Do you have a friend who does and says things that often upset you? Maybe it’s a childhood friend or a coworker you’ve grown close to. Unlike other people in your life, this friend frequently causes tension amongst your friends, but it’s hard to tell if this person just needs everyone to be a bit more forgiving or if they’re toxic.
The tricky thing with friends is that we have plenty of love and appreciation for them, and sometimes that same love can blind us to their bad behavior and the negative ways they affect our lives. However, it’s important to know the common warning signs that someone is not only toxic, but harmful to your mental health.
If someone in your life matches the following 10 warning signs, it might be time to re-evaluate their friendship. It is important to note that you can love someone and not be friends with them.
1. It’s All About Them And Their Problems
Look out for a friend who only comes around when things are going well with them or they need something from you, like advice. They may call you for a full hour to talk about their problems, then throw out a half-hearted “how are you?” before immediately turning the conversation back to themselves.
In the same token, these friends are often unreachable when you need them. No matter who the person is, both giving support and receiving it is critical to keep relationships healthy and stable.
2. They Don’t Respect You Nor Your Boundaries
Mutual respect is a necessary foundation for a healthy relationship. Sometimes friends consider it a sign of closeness to ignore your boundaries when in reality they are taking advantage of you. Maybe your friend pressures you to go out when you’re trying to relax and rest or they borrow your clothes and jewelry without asking. It may seem that they consider it a badge of honor to be close enough to you to access your time and things, but at the end of the day, you feel disrespected, unheard, and uncared for.
Look out for this type of behavior among friends. Such a friend may not have bad intentions, but their inconsiderate behavior can’t be ignored.
3. They’re Trying to Change You
While it’s important to share things in common, friendships thrive when two people are able to express and celebrate each other’s differences. If you’re in a toxic relationship, your friend might be asking you to be someone you’re not. They may recognize the things you dislike and put you in uncomfortable situations or they may ask you to talk, dress, or behave differently. While it’s important for friends to lovingly challenge each other and encourage each other to stop potential harmful behaviors, it becomes harmful when they are pressuring you to compromise your character.
4. There’s Always Drama
The most noteworthy sign of a toxic relationship is when an individual incites drama wherever they go. When they’re around, there’s always chaos, either because they're always arguing with someone and causing problems, or because unbelievable things keep happening to them.
Be aware of drama and do not encourage it. Stand up for your friends and let go of the need to have the final word.
5. You Feel Uncomfortable Around Them
Sometimes you meet and befriend someone who makes you feel uncomfortable—you’re not sure why, but you have an uneasy feeling when you’re with them. Spending time with a close friend should make you feel good, generally speaking. Maybe spending time with one particular friend leaves you uneasy or upset.
If you notice this unsettled feeling, consider taking a closer look at yourself and your friendship. Do you feel uncomfortable because you lack familiarity or are you uncomfortable because you don’t feel safe? Look for other signs that things aren’t quite right before you determine that this relationship is toxic.
6. They’re Unpredictable
Some people are pretty fun to be around! However, some friends edge into the territory of being unpredictable. While unpredictability alone doesn’t necessarily indicate someone is toxic, you should be watchful for when their words and actions cause you to feel fearful, self-conscious, or attacked. Maybe they get irritated and shout at you over tiny things, like forgetting to turn off the TV or not returning a jacket they lent you and then act as if nothing happened the next minute.
If that’s the case, proceed with caution because if you never know how they’ll react, you might have a hard time feeling comfortable around them.
7. They Gossip Regularly
Gossip often breeds mistrust and suspicion, especially if your friend constantly gossips about other people. If you hear them talk poorly about others, it’s easy to assume they may talk about you to other people and cannot be trusted with your secrets. Sometimes, you’re not hearing your friend talk about someone else, but you hear information about yourself from someone you didn’t share it with. Nothing breaks trust in a friendship faster than gossip, especially if it’s habitual.
Anyone can slip up and say things they shouldn’t, but toxic friends seem to enjoy spreading secrets around, even when you ask them to keep personal information private.
Another tip when it comes to gossip is avoid engaging in it. It can be so hard, however gossip always reflects more on the person gossiping rather than the person being gossiped about. Additionally, if you make it clear that you are not okay with gossip, then you can lead your friends in choosing to build others up.
8 .They Rarely Apologize
We all mess up, but part of respecting our friends is owning our mistakes, apologizing, and committing to changed behavior. Toxic friends, on the other hand, tend to avoid apologizing or offer a flippant, “sorry,” when you call them out on their behavior.
Instead of taking time to consider your perspective, they’ll say, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or follow up their apology with a defensive “but.” These non-apologies suggest that your friend doesn’t really care how their actions affect you.
9. They Constantly Put You Down
Unlike other people in your circle of friends, toxic friends rarely compliment or praise you. In fact, they never gas you up nor congratulate you on your achievements. Instead, they're much more likely to kick you when you're down and rarely make you feel good about yourself. They also might pout when others are encouraging you.
The result? You’re rarely happy or relaxed around them and you tend to feel drained of your energy.
10. They’re Often Jealous Of Your Other Friends
A toxic friend will have a hard time sharing you with other friends and tend to get really jealous when you’re with other people.
A toxic person shifts blame and tries to put a wedge between you and your existing friendships. "They are extremely jealous of your friends and will even go so far as to tell you you're their only friend, and you're the only person they care about," said psychologist and therapist Perpetua Neo, "even if you're on a date they expect you to drop everything for them."
It’s likely that a few of your friends exhibit one or two of these patterns. It’s important to remember to have grace and humility when considering which of your friends are potentially toxic. Everyone is deeply flawed and likely to mess up now and again. In fact, while these 10 observations are focused on your friend, it’s important to be self-reflective to make sure you’re not the toxic person in your friendship. Take the time and read over these points as though they’re referring to you and look for ways you can avoid these behaviors and be a better friend!
If you do notice pretty clear toxic traits in a friend, then it’s time for a conversation with them. You know your friend and what they’re mental and emotional triggers are. Keep these triggers in mind and try to avoid those landmines as you tee up a conversation with them.
We recommend prefacing the conversation beforehand so they don’t feel blind-sided and be very transparent with how their actions affect you. Use feeling language and “I” language to express yourself and be patient if your friend gets defensive. For some potentially toxic friends, this will be a helpful and welcomed conversation. For others, this conversation feels attacking and aggressive and you might have it multiple times before any significant change occurs. Whatever happens, remember, your mental health is valuable and worth protecting. If a friend is not committed to fixing their behavior to better love and care for you then it’s okay to take a step back from that relationship.
We are in the business of resolving conflict and restoring relationships rather than confronting and accusing. Our hope is that you can lovingly bring to light toxic traits and help the people in your life grow and turn away from their toxic behavior. We also highly recommend counseling. If your friend is willing to go to counseling with you, it can be incredibly helpful to have a licensed counselor help you navigate your relationship! However, there are friendships that should not continue due to repetitive toxic behavior, so remember, you can love someone and not be friends with them.
Some of you may read this and not relate, and that is okay. Be thankful you have good friends. Tell them why you are thankful for their friendship and continue to be a good friend to them.