We all want to be good to our closest pals, but sometimes, without realizing it, we start edging into toxic friend territory. It’s not about the big betrayals; it’s the small habits that sneak into our daily interactions and chip away at the foundation of our friendships. These habits can quietly undermine the trust and respect that take years to build. Take a moment to reflect on whether any of these behaviors sound familiar, and if they do, do something about it.
1. Showing up late for hangouts
It’s easy to lose track of time, but constantly arriving late tells your friends their time isn’t as valuable as yours. Sure, every now and then, life throws a curveball, and you’re running behind. That happens. But if ‘running late’ is your middle name, it’s time to rethink your time management. Being punctual shows respect for your friends and their commitments outside of hanging out with you. Plus, no one likes waiting around when they could be having fun.
2. Making all of your conversations about you
A chat with a friend should be a two-way street. If you find that you’re always steering the conversation back to your life, your job, your romance, it’s a one-way trip to self-absorption city. This is also a hallmark sign of a toxic friend. Listening is just as important as sharing. Make sure to ask your friends about their lives and really hear what they’re saying. It’s about balance. You share some, they share some, and that’s how you both stay on the same page.
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4. Never following up on plans
Talking about that epic road trip is great, but if you never put the wheels in motion, it’s a letdown. When you don’t follow through, it sends a message that you’re all talk, no action. If you’re serious about spending quality time with your pals, show some initiative. Pick a date, make that reservation, or just set up a reminder to check in on plans you’ve discussed. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
Sneaking in a boast under the guise of a complaint or false humility isn’t fooling anyone. It’s like saying, “I hate how I just have too much money to spend,” or “It’s so annoying that everyone wants me at their parties.” It comes off as seeking attention and validation under false pretenses. Just be genuine. If you’ve got something cool to share, own it. No need to wrap it in a complaint.
6. Canceling plans last minute
Life is unpredictable, and sometimes you have to cancel on friends—understandable. But if “Sorry, can’t make it” is your go-to text, you’re flaking out on your friendships. Being reliable is a cornerstone of good friendships. When you cancel last minute, it shows a lack of consideration for the effort and time others have put into making plans with you. Aim to be the friend who’s there when you say you will be, not the one who bails at the drop of a hat.
7. Being overly critical of their choices
Friends make different choices, and that’s okay. But if you’re the friend who always has a ‘but’ ready after every decision they share, it’s not supportive, it’s discouraging. No one’s saying you can’t give advice, but there’s a thin line between being helpful and being a critic. Instead of pointing out why their choices might be wrong, try understanding their perspective. Remember, it’s their life, and making decisions is tough enough without an extra dose of criticism.
Unloading your emotional baggage all at once without a heads-up can be overwhelming for anyone, even a friend, and it’s a toxic habit. It’s important to share your struggles and seek support, but consider your friend’s emotional bandwidth. They have their own stuff going on, too. Make sure you’re not turning every conversation into a venting session about your issues. It’s about give and take; your friend’s shoulder isn’t a dumping ground for stress.
9. Gossiping with your mutuals
It can be tempting to bond over the latest gossip, but when it’s about mutual friends, it’s a quick slide into trust-destroying territory. What might start as a seemingly harmless chat can hurt relationships and create a toxic environment. If you wouldn’t say it directly to them, it’s probably not worth saying at all. Stick to conversations that build people up instead of tearing them down.
10. Being on your phone the entire time you’re together
Hanging out is about enjoying each other’s company, not your phones. If you’re scrolling through social media or texting others while you’re supposed to be with your friend, you’re not really ‘with’ them. It’s like saying the virtual world is more interesting than the person right in front of you. Put the phone down, make eye contact, and be present. That’s how memories are made.
11. Borrowing stuff and never giving it back
It’s fine to borrow things from friends, but not returning them is a no-go. It’s not just about the item; it’s about respecting their belongings and the trust they’ve placed in you. If you’re known as the black hole where borrowed items disappear, it’s time to gather those things and give them back. Show your friends that their trust isn’t misplaced and that you value their generosity.
12. Borrowing money (even if you do pay it back)
It’s alright to be in a pinch and need a little financial help from a friend. The problem starts when it becomes a habit. Even if you’re good for it and pay them back, always turning to friends for cash can strain the relationship. It can make every meetup feel transactional, like you’re just one step away from your next loan request. Try to manage your finances independently, and save the money asks for real emergencies.
13. Comparing yourself or being competitive
Healthy competition can be fun, but constantly measuring your life against your friend’s? Not so much. If you’re the friend who hears about a promotion and instantly talks about your own, you’re turning camaraderie into competition and you’re incredibly toxic. It’s not a race. Celebrate their wins without bringing your scorecard into it. Friendship isn’t about being better or worse than each other; it’s about cheering each other on, regardless of where you are in life.
14. Getting way more than you give
Friendship is a two-way street, remember? If you’re always on the receiving end of help, favors, and support but rarely offer the same in return, it’s a lopsided relationship (and you’re a toxic friend). Maybe you’re not doing it on purpose, but it’s important to check the balance every now and then. Start offering before they have to ask. Be the one to reach out, make plans, or just send a message to see how they’re doing. It’s those little acts of giving that keep the friendship strong and healthy.