Dealing with Toxic Friends

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Ever hear the phrase “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” Most likely the “friends like these” in question were toxic friends. Toxic friendship is essentially a friendship that brings you more negative feelings than positives. In severe cases, you may decide that you need to “break up” with said friend. Whether or not you remain connected to the friend in question, you need to know how to better manage the relationship so that the negative impact on you is minimized.  

The first step is to acknowledge that you have a toxic friend and that the relationship is making you unhappy. Own your part of the problem. In continuing the friendship and doing nothing to correct the situation once you have identified it as toxic, you’re allowing that person to hurt you and essentially hurting yourself. You’re no longer a victim, you’re now a volunteer.

Try approaching your friend about your feelings. Realize that the person in question may not realize how they are making you feel and when confronted, may make a genuine effort to change. You alone can be the judge of whether or not the friend is sincere in their desire to change.

Set some boundaries for yourself and for your friend. Put your happiness above the happiness of the friend in question. Let them know that it is not OK for them to hurt you by calling them out when they do something hurtful. Give yourself permission to say “no”.

Talk to a neutral third party. Sharing your feelings with someone who has no vested interest in the outcome of your friendship can be eye opening. This can give you more of a sense of whether this friendship is salvageable or whether it needs to end as soon as possible.

If necessary and you feel there is no alternative and no chance for the situation to improve, you may decide it’s best to end the relationship altogether. This is never easy and there are bound to be hurt feelings, but in the long run it may be the healthiest decision for you. One approach to ending a toxic friendship is to wean yourself off the person. Stop returning calls, emails, etc. and eventually the friendship will fade. This is sort of a passive aggressive approach and it is only prolonging the inevitable. It will also cause confusion on the part of your former friend and leave the door open for them to contact you.

Another option is to be honest and blunt and explain exactly what you are feeling and that you don’t wish to see them anymore. There will probably be a reaction, and that’s normal. Try not to criticize but speak your mind. Let the person talk as much as they need to but don’t back down on your decision once you’ve made it. If your friend wants to change let them show you before you let them back into your life.

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