3 TOXIC FRIENDSHIPS TO AVOID

Everyone has friends who aren't living up to what we'd hoped for. Here's three toxic friendships you want to avoid at all costs. #friendship

EVERYONE HAS ONE OF "THOSE" FRIENDS

I think we can all picture that one friend who drives us a little bit crazy. Sometimes it's a good kind of crazy and we roll along for the ride, but other times it can be a toxic kind of crazy where we wonder why we're still in a friendship that isn't all it seems to be on the surface. It might be a long term friend who's gradually changed, or a newer friend who, as we get to know them more, has aspects to their character that leave us seriously in doubt of their motives or their agenda.

I thought I'd share three types of toxic friendships and how to go about reducing your exposure to them. Pretending that someone is okay when they're not is definitely not the answer, neither is allowing their dysfunction to drag you down to the same level.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” ― J.K. Rowling #quotes

1) THE SMILING ASSASSIN

I don't know about you, but I find this is to be the most toxic of all friendships. The person who smiles and says things with words that sound fine but they mask an underlying agenda. This friend will build themselves up at your expense, they need to make you feel smaller so they can feel better or more important. They're the master of the phrase "just kidding" that gets tacked onto a statement that is snarky and slightly insulting and excused by it all being "in fun".

I don't trust these people as far as I can throw them. They aren't deliberately trying to sabotage us, but they can't be generous and allow your light to shine brighter than theirs. I've worked with women who are only too happy to share any negatives they hear about their fellow workers - and to justify it by saying things like "You know that I don't think this, but I heard this said about you...." So many times the comment never needed to be said in the first place and you have to question the underlying motives of a person who is happy to assassinate your character while appearing to be on your side.



DEFENCE STRATEGIES

I always maintain my defences around a person like this. I can smile right back and think to myself how sad their life is if bringing someone else down is what's needed to build their own ego. I never fully trust a person who is happy to pass on nasty comments or mean spirited feedback. There's a big difference between honesty and nastiness - a mean streak is a sign of their weakness and insecurity and has absolutely nothing to do with us.




2) THE NEGATIVE NELLIE

I call these people Light Suckers and Dementors (good old Harry Potter again). They always have something to complain about and can suck the joy right out of the room just by opening their mouth. Nothing ever seems to be good enough in their lives, they over-share their misfortunes and embroider them for a more dramatic effect. They're always hard done by, overlooked, or long-suffering.

The sad thing with negative people is that others avoid them and this makes them cling harder to the few friends they have left. Their neediness and drama amps up as others desert them for happier relationships and they wax lyrical about how it's never their fault, but always the people around them or the circumstances they find themselves in. Never taking responsibility is a defining trait too - bad things just "keep happening" for no reason they can perceive.


DEFENCE STRATEGIES

Avoidance is the easiest way to deal with this type of person - which is why they are usually fairly limited in their friendships. They often draw you in with their sad life story and as you compassionately try to help, you realize that they're dragging you down into their draining spiral. Staying upbeat is the only way to cope, and limiting the amount of time you spend with them is the safest bet - because they don't want to be fixed and people who resist help will always stay wallowing in their own perceived misery.



3) THE PROMISER

I think we all know someone who has a mantra that sounds something like one of these: "We must catch up soon"  "It must be my turn to...." "I'll return that really soon" or "I'll call you back".... the list is endless, but the tune they play is always the same. They promise and then forget. It could be that they're just scatty people who have thoughts flit in and out of their heads, or they could be super busy and you're a low priority, but the end result is still the same - they promise but never deliver.

These friendships always end up one-sided where you're doing all the work to keep the relationship flowing. Sometimes they'll step up and surprise you with an invitation or by remembering your birthday, or some other little gesture, but before long you're back to being the one who's doing all the work. That's okay if you're happy being the organizer and the person who always makes contact, but if you're looking for a reciprocated friendship then you're with the wrong person.


DEFENCE STRATEGIES

Some people like being the friend who does all the work and that means that a Promiser might not be a problem, but for those of us who like two-way friendships where both parties are invested in the relationship, having to do all the work is just not on. Sometimes we need to take a step back and see what happens, maybe they'll lift their game and follow through, maybe they'll realize it's up to them to put in the promised effort, or maybe they'll fade into the distance and you know what, sometimes that's okay too because we're worth more than a broken promise or two.


WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Do you know anyone who fits one of these friendship categories? Do you have other types of toxic friendships in your life? I could probably come up with another two or three without much effort, but these were the top three for me at the moment. I'd be very interested to know if you have anything to add to the list.


RELATED TOPICS


Everyone has friends who aren't living up to what we'd hoped for. Here's three toxic friendships you want to avoid at all costs. #friendship
Everyone has friends who aren't living up to what we'd hoped for. Here's three toxic friendships you want to avoid at all costs. #friendship

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36 comments

  1. Yep, I have a few of those. I'd add to it the ones who think they know best for you while ignoring that you are your own person and may not share their priorities. I have one friend who truly believes she has my best interests at heart when she endeavours to convince me to give up my writing & concentrate on my real career. I also have a few dementors in my life, but many less than I used to have...thankfully.

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    1. Yikes - Jo - DON"T LISTEN to that friend. Please keep writing!!!!

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    2. Good grief Jo - I want to punch that "friend" of yours! I must say I'm glad you're removing the Dementors from your life - I've gotten rid of a couple too and it's such a nice feeling being free of all that negativity! Keep writing - I think it's a great balance to your career stuff (and you're the poster girl for the Ruby Awards!)

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  2. Fortunately, Leanne I don't have any friends that fall into that category now. I'm much more focused on friendships that have quality rather than the number of friends and both IRL and Online I cherish those in my friendship circle. x

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    1. I'm getting there too Sue - slowly whittling away at the "friends" who just aren't all they appear to be. I'm so tired of supporting friendships that have not intrinsic value and enabling people who really don't need to be in my life. Blogging has given me some wonderful friendships (esp yours!) and has taught me that the IRL friendships need to inspire me too or it's time to move on.

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    2. Your last sentence nails it BBB. IRL friendships do need to inspire us otherwise we don't really need them. Thank you for the special friendship we share and for being my partner in crime for #MLSTL. Sharing on SM> xx

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  3. Like so many of us, when I worked I had to deal with ALL kinds of personalities, on a daily basis, many of them fitting into one of your categories above. In my retirement, I find myself drawing away from these personalities more and more and surrounding myself by people who I truly want to be around.

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    1. That's what I think retirement will bring into my life too Donna. I don't miss the compromises I had to make throughout my work life with people who really didn't deserve the time and effort that was required. I like that I have the space now to determine who I let into my world - the numbers may decline further! I've been replacing them with blogging friends! xx

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  4. Hi Leanne - I think we all had some exposure to the categories you mentioned. For the last decade or so, I've weeded out toxic 'friendships' and have been focusing on true friendships that I really treasure. #mlstl

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    1. Me too Natalie - life is short and I don't want to waste it trying to maintain friendships with people who aren't healthy for my soul x

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  5. Leanne I have had friends like these in my life but these days I avoid them like the plague. I’d prefer to have positive and supportive people in my life now even if that means I have a smaller friendship group. #MLSTL Will share

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    1. Hi Jennifer I'm the same - I like your "weeded out" reference because that's what's involved isn't it? My friendship numbers are smaller but so much more valuable these days.

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  6. This really made me think! One good thing about getting older is it seems easier to cut these people out of my life. One day I realized that I just didn't need people who I couldn't be myself around, or who made me feel bad or self-conscious. Loved this piece #MSTL and I'm sharing! Theresa @fabinyourfifties.com

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    1. Hi Theresa - I think moving away from the work environment helps a lot too - you don't have to maintain relationships with people who aren't "your kind of people". I think it's good to stretch our boundaries a little, but if it includes unhealthy friendships at our age and stage, we really need to re-think things :)

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  7. I definitely struggle with Negative Nellies. I just don't like to hear so much negativity- or so many reasons why XYZ can't be done. They really drove me crazy at work, finding the bad part of every new idea or explaining how whatever it was we wanted to do wasn't a good idea. Now, I avoid excessively negative people because they do tend to suck the life out of me.

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    1. I've worked with them and gone to church with them Michele and they drain me dry. I just don't have time in my life for that kind of miserable outlook anymore - trying to jolly them along and boost them up is exhausting.

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  8. Yes to all these Leanne! Since not being at work anymore it's amazing how much nicer my friends are - I only mix with those I want to mix with! I love the fact that you also gave some defence tactics to help cope with these personalities. I use the avoid one the most :) Pinned for #mlstl

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    1. I've noticed the same thing Deb - which is what inspired me to write this, leaving the work "friendships" behind me has been a blessing indeed. To not have to constantly be trying to make people feel better about stuff that really isn't a problem is so nice! Avoidance is my main defence these days too.

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  9. Such good descriptions of each type Leanne, and I think I've had them all ... but not so much these days. I may have quite a few 'acquaintances' but really only a handful of good solid friends. I don't have time for game playing, drama and theatrics anymore. Quality over quantity. Genuine over false. :-) xo

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    1. You're right Min - it's definitely quality over quantity for me these days too. I spent way too much time trying to make friendships work with difficult people and I just can't be bothered any more. One whiff of drama and I'm running in the opposite direction!

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  10. I worried recently I'd been too much of a negative nellie and vowed to stop moaning to friends as much. It's hard though because often there's no one else to debrief with.

    I hate the kind of friend who is a 'user' who asks favours all of the time, or expects stuff and doesn't really appreciate how much effort it might take!

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    1. I don't think you're a true Negative Nellie Deb because you notice when you're doing it. Those who suck the life out of us just operate from that platform all the time and think they're justified in their miserable outlook. We're all entitled to a whinge down and then (and that's what friends are for) but it's the constant misery that I don't have time for any more.

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  11. it seems a world of time ago I had "friendships"..because they all came from within my work life in schools. Over time, they have become (for some) on-line friendships. I keep myself open to most people but very wary of my limitations these days and levels of tolerance. So, yep doing well really! Denyse #MLSTL

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    1. I think the number of my online friends far outweighs my IRL friends these days Denyse and I love that. I feel like I'm connected to women who are living their lives in a positive and engaging way and that's so much better than all the ups and downs of work relationships and social connections.

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  12. Yes...I had a very close friend who always had a smile on her face, but the words and intent behind the smile were malicious at times. I was so sad to let her go as a friend, but it wasn't worth the chaos and hurt that inevitably occurred. Great post, Leanne, I've shared it on SM. #MLSTL

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    1. I'm so sorry about that friend Candi (but also glad you could identify with the sort of friend I was referring to) I've had a "friend" like that in my life for 20+ years - fading in and out - and I'm hoping she'll eventually fade away completely. I just don't understand false and two-faced people and I don't trust them!

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  13. I know that Smiling Assassin. She was there when I was growing up...the only other girl in a neighborhood of boys. In middle school and high school I found other friends to hang out with and then after high school totally lost touch with her. Then we had a 30th reunion and I tried again. Turns out she never grew up and is the exact same person that I knew when I was 7 years old.

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    1. It definitely is an ingrained character trait Jennifer. The S/A I know has been like that for 20+ years and shows no signs of changing. Every time she makes a personal "kind" comment it has a twist in the tail and I just can't be bothered with that kind of snakiness in my life - she's gradually fading away and I'm encouraging that process :)

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  14. Wow. What a way with words you have my dear Leanne. Fortunately, I maintain friendships with those who are respectful, loving, and kind. I've learned not to give advice to others, unless it's asked for. This is a big plus that I bring to my friendships as well as following through on what I say I'm going to do. I understand how frustrating it is for someone to make a commitment and then let you down. Thankful I've become very selective with those people I call friends. Thanks for hosting #MLSTL. Will pin and reshare this post.

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    1. Hi Nancy (thanks for the lovely compliment) and yes, I'm letting a lot of those types of "friend" disappear too. I find if I don't actively maintain the connection they are the types of people who wander off looking for someone else to poison. Midlife has made me much more selective in who I share my time with :)

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  15. Just one comment about The Promisers. For a long time it bothered me that I was almost always the one reaching out and planning. Friends would hardly ever reciprocate. I had to realize that if I enjoyed the activity with them, it was my gift to the relationship, my gift to them. If I didn't enjoy it, then I stopped. This mind shift helped a lot. Many of my friends do thank me (with authenticity) for planning things! One woman even said, "I'm not a planner but I love you plan things and invite me along.". So I've added "designated planner" to my identity.

    You can take the Smilin Assassin's and toss them. And minimize time with the Negative Nellies. I'm definitely surrounding myself with positive, supportive people thees days!

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    1. I think you're right Pat - it definitely depends on how you view the relationship. I'm happy to instigate, but if the other person is unreliable or flaky then I just can't be bothered any more. Promises are important and people who don't make the friendship a priority for whatever reason, I'm happy to let go and leave them to it.

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  16. Hi Leanne,
    Great post...I can relate to the negative person as well as the promiser. Being around a negative person is just an energy sucker. Sadly, when I was working I was surrounded by them and it was a struggle to stay positive myself. But a promiser is WORSE. You cannot trust them to do anything they say. I also equate this with parenthood...my mother always reminded us not to say anything to our children that we could not or chose not to follow up upon. This could be good or in the way of discipline (ie: "If you don't stop doing XXX we are going home." You'd better be prepared to go home!) She called it the "empty threats".
    Thanks- this is great. Shared to SM.
    Love #MLSTL

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    1. Yes, leaving work has definitely reduced my contact with difficult people - it's nice to not have to put on a smile and keep bolstering people who are just drowning in drama and misery. I still have a couple of promisers kicking around, but I'm not invested in either friendship, so don't expect anything they say to eventuate - if it does then it's a happy surprise :)

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  17. Unfortunately, this post is all too true. I wish it were fiction!
    Yes, I've know people in all three categories. I like how you laid out the differences, but then also put in defense strategies for each type. Great post!
    Sharing for MLSTL

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  18. Great post, Leanne. My husband and I don't have too many friends because of our lifestyle, but unfortunately I have some toxic siblings who really fit the bill.

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