8 subtle signs you need new friends, according to psychology

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Everyone always talks about how complex romantic relationships are, but very few of us acknowledge that our friendships can be just as complicated, if not more.

Ever heard that saying that you’re the summary of the five people closest to you?

Yeah. That’s exactly why the people you pick as your friends matter a great deal.

So, are your friends the kind of people you truly want in your life? Or are they more of a negative factor, bringing you down and decreasing your well-being without you even realizing it?

Here’s how to find out.

What follows is a list of 8 subtle signs you need new friends.

1) You tune down your personality when you’re around them

Is there a worse feeling than applying a filter over everything you say just to fit in?

Didn’t think so.

When you’re with friends who don’t value you for who you are or who are on a completely different wavelength, you might try to tune down your personality or change it to appear a bit more like them. This is completely understandable.

However, you could lose a little bit of yourself in the process. Before you know it, you’ve turned into someone you don’t recognize, someone who is so far away from your authentic core that you don’t even like yourself anymore.

Psychologist Gail Gross PhD describes it very well when she says:

“Nothing is worse in friendship or relationship than feeling your friend is so high-maintenance that you can never be your essential self or meet your needs, that you are not liked or valued for how you are but for how you perform.”

If you feel like the way you act around your friends is more a performance than a genuine expression of who you are…

I’m sorry to say it’s a red flag.

2) They rarely listen to what you have to say

I once had a friend who loved to ramble on about herself every time we met. This and of itself was no big deal – we all like to share tidbits about our lives, after all – if it weren’t for her complete lack of interest in my own life.

Each time I opened my mouth to speak, it was as if she automatically blanked out. Her replies were unenthusiastic at best, and during our conversations, it was more than obvious she was only waiting her turn so that she could divert the attention back to herself.

We weren’t having dialogues but rather one-sided monologues that brought nothing of value to one another’s lives.

When we said goodbye, I always felt deflated because I knew my friend probably wouldn’t have even noticed if someone else had taken my place.

All she wanted was a pair of ears willing to listen to her.

Over time, our friendship fizzled out. And I felt as if I had lost…nothing.

That’s how you know you need new friends.

3) They aren’t your cheerleaders

That friend I mentioned?

She also gave me the most disappointing reactions whenever I brought up an achievement of mine.

After a few in-depth conversations, I realized that the reason she couldn’t root for me and cheer me on was that she often compared her own successes to mine, so every time I won something, it only reminded her that she didn’t.

Yeah. It wasn’t great.

Now that I have a new group of friends, the difference is absolutely mind-blowing. Every time I share something – however small or insignificant in the large scheme of things – I receive the most positive reaction I could have wished for.

My friends want to see me succeed because my happiness doesn’t intimidate them. It inspires them to follow their own dreams, too.

So, I’m inviting you to ask yourself:

  • Do my friends seem genuinely excited when I share a success of mine?
  • Do my friends display envy or bitterness when talking about my achievements?
  • When I reach a goal of mine, do I feel a genuine desire to share it with my friends?

Your answers will say a great deal about the kinds of friendships you have.

4) They get upset when things don’t go their way

Friendships comprise many important factors, from a sense of understanding to trust and reliability.

But the most important foundation of it all is…

Respect.

When you and your friends have an inherent sense of respect for each other, you won’t cross one another’s boundaries or put each other in uncomfortable situations.

What’s more, you won’t flip out if your friend’s wishes clash with yours – instead, you’ll try to reach some sort of compromise.

 “The beautiful thing about strong friendships is that they provide the freedom to communicate openly and honestly,” writes counselor Suzanne Degges-White PhD.

If your friend lacks the flexibility to accept your opinions and decisions and gets upset every time things don’t go their way, that freedom to be honest disappears because you might be scared to bring up your concerns or to go against your friend’s wishes.

The result?

An unhealthy dynamic where your friend has the upper hand and where you constantly walk on eggshells.

As someone who has been through a few toxic friendships myself, I know just how difficult it is to tip the dynamic back into a healthy position of balance and peace. If you and your friend can’t reach that place together…

It might be time to get a new friend. Just saying.

5) You can’t rely on them to be there for you when you need them

Know those friends who are in contact with you out of convenience?

You might have class together or hang out at work. You might be friends of a friend and often find yourselves in the same group settings.

Once your paths begin to diverge, however… you suddenly haven’t spoken in three months and don’t know where the time has gone.

Of course, it’s normal for friendships to fluctuate and change over time.

But the true test of your friendship comes when you reach out to your friend asking them for help or emotional support. It comes when you really need them to be there for you.

And if they’re not…

What does that say about their priorities?

You deserve to have friends you can count on, friends who have your best interests at heart, friends who would never let you down.

Friends born of convenience are fine and all, but they don’t make for great companions when the sky comes crashing down.

Psychotherapist Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS, agrees. 

She says that a good friend is “trustworthy and reliable. This is very important. Someone who cares about you will be there when they say they will and hold themselves accountable to promises made. They will follow through, and you can rely on them.”

6) They give you back-handed compliments and make hurtful jokes

One of my friends at university would always make some kind of hurtful joke and pass it off as “brutal honesty” or a “good sense of humor”.

When I pointed out I didn’t find her jokes funny and actually felt very uncomfortable when she made them, she’d just roll her eyes, saying, “It’s just a joke. Look, that’s who I am. I’m a jokey person. You don’t need to take it that seriously.”

This was my cue to end the friendship.

While some people are more “jokey” or “sarcastic” than others, that doesn’t give them the right to say things that make their friends feel bad about themselves.

Back-handed compliments (“I didn’t expect you to do so well on that essay, well done!”) and hurtful jokes aren’t something you should have to deal with.

Once you tell your friend their behavior upsets you, the only legitimate reaction is to try to understand you better and to apologize. Not to roll their eyes, dismiss you, or get defensive.

Trust me, there are people out there who would never wound you under the guise of humor. People who can be funny without being hurtful.

7) The only thing you have in common is your past

Sometimes, people grow apart.

And that’s okay.

The issue is that many people hold on to each other for longer than they should just because they share a common past.

But if your memories of what happened five years ago are the only bond you have… that’s really not a lot.

Is your friendship really still beneficial to both parties? Or are you only friends because that’s what you’re used to – even though you actually have very few things to talk about and don’t have much fun hanging out?

If it’s the latter, you might need to expand your social network and find people who your present self – not who you were at high school – truly gets along with.

8) Your friends aren’t a positive force in your life

Okay, here’s my last question for you.

Do your friends make your life better?

It’s normal to run into misunderstandings or to have arguments from time to time, but overall, your friendships ought to be a safe place where you feel free to be your authentic self.

If you’re feeling unsure, write it all down. What are the positives your friends bringinto your life (emotional support, a sense of understanding, connection, intellectual stimulation, etc.)?

And what are the negatives?

Your answers will tell you everything you need to know.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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