23 Things Toxic Friends Do, and How To Cut Them Off14 min read

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It’s sad when you don’t have friends to share nice experiences with. However, being alone is better than having toxic friends, because they would ruin your experiences and make you miserable. And the worst part is that you may not even know it’s them. In fact, very toxic friends might end up convincing you that you are the problem.

What Is Toxic Vs True Friends?

If you were a rocket, a true friend is the thrust that pushes you upward, whilst a toxic friend is the invisible gravity pulling you down. True friends want what’s best for you so they support you to succeed and be happy. While a toxic friend may be unconcerned or may wish you bad, so would not be inclined to support you to succeed and be happy, but may rather hold you back,  use you, or even harm you.

For example, a good friend might constantly share tips they found online for growing your followers on social media and would be genuinely happy if they see you blow up. But a toxic friend may keep criticizing your content, feel jealous about your growth, and try to downplay your success if you go viral. 

Even though this example seems minor, a toxic friendship is very harmful as it permeates your entire life – be it finances, health, or emotional well-being. Toxic friendships do not improve your life and also stand in the way of beneficial relationships (it’s like cancer cutting off nutrients to other parts of your life). 

And, as I mentioned earlier, it can be hard to tell when a friend is toxic or true, so in the next section we will highlight some red flags to watch out for.

“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.”

— Arnold H. Glasow

What are the signs of toxic friends?

When it comes to spotting toxic friends in your life, it is less about what they say, but how they say it and what they do. 

So, what are things toxic friends do? Toxic friends exhibit a plethora of negative behaviors that can harm you physically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, financially, relationally, and so on. Below are some common things toxic friends do: 

A toxic friend may

Manipulate you: 

Toxic friends may use guilt and shame as tools to manipulate you into doing things for them. For example, they may ask you to buy them something as a way to apologize or atone for missing their presentation. In case you didn’t know, a gift should only be given because you want to, not because you’re being forced to.

Also Read: How Do You Give Something Without Expecting Anything Back (Yet Get More Than You Gave)?

Betray your trust: 

Toxic friends may gossip about you, break promises, or reveal personal information without your permission. For example, a toxic friend may tell people you’re HIV positive, or that you’ve been a victim of rape in the past despite knowing the stigma that comes with those.

Also Read: How To Get People To Trust You

Constantly put you down: 

Toxic friends may belittle you or make disparaging comments about your choices, appearance, or abilities. For example, they may say your partner is ugly, call you fat, or insist people overhype your work. 

Be excessively needy: 

Toxic friends may constantly demand your attention and time, and become upset or angry when you are unable to meet their demands. For example, they may invite you for a drink in the evening despite knowing you’ve got a job interview the next day, or a partner who might also want you around.

Make you feel responsible for their emotions: 

Toxic friends may blame you for their problems or emotional issues and may make you feel responsible for their happiness or well-being. For example, they may say they are sad because you didn’t buy them something they asked for, or tell you they are unhappy because you didn’t do their homework for them.

Be competitive: 

Toxic friends may constantly compete with you, and may feel threatened by your accomplishments or successes. A toxic friend may try to make moves on your crush, or even seduce your partner. They may also try to get the exact shoe you bought, or maybe a more expensive one.

Control or dominate you: 

Toxic friends may try to control your decisions or actions and may become angry or upset when you do not follow their lead. For example, they may stop speaking with you if you start going out with someone they don’t like. They may also get furious that you insist on traveling to see your family despite their request for you to stay back.

Also Read: Why You Need To Talk To Your Parents More Often

Judge you: 

Toxic friends may criticize or judge your choices, lifestyle, or values, and may make you feel like you are not good enough. For example, they may call you a hypocrite for failing to abide 100% by your principles. A toxic friend may also mock your decision to be a taxi driver or an artist rather than get a regular job.

Be dismissive or insensitive: 

Toxic friends may disregard your feelings or needs, and may not take your concerns seriously. For example, they may organise a party or buy new clothes despite knowing you’re mourning a loved one, or suffering a fresh heartbreak.

Create drama: 

Toxic friends may enjoy stirring up drama or conflict, and may thrive on the attention or excitement it brings. For example, when you have disagreements, they may choose to yell and break things instead of actually talking and finding solutions.

Also Read: What Is Emotional Intelligence And How To Develop It (In 4 Steps)?

Exploit you: 

Toxic friends may only be interested in maintaining the friendship when it benefits them, such as when they need something from you. For example, a toxic friend may not talk, or hang out with you until it is time for exams, and they need you to put them through, or want to sit next to you (so they can copy your answers).

Encourage negative behavior:

Toxic friends may encourage you to engage in risky or unhealthy behaviors, and may not have your best interests at heart. For example, a toxic friend might encourage you to smoke weed, punch someone in the face, or cheat on your partner.

Also Read: Peer Pressure And How To Use It To Your Advantage

Be passive-aggressive: 

Toxic friends may use subtle or indirect communication to express their frustrations or anger, which can be confusing and emotionally draining. For example, a toxic friend might say they wish they had a prettier or more reliable friend, thereby insinuating that you are none of those.

Gaslight you: 

Toxic friends may make you doubt your own feelings or perceptions, making it difficult for you to trust yourself or make decisions. For example, if they clearly made fun of you in front of other people and you confronted them about it, they may deny it by saying something like “I don’t know what you are talking about”, or “You are overreacting. No  one saw it that way”.

Be unsupportive: 

Toxic friends may not be there for you during difficult times, or may not offer you the support or encouragement you need. For example, if you fall ill or need financial support, they may not show up, but rather give you excuses. 

Be conceited/narcissistic: 

Toxic friends may only talk about themselves and their problems, and may not be interested in your life or experiences. For example, they may always talk about their new business deals or the new person they are dating without bothering to ask how your job is going, or if you’ve been able to find a new person after their last breakup. They may not even show enthusiasm when you bring up your personal experiences.

Sabotage your other relationships: 

Toxic friends may try to interfere with your other relationships, either by discouraging you from spending time with other friends or by spreading rumors or lies about them. For example, a toxic friend might keep telling you that your other friends are lazy, less educated, or some other quality you may not particularly like about them, but have been overlooking as a friend. They may also tell your other friends that you don’t really like them.

Also Read: Dear Introvert Friend: (Why And) How To Connect With People You Don’t Know, Easily

Be intrusive and invasive: 

Toxic friends may invade your privacy and meddle in your personal affairs without your permission. For example, a toxic friend may text an apology message to your partner (who you’re still mad at), or take some of your foodstuffs without your knowledge or permission.

Also Read: The Guide to Strong Relationship Boundaries

Make you feel bad for your boundaries: 

Toxic friends may become angry or upset when you try to set boundaries or assert your own needs, making you feel guilty or selfish for prioritizing your own well-being. For example, they may get upset when you refuse to pick up their calls late at night, or when you deny them access to your wardrobe.

Refuse to take responsibility: 

Toxic friends may blame others for their mistakes or problems, and may never take responsibility for their own actions. For example, they may blame you for not helping them study for an exam, or for not stopping them from picking a fight after they fail or get injured respectively.

Be dishonest: 

Toxic friends may lie to you or keep secrets, which can erode trust and make it difficult to maintain a healthy friendship. For example, they may not tell you about a scholarship opportunity that was available for everyone or may lie about breaking your favorite cup.

Also Read: 5 Laws of Healthy Relationships

Offer Conditional Love: 

Toxic friends may only show care and attention only when you meet certain criteria rather than loving and accepting you unconditionally. For example, a toxic friend may only be friends as long as you still pay for the drinks and food, or stop associating with you when you screw up big time (like get pregnant, or arrested). The latter example does not suggest bad behaviours should be condoled in a friendship, but that good friends don’t abandon friends when things get messy.

Catastrophize your ideas and wishes: 

Toxic friends may imagine and/or exaggerate negative possibilities about your ideas and wishes leading to unnecessary anxiety and stress. For example, they may start warning you about the danger of car accidents, robbery, or viruses when you inform them you wish to travel. They may also start talking about cheating and STDs when you tell them about a new person you’re seeing. 

Also Read: Why You Shouldn’t Listen to People’s Opinions and Advice

“Like arsenic, toxic people will slowly kill you. They kill your positive spirit and play with your mind and emotions. The only cure is to let them go.”

— Dennisse Lisseth

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How do you politely end a friendship?

Whilst no one is perfect, and everyone slips once in a while, toxic friends seem to sustain that unhealthy pattern for way too long, and would remain adamant even when confronted

If you’ve noticed too many red flags in a particular friend and wish to end the friendship, it is important that you avoid blaming and verbally attacking them as this would lead to needless bad blood between you two. 

Needless to say, ending a friendship intentionally and politely can be a difficult and uncomfortable situation to handle. Nonetheless, it’s important to end a toxic friendship as much as it is important to escape gravity if you want to reach for the stars. 

Here are some tips on how to politely end a friendship:

Think about the decision: 

Start by being honest with yourself about why you want to end the friendship. Perhaps you feel the friendship is lopsided or that the other person has done something that you can’t forgive. Whatever the reason, it’s important to be clear about the reason, as well as to be truthful with yourself and the other person.

Also Read: 10 Ways To Develop Self-Awareness as a Young Adult [The Beginner’s Guide]

Choose the right time and place: 

When you’re ready to talk to the other person, choose a time and place where you both feel comfortable and won’t be interrupted. It’s better to have this kind of conversation face-to-face, so if you’re not too far away, don’t do it over a text or call.

Be kind and respectful: 

Even if you’re upset or hurt, it’s important to be kind and respectful to the other person. Remember that they may be unaware of their toxic attitudes, hence confused and hurt by your decision. So, try to be empathetic and understanding.

You can say something like, “I want you to know that I value the time we spent together and I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. But, I feel we’ve grown apart over the years, and I’m no longer happy with the friendship”

Be clear and direct: 

Don’t beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat the situation. Be clear and direct about why you want to end the friendship.

Example: “I’ve been thinking about our friendship a lot lately and I’ve come to the realization that it’s not working for me anymore.”

Also Read: Are You A People Pleaser? [+ How To Stop Being Too Nice In 3 Simple Steps]

Pay attention to them:

It’s important to pay attention to their reactions and responses. Perhaps they have questions or their own complaints about the friendship. It could be a time to learn so you don’t leave the friendship with baggage or misconceptions.

Also Read: 31 Ways To Strengthen Your Friendships (With Examples)

Offer closure:  

Offer closure to the other person by acknowledging their feelings and offering a way to stay in touch if you’re comfortable with that. It is okay to still say hi when you run into each other. 

The aim of the official end of the friendship is so they know you’re no longer obligated to them – you are no longer expecting anything from them and neither should they expect from you. 

Don’t offer a shoulder to cry on:

Also, remember you are not responsible for their emotional well-being. Some very toxic friends might want to guilt trip you into feeling sorry for them.

For example, they may feign depression, and blame it on you, but remember this is a huge red flag and an indicator that your decision to end the friendship was in order.

“You can love them, forgive them, want good things for them… but still move on without them.”

― Mandy Hale

Conclusion: “Take Care of You”

I have a friend who always ends our chat with the phrase, “Take care of you”. The first time I got the response, it felt both sweet and liberating. But now, I think it’s also wise and right. You really should take care of yourself like something special – like a flower garden, or a goldmine.

“Toxicity at work, relationship or in life works as a slow poison which often ends its survivors as disillusioned or embittered.”

― Abhysheq Shukla

I enjoy writing long-form SEO content for self-help and personal development blogs. I can also do simple graphics design and copywriting. I’m an author, coach, logician, introvert, and storyteller. I love simplicity.

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