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How to filter toxic people from your life

Life’s too short to be surrounded by toxic friendships. Know how to identify, acknowledge and say goodbye to those unhealthy relationships.

Toxic friends

Photo credit: JGI/Jamie Grill / Blend Images / Getty Images

We spend most of our youth excited about meeting and making new friends. As we progress further into adulthood we learn to filter out the crap and unnecessary drama from our lives (or so we hope). Relationships should be a nourishing and healthy support system and the friends you surround yourself with should help you become a better version of yourself, while still having fun. According to psychotherapist Jodie Gale, people aren’t necessarily toxic but a person’s behaviour or your relationship with them can be.

Learn how to make friendships last >>

Signs you’re in a toxic friendship

  • Seeing their name appear on your phone causes anxiety
  • The thought of them visiting or staying with you for any period of time stresses you out
  • They belittle the important people in your life, putting you in an uncomfortable position
  • They do not respect your privacy and tell all your secrets
  • They do not respect your answer of “no”
  • Spending time with them is too taxing

10 types of toxic friends

  1. The Fair-Weather: When the sun is shining in your life and friendship, this friend will gladly be around. However, at the first sign of trouble or any rocky road ahead, they will be first to abandon ship and leave you to fend for yourself.
  2. The Leech: The leech is also known as a user and will take advantage of you and your circumstances when it benefits them. Happen to work for a beer company? The only time you ever hear from this friend is when they’re looking for a beer hook up. Otherwise they are seldom in touch.
  3. The Debbie Downer: Everyone is entitled to feel sad every once in a while but there are individuals who radiate pure negativity that can affect those around them. Good and healthy friendships should positively influence individuals but when Debbie Downer is involved it can be mentally and emotionally draining.
  4. The Guilt Tripper: This breed of friend is a master manipulator. They make you feel bad for decisions you make, often making you second-guess yourself until they get their way. Didn’t want to go to a charity dinner because it was £95 per head? This friend won’t let you hear the end of it until you go, even though it’s outside of your budget.
  5. The Passive Aggressive: The best example of the passive aggressive is the Plastics in Mean Girls. Like the guilt tripper, the passive aggressive creates negative energy through emotional abuse and manipulation disguised by passive behaviour.
  6. The Needy: Being needy comes in different forms. They may seek emotional comfort by spending as much time with you as possible. Another way a friend can be needy is by exhibiting attention-seeking toxic behaviour through phone calls, texts and social media.
  7. The Flake: The flake can be incredibly frustrating and disappointing, especially when it becomes obvious. Made plans to go see Chvrches? The flake calls you to bail at the last minute leaving you in a bind unable to find someone to take the spare ticket. The flake is unreliable and untrustworthy with your time.
  8. The One-Upper: With the one-upper, even small talk is a competition on who has it better or worse. Either way, the one-upper has a better story than you. When you have great news to share, rather than being really excited for you and letting you relish your happiness, she shares something more amazing. Regardless of what happens in your life, there is always something more brilliant or worse that has happened in hers.
  9. The Ultimatum-maker: This may be the most difficult friend to please. Friendships should create synergy, not force people into doing things they don’t want to do. The ultimatum-maker is stubborn and inflexible; it’s their way or no way.
  10. The Naysayer: Good friendships should help you become a better version of yourself and encourage you to pursue passions and dreams, as long as they do not cause harm or danger. Naysayers fill you with negative thoughts and doubts and make the worst cheerleaders.

The friendship filter

Once you have recognised these toxic behaviours, how do you turn on the friendship filter and eliminate the bad from the good?

Casual acquaintances will eventually fade into the background and will become a thing of the past. However, with closer friendships you may need to take action. Evaluate how this friend makes you feel by considering the following: 

  • Trust and respect — do you trust and respect this friend?
  • Flake — does she return phone calls, keep appointments and promises?
  • Others — do your other friends enjoy this friend?
  • You — do you enjoy this friend?
  • Pride — are you proud of this friend?
  • Time — is the friendship based on now or when you first became friends? (If it’s in the past, maybe it’s time to let go)

If you answered negatively to the majority of the questions above, then it’s time to filter out this unhealthy friendship. However, if you answered positively to most of the questions, is the friendship worth saving? Sit down with the friend to discuss her toxic behaviour and how it’s affecting your friendship using assertive “I” statements. If the friend is receptive, set and maintain boundaries to help protect each other from unhealthy behaviours.

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Tell us. Do you observe toxic behaviours amongst your friendships? Share your stories in the comments below.

More on friendships

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Why friendships are so important to women
How to be a good friend

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