You know the friend I’m talking about. The one who you have to brace yourself before seeing. The shady one, who makes you somehow feel smaller or stupider with a single sentence. The one who you can never quite relax around, because you’re not sure quite sure when the next drama is going to erupt…
Straight up, the point of friends is that they make you the best possible version of yourself when you’re around them. They make you feel funny and kind and smart. And while every friendship goes through some rough patches, you know how the saying goes… “I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to fall. I’ll be there for you, like I’ve been there before.” Fine, it’s less a saying and more a line from the Friends theme song. But whatever.
As you’re reading this, bear in mind, I am the type of person who would literally rather light their own hair on fire and rub the ashes into my eyes than take part in any kind of confrontation. But then again, if you’re someone who’s happy with confrontation, chances are you already got rid of all your toxic friends. So hoorah for you! Everyone else, here is the completely non-definitive guide to ditching those energy-sappers and surrounding yourself only with friends who make you feel amazing.
1. Work out if they’re a toxic friend or if they’re just a friend going through a bad patch
Sometimes, friendships are just hard. Your mate is being a right cow and cross at you for something, but you’re not entirely clear what. Or she’s been moaning about her break up for months and your sympathy is long gone and rapidly being replaced by frustration. Or she’s going through some mental health problems and being around her is getting you down. These things do not a toxic friend make, guys.
Friendships are a little like the weather. Sometimes they’re just a bit grey and s**t – and when they are, it’s best to stay indoors and watch a film until the sun comes out again.
2. Talk to them. But in a gentle, soothing way, like you would to a horse or a newborn baby.
I don’t mean in a “let’s have a long and uncomfortable conversation about why I no longer want to hang out with you” conversation, but more a gentle conversation to touch base.
Check that everything’s ok with them. If you can manage it, mention that it upset you when they said Y or that you didn’t understand why they did X. Give them a chance to redeem themselves. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes of someone else’s life, you might be surprised. Plus, this way, if nothing changes and this person continues to make you feel bad, you can distance yourself without any sense of guilt.
3. Implement the Phoebe Buffay method
For those of you who don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of Friends, which tbf is totally understandable because you probably have a better social life than I do, the episode, “The One With Ross’s Tan” features Amanda Buffamonteezi, a classic Toxic Friend. She puts Monica and Phoebe down, isn’t all that interested in their lives but loves to spend ages regaling them with stories about her own life, plus, she puts on a fake accent (NB: this isn’t always indicative of a toxic friend, but is always a douchey thing to do). Phoebe explains to Monica that they should try to “cut her out”; ignore her calls, pretend to be busy, until she eventually gets the hint. Basically she means they should ghost her – but the term ghosting hadn’t been invented then, because it was the 90s.
4. Take a harder line
If you want to take a harder stance and you are confident that you’ll never want to rekindle this friendship, unfollow them on social media. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, the lot. Au revoir toxic friend. Adios to your toxicity filling up my news feed. Never again to seeing a photo they post of them looking amazing and everyone around them looking meh.
But no matter what you choose to do, it’s important to find a way to distance yourself from toxic people – you’re too damn important and wonderful to spend time and energy on people who only bring you down.