signs of toxic friendships

One relationship we overlook when it comes to toxicity is often our friendships. This mini workshop is all about the signs of toxic friendships and what you can do.

"You are not stuck with your friends. You actually get to choose them. And sometimes 'no' is the most powerful thing you can say in a friendship."
krystal kleidon

lesson 1

What is a toxic Friendship

You might jump straight to the obvious when you think about a toxic friendship, but the friendships that are volatile, where you argue, or where you often just don’t like each other are easy to see as toxic.

Maybe they talk your partner down, talk you down, or are simply not nice people. The obvious things that you know straight away are wrong and that make you feel uncomfortable. 

But what about the not so obvious things? The things that you just pass off as your friend being under a lot of pressure, having a bad day, or that it’s just how they are? 

A toxic friendship is one that is not supportive, leaves you feeling dread or worry, makes you feel worse after you see them, and spreads its toxic energy into different areas of your life. 

We all have bad days, we all need to vent to our friends and we all need to know that someone is there for us. But a friendship is meant to be one of those great symbiotic relationships that feed off of each other, keep each other happy and healthy (metaphorically and physically) and that can bring so much richness and joy to our lives. 

If you’re finding your BFF is a little less best friend and a little more toxic friend then there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and (if you still want to) protect your friendship. 


lesson 2

Why do we need to know about them?

Our lives are made up of various different relationships. These relationships can be romantic, they can be relationships with our family, and they can be relationships with our friends. 

It’s important to understand that we don’t just intrinsically know how to be in a relationship, and that includes our frienships. How we approach our friendships is made up of a whole lot of influences we have had over our lives (both positive and negative). 

It can take time to learn how to find our feet in friendships, and sometimes, when we have different things going on in different areas of our lives, we can find it hard to figure out how to translate that into our friendships. 

The big problem occurs when what’s happening in our friendship starts leeching into and negatively affecting different areas of our lives. 

For example, you might find that a long time friend has started to complain a lot. And when you actually think about it, you can’t remember the last time they asked you how you were, or the last time you had a conversation that didn’t revolve around the negative things in her life. Heck you can’t even remember the last positive thing she said. 

The reason why it is important for us to identify these things is because we need to:
a) be a good friend and offer help if we can. Our friend is obviously going through something and it’s important to be there for them, or, failing that;
b) protect our own energy and give ourselves some distance from the friendship. 

lesson 3

Key Warning Signs

To help keep things simple, we created a quick checklist for you of some of the more obvious signs of a toxic friendship. If you answer yes to one or more of these, this doesn’t defnitively prove your friend is toxic – it is simply a prompt to encourage you to look closer at the friendship and ask if it is fulfilling to you. 

Only YOU can decide if your friendship is toxic or not. 

So let’s have a look at some of these key warning signs a little closer (keeping in mind, these aren’t all of the warning signs), starting with the most obvious and most encompassing one:

Every interaction we have with someone else involves a transference of energy. Sometimes we can see or feel this energy on an emotional level – think about the person who smiles at you as you walk past and then you feel really good, or the person who you see crying and you feel sad for them and wonder what happened. 

When it comes to your friendships, you already have an understanding of what that energy transference is going to be.  If you’re excited and keen to see them, then it’s likely your previous interactions with them have been positive and you’re keen for some more of that good energy. 

If you’re dreading seeing them, you kind of want to cancel, or you feel like you need to muster up a whole lot of energy just to catch up, then whether you realise it or not, that’s your body’s way of trying to protect your energy because it knows that negative energy requires fuel to keep going, and that’s why you leave exhausted. 

A good healthy friendship has a good flow of positive energy and leaves you feeling uplifted and energetic when you see your friends. 

If this isn’t how you feel after you see your friend, then you may have a toxic friendship. 

Have you ever found yourself zoning out of a conversation because the other person has not stopped talking about themselves the whole time?  

Or perhaps you’re going through something big and you just want to share it with your friend but you can’t get a word in because they keep just talking about themselves. 

Sometimes this is even more subtle, like they might call you or text you just to let you know what they’ve been up to or to tell you something but they never actually ask how you are. 

Or perhaps they even try to change the topic back to themselves whenever you do start to talk about anything other than them. 

These friendships are so draining. If you think you might have one of these, check through your messages – you’ll see a pattern quickly enough. 

You’ll know this one because whenever you see a message or call from them you’ll ask yourself ‘what do they need now?’

While it’s nice to help out our friends and be there for them, this shouldn’t be the majority focus of your friendship. 

If your friendship is based solely around the things you do for your friend, then you might not even have a friendship at all. 

Okay, this one can be a little grey area and might be more based on how you feel about this – but one of the key traits of a friend is that they listen. I mean, that’s one of the best things about having friends – you’ve always got someone who will listen. But when that becomes less listening and more trying to ‘fix’ you, then it can be a problem. 

Some friends just want what is best for you, and they genuinely believe they are helping. So simply letting them know you need them to listen can be helpful in this situation. 

There are a lot of similarities between toxic romantic relationships and toxic friendships and this is one of them. 

If your friend is treating you differently when you are alone versus when you are with a group of friends, it may be a warning sign that you need to look at things a little closer. 

lesson 4

What you can do

Okay, so you’re here and you’ve realised that you’ve got a toxic friendship going on in your life. You might be thinking that you’re about to lose a friend and you have to cut all ties with them. 

Well, that might be the case, but it’s not the only step forward. 

One of the biggest steps in dealing with a toxic friendship is first realising that you are in a toxic friendship. 

What you do with this information is entirely up to you but here are some suggestions to help you out:

Protect Your Energy
Now that you’ve identified you have a toxic friendship, it will actually make protecting your energy a whole lot easier. You can do this in a few ways:
 – limit how often you see your friend (at least for a while)
 – reduce the time of your catch ups
 – catch up in groups rather than one on one
 – remind yourself that you don’t have to answer every call or reply to every text

Set Boundaries
If your friendship has been fuelled by your availability and you find that you’re being drained because you’re always giving and giving, then set boundaries around when you are available and how much you can help. If you’re asked to help with something you can say things like “I’m not actually available to help then”, or “I don’t think I’m the best person to help you with this”.

Get Some Space
You may find that in order to figure out how to move forward, you need to get some space, and that’s okay. If you feel the need to explain to your friend, you simply say that you need to focus on yourself for a bit so you’re going radio silent for a while, or you can say you need space and time. If this is a seasonal part of their lives then you might find that a little space and time brings things back to normal. 

Talk To Them
If you feel like it would help you, you can talk to your friend about how you’re feeling and explain that you feel like your friendship has been very one sided. If your friend is open and receptive this can be a great way to clear the air, but if you feel like they’re more defensive and negative then this might not be the best option. 

Be Kind To Yourself
Remind yourself that this isn’t a reflection on you, that people come and go from our lives and some friendships aren’t meant to last forever. It doesn’t mean your friendship held any less value or was wrong in anyway. It may simply mean that it no longer serves you or is best for where you are at in your life.