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6 Reasons Why Some People Are Toxic Friends

6 Reasons Why Some People Are Toxic Friends

Friendship is a wonderful thing which most people in the world would be lost without. Friendship provides a basis for support, stability, sociability, and emotional well-being. When these factors are compromised, it may be that you have surrounded yourself with toxic friends. While no one is perfect, and friendship is all about unconditional acceptance, there are still some people who could cause a lot of grief. It is confusing as to why people who affect us negatively can be classified as ‘friends’ to begin with. However these toxic friends may not be so easily identified as it seems.

They may have been a great friend in the past, so how did this happen? Why are they suddenly considered to be ‘toxic friends’?

1. They only keep you around to feel superior.

After coming out of an exam believing you have failed it, spending some time with friends either in-person, over the phone, or on the internet should be a positive experience. Friends should be supportive, understanding, and leave you feeling uplifted. The moment you hear something such as: “I found the exam really easy, and you’re smarter than me, so you probably did well,” you might want to re-think the company you are keeping. As harmless as the statement appears, there is an undertone of competitive nature. What if you did fail the exam? She is just waving her victory around in the form of an encouraging statement.

A common trait of toxic friends is the inability to resist competition and often they will take any opportunity to prove that they are superior. Chances are that is the only way they keep you around. When a person is insecure she can turn into a toxic friend very easily. Competitive friends will begin to feel frustrated when they can no longer ‘win’ against you in anything, and will seem to withdraw and appear glum all the time.

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When it seems that all your friends ever do is completely against you, then it’s time to have a very serious chat with them.

2. They cling to you for life.

It is acceptable to be a certain amount of clingy in every friendship, especially in times of hardship and when in need of support. However if your friend is calling you everyday at 2 a.m. for no particular reason, this can become both annoying and exhausting. You can try to avoid him for a little while, making a few excuses as to why he can’t contact you. Eventually this is only going to give him an excuse to make you feel guilty about abandoning him. He will say things like, “If you were my REAL friend, then you wouldn’t try to avoid me and ditch me all the time!” Although this sounds like an elementary school problem, these issues can carry on into adulthood, especially if you have been together for a long time. It is easy to feel trapped in an obligatory friendship, but there is nothing worse than having to feign friendship. It takes a lot of effort and will end up harming both of you in the process. Don’t get trapped in a friendship with a toxically clingy person.

These kinds of friends are also most likely chronically jealous people. They will feel threatened by other friends, especially new ones. This can be harmful to you in the sense that they will try to claim you for their own, scaring off your other friends in the process. Although the clinger might have been a great friend in the past, he is now becoming dangerously possessive. It might be a good time to re-consider the company you are keeping.

3. They are always asking for something.

It’s normal to share things in a friendship. It’s alright to ask for things, but it should be an equal amount of give and take. When a friend is constantly and shamelessly asking you for something every time you see each other, you might have a toxic friend problem. Her logic behind this reasoning is that as her friend, you should be obliged to cater to her every need. Some can even deceive themselves into thinking that they are putting a lot of effort into the friendship and you owe it to them to give them everything they request. Money is always a factor in friendships like this. You will always be the one paying for every meal and taxi. This complex not only leaves you broke, it also makes you appear as a push-over, meaning more people will try to take advantage of you the same way.

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When you stop giving these people everything they want and start resisting, they will either leave you for someone else more gullible or they will take this as an opportunity to make you feel guilty. Without you catering to their every need, they will find themselves in tough situations and they will blame you for not caring about them.

This kind of friend doesn’t take responsibility for anything and you have to remind yourself that your friend is your friend, not your child. Sound familiar? Time to reconsider that relationship.

4. They are full of unhealthy gossip.

All friends gossip — it can be a healthy behavior that allows you to keep up-to-date with current affairs and important information. However when this gossip is predominantly negative information about everyone and everything then gossiping can become dangerous. Most of the gossip this kind of friend spouts can easily be a lie or a clever twist on the truth.

Compulsive liars can become very good at making lies look like truth, so you have to be careful not to get pulled in. They find no better pleasure than in being in the know. They will use their valuable knowledge to ensure they have leverage over people. If they are a particular close friend of yours it can be dangerous. You have probably heard some horrible things about other people who have made this friend angry, and you have probably mistaken this back-stabbing act as an attempt to protect you from the true nature of these people.

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In the start you would have put a lot of trust in this person and have probably vented one too many secrets to him. You only realize too late that you have given him a great deal of leverage on you and if you got on his bad side, you could end up in a lot of trouble. He simply wants to feel powerful and in control. Once he no longer have any secrets to use against you and once you stop taking an interest in his gossip he will most likely lose interest in you.

5. They incorporate themselves into your life at unreasonable levels.

They say that friends are the family that we choose for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with having friends who feel like family to you. However, with a friend who has self-appointed themselves above your family and even above your ‘significant other,’ you might be in a toxic friendship. She will feel offended if you haven’t told her every single detail of your plans. She will appear at every gathering, sometimes uninvited. She will try to compete with your friends and relatives who have known you your entire life. She wants to have the most knowledge about you and will be upset if she finds out someone else knows something she didn’t know about you.

While this is an extreme example, this does happen to people and is very unnerving. The sad thing is that these friends have no malicious intent. The main logic behind it is that they are very lonely people who have attached to you to make themselves feel like they have someone.

It would be good to explain to this friend that there are boundaries she needs to maintain. As innocent as intentions seem to be, she is still a toxic friend, since she invades your privacy and surpass the title of ‘clingy,’ which can be scary both to you and the people around you.

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6. They are never ‘OK’.

It is natural for friends to occasionally check on each other to see how life is going. When you hear your friend is having a bad week, then you feel obliged to comfort him until you know he’s okay again. However there is that one friend who replies to every ‘How are you?’ with ‘Upset, as always.’ This can get annoying and frustrating very quickly.

These are the overly negative friends who are just never OK. There are several reasons to categorize these people as toxic friends. No matter how much good advice you give them, they will continue to avert it, saying nothing will ever help them and no one cares about them. Excessive negativity is unhealthy in any friendship, and if a goal of making your friend happy is the only reason you stay in the friendship, then you are setting yourself up for a lot of grief.

Chances are that they need psychiatric attention, not your company or advice.The only thing staying with this kind of friend will accomplish is making you upset, frustrated, and feel like a failure. They will make you feel guilty about being happy and having a good day and they will always be too self-absorbed in their own unhappiness to celebrate any of your achievements.

Toxic friends are not the sort of people you want in your life. You can’t impress everybody and you don’t have to be friends with everybody, so choose your friends carefully and it will save you a world of hassle.

Featured photo credit: Portrait of two sad girls, dark sepia toned. via shutterstock.com

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Elizabeth Andal

Elizabeth is a passionate writer who shares about lifestyle tips and lessons learned in life on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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