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Weekly Doses of Pop-up Psych

We all make cringey mistakes and deserve to move on, rather than feel confused or regretful after an icky social situation. Each week, I will dissect a murky social, life cycle, or pop culture topic to help you understand, learn, and move on. As a former academic, I am a super-picky consumer of research (and you should be too) as well as the content I create and share, so those new solutions, data and/or additional resources have certainly met my approval.

How to Spot a Toxic Friend (And Reclaim Your Power Without Drama)

toxic friendship

  Before they blew you off or lied, there was that sisterhood or brotherhood, where you were for each other's joys and heartaches. Now, you have been kicked to the curb, while they tag their new best friends on social media. Sound familiar?


     Every friendship whether it’s genuine or toxic, teaches us something.  Genuine friends are “our people” who catch us when we fall and support us throughout the ups and downs of life’s roller coaster. Unfortunately, not all friends have our best interest at heart. Approximately, 80% of Americans have reported emotional abuse from a toxic friendship.

toxic friendship

Whether the person is part of our life story for a single chapter or the entire book, according to Maslow’s seminal Hierarchy of Needs, a core human requisite is that humans need to feel a sense of belonging and affiliation with other people.  Each friendship comes with a unique set of norms, history, and levels of intimacy. 


How do we spot toxic friends? 


  They can be very deceptive because they present themselves as charming, funny, kind, and claim to really care about us.  However, a nasty creature lurks behind that mask, subtly poking out its ugly head and then quickly disappearing before your inner voice has the chance to ask, did that really happen?  Did she/he/they really say or do that?


  Those single incidents of are like getting burned with of acid, since one tiny drop can burn and do a great deal of damage. People are humans who make and learn from their mistakes, so one incident should warrant caution, but not necessarily a true cancellation since friendships are about forgiveness and supporting each others’ growth.  More than one drop of acid should sound off the inner alarm when toxic people give themselves away by doing these:


Toxic people babble more than actually do


Like charming salespeople, they tell you exactly what you need to hear at the right time to maintain your attention to distract from whatever they are supposed to be doing.


Toxic people prey on your areas of opportunity


They learn your vulnerabilities and use them to their advantage to manipulate to get what they want. Toxic people are masterminds at sniffing out ways to break someone.


Toxic people take and do not give


My mother always said, “takers have no pride”.  They take what they want and without hesitation, give back nothing. Toxic people drain their prey and run away.


Toxic people channel their inner three-year old


When they want something, they want it that exact second. They do not understand boundaries, so when you do not drop what you are doing to tend to them, they become difficult, mean, and dramatic.


Toxic people make you think you are the problem


Also known as gaslighting, which is turning around a situation by denying it is real. When confronted, toxic people become high-drama with tears, blame everyone else, and avoid any responsibility.


Reclaiming Your Power

Congratulations on identifying the toxic friend who seems to only care about their own agenda.  Now, it’s time to gracefully move on.


Get off their radar


It is time to stop following their agenda by creating space between you and him/her/them to limit the opportunity for more damage. If it is too awkward of a situation to cut off completely, stay connected on social media and maybe an occasional text. Be mindful about the amount of attention you give them-you don’t want a minute to turn into an hour (remember that “takers have no pride”).


Put away your boxing gloves 


What is true purpose of getting even? Take a step back and heal so that you do not try to create a mud-slinging festival that you probably won’t win. Just because someone started a mess, does not mean you make it bigger or drop evidence on the internet. Be the bigger person and move on. They can avoid you, but they definitely cannot hide from karma.


Forgive yourself for getting sucked in


You cannot blame yourself because of the toxic friendship.  You were a target, who was picked out for a reason.  You were courted and wanted to believe that toxic person was really a true friend. Work on forgiveness only to alleviate yourself of anger and other negative energy, so you can have a clear conscious and move on.  Understand what you saw in the friend so you do not make it a pattern.


Forgive them for being so troubled


Toxic people are in pain. Some toxic people do not understand the magnitude of what they are doing. They are so focused on their own agenda that they might not have any awareness of the harm the did to others.  Forgiving them is essential as forgiving yourself to be free of any ties from them. Wish them well and move on. You are the better person.


Moving on from toxic people


  Toxic people come into our lives to teach us lessons. Note the lessons and be grateful for the genuine good times and laughs. You have walked away from this smarter and wiser, so it’s time to reclaim your power by moving on to things that genuinely make you happy and appreciate the genuine friends who stick around for more than a chapter.


Which toxic people do you need to cut from your life?

Hi, Beautiful Readers! Thank you for reading this! I'm Dr. Joanne Broder, Media Psychologist, Author, and Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Please consider me to help you write your memoir, blogs, speeches, e-books, as well as coach you on your dissertation or thesis.  Click here so we can connect!

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