How to spot a toxic friend: 14 signs to look out for

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The harsh reality is: Toxic people can be found everywhere — and yes, they can even be your friends.

It’s not always easy to determine if you’re in a toxic friendship. You’ve become so close with them that you can’t see their behavior for what it is. 

Sure, all types of relationships have their highs and lows. But if your friend always seems to knock you down instead of building you up, then you’ve got to assess if the friendship is worth keeping.

Without further ado, here are some of the most common signs and behaviors of a toxic friend.

1) They constantly criticize you

Of course, we want our friends to always be honest with us. But there’s a big difference between constructive criticism and cruelty.

Does your friend often give you comments that feel hurtful? Do they always find fault in everything you do? 

All of these are signs of a toxic friend. When someone genuinely cares for you, they’ll find ways to offer feedback without the need to tear you down. 

They’ll tell you the truth with compassion because their motivation is to help you. 

2) They dominate all conversations and decision-making

Friends are supposed to be equals, which means that compromise is necessary for a healthy friendship to thrive.

But if you have a friend who seems to have the upper hand in everything, that’s a sign that you may be in a toxic friendship.

This happens when they talk too much and never hear you out. They disregard your opinions and feelings and get upset when things don’t go their way.

And it can get worse: They make you feel guilty for not letting them call the shots.

3) They don’t take responsibility for mistakes

Have you tried talking to your friend about a time when you felt hurt about what they said or did but they wouldn’t have any of it?

Yes, it’s not always easy to apologize for mistakes. But if your friend always stays stubborn and refuses to admit when they’re wrong, it’s a sign that they may be toxic.

It takes a true, mature friend to be accountable for their decisions and actions. Any indication of egoistic behavior is a red flag. 

If a person wants to keep a friendship healthy and sustainable, they should know when and how to say sorry and try to make amends. 

4) They’re often rude

Friends can tease each other and have fun from time to time. 

But consider this: Does your friend…

  • Insult you?
  • Embarrass you in front of others?
  • Make fun of you to make you feel inferior?
  • Make fun of you by attacking your character and identity?
  • Crack bad or offensive jokes directed at you?

If you said yes to these, it’s a sign that you might be in a toxic friendship.

A good friend will never humiliate you, disrespect you, or make you feel small.

5) They never reach out

Are you putting almost all of the effort to make the friendship work? Do you feel like if you stop initiating and planning meetups, you would never hear from your friend again?

Another sign that a friendship may be toxic is if it’s one-sided

No matter how busy they are, real friends will make time for you because they care for you.

Even if they can’t meet you in person, they will always find ways to check in with you. They will show interest in you and reciprocate your efforts.

This brings me to my next point….

6) They only remember you when they need something from you

Friendships are about give and take. 

But if it sinks into a pattern of you always doing the giving and your friend taking more than they give, it’s a sign of a toxic, one-sided friendship.

You know, that toxic friend who expects you to do everything for them but never returns the favor.

They’ll only call you or reach out when they have a problem but they’re seldom available when you need them.

They take advantage of your knowledge, connections, skills, and generosity, but give nothing in return. 

7) They’re always about themselves

Here’s the deal: If your friend is self-centered, which means they only ever want to talk about themselves, it’s a huge sign of emotional toxicity. 

This usually happens when you’re in the middle of sharing something and they end up directing the conversation back to themselves.

It’s like they have no interest in learning more about how your life is going. 

Again, you have to ask yourself if the friendship is healthy and balanced. When you feel like it’s always a monologue and not an exchange, the friendship may not be worth it after all.

8) They don’t support you

Think about this for a minute: Do you often feel that your friend doesn’t get excited when something good happens to you? 

Do they change the conversation or say something nasty every time you update them about major changes in your life?

Say, for example, you have a healthy relationship with your partner but you had a conflict. Does your friend use the situation to try to sabotage the relationship? 

If so, then it’s a major sign of a toxic friendship. A genuine friend will share in your excitement. 

They won’t be present in all of your milestones, but they’ll find a way to offer support.

Plus, they won’t turn their back on you when things get rough. 

9) They’re envious of you

Don’t get me wrong. It’s normal to feel jealous of a friend’s success from time to time.

But if that friend allows bitterness and envy to consume them and get into the heart of the friendship, that’s a sign of toxic behavior. 

This can be a very sad experience because you want your friend to genuinely celebrate your life alongside you.

You know you deserve better than friends who pick away at your success, refuse to congratulate you on your achievements or choose to compare themselves to you. 

10) They compete with you

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. A little bit of friendly competition is also good. But remember that the keyword there is “friendly.”

If they’re always looking to one-up you and make you feel like you’ve achieved little in comparison to them, that’s a sign of a toxic friend.

You know they take the jealousy way too far when they turn everything into a big competition

11) They gossip about you

Ah, this one’s a classic. You may think that endless gossiping is far too common, but it can be the fastest way to ruin a good friendship.

That’s because it destroys the credibility and trust in a long-term bond.

If your friend gossips about you behind your back or shares things that were meant to be a secret, that’s a sign of a toxic friend.

Anyone who betrays you or lies to you or others does not have your best interests in mind. 

12) They’re inconsistent

Is your friend a sometime-ish person?

You know, the type of person who always makes you wonder if they’re really committed to the friendship?

You get frustrated because you schedule a meetup with them but you’re always unsure if they’re going to follow through.

And it gets worse: They make all kinds of excuses and cancel plans with you last minute when something “better” comes up. 

A real friend won’t make you think twice about where they stand with you. They will show up because they respect you, your time, and your friendship. 

13) They disrespect your boundaries

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial to any relationship.

Friends should make you feel comfortable, at the very least. 

If they pressure you into doing something that you don’t want to do, that’s a sign of toxic behavior.

A true friend will never violate the boundaries you’ve set. They will listen to you when you say “no” and they won’t put you in a situation that makes you feel insecure. 

14) They drain you and manipulate you

If you always feel stressed, trapped, or not your best self when you’re with your friend, it’s an indication that the relationship is harming your emotional and mental health.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you feel that you can’t speak up your mind so you walk on eggshells around them to avoid conflict?
  • Do they make you feel threatened or unsafe?
  • Do they lash out whenever they disagree with you?
  • Do they minimize your feelings or guilt-trip you?
  • Are they negative about everything all the time?

One of the major signs of a toxic friend is someone who often leaves you feeling uninspired and depressed.

Final thoughts

So, can you really break up with a toxic friend?

I believe it’s always good to speak up about how you’re feeling. If you feel in your heart of hearts that the friendship is worth saving, give them the opportunity to correct what’s wrong.

But if they don’t do something about it, it’s time to consider walking away from the toxic friend. 

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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