Toxic friends. We’ve all had one at some point, be it a classmate who resents you for your successes in school or a friend who always goes too far when “joking around” and says really hurtful things. Sometimes it can be hard to tell when a friend is truly toxic or just an annoyance. Additionally, it can sometimes feel as though you’re being too hard on them, and simply need to give them some grace. How do you know if someone is actually toxic? How do you deal with it? Dealing with toxic friends constantly can be draining and mentally damaging. If someone makes you feel bad, you owe it to yourself to resolve the situation. It’s hard to be your best when negative friends hold you back.
Often, the strongest indicator that a friend is toxic is the way you feel after interacting with them. Do you feel lifted up, or do you feel drained, irritated, or upset? Do you like the way you act around them? Toxic friends are unkind, judgemental, and manipulative. If you find yourself hating the way you act around them or the way they treat you, they’re toxic. Everyone has bad days, but if you’ve been dealing with negativity from your friend for months, it may be time to re-examine the relationship.
If you don’t want to cut the friend out of your life entirely, the best thing you can do for yourself is set boundaries and address problematic behavior as it happens. Most people aren’t toxic out of a genuine desire to hurt others; they may not understand that their behavior is hurtful. When your friend does or says something that hurts you, tell them honestly, but gently. A person who cares about you will make an effort to change. If they react aggressively, it may be time to consider ending the friendship.
Ending a friendship is easier said than done. It may be easiest to simply stop talking and let the friendship drift apart. If that isn’t an option, you can speak to them in person, or write them a letter. You do not have to give a long explanation. Be clear, but kind, and focus on your needs instead of their shortcomings. Ending a friendship takes grace, compassion, and a firm resolve.
Letting go of toxic friendships is critical for your mental well-being. As hard as it can be to let go, toxic friends keep you from becoming your best. Breaking off a friendship can be difficult, especially if you have history, but doing so frees space and energy for other friends who inspire and motivate you.