We all have that person in our life who we’ve known for a long time and have always liked spending time with…until we found ourselves realizing that things have changed and we don’t actually enjoy that person anymore. She makes us feel agitated, she complains all the time, nothing is ever good enough, she puts us down, gossips about others, or just generally makes us feel icky. What has happened and what do we do about it?
First of all, this happens sometimes so don’t think you did something to cause this. People change and so do friendships. Your friendship may grow apart and it may return at another stage of life. The old saying “How someone behaves has little to do with you and almost everything to do with them!” is absolutely true. There may be things happening behind the scenes that we know nothing about. We can and should still examine our own behavior with curiosity and honesty but don’t be surprised if you determine that it is, in fact, on them.
Teenage and young adulthood is a time when you’re figuring out your values and what is important to you. This is a wonderful opportunity to take stock of the way you like to show up for your friends and what you expect from them in return. Sometimes we make concessions if people are low in one area but really make up for it in another but it is up to each person to determine what their boundaries are for friendships. This isn’t “scorekeeping” but rather figuring out what type of person you want to be friends with. Remember, people earn your friendship and your trust and you give them the same in return.
Some telltale signs that you have a toxic friend:
- They put you down or make fun of you, and they aren’t just joking.
- They do mean things and never apologize.
- They are jealous of your other friendships.
- Everything you do, wear, or say is wrong and they let you know it.
- They make plans with you but then ditch you if something better comes along.
- They do things that you know are wrong and either make you feel bad for not going along with it or they bully you into doing it too.
- Your mom doesn’t like them. Seriously, this is an important one. When it comes to friends, parents usually know best (no matter how annoying that is!) because they always have your best interest at heart and have lived through this before. If your mom doesn’t like them, ask why and then listen with an open heart.
Once you’ve determined that this friend no longer fits your values, what do you do? This is tricky if you’ve been hanging out with her for a long time and she is in your larger social group. My personal teenage method was to stick my head in the sand and just try to avoid the person – and I can tell you, that doesn’t work. It just makes everyone feel weird, including you. I recommend two possible approaches: You can always do the “slow fade away” – just being unavailable when she wants to do things or take your time answering her messages. You’ll still be polite and friendly when you see her, you just won’t be hanging out as much. The other approach is more direct but takes more courage: having an honest, open, private conversation with the person. This might be super hard, but if you can remember that the you both know something is “off” and you approach it with humility and curiosity about the other person’s situation, you will both be able to determine if you want the friendship to continue. It might just be a misunderstanding, you never know.
The thing to remember is to take the high road by being kind and keeping the conversation confidential – your problem is with her, not with the entire social group of friends. You may not have a close friendship with her going forward but you will have enabled mutual respect.
Interested in delving deeper about friendships, communication, and values? Message me atMarianne@MindfulHealthandHarmony.com to schedule a complimentary inquiry call!