Have you heard the phrase “If you aren’t losing friends, you aren’t growing”?
Well, based on my three and a half decades of existence, I can confirm this to be mostly true.
When we’re young, things like popularity and image are valued. Hence, we tend to want to hoard social connections.
But as we mature, priorities change–sometimes drastically.
We begin to realize there are certain things in life we could do without, such as friends who drain your energy.
In this article, I’ll go through the signs you’re dealing with a toxic friend.
Are you ready to unload the excess baggage? Let’s dive in!
1) They’re consistently negative
I won’t lie, I can be a bit of a cynic–but these days, I also know my limits.
After all, the world is a dark enough place as it is: wars, corruption, pandemics, hunger, everyone anonymously fighting on social media.
Unless you’re completely detached, it’s hard to escape the negativity of the world. Eventually, this stress wears you down.
In theory, a major reason we keep friends is because we enjoy their energy.
Maybe they’re funny or good storytellers, or they’re loyal or overall just great people.
So when a friend turns out a bit too negative (i.e. constantly complaining, whining, and criticizing), this can get old real quick.
I used to think it was edgy and cool to have a pessimistic persona–that I’d be channeling the energies of my favorite TV and literary characters like Larry David or Holden Caulfield
I soon realized that I had to start separating fiction from reality if I wanted to have a prosperous social life.
While initially finding my offbeat persona humorous, I also noticed most people distancing themselves from me once that novelty wore off, unwilling to be connected to someone
who was a constant downer.
I don’t blame them.
It took real effort on my part to be more pleasant to be around, and I still have a ways to go–but as my growing friend count on Facebook would suggest, trying to change is paying off.
2) They display manipulative behavior
Like any snake oil salesman, the toxic friend might have an underlying motive in seeking your friendship.
Since toxic people often think of themselves first, they’ll skillfully decipher how your company can benefit them–be it financially, socially, etc.
If you’re an easy target, let’s say overly naive or weak-willed, then like a bull seeing red, they will not hesitate to charge full throttle at you.
So stay on your toes–their varying techniques, from feigning victimhood to guilt-tripping, can be incredibly cunning.
Maybe you’re wealthy or popular, hence the toxic friend might use that status to gain clout.
In this case, they don’t really care about you inherently as a person, they’re just using their association with you for self-interest.
I’ll end this section with another relevant nugget of wisdom: “Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.”
Think about it.
3) They don’t show support
A toxic friend might be there for you when you’re down; after all, misery loves company.
When you’re down in the dumps, you’re just a pawn to make them feel better about themselves.
On the flip side, take note of those who are truly there congratulating you, genuinely proud and supportive, when you achieve something of value in life.
If you have a supposedly “good” friend who abruptly goes silent throughout your victories, then this in itself is very telling.
Toxic people don’t want others close to them to succeed; they don’t want to be left behind.
Hence, they might become envious and dismissive of your achievements, constantly downplaying or flat-out ignoring them altogether.
At this point, you’re poised for bigger and better things in life, not unsupportive friends.
4) They violate your boundaries
As a living, breathing, autonomous human being, you’re entitled to your share of boundaries.
When a friend repeatedly violates those boundaries with minimal remorse or understanding, this is a red flag and a blatant display of disrespect.
And as we all know, respect is at the foundation of any functioning friendship.
In my twenties, I had a bit of a drinking problem. I’d regularly get intoxicated to the point of oblivion.
Fed up, I eventually decided to get sober, which was a real challenge, almost herculean, for me–but I was determined.
Being young and energetic, I’d still occasionally go to parties.
At these social functions, certain friends would routinely ask what I was drinking.
When they discovered that I had a mere glass of tonic water with lemon in my hand, they’d get thrown off.
Apparently, “I’m sober” wasn’t a sufficient enough explanation for them, despite how adamant my tone was.
Sometimes, they’d try to guilt-trip me into taking shots with them.
I had to distance myself from this crowd–they frequently undermined my struggle with substance abuse and my goal of getting fully sober.
In short, they didn’t truly care for me or my well-being.
They wanted me to indulge so that it would enhance their own momentary gratification–a behavior that is inherently selfish.
5) They love to gossip
Perhaps I’m a little idealistic, but for me, when you tell a friend something in confidence, then they should keep that information to themselves.
Toxic friends often lack the integrity to keep confidential information a secret; their proclivity to gossip overwhelms any notion of being a faithful friend.
They’ll give in to urges to spill the beans rather than protect you. This makes them a liability and ruins any semblance of trust.
As you grow, you want to surround yourself with people who make you better, and typically gossiping doesn’t fit this pursuit.
The great Eleanor Roosevelt once famously proclaimed: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
6) They’re unreliable
I’ll be blunt, being unreliable is such a turnoff.
Why? Because it basically communicates how inconsiderate one can be as a person.
Toxic people tend to put themselves first.
If you notice a friend consistently failing to keep promises or showing up abnormally late for meetings, you better call them out before things get out of hand.
One of my cousins used to perpetually be a minimum of thirty minutes late.
He always had his pool of excuses: traffic, his car broke down, he got into a fight with his girlfriend.
Although I used to give him a pass, eventually I caught on–his lack of punctuality and urgency simply meant a lack of respect for others.
One time, he was late for a concert I had gotten us tickets to, citing rush hour traffic.
I lost it.
I exasperatedly told him it was the last time that I invited him to anything.
I began to gradually distance myself.
Soon after, he began showing up on time to family gatherings. In fact, there were a couple of instances where he was actually early. I took this as a sign of improvement.
Sometimes, you need to rock the boat a little to get people to drop their toxic habits.
7) They make sarcastic or belittling jokes
If a toxic friend feels threatened by you, they might actively hurl sarcastic jabs in your direction, hoping to belittle you and make you feel small.
They don’t want you getting ahead of them, so they’ll do what they can to subtly attack your self-worth.
True friends want the best for each other, but toxic friends? Not so much.
When you get fed up and express your displeasure with their attitude, they play innocent.
They might label you “overly sensitive” and that their snide remarks were nothing more than “harmless jokes.”
Go with your gut.
8) They’re selective communicators
This one is surprisingly common.
Does your friend only get communicative when they need help or are going through something?
Maybe they’ll dominate the conversation, using any feedback as fuel to go on one of their trademark self-absorbed monologues.
In which case, you’re nothing more than a glorified, unpaid shrink.
Yet the minute, you open up about your own struggles, they shut down or turn their attention to Instagram almost immediately, offering you the occasional unenthused, monosyllabic response, at best.
Friendship should be about sharing, about give and take, about acts of selflessness.
You deserve better.
Nobody is perfect.
Maybe your friend needs a wake-up call to see things clearly. So talk to them, thoroughly voice your concerns.
They too deserve the opportunity to change.
Who knows, maybe salvaging your union is still possible.
But if you’ve exhausted your attempts, and they’re still being toxic, then cut your losses and move on.
When it comes to friends, there are plenty of fish in the sea.
Distancing yourself from the toxic fish might be your best bet.