Life they say is a journey and in that sense, to reach your desired destination in life, it’s critical you surround yourself with friends who are positive and loving and who believe and support your vision and dreams. It also requires that you avoid friends who are toxic, negative and make no meaningful contribution to your life. If behind every successful man there’s a woman, then by inference it’s safe to say that the relationships you keep will often determine whether you excel in life or remain among the never-do-wells. American motivational speaker Jim Rohn once famously said that we are the average of 5 people we spend the most time with. And nothing could be truer. And if we go by the mirror principle, your whole life somewhat closely reflects the traits, attitudes and behaviors of the company you keep. So in simple terms, you’re the company you keep. That’s the #1 unbreakable law of success and one which no successful person on the planet ever messes with. Successful people know and maximize the power of association. They know only too well that to no one ever becomes great hanging out with losers. As a result, they choose to walk hand in hand, side by side with likeminded people. So if you too want to reach great heights in life, you have to break camp with friends who are toxic, uninspiring and have a negative influence on your life. Here are 5 warning signs you have a toxic friend.
(1) All They Know Is Gossip
Nor do they trust their tongue alone, but speak a language of their own. Can read a nod, a shrug, a look, far better than a printed book; convey libel in a frown, and wink a reputation down. – J Swift
There are moments in everyday life when we either have to pass on a vital piece of information about someone else’s personal life when this is helpful or just to have a conversation flicker on once we are out of small talk ideas. In such situations, “talking about others” may be excused. But it’s hurtful to always have to discuss about the intimate details of other people’s lives most especially when it’s no business of ours. So if you’ve got a vicious rumor monger for a friend who constantly bitches about others, spreads tidbits about idle rumor and needless speculations, then you’d better cut them off for good or they’ll make your life miserable. A gossip betrays a confidence, destroys trust among friends and turns faithful friends against each other. And as if that’s not enough, would stab you in the back when you least expect. When all a friend ever does when you are together is talk, talk, talk nonstop then you should flag them for toxicity because somewhere down the line, they’ll begin to throw in rumors and make up stories about others. Such people waste the time you don’t even have and your energies and just when you are done listening to them, you might feel bad for having participated in their bad-mouthing campaign. You don’t need all that stuff about other people’s private lives when you’ve got your own life to live. These friends have zero capacity for keeping a secret so it’s dangerous having them around. They could just as easily pass on to others whatever you confide in them. Say no to the gossips you have as friends. You can tell if a friend is a vicious gossip if they use the words “did you hear?” way too often.
(2) They Think Only Of Themselves.
A genuine friend is defined as someone who is there for you when they’d rather be somewhere else. Real friends are selfless, they put themselves out to do things for you that reflect thoughtfulness. They may take from you but they always try to give back. They are individuals you can count or lean on any day. Think of them as the embodiment of mutual goodwill. But toxic friends are just the opposite “they are there for you when they need you and unavailable at other times”. They are small-minded as they are self-centered, “takers-only” and don’t give back. And only exist to use, take more from you than you are left to give. And you know what’s more annoying about them? They’d only do something for you only if it furthers their own cause or benefits them – speak of being calculating and they come to mind! These fly-by-night friends are so unreliable that you have to know better not to lean on their shoulders when it matters most. In difficult times they bail out on you. You may let them have their way with all things yours but you can’t trust them to do the same. Tell you what? Friendship is a two way street, more like give and take so if there’s the slightest hint of selfishness on the part of any friend of yours, then they are toxic friends of the first rank. You should only be exchanging mere pleasantries or they’ll drain you dry.
(3) They Are Complainers Or Your Worst Critics.
There’s nothing wrong with having outspoken friends who have a mind of their own and who won’t shy away from telling us just what they think about the scratchy elements in our character. But even then, think of them as a big plus because their adverse assessments can be quite the feedback we need to fine-tune ourselves into our better versions. Having said that, it’s still important to draw the line somewhere between a well-meaning friend who gives us constructive criticism to help us improve and a downright congenital fault-finder whose generous stinging critique about us breeds resentment. A friend who’s always comparing you to others is no use either. It’s suffocating to have someone in such close quarters who is critical of you, never has good things to say about you, ignores the best about you but chooses instead to zero in on your inadequacies. They don’t ever have it in them to offer compliments to anyone. And even on those rare occasions they manage to do, it’s so stinging and backhanded that you wish they didn’t. What makes friends of the kind toxic? It’s because on their day, they know all the ways to put us in the dumps and make us bitter than better. How can you tell if a friend is your worse critic? Ask them just what they think about you and if they have more negative and discouraging things to say about you than positives, they aren’t worth having around – they are your worst critic. If I may add this, they are also the sort who love to whine and gripe about everything. From the economy to the government, to why nothing ever seems to work out for them, and every day it’s the same story. If you happen to hang around these toxic friends long enough, you’d also come round to feel, think and see things their way, and on from there, to focusing on the things that aren’t working for you than what is. And as you do so, you’ll become as unproductive as they are.
(4) They Are Your Dream Killers.
Beware of the man who ridicules your ideas, belittles your dreams and would rather you were in their shadows.
On the subject of friends I’ve realized that there’re two broad categories of friends who could either be instrumental or inimical to our life dreams. There are the “plus” and “minus” or the “firefighters” and “firelighters”. On the one hand, the “firelighters” are those who are always supporting and rooting out for our ideas however unlikely their chances of success. But on the other hand the “firefighters” alias naysayers are those out on the mission of putting out our fires and bright ideas. It wouldn’t be that much of a misnomer to mark them down as “dream killers” for what they can do. When I say “dream killers”, you know the kind of folks I’m talking about here. Those who try to belittle your ambitions or give off the impression that only them alone can become truly great. If you happen to run an idea by them with something like “oh, Jim I have this brilliant idea about starting a business that would address so and so problem we’re facing today”. You might get a discouraging response like “you must have your heads in the clouds, thinking you could solve a problem that no one else– not even the best brains in the world have gotten a hang on”. And if they are not putting you down, they’d demotivate with a list of 1000 reasons why you can’t do what you want. Don’t we say let the man who says it can’t be done not interrupt the man who is doing it? But no, these dream-killer friends would even dare to go that far. It’s just their nature to be pessimistic and there’s no helping it. If they could, they’d help you develop big eyes for “trouble ahead”. Don’t take that risk by putting up with such obnoxious friends, give them the heave-ho at once!
(5) They Are Never Wrong.
Friends in this category are those who would quibble with you over trivialities. Even when in an argument, they may also claim to be the side that’s always right. They are too proud to admit their mistakes or take responsibility for anything as long they can find someone else to pass on the blame. Even in situations when they have given offence or hurt your feelings, they would never get down their high horses to say they are sorry. With friends of these kind, it’s always about denying and defending themselves. They’re always trouble and there’ll tend to be conflicts every so often between you and them but in every case, they’ll expect you to still be the very one to be offering apologies to let peace rain. For them, the words “I’m sorry” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.
If after reading this, you realize any friend of yours has either one or more of the above negative traits, then they are toxic and you’re left with only two choices. Either confront them on it and demand they change. But if they lack the growth mindset and are unwilling to change, then you’d better cut ties with them for good.