Everyone has had one in their lifetime—that toxic friend who has a more negative impact on people’s lives than good, and no matter how great you and your other friends might be, they just continue to be toxic.
Staying friends with these kinds of people will generally cause you a world of headaches, and sometimes even heartache. While we want to be kind and courteous to everyone around us, sometimes boundaries have to be set in place when someone is truly making our life miserable.
Many times, toxic people may not come across so at first. They can be charming, fun to be around, and all-around pleasant when you first meet them. It’s not until you truly start getting to know them and their personalities that you realize how harmful the friendship might be.
It can be tempting to try and make excuses because, by then, they are your friend, and you don’t want to abandon them. But it’s important to remember that their choices are their own, and you are not to blame for the traits they possess that result in people cutting them out of their lives.
Never settle for a harmful or toxic friend just because you need friends. Just like any friendship, you need to have enough self-respect and boundaries in place to be able to do what is best for you. Do not stay friends with someone out of guilt or loneliness.
Of course, there is a fine line between truly toxic friends and some that might not be a good fit for you. It’s not fair to treat everyone as toxic just because you don’t get along, or perhaps they’ve made some mistakes. Here are some of the most toxic friend types you can look out for, and hopefully learn to avoid.
Toxic Friend #1: The Downer
The Downer friend is, plainly put, a pessimist. Now, of course, everyone has bad days or can be in a bad mood every once in a while. There is nothing wrong with someone venting about a particularly difficult situation to a group of friends, but with a Downer, that is all you will get.
Downer’s focus on only the negative, no matter how much good there is. So regardless of what great thing has happened to them or you, they will find a way to focus on the potential downsides.
Perhaps you’ve been promoted at work. They will talk about how much more difficult your life is about to get, with all the added pressure and stress. Perhaps you are in a happy relationship. They will constantly point out your flaws or your significant others and tell you it won’t last. Bought a new place? They will tell you what a bad neighborhood you picked, or why you’re paying too much for what you have.
The worst part is that these people will often use the excuse that they are “looking out for you.” They will say they just want the best for you, or they are just trying to curb your expectations. But the fact of the matter is, from their perspective, the world is just a dark, gloomy place, and they want to make everyone as miserable as they are—even if they don’t realize it.
Toxic Friend #2: The Selfish Sap
We’ve all been there—barely able to get a word in because our “friend” is going on and on about everything they did that week, people they’ve talked to, their lives, and their experiences. Whatever is going on in their life is priority number one, and they could care less about what is happening in yours.
The sad part about these friends is they often don’t realize what they are doing and don’t understand why nobody likes to talk to them. Conversation is a learned social skill that some people simply don’t understand. Everybody likes to talk about themselves, it’s true. But most of us have the tactfulness to allow everyone to have their turn, and if you really care about that person, then you will care what they have to say.
The selfish sap often lacks empathy and can be difficult to talk to about anything that doesn’t involve them. If they do not recognize the problem and take action to fix it, then there really is no value in maintaining the relationship. Find friends who value you and want to hear what you have to say. Likewise, don’t be a selfish friend; be an active listener and make your friends feel heard.
Toxic Friend #3: The Compulsive Liar
Trust is one of the core values in any relationship, including friendship. If you can’t trust someone, what is the point of having them around?
Every now and then, a little white lie is one thing, and everyone exaggerates from time to time. But when it becomes a regular thing, it’s almost like that person doesn’t even know how to tell the truth anymore. Lying becomes natural until it takes up their entire personality.
These types of people sometimes don’t even see lying as wrong. Why does it matter if a story is true or not as long as it gets a reaction? You may catch them in a lie, and they will simply weave more lies to talk their way out of it.
A liar can be a dangerous friend to have around. They may (probably will) lie to other people about you and may lie to you about other people. Causing dissension amongst friend groups can often be a source of entertainment for them. Meanwhile, they are tearing your other friendships apart.
Once you realize a friend of yours is a compulsive liar, it becomes impossible to maintain a close relationship. You will second guess everything they say and always have your guard up. Before you know it, you are always on edge, second-guessing yourself and other people, and that is no way to live.
Know your worth, and don’t settle for people who lie. You deserve loyalty and respect, and that comes with telling the truth.
Toxic Friend #4: The Leech
Do you have a friend who is consistently and conveniently always forgetting their wallet? Maybe they’re routinely asking for favors, but are never available if you need something in return. Whatever the case may be, we all know the friend who is The Leech.
They will never offer to pick up the bill, and if you split it, they’re counting change. They always need something—a place to stay, a ride, a reference, you name it.
It is one thing to be there for your friends in a time of need, but another thing entirely to turn into a parent. If you have a friend who is constantly leeching off of you, it’s time to cut the cord. This is not the kind of person you will ever be able to rely on, so why should they be able to use you and your resources?
Fortunately, these kinds of friends are generally pretty easy to spot early on in the relationship. They typically have a reputation and make their habits clear the first few times they hang out with someone (i.e., “I forgot my wallet”).
Once again, self-respect and knowing your worth comes into play here, as it does when dealing with most toxic people. It is not your job to take care of your friends all the time, especially if they would not do the same for you. Have enough respect for yourself to step away from a person who is only using you for what you can give them.
Toxic Friend #5: The Player
It is one thing to be a “wingman” for your friends at times, and another thing entirely to have them start using you as a conduit to get sex. These friends are a combination of the Selfish Friend and The Leech because they only have their own needs in mind, and they will use you to get what they want.
You could be out with a group of friends and your significant other, and this friend would be blatantly flirting with them right in front of you. They often make jokes about wanting to sleep with your partner and might even message them directly if they’re that bold.
People like this use the excuse that they “like a challenge” when in reality, they just like to take from other people what they believe they deserve for themselves.
The Player will often joke and tell people they are insecure for not liking their tactics, but in fact, they are the insecure one. They hate seeing other people happy if they can’t find happiness themselves.
A true friend will never try to steal from you or jeopardize your happiness in any way. They will be respectful, loyal, and trustworthy. They will be friendly to your partner but never over-the-top, and never flirt or try to be with them.
Toxic Friend #6: The Annoying Know It All
We all love to win an argument, but this friend takes it way too far. No matter what evidence you present or the logic you follow, they are the only one who is ever right.
The annoying know it all will constantly be waiting for an opportunity to correct someone, even if it is a minor, insignificant detail. Maybe you mispronounced a word, got the date wrong, or missed a detail when telling a story—they will be there to jump in and correct you.
This “friend” will always focus on the little things and tend to ignore the fact that you got the majority of something right. Instead, they take pride in pointing out faults because it makes them feel better about themselves. It is a weird superiority complex that they just can’t seem to shake.
More often than not, this friend is extremely insecure about their own intelligence, and how that affects their value as a person. They want to be seen as the smarter, better person, and to do so must make everyone around them seem stupid.
A real friend doesn’t want to make you insecure or point out all your faults. They would know that everyone makes mistakes, and they are no better than you just because they happened to notice yours.
The annoying know it all might know all of the answers, but they certainly don’t know how to make friends. People generally feel pretty bad about themselves after an interaction with the person and will therefore try to steer clear.
It’s absolutely acceptable to help teach and correct your friends on occasion to help them improve themselves and not make the same mistakes again. However, you should also be willing and open to receiving criticism sometimes, as it will help you grow too.
However, if you are constantly feeling belittled and brought down by a friend who is constantly criticizing or correcting you, then it’s time to reevaluate that friendship.
Toxic Friend #7: The Bad Influence
Did your parents ever tell you to stop hanging out with somebody because they were a “bad influence”? Well, as much as you probably rolled your eyes at the time, they were probably right.
A common form of a toxic friendship is someone who thinks badly of themself and intends to drag everyone down to be like them so that they won’t seem so bad. This friend will constantly set you up for failure.
Because this friend is unhappy with their own lot in life, or perhaps their lack of success, the only solution they come up with is to bring everyone to their level. It sometimes can even come across like they are trying to be supportive, encouraging you to try new things. But more than likely, they know you’re likely to fail or even get hurt in the process.
In extreme circumstances, the Bad Influence may even try to sabotage your successes with their own failures. For example, perhaps they show up at your workplace drunk, or grab your phone and send nasty texts to your co-workers.
Like most of the other toxic friends we have listed, the Bad Influence is simply not trustworthy. They have no real loyalty to you and would not be there for you if you needed them. All they want is to see you fail so that they can feel better about themselves. Don’t be fooled by their charm.
Toxic Friend #8: The One-Upper
You’re in the middle of telling your friends about something—be it good, bad, funny, or otherwise—and suddenly one of them cuts in, not letting you finish, because they have a similar story of their own. This friend sees the attention you’re getting from this particular conversation and feels the need to one-up you and steal the attention for themselves.
Of course, everyone likes to be heard and share their own experiences. But the One-Upper wants everyone to think that they are the most interesting, the coolest, the funniest, and that everyone would be better off listening to them than to anyone else.
The One-Upper is frequently partly a Liar because they will talk themselves up in ways that get people’s attention, often not caring if it is actually true or not. They may not even have a particular interest in one thing or another, but if they see that someone else is getting praise for it, they will try to One-Up them.
Real friends will never try to steal your success or undermine your achievements. On the contrary, friends are meant to support each other and share in each other’s happiness. If you feel like you can never share your success stories with a particular friend because they will only try to make it about them, it’s time to take a long hard look at that friendship.
Toxic Friend #9: The Disappearing Act
This one can be tricky because in our adult lives it can be difficult to make time for friends with busy schedules and lives. However, the Disappearing Act will typically only show up if they need something from you.
For some friendships, it is normal to go weeks, months, or even years without seeing each other and then hang out and find you’re just as close as ever. But this is not the case for this toxic friend. Instead, they will often ghost you completely and then fabricate excuses for why they couldn’t take your calls or texts.
This friend will often ask you for something not long after reappearing in your life, whether it be money, a place to stay, or whatever else you may have to offer that requires them to cozy up to you and pretend to be your friend again.
This friend, much like the Selfish Friend and the Leech, only has their best interests in mind and very likely would not treat you the same way you treat them if the situation arose. It’s best to have set boundaries for this kind of friend, and for them to be kept more of an acquaintance.
Toxic Friend #10: The Gossip
Nobody likes to hear that people have been talking about them behind their back, but it’s even worse if you find out it has come from a friend.
The Gossip is constantly looking for juicy information to spread around so that they can be the center of attention while they spin their tail. Sometimes it’s true, but sometimes it’s not. The Gossip always has an opinion about other people’s lives that they would rarely say to their face, but will gladly spill to the rest of the world.
There are different levels of gossip depending on the depth of the relationship, so you should be able to catch this toxic trait soon. If you find that little details or rumors about your life are getting out, or if you recognize that this one person is constantly coming to you and gossiping about others, it’s best to steer clear of that person entirely.
Betrayal on a whole other level comes if you have told someone something in confidence, and then find out they went and talked about it with others. This kind of disloyalty and breach of trust hits hard, and it can be difficult to mend the relationship after something like that.
A true friend would never breach your trust by spreading lies about you or telling anyone something that should have been a secret. They are loyal to you and care about your reputation and feelings.
True Friends Will Make Life Better
If you’re looking to start making new friends, it’s crucial to keep these ten toxic traits in mind so that you can recognize them before you get too close with that person. It’s much more difficult to break away from a long-term friendship than a new one.
If you realize that some of your long-term friends have one or more of these toxic traits, you may be close enough with them to point it out and help them overcome it. After all, nobody wants to be known as a toxic person. However, if they are too set in their ways, it may be time to put some serious distance between the two of you and move on to better, healthier relationships.
You may find in going out to make new friends, that once you discover what a healthy friendship is like, it makes it much easier for the toxic ones to fade away. Once you find your self-worth and stop giving selfish, leeching people what they’re after, and don’t cave to the liars or one-uppers, your life will be much better.
Finding true friends and knowing that they are loyal, supportive, and trustworthy makes life seem so much easier. Having someone to share your burdens and successes, talk about relationships, and ask for advice is one of the most fulfilling things this world has to offer.