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6 Reasons Why Some People Are Toxic Friends

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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.

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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