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The Fallout of Not Facing the Toxic Behaviors of a Selfish Friend

The Fallout of Not Facing the Toxic Behaviors of a Selfish Friend

Back in high school, my best friend and I would hang out all the time. We were in the same grade, we lived pretty close to each other, and we shared a lot of interests – tennis, the piano, and reading. We spent hours and hours talking about everything. She was smart and easy to talk to. But the problem was, she only seemed to care about herself. So when I wanted to share problems or successes in my own life, she was totally uninterested. Hanging out with her only left me feeling sad and lonely.

It can be hard to identify toxic aspects of any relationship. But just because you see your friends often doesn’t mean you’re not lonely. Toxic behaviors turn your good intentions into vain acts. Selfish friends will focus far more on their own needs, neglecting yours. While hanging out will be fun for a while, they will consistently drain your energy and leave you feeling abandoned.

The Flawed Ways to Handle a Selfish Friend

Imagine a friend who is constantly minimizing your own life stresses and always talking about troubles in his own love life. You have a deadline coming up when he calls you one evening. You explain the situation to him and ask if you can talk another time. Outraged, he yells and gives you an ultimatum. He doesn’t want to hear from you again.

You have a lot of ways you might respond to him. These are some common ways people use to deal with such relationship.

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1. Take In Everything

Many people simply accept the toxic behaviors by staying silent and sometimes even enabling them. You might call your friend back, apologize, and give him some time to talk about his latest disastrous date.

This is the path of least resistance, so it’s easy to fall into this kind of pattern.

But this isn’t a real solution. By accepting your friend’s toxic behaviors, you hurt your own ego, feel sad and more stressed in your personal life, and overall feel like your friendship is extremely turbulent. Sacrificing your own needs won’t fix anything. Gradually it will start to take a toll on your mental health and make you feel depressed.

2. Cast Shadow Upon Others

Another option is to steer into the skid: mimicking the friend’s selfish behavior when you hang out. It feels better to do this than to be victimized. But by doing this, even unconsciously, you become the toxic friend in other relationships. It’s harmful to you as well as the friendship.

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Imagine that, in response to your friend’s selfish behaviors, you also start behaving this way to everyone in your life. Instead of giving your friends space when they need it, you demand all of their time for your problems. You feel like you’re always forced to take your friend’s bad behaviors, so you take it out on your friends, family, and your significant other. This vicious circle will harm everyone in your life and only spread the selfishness onward like a communicable virus.

3. Cut Ties Sharply

Finally, some people sharply cut ties with their toxic friends. While this will get rid of your problems, it doesn’t really fix them. What’s more, your selfish (ex-)friend may not understand your motivations or actions and return with passive-aggressive behaviors.

If your selfish friend suddenly can’t get in touch with you for weeks upon weeks, they will feel totally confused and abandoned. Think about how they might react — not just with confusion, but anger. They may lash out at you in other ways, perhaps talking to mutual friends about how selfish you are, or trying to get in touch with you even more aggressively. This too can take a mental and emotional toll on you. Avoidance isn’t the answer.

Real Solutions to Save the Friendship

Lots of people want to fix toxic relationships with band-aid fixes, but band-aids don’t fix relationships. To deal with feelings and relationships, it takes time and effort. These are the real solutions to deal with a selfish friend and genuinely fix your friendship.

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Openly talk about your feelings with your friend.

Let them know how their actions have been harming you personally. Be specific but kind here. It’s important to communicate that you want honesty and that you’re committed to sustaining and improving the friendship.

Share your personal boundaries.

Explain what exactly it is that you need from your friend in order to make the relationship feel equal. For example, you might tell your friend that you can’t always talk on the phone late at night when you have deadlines. Don’t tell them that you can’t ever talk on the phone late at night, but explain that you need them to give you space when you are stressed or busy.

Listen openly and be willing to compromise.

Be open to hearing their honest feelings and reactions to what you are saying. It’s possible that their actions might be related to your behaviors too. Be honest with yourself and with your friend, and you are likeliest to have the best results.

Finally, if your friend simply refuses to listen to your feelings and clearly has no interest in engaging in an honest conversation, admit defeat. If you can’t fix the relationship, then that’s that. Leave it be, move on, and focus on building and maintaining your healthy friendships.

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But oftentimes, a friendship is worth salvaging and you never know how wonderful a friendship can be if you never try. Many friends don’t realize that they are behaving selfishly, and talking with them honestly can really turn things around.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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