We all know it to be true, good friends are hard to come by.
A friend should be someone who brings out your best qualities, and doesn’t hold you down. Too often we find ourselves surrounded by those people that bring a negative energy into our lives.
Do you find yourself surrounded by “friends” yet you are still lonely or unhappy? Do you find yourself in trouble or making poor decisions when you hang around some people? “Negative friendships can cause stress, frustration, and even put you in harm’s way if their behavior puts you in situations that could jeopardize you and your loved ones,” says sociologist and friendship coach Jan Yager, PhD, author of When Friendship Hurts. When you invest all of your time and energy into people who only have toxic contributions to offer, it can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health. A recent study by the University of College London found that when your close relationships cause worry and stress in your life, they may be contributing to faster cognitive decline as you age.
If this sounds like people in your life, it is probably time to evaluate and really determine whether or not your friendships are healthy and beneficial to your life.
Here is a list of four types of friends you shouldn’t feel bad about dumping:
1. The Self-Interested
This is the person who really only cares about one person, themselves. They focus on their interests and what they can get out the relationship. Strings are always attached with this friend. Self-interested people never think about how their actions may affect other people, and in most cases, acts as though the world revolves around them. We all have moments of selfishness, but these people take it to the extreme.
If your friend is someone who can’t remember where you work, who your crush is, or anything much beyond your name, you are dealing with someone who is self-interested. True friends will take the time to learn something about you. If you are regularly hanging around someone and they don’t seem to know anything that is going on with you, it may be time to ask “why?”
A friend is someone who will do things for you that inconvenience them. When a person is always focused on his or herself and never gives you a moment to share anything about yourself and never values your input, something has to give. They may not be aware they are doing it, so let them know. If it is something they can’t curb, it is probably time to let them go.
2. The Debbie Downer/Negative Nancy
This person takes negativity and pessimism to a new level, and struggles to see the bright side of any situation. Even in the most positive of situations this person will find a way to find something wrong with it. This person is always making mountains out of molehills. We all go through times where the sun doesn’t seem to want to shine. However, for the Debbie Downer/Negative Nancy, it probably never will. “Positive” is not a word in their vocabulary. These people make a habit of assuming the worst in both people and circumstances.
It is important to be able to remain positive and optimistic. Positivity, optimism, and faith can help us through the toughest of storms, so it is equally important that the company we keep has these qualities.
“The Downer is a person you have to let into your life with care because this trait can be contagious,” Yager says. She asks, “Is this an occasional thing, or a chronic pattern that’s making it too difficult for you to handle your emotions or your own life?” Your job is to be a friend and not a therapist. It is important to realize, however, that they may not be able to change without professional help. Decide if they have any redeeming traits and determine if you can remain upbeat around them without allowing them to suck you into their negativity. If not, end the friendship. You should not keep such draining negativity in your life because you feel sorry for them. That doesn’t help them or you.
3. The Trash Talker/Gossiper
The trash talker is someone that is really nice to YOU, but talks badly about everyone else all of the time. Then later you will see them being nice to the people they were talking bad about earlier to you. So can you trust that this person isn’t talking massive amounts of trash about you too? A friend is someone who respects you enough not to talk about you behind your back.
Gossiper’s thrive on dishing dirt, and you should be wary. “The more dirt they gather on others,“ says Carole Lieberman, M.D., a psychiatrist in Beverly Hills, CA, “the more superior they feel and the more leverage they have over others.” For the gossiper, knowledge is power and power is control. No one messes with a gossiper, and neither should you. (And you know that, like the Trash Talker, if they are talking about others, they are talking about you.)
Unfriend these people and refuse to allow yourself to get sucked into their games.
4. The Bad Example
This friend may drag you along on their drinking and smoking nights out, or scoff at your health conscious efforts. This friend has trouble follow them wherever they go and they are generally only content if you follow them too.
Research has shown that behaviors can spread amongst friends. Including behaviors such as bad moods, loneliness, obesity, and even divorce. In a University of Illinois study, it was shown that even your dietary choices can be affected by your companions. They proved that people were more likely to order the same foods at a restaurant as their lunch partners.
You may not need to ditch these friends entirely. They may have good qualities you value. Or, you may know they have the potential to change. However, Yager suggests that you “be aware of how their unhealthy habits are rubbing off on you.” She also says that you should “try talking to these friends about why you can’t be around them when they act a certain way, or avoid situations that enable that side of them.” After this, if whenever you are hanging out with this friend you feel yourself getting sucked into bad behavior, it is probably time to back off.
What to do?
• First, let your friend know what’s bothering you. Their response—and actions—will tell you if it’s time to move along.
• If it is time to pull back, start by making fewer plans, and remain polite but not overly friendly. Don’t be dishonest. If they ask about your behavior explain to them why you feel the need to pull away from the relationship.
• Surround yourself with friends that make you feel supported, invigorated, and enriched, because that is what good friendships do.