Do you know the red flags in friendship? Can you spot a toxic person? Here are a few warning signs to remember as you enter into friendships.
What is a red flag in a friendship?
I'm certain you've heard the term ‘red flag' thrown around a lot in regards to relationships. However, red flags in friendship aren't talked about as much. So, let's get into this.
A ‘red flag' is a warning sign. It's a feeling you get that something just doesn't feel right. These can also be called intuitive hits or gut feelings. Unfortunately, our past traumas sometimes keep us from identifying good versus bad.
As I mentioned in my Green Flags in Friendship article, a red flag can be thought of us a flashing red light or a stop sign. The red screams DANGER and is meant to tell you to stop, don't proceed any further.
I hope the red flag I've listed below can stick with you enough to make you stop and think before getting too deep into a toxic friendship.
How to spot red flags in friendships
I always encourage others to first, follow their intuition. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right. Don't push those feelings of unease or discomfort aside. Your body is telling you something.
A few important questions to ask yourself about your friendships:
- Am I nervous around this person?
- Do I often feel like I'm walking on eggshells?
- Do I feel like I'm emotionally drained after spending time with this friend?
- Do they make me feel bad about myself?
- Am I negatively influenced by this person?
- Is this friend genuinely loyal to me?
- Does this person respect my boundaries?
- Do we have clear and open communication?
Those are a few of the biggest and most important question to consider when evaluating your friendships. You can learn more about those gut feelings in my latest post.
15 Warning Signs of a Toxic Friendship
These are a few red flags to keep in mind as you enter into new friendships and reevaluate your current friendships. I know adult friendships can be difficult, especially ones that have crossed over from childhood. It's hard to confront issues within a friendship and even more difficult to decide whether or not to end a friendship for good.
1. Your friendship is built on gossip.
I talk about this often on this site, but it's because I've lived and I've learned that gossip is detrimental for friendships. When I decided to cut gossip out of my life, I realized that some of my friendships had no real substance.
In many cases, if they gossip to you – they gossip about you. This is a major red flag especially if the individual feels comfortable gossiping about others as soon as they meet you.
2. Jealousy is involved.
In friendships, jealousy can be hard to identify because it's not always a clear-cut thing. Jealousy can look like your friend not mentioning opportunities to you. It can look like a friend knowingly giving you bad advice or not celebrating your achievements.
There is no room for jealous in friendship.
3. They intentionally make insulting jokes.
If the person in question intentionally makes jokes that you're uncomfortable with, even after you've mentioned it, that's a major red flag. Take that as a warning sign that this individual not only doesn't respect you – they don't value your friendship.
4. Not respecting boundaries.
Similarly, if someone doesn't respect your boundaries – that is not a sign of a good friend. In fact, crossing boundaries is an immediate red flag in friendships.
For example, if you've asked your friend to not discuss your ex, yet they continue to talk about what your ex is doing – that person is not respecting your boundaries.
Another example is if your friend bringing up uncomfortable topics that you've asked them not to talk about in front of your partner.
Boundaries can be simple or much deeper than this but those are a couple examples. I'll touch deeper on this topic at another time so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.
5. Conversation is one-sided/always change the subject to themselves.
This is not only a red flag in friendship, it's a personal pet-peeve I have. If your conversation tends to feel one-sided and self-involved, that could be a red flag.
Please note, while this may be a red flag, it could also be a sign of poor communication skills. Bring it up to your friend or use your personal judgement on this one.
6. Gaslighting. Manipulating. Guilt-Tripping.
If you're experiencing any sort of gaslighting, manipulation, or guilt-tripping within a friendship – RUN. Seriously, those are major red flags in any relationship and can lead to abuse.
Refinery29 has a great article on how to spot gaslighting in friendships!
7. There's a lot of conflict.
This may be up for discussion but I personally believe that friendships shouldn't have a lot of conflict. Unlike relationships, friendships don't have the added stress of commitments, finances, balancing household chores, etc.
If it feels like the time you share with your friend includes a lot of bickering, arguing, getting frustrated, or one of you getting mad at the other – the friendship likely isn't right for you.
8. Effort is one-sided.
While some great friendships can be left untreated for awhile, many individuals need effort to make both parties feel loved and appreciated. If you're the only one inviting the other to hang out, the only one started conversations, texting, or checking on how they are doing – it could be a sign that the other individual is no longer interested in your friendship.
In this case, have a conversation and see where it leads.
9. They don't show much interest in your life.
A true friend is genuinely interested in your life. They want to hear of you successes, struggles, and day-to-day happenings. You'll notice that they check on you, ask how you're doing, and bring up specific topics about your life because they care. They want to know more. They want you to know that they love hearing what you've got to say!
A codependent friend is all fun and games until you're made to feel guilty for spending time with someone else. If your friend is jealous or lashes out when you spend time with anyone else – that's a red flag that should make you reevaluate your friendship.
To add, codependency in friendship means that you rely on one another for happiness. This can often lead to one individual being the giver, while the other is the taker. This imbalance is very toxic to a friendship.
11. Feel taken advantage of or used.
Another toxic sign in a friendship is the feeling of being used or taken advantage of. Sometimes, codependency can make you feel this way. Other times, people can outright use you for what you have to offer.
Being taken advantage of can be as obvious as an individual spending time with you because you spoil them with dinners, money, or gifts. In addition, a more subtle way someone could be using you is to cure their boredom. A sign of this may be that your friend only hangs out with you or talks to you when they have nothing better to do. For instance, they don't invite you to anything or respond to communications when they are with others.
Keep in mind, there is a fine line between an individual setting a boundary and one who is only chatting when they are bored. Evaluate carefully.
12. They ignore you around certain people.
This is one of those red flags in friendship that is extremely easy to notice. As someone who has experienced this personally, it's also one of the most hurtful signs that the friendship isn't what you thought it was.
An example of this is you're go to a social gathering with your good friend. Once you arrive, your friend sees someone that they would rather spend their time with and they pretty much ditch you. You either feel like a 3rd wheel or you are excluded completely.
A true friend doesn't do this. They always make sure you feel important – even around their other friends.
13. No accountability for their actions.
This is a major sign of a toxic person in your life. If anyone, whether it be a friend, partner, or relative, an individual who cannot admit fault cannot offer a healthy relationship.
This can look like an individual who never apologizes or someone who does apologize but behavior doesn't change. A friend who tends to blame other people or situations for bad behavior is another signal for no accountability.
14. You often feel judged.
Feeling judged by a friend is more than the “head to toe look” most of us has come to learn. It can be a friend who makes you feel bad when you make a mistake. This can also underhanded comments about what you're eating, the clothes you're wearing, or the choices you make.
Another example of judgement would be an individual who seems to always give advice without showing empathy or compassion.
15. They cause you stress and anxiety.
Finally, if the friend in question is causing you more stress or anxiety than happiness and support – it may be time to walk away. As I said in the beginning of this article, listen to your body. You shouldn't be nervous to talk to a friend.
What to do when you see red flags in friendship
As an introverted mom, I know how difficult it is to make and keep friends. However, I wont sacrifice my values or self-respect in order to keep a friend. You shouldn't either.
If you've found that many of these red flags are relevant in your friendship – it may be time to breakup with a friend. In some instances, a good conversation can be enough.
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