
Still, getting rid of toxic family members might be the most important cut you’ll ever make. Family has a unique way of getting under your skin and directly influencing your thoughts, behaviors and choices. Relatives don’t own you simply by virtue of being blood. Being family doesn’t confer any special exceptions to toxicity. Relatives don’t have a magical license to screw up your life. Remember that.
Which is why simply creating distance from toxic relatives is probably the best move, whether it’s physical or emotional. But when it comes to family (as opposed to friends or colleagues), your distancing might require some special allowances. You might distance yourself emotionally, while still recognizing that you’ll have to interact with this person on a practical level (by seeing them at holiday dinners, say, or taking care of a parent together). Indeed, your distancing with a family member might require you to disentangle your practical involvement from your emotional involvement — you’ll still agree to engage with this person when necessary, but you’ll refuse to let them drag you into the emotional pattern of toxicity.
The important thing with family is to tread lightly and make calm, rational decisions, because how you deal with a toxic family member can color your entire family relationship. There are often larger ripple effects in a family than there are in a friendship or workplace.
So ask yourself: What blowback will you get from other family members? What will the holidays be like? Can you realistically cut them out completely? You might answer these questions and still decide to separate yourself. Or you might adjust your approach accordingly. The important thing is to take the time to consider the dynamic and the effects of the situation before making a decision.
I won’t lie: Cutting people (especially family) out of your life can be one of the most challenging things you can do. But as we’ve said, it’s also one of the most liberating and life-changing decisions you’ll ever make.
Most importantly, cutting toxic people out sends a key message to yourself. You’re saying: “I have value.” You’re prioritizing your happiness over someone else’s dysfunction. Once you recognize how toxic people can erode this basic sense of self-worth, it becomes harder and harder to allow them in your life.
So tell us: Have you ever had to cut a toxic person out of your life? How did you do it? What was the outcome? Either way, here’s to improving your social circle and your happiness this year — by subtraction as well as addition.
Can you Fix a Toxic Person?
We cannot fix a toxic person, although we hope to do so. It is impossible to control other people’s behaviors. The best we can do is set an example through our actions. There is a possibility that if we set an example for people around us, people see our efforts and decide to become more like us, although there is no guarantee. Hence, our focus should be on ourselves and not necessarily on fixing the people around us.
What if a Toxic Person Wants to Come Back?
Letting a toxic person back into your life can be dangerous. When you let go of a toxic person, they might eventually see the value in your friendship and apologize for their behavior, promising that this will not happen again and they want to be a part of your life. For the first time, give the other person a chance but set clear boundaries: If they exhibit any of the toxic behavior that they have in the past, they will lose you forever. Make sure to stand behind your words, and show the other person that they cannot overstep your boundaries. While compassion is crucial, make sure you’re putting yourself first and thinking about this person’s affect on your life as well.
What if I’m a Toxic Person and I Want to Change?
By recognizing your behavior, you’ve already completed the first step. If others gave you feedback about how you’re hurting them, listen to the feedback that they are giving. Do not try to fight back with how they feel or what their claims are. Work on building self compassion, as generally toxic people are toxic to people around them because they have a toxic relationship with themselves. Hence, try to see how you can work on your relationship with yourself, and that will carry over to other aspects of your life. Combine people’s feedback with understanding who you are, and you will move away from being a toxic person and slowly cultivate high value behavior.
carcinoGeneticist began trolling ectoBiologist —
CG: HEY JOHN.
CG: CALM THE HELL DOWN.
EB: how did you find me?????
CG: FIND YOU?
CG: WHAT DO YOU MEAN.
EB: i changed my chum handle to ditch you guys.
EB: how did you find me?
CG: HA HA!
CG: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
CG: THIS IS THE LITTLE WORD HUMANS SAY REPEATEDLY WHEN SOMETHING TICKLES THEIR ABSURDITY PALATE, RIGHT?
CG: WE NEVER LOST YOU.
CG: YOUR RUSE DIDN’T FOOL US.
CG: IT JUST SO HAPPENS WE DIDN’T PARTICULARLY GIVE A SHIT ABOUT TALKING TO YOU IN THAT TIMEFRAME.
EB: what, the last few months?
CG: WE HAVE THE ENTIRE CONTINUUM OF YOUR EXISTENCE TO CHOOSE FROM WHEN CONTACTING YOU.
CG: THE PERIOD WAS UNREMARKABLE.
CG: SORT OF LIKE YOUR WHOLE LIFE. BUT I GUESS I MEAN IT WAS ESPECIALLY UNREMARKABLE.
CG: THIS HAS BEEN EXPLAINED TO YOU SO OFTEN IT WOULD MAKE ME SICK TO MY HUMAN STOMACH IF I HAD ONE OF YOUR HUMAN STOMACHS.
EB: ok, this time i’ll believe you that you aren’t human.
EB: because the skepticism center of my brain is starting to wear kind of thin i guess.
EB: but you’re still a major asshole and i don’t actually want to talk to you, so bye.
CG: BUT I’M NOT HERE TO TROLL YOU THIS TIME.
CG: WE’RE FRIENDS OK?
EB: oh man, look at this outburst of little human words i’m saying!
EB: from my human mouth!
CG: FINE YOU CAN THINK I’M A FUCKING DOUCHE AND MAYBE I AM BUT HERE’S THE FACT, IDIOT.
CG: I’VE ALREADY HAD LOTS OF CONVERSATIONS WITH YOU.
CG: IN THE FUTURE. I MEAN YOUR FUTURE.
CG: I’VE KIND OF BEEN WORKING BACKWARDS HERE FOR A WHILE.
CG: AND IT’S A LITTLE FRUSTRATING.
CG: EVERY TIME I GO FURTHER BACK YOU KNOW LESS AND LESS, AND YOU DON’T REMEMBER ANYTHING I SAID BECAUSE IT HASN’T HAPPENED YET.
CG: AND I HAVE TO REPEAT MYSELF A LOT.
CG: AND I’M GETTING PRETTY FUCKING SICK OF IT.
EB: that’s the dumbest thing i’ve ever heard.
CG: WELL IT’S NOT LIKE I MAPPED OUT THIS TROLLING ONSLAUGHT VERY WELL IN ADVANCE.
CG: I MEAN, WHEN YOU TROLL SOMEONE YOU JUST SORT OF DO IT. YOU DON’T START DRAWING FLOWCHARTS AND DIAGRAMS AND STUFF.
EB: you have something to do with this game, don’t you?
EB: i should have known.
CG: OH GOD.
CG: NOT AGAIN.
CG: NO, FUCK NO, I AM JUST NOT GOING TO EXPLAIN THIS TO YOU AGAIN.
CG: YOU’LL GET PLENTY OF DIRT ON ALL THIS FROM ME IN FUTURE CONVERSATIONS.
CG: TEDIOUS CONVERSATIONS.
CG: ONES I’VE ALREADY HAD WITH YOU.
CG: WHERE YOUR DEMEANOR WILL GRADUALLY BECOME INEXPLICABLY AND REVOLTINGLY FRIENDLY TOWARDS US.
CG: AND SO I GUESS IT JUST WAS KIND OF INFECTIOUS AND NOW WE’RE ALL BUDDIES I THINK.
CG: IT’S REALLY WEIRD.
CG: THIS HUMAN EMOTION YOU CALL FRIENDSHIP.
EB: friendship isn’t an emotion fucknuts.
CG: SEE, THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.
CG: YOU’RE MUCH MORE TOLERABLE A GUY THAN I THOUGHT AT FIRST, OK JOHN?
EB: why are you kissing my ass?
EB: what do you want? why don’t you just tell me what’s going on.
EB: are you in the medium?
CG: OK, FINE. YES WE ARE.
EB: like, here in this land, with the clouds and oil and stuff?
CG: MORE OF THIS NARCISSISM.
CG: YOU ALWAYS THINK EVERYTHING REVOLVES AROUND YOU.
CG: WE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR DUMB LITTLE WINDY PLANET OR YOUR PETTY LITTLE QUESTS.
CG: OR FOR THAT MATTER YOUR ENTIRE GAME SESSION.
CG: YOU AREN’T THE ONLY ONES PLAYING THE GAME.
CG: EVERY GROUP OF PLAYERS GETS THEIR OWN DISTINCT, BLANK SLATE SESSION.
CG: AS WILL BE EXPLAINED TO YOU MANY TIMES.
EB: so why don’t you just explain it again so i know…
EB: so i don’t ask so much in the future???
CG: FUCK THIS SHIT, JUST NO.
CG: I’M ENDING THIS CONVERSATION BECAUSE I’VE SAID IT ALL TOO MANY TIMES.
CG: AND BECAUSE YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND.
CG: BECAUSE YOU ARE DUMB.
EB: wow, yeah you’re totally not trolling me, bro!
EB: i see now we are bffs forever.
CG: THE FACT THAT YOU ARE DUMB
CG: IS AN IMMUTABLE FACT I AM STATING FOR THE RECORD.
CG: IT DOES NOT MEAN ANIMOSITY IS WHAT IS TAKING PLACE HERE.
EB: oh, ok.
EB: so what do you want.
CG: I NEED YOU TO TELL YOUR FRIEND JADE TO TALK TO US.
CG: SHE WON’T ANSWER OUR MESSAGES IN THIS TIMEFRAME.
CG: IT’S IMPORTANT.
EB: yeah, i don’t blame her for not answering.
EB: she pretty much can’t stand you guys.
EB: because of all the trolling you did before.
CG: OK, OUR BAD ON THAT.
CG: JUST TELL HER WE’RE SORRY.
CG: AND TO GET HER GROSS AND TOTALLY UNATTRACTIVE HUMAN BUTT OFF HER UGLY HUMAN HIGH HORSE AND ANSWER MY MESSAGES.
EB: we’ll see.
EB: i’m still not really sold on this friendship thing yet.
EB: but i’ve got to go now and get on with my petty little quests.
EB: so talk to you in the future i guess.
“You should be a therapist,” one of my best friends recently told me. She’d just started grad school after a few years of working full-time and found it difficult to get along with her younger classmates. I suggested a practical, if not entirely groundbreaking, course of action that included being more casual with her peers and treating them as colleagues, not unexperienced graduates. And anyway, I sensed it wasn’t necessarily my advice that she yearned for, but an empathetic ear.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard some iteration of the “You should be a therapist” line, hinting that maybe I’d missed my calling. Most people need an outlet to unload all the messy things that happen in their lives, and for a long time, I wanted to be that sounding board for as many people as I could. The highlights of my high school social life were the frequent let’s-eat-ice-cream-and-talk-about-our-feelings parties, because they gave me the opportunity to prove my worth as a friend. Unload your traumas on me; I’ll be supportive.
I carried that desire to be needed—to be the person someone could turn to—into adulthood, when the dramas evolved from unrequited crushes to painful breakups, career changes, mental health struggles. Over the course of a few weeks this fall, friends came to me divulging baggage on all of the above and then some. Helping those close to me make sense of their obstacles felt rewarding, even if doing so meant I had to monitor my own emotions in order to keep being helpful to them, to maintain a kind of objectivity. But soon the weight of my friends’ problems, which were steadily escalating for each of them, something clear only to me, the emotional caretaker, quickly began to weigh me down. I was emotionally burnt out by being a good friend.
In a professional setting, the act of managing your feelings to fit some kind of organizational standard is known as emotional labor, according to its original definition in sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s 1983 book The Managed Heart. Recently this phenomenon has taken on a new meaning that encompasses the emotional strain women experience while running a household, keeping track of deadlines and schedules, and doing things that are generally “expected” of women (which, I would argue, also includes being a supportive friend). And this kind of behind-the-scenes work in addition to our actual work has mental health consequences. A recent study examining the effects of emotional labor and burnout in female dental hygienists found that excessive emotional work in customer service roles increased the likelihood of burnout, and without a workplace support system, burnout was sure to happen faster.
When it comes to one-sided interpersonal relationships, the party that’s left out in the cold can start to feel bad about the entire dynamic. “If someone is always the one that’s listening and absorbing all that stress, it’s really hard for them to feel like they’re getting their needs met,” says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., psychologist, author of The Friendship Fix, and host of a weekly live chat for The Washington Post. “The danger isn’t only feeling burnt out but feeling resentful when your friends don’t ask you how you’re doing.”
I didn’t want to start resenting my friends, but I could feel my annoyance creeping in. It’s hard to be a good confidante when you’re burning the candle at both ends and then brooding because of it. The empathy I had for my friends is what psychologists call emotional empathy—that is, feeling the weight of others’ experiences, both good and bad. Clinical psychologist and author of How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, Ellen Hendriksen says while emotional empathy isn’t a bad thing, shouldering other people’s drama definitely wears us out, and to be a good friend we shouldn’t be required to feel exactly what they feel.
6 Types of Friendships That Are Bad for Emotional Health
When I was in high school, my best friend’s mom made no secret of her worries about us driving, going to parties, meeting new teens she didn’t know, and staying out late. But she felt confident in our ability to navigate the temptations of risky teenage behavior because, in her words, “You have good friends.”
She was right to assert that our solid, trusting relationships with each other were protective, certainly for our physical safety. But as a therapist, I can see now that another aspect of our bonds played a significant and lifelong role in our emotional safety as well. We encouraged one another to take some risks and scale our actions back when necessary; we showed up for one another when we were needed and supported each other when we were down.
The life lessons of those years, and in many cases the friendships, have withstood the trials of distance, careers, children, marriages, and, yes, other friendships. Whether you have enjoyed positive friendships in your life or not, it is never too late to examine if and in what way your friendships, or your friendship, are lacking and could use attention. While it may seem glaringly obvious that we need trustworthy and reliable friends in order to thrive, here are six common types of friendships that can undermine your efforts to enjoy those friendly bonds and negatively impact your emotional well-being:
1. The Toxic Friendship
Friendships go through ups and downs, as any relationship does in life. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we feel a certain tension or friction in a friendship. That is normal, and through time and solid communication you can often work through those uncomfortable periods.
But that’s different from a friendship that consistently leaves you in a negative state. If you regularly hang out with a friend or group of friends and notice you do not feel energized either in their presence or once you leave them, that is a sign you may need to examine the friendship and your role in the dynamic.
2. The Slippery Friendship
We have all had these friends, and maybe you have even been that person sometimes. It’s natural to suggest to someone you like, “Hey, let’s get together sometime!” But the slippery friend is tough to pin down for an actual date. You may have a plan for Friday night, but on Friday afternoon they bail on you because something more interesting came up.
If you make a plan with someone and they repeatedly cancel at the last minute or make no effort to reschedule, that may be revealing about the nature and quality of the friendship.
3. The Ghost Friendship
Some friends may be good day-to-day buddies, some are terrific in a crisis, and some you don’t see often because of time or distance but know you can count on them to show up for you if and when you need them. Unfortunately, we don’t often know in which camp our friends belong until that moment arises.
It can be hurtful when you reach out to someone expecting them to respond and they are silent. It doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be a good friend, but it may mean you need to either have a talk with them or consider reevaluating to what extent you can rely on them.
4. The Self-Loathing Friendship
As inherently social beings, we can’t help but be influenced by those around us. So if you surround yourself with the company of people with positive outlooks, you may be more likely to regard yourself positively.
The same holds true of the opposite. If you are spending your time and energy with people who don’t like themselves—or, just as bad, who don’t like other people—you may tend to like yourself less. If you are frequently around someone who talks negatively about others, leaving you feeling less happy with yourself, you may be caught up in a self-loathing friendship loop.
5. The Wet-Blanket Friendship
When you are hedging on a risky move in life that could pay off but also may have a disappointing result, such as considering a career change or taking a big step for your health or finances that feels scary but exciting, sometimes our unconscious defense to protect ourselves from that risk is to reach for our nearest wet-blanket friend.
This is the person who will tell you all the things that could go wrong and why you shouldn’t bother, leaving you feeling deflated and your parade drenched in rain. You don’t need to shun your wet-blanket friend, but you should be aware that your friend is stuck, and would rather have your company in Stuckville than see you move forward without them.
6. The Placating Friendship
On the flip side of the wet-blanket friendship is the placating one. While you don’t want your friendships to constantly kill your life buzz and shoot down your ideas, you also need people in your life who are going to tell you the truth as they see it.
While you don’t want your friendships to constantly kill your life buzz and shoot down your ideas, you also need people in your life who are going to tell you the truth as they see it.
As long as the feedback is kind, sensitive, and truly in your best interest, you can still come away feeling good about your decisions or the options ahead of you. If you sense that your friend would not meet you with nothing-but-the-truth sincerity, it’s good to ask yourself what role that friendship is playing in your life, and adjust how much sway that person’s feedback has on you accordingly.
Healthy friendship seems like a simple transaction, but the reality can be complicated, especially as we grow and our emotional needs change over the course of our lives. There will be times when we cannot be the best friends we could or should have been to those we care about. But it is important to keep in mind what is most important about friendships, especially if you are feeling like the “friend” area of your life is lacking. Friends should be reliable, trusting, caring, and honest.
And when you do click with a good friend, remember the wise words of William Shakespeare: “Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel.”
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Alena Gerst, LCSW, RYT, therapist in New York City, New York
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
8 Strategies for Dealing With the Toxic People in Your Life
Do any of these situations sound familiar?
- You’ve been friends for years and she’s always been prickly, but now you’re noticing that her zingers are louder than ever and aimed directly at you.
- Your co-worker is a show-off who’s always dismissed your suggestions and ideas, and now he’s actively disparaging you to anyone who’ll listen.
- Your partner says mean things to you, and when you object, he either says “You’re too sensitive,” or stonewalls and refuses to talk.
- Your parent has amped up the volume on putting you down, no matter what. How should you react?
You wake up one morning and it dawns on you that you’re not holding your own in a problem relationship. In fact, you are getting trounced, pounced, and hurt. It doesn’t matter whether the person involved is a parent, sibling, co-worker, friend, spouse, or lover—or whether they’re manipulative, bullying, combative, or a garden-variety narcissist trying to suck you into his or her orbit. What matters is that you don’t know what to do. You recognize that the connection isn’t healthy or good because it makes you feel lousy, but somehow, you’re stuck.
Not everyone gets stuck in this way—not for long, at least. Some of us are more skilled at recognizing toxic behaviors and are more self-assured about how to deal with them. These tend to be people who have a secure attachment style, see themselves accurately, and are confident about their self-worth. They need and want relationships and they know the real deal from the cheap knock-off. That’s not true of an insecurely attached person who doesn’t have strong mental representations of what a healthy relationship looks like, and has problems with self-esteem and managing his or her emotions. These people are most likely to find themselves unable to act when they’re enmeshed in a toxic relationship.
Here are eight strategies you can use to manage run-ins with people who seem to enjoy raining on your parade, need the upper hand, or just like feeling good by making you feel bad.
1. Recognize the traits that make you easy prey.
Assessing what you bring to the party doesn’t mean taking responsibility or the blame for someone’s mistreatment of you—keep this difference in mind. Is it your need to please or your fear of rocking the boat that keeps you tongue-tied when your friend makes you the victim of her bad mood? Use cool processing to think about the interactions you’ve had with the person that make you unhappy—focusing on why you felt as you did, not what you felt—and see if you can discern a pattern. Insecurely attached daughters often confuse someone’s need to control and grandstand with strength and perseverance, and can easily find themselves ensnared by someone toxic. If that’s the case, you need to pay attention.
2. Explore your reactivity.
Again, without taking the blame for the dynamic, you should look at both the degree to which you overreact and under-react in the relationship; either can unwittingly intensify the dynamic and keep it going. A controlling or bullying person will regard your under-reaction as permission to keep treating you in precisely the same way. People with an anxious/preoccupied attachment style tend to be hyper-vigilant about cues that the relationship is going south and often become angry and vituperative when threatened; this kind of overreaction is likely to make a narcissist feel powerful and inspire him or her to keep playing games.
Instead, work on managing your emotions and set some goals for yourself in terms of handling the relationship differently. Use “If/Then” thinking to embolden your implementation of your plans. Prepare by focusing on what you will do if an exchange happens, using the “If X, then Y” formula. For example, “If my friend makes a nasty remark, then I’m going to say, ‘Why would you say something so hurtful?’” or “If my mother denies what she said to me, then I will simply say,’ You can’t browbeat me into believing that. It didn’t happen.’” This isn’t easy and it takes practice, but standing up for your perceptions is important.
3. Trust your gut.
One reason insecurely attached people stay in hurtful relationships is a lack of trust in themselves or their judgment. If your default position is to always rationalize toxic behavior (“He really didn’t mean what he said; it was just the heat of the moment”) or to give the person the benefit of the doubt (“She didn’t realize how hurtful her gesture was; once it’s explained to her, I’m sure she’ll come around”), this is the moment to stop and realize why you’re doing the excusing. If you find yourself falling back into the pattern of making excuses or rationalizing toxic behavior, stop.
4. Beware of the sunk cost fallacy.
What’s keeping you in this relationship anyway? The thought of what you’ve put into it? Your fear of loss and being alone? As the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Twersky shows, humans are famously loss-averse, and prefer to hold onto what they have in the short term—even if giving up a little will get them more in the long run. Additionally, they prefer the known to the unknown, even if the former makes them unhappy. All of that yields the most pernicious unconscious pattern, called the sunk cost fallacy, which is often responsible for keeping us in places we ought not to be, including toxic relationships. This is the habit of mind that focuses on what you have invested in something—it could be emotion, time, effort, or even money—and keeps you in place so as not to lose that investment, Of course, whatever the “investment” is, you can’t retrieve it under any circumstances—whether it’s the years you put into a job or a relationship, or the money you put into your failing car or venture—so there’s no real logic to the thinking. This fallacy has been used to justify wars, cars that have long since outlived their usefulness, and all manner of lousy relationships and marriages.
If you catch yourself thinking about what you have sunk into the relationship with a toxic person, instead start thinking about where you might find yourself if you let go. That word “fallacy” says it all.
5. Recognize the power of intermittent reinforcement.
You may consider yourself more of a “glass half empty” kind of person than the “glass half full“ type, but research shows that, generally, humans are overly optimistic. We tend to see a close loss more as a “near win.” This is what keeps people at slot machines: When three of the same symbol line up, they take it as a sign that the fourth will show up shortly. There’s an evolutionary reason behind this: When the challenges of life were largely physical—think hunter with bow and arrow—staying encouraged enough to keep going and turn the near win into a real one was a good thing. Additionally, we’re more motivated to hang in, paradoxically enough, when we get what we want some of the time.
That’s what B.F. Skinner showed with three very hungry rats, each in its own cage, with a lever that delivered food when pressed. In the first cage, the lever always delivered food and, with that understanding, the rat went about its business. In the second cage, the lever never delivered food; that rat absorbed the lesson and lost interest. But in the third cage, the lever worked randomly and the rat was fixated and totally hooked. He pushed at the lever constantly: That’s intermittent reinforcement.
Alas, this works in human relationships, too: When a toxic person actually does something nice, your heart leaps, your optimism ramps up, and you think, “We are turning a corner!” That locks you in for that much longer, just like that rat. “Now and again” does not a pattern make, and you need to keep that in mind.
6. Guard those boundaries or plan an exit strategy.
If the toxic person is someone you can’t avoid coming into contact with—a co-worker, a neighbor, your mother-in-law, or someone in your social circle—set boundaries for behavior and the kind of contact you’re going to have. Insecurely attached people often have trouble recognizing what a healthy boundary looks like and don’t always know how to negotiate them. You don’t need to be rude, abrasive, or accusatory; in fact, it’s important that you aren’t, but that you are firm and decisive. If it’s a work situation, go through the appropriate channels and put it in writing. To a co-worker, you might say, “I’m okay with criticism but I’d prefer if you not make it personal. My being overweight has nothing to do with my performance.” Or to the mother-in-law who makes jokes at your expense, “I’m sorry but that’s not funny. I may not be the most organized housekeeper, but my family seems to be thriving nonetheless.” For the toxic others you can ultimately give the boot, plan an exit strategy.
7. Anticipate push-back or retaliation.
It’s likely that the toxic person in your life has his or her own “investment” in the connection—he likes controlling you, or she likes the lift her power over you gives her—so once you start setting boundaries and confronting the individual, don’t expect him to go gently into the night. The chances are good that he or she will redouble efforts to keep the dynamic going by manipulating, gaslighting, or spreading rumors about you, to gain the upper hand. This is especially true if you move to end a marriage to a narcissist who will want to retain the sense of having won and triumphed at all costs.
8. Don’t normalize abusive behavior.
This is especially important if you’ve been in a toxic relationship for a long time or you grew up around people who used words as weapons. They may have demeaned, marginalized, or dismissed you or other family members and then rationalized their behavior by saying, “They’re only words”; denying that they were ever said (a form of gaslighting); or asserting that the real problem was your sensitivity. Refusing to answer you or ignoring you is also abusive behavior of the silent variety. It’s clear to most everyone that lying is toxic but so is telling partial truths or a carefully edited version of events and then, once challenged, blaming you for not asking the right questions. (This was a ploy of a toxic person I knew who also happened to be a lawyer.) The bottom line is that emotional and verbal abuse are never OK.
This piece draws on the research done for two of my books: Quitting—Why We Fear It and Why We Shouldn’t—in Life, Love, and Work (New York: Da Capo, 2015) and Mean Mothers (New York: William Morrow, 2009). My new book, Daughter Detox: Recovering From an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life (2017) offers self-help and strategies.
Copyright © 2016 Peg Streep
Read Daughter Detox and visit me on Facebook.
Do you have friendships that bring you more stress than joy? You’re not alone.
The sad reality is that we are all at least partly surrounded by toxic friendships.
According to a recent study published in PLOS One, only about 50% of the average person’s friendships go both ways.
This means that out of all the people you consider your friend, only roughly half of them feel the same way about you.
And yet we continue to persist in toxic friendships in all areas and stages of our life, no matter how young or old we become.
So what makes a toxic friendship, and why do so many friendships go sour but stay alive?
In this article, we discuss all there is to know about toxic friendships – why we deal with them, how to identify them, and when to know it’s time to end the charade.
What is a Toxic Friendship?
A toxic friendship can seem like an oxymoron – a friendship is supposed to enrich your life, while anything that is toxic is a source of unhealthiness and unhappiness.
But many of us live with toxic friends, whether we realize or not, and find ourselves simply unable to get out of the relationship.
At its core, friendship is an agreement between two people.
No matter how relevant or important the friendship is to your life, there must be a balance, where both individuals give and take the same effort and satisfaction from the relationship.
But toxic friends give people the opposite of satisfaction. They stress us out and make things more difficult than they need to be.
These are friends who drain us more than they uplift us, and make us regret the time we spend with them.
Characteristics of a Toxic Friend
No one grows up wanting to be a source of negative energy.
Oftentimes, the toxic behavior of a person is a byproduct of certain characteristics or personality traits they have carried and nurtured their entire lives.
Some of these characteristics include:
1. Trait: Self-Absorbed
What they think about it: “I’m just being tough in a dog-eat-dog world.”
Why it happens: No one ever said no to them while they were growing up. They don’t know how to prioritize other people and put themselves in the backseat.
How it manifests: They will only offer to help other people if they can get something out of it. But they will never help others out of the goodness of their heart.
2. Trait: Insecure
What they think about it: “I’m just competitive.”
Why it happens: They have huge insecurity issues, and they aren’t comfortable with something about themselves – their body, their intelligence, their accomplishments, or something else.
How it manifests: They put down their friends, always diminishing them in various ways. When someone else is talking about something good about them, they will have to one-up them with their own story, true or not.
3. Trait: Short-Sighted
What they think about it: “I just like living in the moment.”
Why it happens: Even if they are incredibly smart, toxic people lack the ability to look very far in the future. This is why they get too emotional, bitter, and resentful over small things that aren’t even about them.
How it manifests: They will turn on their closest friends, if they see a way that it will benefit them. They will spread gossip, lie, hold grudges, and bully, because they care too much about what’s going on right now instead of thinking long-term.
Identifying a Toxic Friendship – Signs of a Toxic Friend
The biggest obstacle people have when identifying toxic friendships in their lives is doubt.
Our first instinct is to naturally see the goodness in our friends, so when we believe to see behavior that we think to be toxic, we are the first ones to defend them – “Oh, they’re just having a bad day,” “They didn’t mean it that way”, and “They will be nicer next time.”
To properly identify a toxic friendship, it helps best to first look around you. Here are three steps to identifying a toxic friendship by looking outside:
1) Watch Others: See how your possible toxic friend acts towards other people. Do they do the same toxic behavior to them that they do to you?
2) Ask Around: If you see them being toxic to other people, then it’s time to ask. Ask your mutual friends if they feel the same way.
3) Look at Them: Does your possible toxic friend have many long-term relationships? Do they often complain about other people, and do they struggle to keep friends, family, and romantic partners around?
Common signs of a toxic friend include:
1) They sabotage even their closest friends by killing their time and their energy through involvement in pointless drama that they manufactured on their own.
2) They exclude friends from groups because they prioritize certain friends over others, despite friendship seniority.
3) They almost never acknowledge the achievements of their friends, but always talk about their own.
4) They will use people to get new friends, and then forget about the initial friend. This is known as triangulation.
5) They love playing the victim, always ensuring that they have the most difficulties in their social group.
6) They project their own toxic behavior on those around them, making it more difficult for their friends to truly identify their behavior because they end up blaming themselves.
7) They know when to play nice, so that their friends won’t accuse them of being toxic. When others are around, their behavior will be perfect.
8) If their friends stand up to them, they will frame their friends as being the toxic instigators, while they were the victim all along.
9) They have an inability to empathize and will change the topic or just not pay attention if a friend is opening up to them.
10) They will make shady comments that hurt those around them, but aren’t obvious enough to be thought of as an insult.
The Psychological Impact of Toxic Friendships, and Why We Keep Toxic Friends
If you suspect that you might be in a toxic friendship, it is important that you take it seriously rather than dismiss it.
The more frequently you interact with your suspected toxic friend, the more important it is that you identify and, if necessary, remove them from your life.
The psychological impact of having a toxic friend can leave a serious toll on your life.
People who let toxic friendships persist in their life generally have problems with self-esteem.
Instead of standing up to the source of their stress and mental fatigue, they think of reasons why they let them toxic friendship continue, simply to avoid confronting the issue head-on.
Some of the most common excuses for keeping toxic friends include:
1) Longevity of Friendship
Your Excuse: “I’ve been friends with them since we were kids. They’re not really as bad as you think they are.”
How They Take Advantage: They play the “kid” card whenever you try to confront them, talking about old times and reminiscing of the past.
Most of the toxic friends that we keep are people that we have been friends with since childhood. Maybe you used to play with them in the park, or maybe you were best friends in middle school.
But for one reason or another, they aren’t exactly the same nice person that you grew up with.
Their life took one too many negative turns, and now they take it out on you and their other close friends.
However, you feel a kind of loyalty towards them, simply because you have known them for so long, so you just can’t stand to end the relationship.
2) Possible Positive Networking Opportunities
Your Excuse: “I know he/she is a jerk, but I don’t want to burn that bridge. They might know someone.”
How They Take Advantage: They dangle the possibility of their network over you, promising you to introduce you to the “right person” to advance your career.
Just because you aren’t the toxic person in the friendship doesn’t mean that you don’t have your own self-interests in mind.
There are some people that we maintain friendships with simply because we enjoy the comfort of being socially connected with them. Maybe they have just the right contacts you need for your career, or maybe they are an important member of your community.
This is when you are forced to decide: does the benefit of being their friend outweigh the negativity they bring to my life?
There is also the case where they might be part of your social circles, so you don’t want to stop being friends with them or else you might cause an uncomfortable, awkward rift that the rest of your friends will be forced to deal with.
3) You Genuinely Still Believe in the Friendship
No excuses, no fake reasons.
The truth is that with so many friendships displaying signs of toxicity, we often have to make the decision to persevere in toxic friendships simply because we know this might just be a phase, or their toxic behavior doesn’t tell the whole story.
Toxic friends do not necessarily have malicious thoughts in mind.
There are many cases where a toxic friend is just someone who needs a little help or is going through a rough patch.
This is a judgment call only you can make, and it’s something you need to think about with every toxic friendship.
Is Your Friendship Salvageable?
Confronting toxic friends is a tricky situation. On the one hand, finally having the talk with them could ultimately change your friendship for the better.
However, your toxic friend may also be unresponsive to your efforts, causing irreversible damage to your friendship.
Before cutting them out of your life, try to evaluate if your friendship is worth saving in the first place.
Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate whether or not your toxic relationship is worth the effort.
Do you share the same interests and values as your friend?
People grow apart, and sometimes these life changes aren’t always for the better.
Maybe your friend has gone through some tough times and became more bitter and quicker to anger as a result.
That doesn’t mean this new attitude towards life has completely changed who they are at the very core.
At the end of the day, we stick to friends because we enjoy their company.
We like the same things, we value the same virtues, and we live by the same principles.
You don’t have to like every single thing about your friend, but you must at least like who they are.
Related posts (article continues below)
If you still do, it’s a sign your friendship is still worth saving.
Related post (article continues below)
Do you enjoy hanging out with your friend?
Why bother keeping a friendship you don’t enjoy? Friendships are all about sharing bonds, creating memories, and helping each other out.
At the very least, you should find your friends’ presence pleasant.
If you’re cringing at the sight of their text, muting their social accounts, and deliberately ignoring every social call, there’s a good chance you would rather be alone than spend time with your friend.
Maybe they have gotten into the habit of talking about themselves and nothing else, maybe they just tend to make you feel bad without knowing it.
Whatever the reason, being around this friend doesn’t make you feel good, and is a clear sign you should steer clear instead.
Is your friend reliable and trustworthy?
Talking about your friendship will require some vulnerability.
To make this work, the other person has to be receptive to criticism and open to change.
If your friend is known to be hateful, averse to criticism, and overly sensitive, talking to them might not fix anything at all.
Instead of propelling your friendship forward, you might just inadvertently downgrade yourself to enemy status.
This “friend” of yours might turn your innocent effort into a full-blown soap opera.
They might start talking behind your back and calling you self-righteous, at which point it’s better to walk away or call it quits.
Has your friendship gone through the test of time?
At the very least, you should try repairing your friendship for old time’s sake.
Even if old bonds are the only thing gluing you together, they should at least let them know what you feel about the relationship.
It doesn’t matter if you no longer like the same things and barely hang out.
If you have been through thick and thin before, there’s a good chance you can still rekindle the friendship.
But if all else fails, you can realistically evaluate the current state of your friendship and still say your goodbyes, while honoring all the time you have spent together.
How To Deal With Toxic Friendships
Solving a toxic friendship doesn’t always mean you have to get down to brass tacks. In some cases, the best solution to a negative, hateful, and condescending friend is by showing them some patience, love, and compassion.
By displaying these traits to toxic friends, you are portraying model behavior, which could inspire them to become better friends and individuals.
However, going the nice way isn’t always the suitable solution.
Toxic people can get into the habit of putting down others without even knowing it, making it difficult to inspire epiphany.
When push comes to shove, you should consider being straightforward with your friend regarding their behavior.
Dealing With Toxic Behavior
|Behavior||Friendly Solution||Extreme Measure|
|They tend to hog all your time and get mad when you don’t prioritize them.||Schedule a healthy amount of time together once a week so you don’t feel obligated to be present for them 24/7.||Let them know you can’t be the only person they can depend on, and that they need another support system in their life.|
|They expect you to drop everything and become 100% available during a personal crisis.||Pick situations where you can lend a hand, but don’t give all your time to them.||Say no every single time until the friend learns their happiness isn’t your primary responsibility.|
|They tend to be cold and space out when you need them.||Reach out and let them know you miss them and need them. Make sure they know how important this is for you.||Let your friend know about their behavior and make it clear that the ball is in their court, and then move on to friends who reciprocate effort when they don’t change.|
|They complain, rant, and vent negatively about everything around them, which makes you feel drained.||Offer different views on things and always try to put a positive spin on conversations.||Offer constructive but straightforward criticism on their negativity, and help them develop a more positive outlook.|
|They talk behind your back when you get into arguments.||Aim to resolve issues together, on the spot.||Make it clear that badmouthing is not an option, and will not be tolerated in this friendship.|
|They ask you for favors but you never get any in return.||Only choose to do favors where you don’t have to go out of your way.||Be honest about their tendencies, and make it clear that friendships need to be reciprocal.|
|They hoard conversations, never asking about you, your job, or your interests.||Volunteer topics you are interested in to get your friend to stop talking about themselves.||Be open about their self-involvedness or take a break from talking to them entirely.|
|They make jokes at your expense, privately or in front of other people.||Change the way you feel about the situation or avoid being in the same social situations as this friend.||Say their jokes are often offensive and you are more hurt than amused.|
|They make you feel bad about the things you like and believe in.||Ask questions as to why they feel this way, and guide them into reflection.||Protect your confidence by spending less time with this person or not bringing up the topics entirely.|
When To Move On, and How To Break Up With Your Toxic Friends
In situations where friendship is doing you more bad than good, the only possible solution might be to nip the relationship in the bud. Consider moving on to more beneficial and less toxic relationships when:
- You have talked to your friend in the past, and nothing has changed.
- They don’t show signs of remorse or self-awareness.
- They aren’t receptive to criticism and turn your efforts to help them into an emotional crisis.
- They make it clear that your relationship is only instrumental and one-sided.
- Your needs remain unmet.
- There is an ongoing cycle of abuse and bad behavior.
- Betrayal and badmouthing come naturally to your friend.
- You feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them.
- You are not confident sharing good news with them, in fear they will respond negatively.
- You are emotionally drained and no longer want to preserve the friendship.
- They are incapable of living on their own and hold you responsible for everything.
- Spending time with them feels like a social chore.
Three Ways To Break Up With Toxic Friends
Do this if: You think the other person is incapable of changing; You’re uncomfortable with confrontation; You’re not sure what to do about the friendship; You want to keep in touch but be less friendly with each other
Slowly extracting yourself out of your friend’s life doesn’t mean you’re a passive-aggressive coward.
This just means you want to spare yourself (and your friend) the trouble of opening a can of worms.
Eventually your friend will pick up on your missing presence and take that as a hint that you need time for yourself or that you have chosen to downgrade the friendship.
You can choose to let them know what you feel when you’re more comfortable or when things are a little less tense.
When the time comes, it will be evident to the both of you where your relationship stands, and ending it will be much easier and less complicated.
2) End The Friendship Formally
Do this if: You want to offer feedback to your friend; You want to give you and your friend closure; You feel confident that you can talk calmly and end things peacefully
If you feel the need to share criticism to your friend, you should be prepared to officially end your friendship. Toxic people won’t be prepared to accept your criticism, much less your friendship after a heated discussion.
Being open about their behavior is the only way to deal with difficult, selfish people. After trying everything – from talking to counselling to being vulnerable – and still getting nothing in return, it’s time to put your foot down and let them know what’s done is done.
Maybe they will learn to be better friends next time; maybe they won’t.
Ending the friendship isn’t about them – it’s all about you speaking your mind and letting them know their abuse be tolerated forever.
3) Cut Them Out Entirely
Do this if: Their behavior is extremely damaging to your self-confidence; They are persistent about keeping the friendship alive; They can’t take subtle hints; You need some time for yourself
In some cases, just completely dropping your friend is also a perfectly reasonable resolution. No communication, no heartfelt messages, no attempts to fix things. Cutting out toxic people entirely is the only answer to years of abuse. After mistreating you and failing to hear your needs, you shouldn’t feel the obligation to let them know they have been cut off.
So, what do you do? You can delete them on social media and block their contact details so they can’t reach you.
At this point, this person is no longer your friend, and you shouldn’t feel bad for not wanting to waste another second of your life in their murk of negativity.
Are You The Toxic Friend?
Friendships are a dynamic force. A lot of variables could turn a once happy, fruitful friendship into something hateful and envious.
It could just be that time has taken a toll on both parties and molded you into something either no longer recognizes.
It could be that one of you is giving more than they are receiving. Or it could just be that the friendship has finally reach its end.
At the end of the day, it’s important to ask what you’re bringing to the table. It’s easy to blame the other person for letting the friendship stagnate, or worse, rot.
However, saving your friendship requires some self-reflection.
By doing so, you can bring your best self to every friendship in your life.
Here are some tell-tale signs that you are exhibiting toxic behavior, which may be pushing your friend away:
1. Your friend hangs out with other people but not you
How many times have you heard “I’m sorry, I can’t make it out tonight” only to see them on Instagram or Facebook sharing fun weekend pictures?
Exclusion isn’t always an act of bullying; sometimes it’s the only resort to keep bullies away.
If you’ve been making your friend feel bad about themselves, chances are they’re going to want to spend less and less time with you.
The fact that they make time for other people, but always seem to be inaccessible and busy for you, is a sign that you haven’t been your best self around them.
2. You never hear about bad (or good) news from them
Whether it’s a job promotion or a family tragedy, you never seem to hear these personal stories coming out of their mouth anymore.
You used to be among the first to know about all the good and bad in their life, but now it feels like you have been cut off.
Have you ever displayed insensitivity or insecurity during their time of need? Have you ever shown anything but support and celebration during their time of success? If so, you might have invalidated their feelings in the past, which is why they’re choosing to leave you out of it.
3. You have a history of failed relationships
Do you feel like you’re meeting and losing people every year? Does it feel like you’re reliving relationships again and again?
If you have a revolving door of people in your life, it’s a good sign that you’re bringing the toxicity to every relationship.
At first, it’s hard to realize what’s really going on. You will be tempted to blame other people and tell yourself “real friends won’t act like that”.
But the short turnover of friends in your life shows that you can’t seem to build real relationships with the people around you.
Ask yourself truthfully if this has become a pattern in your life. If the answer is yes, you should take a step back and evaluate what is making you the toxic friend.
Only by accepting that you do have toxic tendencies will you be able to repair your relationships, and create long lasting ones in the future.
Why It’s Important To Weed Out Toxic Friendships
The world we live in can be challenging enough as it is. Friends and family offer respite from frustrations, failures, and daily incongruencies.
They provide stability, support, and help center your being. Toxic friendships do the exact opposite.
They take joy out of the things you’re proud of and make you question your core values. They betray your sense of trust and can influence the way you understand healthy relationships.
Recognizing and weeding out toxic friendships is crucial for your mental health. In a world where so many things can aggravate you, it’s important to build a support system you can truly rely on – one that is built on mutual respect, fondness, and love.
If your friendships are anything but, it’s time to say goodbye and move on to healthier relationships.
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