spot a fake friend
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 11, 2024 ·  5 min read

5 Ways To Spot A Fake Friend

Making friends as adults is difficult. Finding genuine friends who have no ulterior motives is even harder. Knowing a fake friend from a genuine one is critical for your happiness and for preventing you from wasting time, energy, and emotion on someone who isn’t worth it. Thankfully, there are plenty of little red flags to watch out for to more easily separate friend from foe.

5 Signs You Have a Fake Friend

Knowing whether we are as important to someone as they say we are or if this person is just another fake friend is tricky business. Just like with romantic relationships, new friendships go through a “honeymoon” phase where everything seems perfect all of the time. 

As time goes on, however, a fake friend who is only there to use you for their personal gain will show their true colors, if you know how to spot them. These are a few behaviors to watch out for so you can pick out a fake friend before it’s too late.

1. They’re always gossiping.

If every time you chat or hang out with this so-called friend, they’re always talking about other people in a negative way or telling you things about others that they probably shouldn’t be, then guess what? They are probably talking about you that way to others, as well.

These comments can range from out-right mean to back-handed compliments. Either way, it is clear that you can’t trust this person. 

On the flip side, if you have a friend who is always talking about other people positively (I love that woman’s haircut, it looks amazing on her! Did you hear Jessica got promoted? She’s worked so hard, she deserves it.), then chances are they talk about you in that way as well. These people are positive lights in the world and should be held closely.

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2. You feel bad about yourself whenever you’re around them.

Friends are supposed to be a supportive, positive influence in our lives. After spending time with them, you should feel lighter, happier, and like you can take on the world.

“People feel better about themselves when they have close, supportive and encouraging people in their lives,”  says Robert Rowney, D.O., a certified psychiatrist and the director of the Cleveland Clinic mood disorder unit. “Real friends naturally boost your self-esteem, and in turn, helping out a good friend [in this way] can help you feel better about yourself as well.” (1)

If every time you hang out with someone you feel the opposite, then you might have a fake friend on your hands.

3. They only ever pick out your flaws.

One of the signs of a true friendship is when you are able to call each other out when you are in the wrong. That being said, you know how to do so in a way that doesn’t tear the other person down, but rather pushes them to be better.

“They’re able to point out some of the negative things you’re doing in addition to the positive,” says Rowney. “if it’s a real friend — someone you truly trust — they know they can tell you exactly what’s on their mind. People who are open and straightforward are some of the most important types of friends to have.” (1)

A fake friend will either sit in silence when you’ve got spinach in your teeth or when you’re doing something they know will cause you to self-sabotage, or they will do the opposite: They will only ever point out your flaws. Either extreme is not what you need in a friend.

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4. They are never there for you but expect you to always be there for them.

You know who we’re talking about: They’re that person who always cancels your plans last minute, is never available to listen when you need a kind ear, and makes endless promises that they never keep.

This is the same person who then gets angry or annoyed when you aren’t available to them whenever they need you.

A true friend is one who:

  • Is present and engaged, who pays attention to your needs.
  • They actually listen to you, rather than constantly making the conversation about themselves.
  • They know what hurts you or causes you anxiety, can tell when you are feeling that way, and know when to step in and help in those situations.
  • Even when you are going through difficult times, they stick by you.
  • Your friendship is a priority to them and they make time for you even when it isn’t convenient.

“One thing that really gets in the way of these bonds is when people don’t make time to truly be with their friends,” Rowney says. “If you don’t purposefully make time to see them, it can really hinder the friendships overall and it’s one of the main reasons why friendships fall by the wayside.” (1)

If you are starting to feel like someone is taking a lot more than they are giving, then chances are you’ve got a fake friend.

5. They hold grudges.

We all mess up sometimes, after all, we are all human. A fake friend, however, will never let you forget it. They will hold that over your head to make you feel bad and coerce you into doing things for them.

Often these people are simply using you, and once they have what they need, they will all but disappear – only to crop back up again when they need something more.

Real friends forgive. They understand that you will screw up sometimes. Once you have discussed it and you have apologized properly, they will forgive you and move on, and they will never bring that incident up again.

“When conflicts come up, real friends have the courage to reach out directly rather than gossiping and letting irritations grow,” explains Randy Taran, author and producer of Project Happiness “Real friends understand, and because they understand they are capable of forgiving.” (1)

The Bottom Line

There are many little hints that a friend will send you letting you know that they aren’t genuine. Be wary of them so that you don’t give time, energy, and emotional support to the wrong people. You are worthy of people who cherish you just as you do them – hold out for those friendships and don’t settle for something that isn’t right.

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