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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.

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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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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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