How do you think your friends would describe you? Honest, kind, or thoughtful? Do you think they see you as a caring and loving friend? Do you feel that they lean on you for comfort and support during their times of need? Are you always there for them when they need you the most? Or do these things apply more to them than they do to you?
If you’re lucky enough to have friends like this, then you definitely don’t want to take them from granted. Finding someone so compassionate and selfless is already hard enough. You wouldn’t want to push them away by being a bad friend, now would you? Yet, human as we are, we make mistakes. And sometimes we may not realize that we are already hurting the people we love until it’s too late.
With that said, here are 7 warning signs that you may be becoming a toxic friend to others:
1. You’re Needy.
Even though we may not like to admit it, sometimes we need people a lot more than they need us — and that’s okay! What’s not okay, however, is being so needy and clingy that we start to burden people with our so-called “friendship.” Do you call up your friend at the first sight of trouble and frequently rely on them to get you out of tough situations? Are you overly possessive and get upset with them for spending time with their other friends instead of you? Do you need them to reaffirm your self-esteem and make you feel like you’re good enough every time you feel down about yourself? Sad to say, if you demand much more than you are giving in a friendship, it can quickly turn toxic once you let your neediness get the better of you (Crick & Nelson, 2002).
2. You’re Controlling.
Another way you may be hurting your friends without even realizing it is by being too controlling of them (Crothers, Field, & Kolbert, 2005). When you try to tell them what to do, who they can spend time with, and make their decisions for them, you are treating them like they are your property and forgetting that they are their own person. You want to know what their plans are and what they’re doing when they’re not with you because you’re afraid of getting left behind. You fear they might find better friends and not want to be with you the moment they do. But what you don’t understand is that the more you try to control your friends, the more they will want to break free of you and your toxic friendship.
3. You’re Inconsiderate.
Healthy friendships are all about compromise and mutual agreement, but when it comes to you and your friends, you’re the one who always gets what you want. You get upset when they don’t agree with you and what you want to do until they have no choice but to give in. You don’t even hear them out when they try to explain their side of things because all you really care about is fulfilling your own wants and needs. You cancel on plans at the last minute, show up late and make everyone else wait for you, and always insist on doing things your way, even at their expense. When was the last time you even thanked them for all the sacrifices they’ve made for you? Or actually stopped to think about how your actions would affect them? If you can’t remember, then it shows just what an inconsiderate friend you’ve been to them.
4. You Give Unsolicited Advice.
When you give your friends advice even though they don’t ask for it, what is it you’re really trying to do? Because the more often you do it, the less likely your friends are to appreciate it. Giving unsolicited advice is like giving your unwanted opinion; it comes off as judgmental, bossy, and self-righteous. It sends a message that you think you know better than them or that you are always right. But the truth is, all your friends wanted was for you to lend them an ear and show them a little sympathy, not to try and solve all their problems for them! Psychology says that people who give unsolicited advice do so not because they necessarily care about those receiving it, but because it gives them a sense of control and superiority (Meyers, 2017).
5. You Act Critical of Them.
While you may be convinced that what you’re doing is just “tough love” and that your friends need to hear it, being harsh and overly critical is a common trait among those who are toxic for our mental health (Masheter, 2007). Sure, you can tell yourself it comes from a place of love and care, but when you attack your friend for every little mistake and flaw that they have, it does a lot more harm than good. You always make sure to let them know just what you think is wrong about what they’re doing and pointing out all their shortcomings to them. But really, what good is it doing? You’re only making them feel worse about their failures and hurting their self-esteem when you should be comforting them and being a supportive friend.
6. You Talk More About Yourself Than Them.
Try to recall the last few conversations you had with your friend. Who was it about more: you or them? Are you usually the one who does most of the talking? Do you interrupt them in the middle of saying something? Or feign enthusiasm with a “That sounds nice” or “Oh, I know what you mean,” only to steer the topic back to you again? Even if you don’t intend to be, this kind of self-absorbed behavior shows that you care more about yourself than you do about your friend. Healthy friendships are all about taking turns listening to one another, so when you fail to strike a good balance in your friendship, it can quickly take a turn for the worse and become toxic for them (Livingston, 2016).
7. You’re Not Happy For Their Success.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, if you can’t be happy for your friend when they accomplish something, it may mean that you see them as more than a rival than a friend. Although it’s normal to feel jealous of other people from time to time, it’s never good to be so envious of your friends that you can’t celebrate their success. Instead of rooting for them and cheering them on like a good friend would, you find yourself competing against them and secretly hoping to see them fail. And the more they succeed, the more bitter, insecure, and resentful you feel about them (Hamric, 2019).
Do you relate to any of the signs mentioned here? Are you worried you may be turning into a toxic friend? If you answered yes, don’t worry. It’s not too late yet! It’s good that you’re trying to be more self-aware about your own faults, and the fact that you are honest enough with yourself to admit when you are being a bad friend shows a willingness to grow and change for the better. Though this kind of positive change doesn’t come easy, you’ve already taken such a big first step in acknowledging your mistakes and trying to be a better person.
- Crick, N. R., & Nelson, D. A. (2002). Relational and emotion victimization within friendships: Nobody told me there’d be friends like these. Journal of adolescent psychology, 30(6), 599-607.
- Crothers, L. M., Field, J. E., & Kolbert, J. B. (2005). Navigating power, control, and being nice: Aggression in adolescent girls’ friendships. Journal of Counseling & Development, 83(3), 349-354.
- Meyers, S. (2017). “Why People Give Unsolicited Advice (Though No One Listens).” Psychology Today. Retrieved 21 May 2020 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-is-2020/201712/why-people-give-unsolicited-advice-though-no-one-listens
- Masheter, C. (2007). A Study on The Dynamics of Healthy and unhealthy Friendship. Journal of Social Psychology, 463-475.
- TEDx Talks. (2016, December 21). Sharon Livingston: 8 signs of a toxic friendship. Retrieved 21 May 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-94Ql0UphdA
- TED-Ed Student Talks. (2019, May 17). Leo Hamric: What can you do when a friendship becomes harmful? Retrieved 21 May 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pzZX33z-qE