“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

Walter Winchell

We’ve all known one, a toxic friend can come in many guises. There’s the friend who only calls us when she needs something, and when she does bother to call, only talks about herself; the friend who says mean and hurtful things to us and puts us down to boost her own self esteem; and the outright backstabber who learns all she can about us for ammunition for a full on character assassination, usually carried out behind our backs. When we’ve done the appropriate amount of soul searching and personal inventory and have taken responsibility for our behavior and still realize that the other person does not have our best wishes in mind, its time to cut our losses and move on.

I have written many times about the importance of listening to your intuition, and the best way you can determine if someone is a good friend is to listen to your gut. If every time you spend time with someone, you leave feeling upset or confused, its time to examine the situation and find out why. Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you feel the need to walk on eggshells when you are around this person or are you otherwise intimidated to speak your mind for fear of triggering angry behavior? Limit the amount of time you spend around angry, controlling people. A good friend is not quick to anger if you say something she doesn’t agree with, nor does she make you feel ashamed if you hold an opinion different from hers. The ability to “agree to disagree” is one of the most important tenants of any healthy relationship. A true friend assumes you mean well and gives you the benefit of the doubt  as well as time to clarify yourself if you say something she doesn’t understand.
  • Does this person often say things that hurt your feelings or make you feel unsure?  When your gut is reacting to something, it will alert you through a tiny stabbing, ping-like sensation.This is a sign that something in your environment is not right, and most of us ignore this feeling until we are overwhelmed with it and are feeling de-energized and depressed. If you leave the company of someone and you feel this way, you need to reconsider the time you spend with them. Friends are supposed to make you feel good in their presence.  In a worst case scenario, we feel so overwhelmed with anxiety and fear that we are almost triggered into a fight or flight reaction. In that case, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible and do your best to avoid situations like it in the future.
  • Does this person support my growth and help me live up to my highest potential? Toxic friends do not want you to be healthy. They do not want you to succeed. Anyone who does not support your growth and living up to your highest potential is not your friend and will in fact inhibit your path to becoming a better person. These people are saboteurs who will consciously or subconsciously thwart your success. A good way to recognize these types is by telling them something happy or good that happened in your life and watching their reaction. A good friend will be excited for you, a toxic friend will downplay your accomplishment, if not change the subject altogether. Some will even offer a snide comment about it, making it seem like your accomplishment is unworthy of praise. If someone you think of as a friend behaves this way, its time to reconsider the value of this friendship in your life.

In this day and age, most of us have precious little free time to spend with family and loved ones, let alone friends. Only allow those people into your life who uplift you and support you. When someone you thought was your friend does not make you feel good being around them, re-evaluate the friendship. Life is too short to waste time on those who don’t have your best interests in mind. Save your precious time for those people who do love you and want you to grow and be the best person you can be.

Check in next week to see how to handle the break up of a friendship.