Whether you’ve recently made a new friend, or you’ve known this person for years, you may feel sometimes you’re unsure of how to proceed with the friendship. You need to know if this person is really loyal to you and that they will have your back. It’s comforting to know if these are good friends, and sometimes when we actually ask ourselves whether this is the case, we can find the opposite is true.
Here are six important pillars that make up a genuinely good friendship, and how to know if your friend is a toxic element in your life, rather than a positive one.
A good friend lifts you up when you feel your lowest. When you feel sad, angry or betrayed, a friend should be there to pick you up and help you move forward from adversity. They should make a concerted effort to lift your spirits and dispel negative emotion during times of hardship. Here are some common lines you’ll hear from a good friend.
- “I’m here for you.”
- “How can I cheer you up?”
- “What do you need right now?”
A toxic friend leaves you feeling lower. A person who gives you more reasons to feel down is likely not a good person to have in your life. This person will either not make an effort, or feed off of seeing you in a state of weakness – never a sign of someone you deserve to have in your life. Here are some common lines you would hear from a bad friend.
- “I can’t handle this right now.”
- “Just deal with it.”
- “It can’t be THAT bad.”
A good friend will celebrate your successes and best qualities. They should accept your flaws and love your passions and talents without judgment. If you achieve something great, they should be at your side; they should be proud of you and enthusiastic about your accomplishments. Here are some common lines you’ll hear from a good friend.
- “I’m so happy for you.”
- “I love that about you.”
- “You should be so proud of yourself.”
A toxic friend will emphasize your failures. This is a definite sign of jealousy that usually occurs when one person feels inferior to someone else, and they can show their resentment in the subtlest ways. If you think your friend is constantly trying to surpass you, outshine you or disparage you, you should start to ask yourself why you’re hanging around them. If they seem uncomfortable, groaning or sighing, or give you that head to toe look, chances are they are probably judging you badly or are jealous of you. And it says more about their self-esteem than it does you. Here are some lines you should listen out for:
- “Do you think you should be eating/wearing that?”
- “If I were you, I’d be so embarrassed.”
- “It sounds like you didn’t try hard enough.”
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A good friend will empathize but understand your experiences are your own. They should understand that they haven’t lived every single part of life that you have, that you are both individuals with your own experiences and values. But they will still try to gain a new perspective and learn more about the world through the eyes of another person. Here are some things you should hear.
- “Tell me what that’s like.”
- “That sounds difficult.”
- “I couldn’t imagine going through something like that.”
A toxic friend will make every situation about them. You’ll hear a lot of “I” and “me” in conversations with them, even if the conversation isn’t really about them. Some people don’t have the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and think their perspective sits at the center of the universe. You’ll find they’re also dead set on winning an argument rather than hearing you out. Of course some of the lines below are situational, but usually, you don’t want to hear things like:
- “That kind of thing happens to me all the time…”
- “I know how to deal with it, usually.”
- “I don’t get why you’re having a such a hard time.”
A good friend will give you space and time when you need it. They’ll understand you have other commitments, other friends, and sometimes just need some alone time. Even if you don’t see each other very often, when you do get together again, both of you can act like you were only together yesterday. Listen out for:
- “Hey, I know you’re busy. I just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you!”
- “It’s so good to see you! Let’s catch up when you have some free time.”
A toxic friend will occupy your time and thoughts. They will be critical and unaccepting of your friends and sometimes even family. They will demand your time, and make you feel guilty for not being at their side exactly when they need you. They will be expected to be invited to every gathering you go to, and will often not offer the same to you. Listen for these kinds of things:
- “I think your friends hate me.”
- “But I need to talk to you right now!”
- “Why’s it taking you so long to get back to me? You’re supposed to be my friend.”
A good friend will be patient with you. This means anything from being late to making an off-collar joke that maybe went too far. Forgiveness and understanding should be pillars of your relationship. But at the same time, they’ll be frank if they feel you aren’t treating them properly. A good friend is good at just laughing things off if they aren’t that serious.
A toxic friend will lose their temper easily. This is a huge sign of insecurity. If they feel alone or uncomfortable, you are probably their support cushion, and if you aren’t there, they’ll blow a fuse. If you tend to feel guilty and worn down after being around them, making sure, you don’t offend or upset them. That kind of effort is usually just not worth it.
- “I can’t believe you just said that.”
- “I’m offended by that.”
This is the most important part of any relationship. A good friend will be the guardian your deepest secrets; they will never betray your confidence. They will be open with you about their feelings, and keep their lips sealed around others. They fully understand that keeping your trust will determine your friendship, and they have no desire to let your secrets be broadcast for others to hear.
- “I wouldn’t want people knowing that if it were my secret.”
- “I promise this is between you and me.”
A toxic friend, as you probably predicted, will do the opposite. Whether they just have loose lips around anyone or just tell one or two people, it’s a sure-fire sign they cannot be trusted. Usually, these kinds of people care more about their status in the social sphere than the strength of their relationships, and these are generally not happy people.
- “I didn’t know you wanted that kept a secret!”
- “I may have told one or two people.”
- “Sorry, I thought it was something other people should know.”
Whether you’re a wallflower or a social butterfly, having meaningful relationships that are built on honesty, compassion, confidence, support, patience and space can provide incredible enrichment to your life. Dismissing the toxic, negative energy from your life, although difficult, is fantastic for your social life and mental wellbeing.
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