Am I a Bad Friend? 7 Easy Ways to Tell If You Need to Work on Your Friendship Game

Updated on January 26, 2018
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Jorge's relationship advice is based on experience and observation. He's seen many people—including himself—get seduced and hurt by love.

Are you a bad friend? If you want to know for sure, it helps to examine your intentions.
Are you a bad friend? If you want to know for sure, it helps to examine your intentions.

Are You a Bad Friend? What Does That Even Mean?

If you're worried that you might be a bad friend, don't be! You probably aren't.

Just the fact that you have the self-awareness to worry about how you're affecting others means that you're probably a good friend.

Even if you are the horrible person you suspect yourself to be, it's nothing to worry about.

Worrying never made anyone a better friend, after all.

Instead, let's try to get to the root of the issue: What is a bad friend in the first place, and how can you tell if you're one of them?

Maybe you're reading this because someone called you a bad friend. Maybe an acquaintance accused you of being two-faced and disloyal. Or maybe you actually did something that you regret to someone you care about, and now you're wondering to yourself if you've been a toxic influence in their life.

There lies the definition of a bad friend, in essence: A bad friend is someone who does not contribute to a person's life. Instead, they make that person's life worse. A bad friend usually only cares about what he or she can gain from the other person. A bad friend doesn't care about you for who you are, only what he or she can get out of you.

Even if they have a "neutral" effect on your life, they end up wasting time that you could have spent with better friends.

Now...does this sound like you? Have you acted this way towards someone?

Look deep inside of yourself and be honest. Do you make someone's life worse by not being a true friend? Do you only tolerate their presence because you get something out of it? If they stopped benefiting you in some external way, would you forget all about them? Do you refuse to appreciate them for who they are?

Of course, it's normal to find certain things about our friends annoying on occasion. It's normal to want to take breaks from people. It's even normal to occasionally inconvenience your friends unintentionally.

This is different from trying to get the most you can out of a person--time, money, favors, whatever--while giving as little as you can in return. This is what a bad friend does.

What a Bad Friend is Not

Before we go on, let's make it clear what a bad friend is not. You are not necessarily a bad friend just because:

  • You told your friend "no." When you don't give someone what they want, they may sometimes try to paint you as a terrible friend just because you have boundaries or simply don't want to comply with a request. This is not true. In fact, to be a good friend you have to be able to say "no" when needed.
  • You did something your friend didn't agree with. As long as you're not hurting your friend with what you do, your life is your life. If you decided to change political affiliations or religions, you're not a bad friend.
  • You did something that hurt your friend on accident. Being a bad friend means that you make your friend's life worse by making poor choices. If something is a freak accident, you didn't have a conscious choice in it. Of course, a good friend will try their best to make up for their mistakes, even if they were unintentional.

If you're still not sure whether you're a bad friend or not, take a look at these 7 signs that you might be one:

1) You Cycle Through Friends Quickly

Can you never seem to keep your friends for long?

Does it seem like every year or two, you have a completely different social circle, even though you've lived in the same city?

Is your turn-over rate for friends faster than the employee turn-over at your local McDonald's?

Now, you probably won't lose all your friends at once.

Maybe some random drama will happen with Michelle at the Christmas party and you stop being friends. Then you have a huge blow up with Phil about Charlotte and Steve, and so you lose all three of those friends. Then you kind of stop contacting Gary because he stops hooking you up with cheap concert tickets.

The next thing you know, you've drifted from one set of friends to another, and very few (if any at all) have survived.

Some people change hobbies rapidly, so they naturally make and lose acquaintances more quickly than others. However, if you notice that you can't seem to hold onto even deep friendships--or that you can never seem to get that far in the first place--then you might want to think about why.

It could be that you've been a bad friend to these people.

Does making genuine friendships seem like a struggle?
Does making genuine friendships seem like a struggle?

2) You Can't Seem to Get Close to People

Part of having a fulfilling life is having deep friendships with people. Do you feel like you can't really get close to anyone? Does it always seem like your plans would be ruined if you were more vulnerable and honest with the people around you?

For example, let's say your classmate told you honest stories about his dark past. You could bond and get closer to him by relaying some of yours, but you don't want to risk having him know "dirt" about you. You'd rather have a little bit of power over him instead, by being the only one in the relationship who knows about the other's vulnerabilities.

Similarly, do people avoid getting close to you as well? Do they specifically hide certain things from you because they know you will gossip about them or potentially use the information against them?

Is getting close to you such a minefield that most people just give up?

3) You Feel Like You Can't Trust Any of Your Friends

Many times, when we can't trust the people around us, we see that as a sign that we're surrounded by bad friends.

Indeed, sometimes this is the case--but not always.

Often, we're the ones who are the bad friends, and we expect others to act the same way we do. Many people who think that "others can't be trusted" are actually untrustworthy individuals themselves.

Look deep inside of yourself. Are you projecting on the people around you? Do you assume that people can't be trusted because you can't be trusted, either?

Do you feel like everything you say and do can be used against you? Do you feel like nothing you do inspires loyalty in other people?

You probably have some bad friendships. And while this can be due to the fact that you have bad friends, often it is also because you yourself may not know how to be a good friend to people.

After all, we surround ourselves with people who match us.

"Hey bro, glad you could come by. Have I told you lately that I can't trust you as far as I can throw you?"
"Hey bro, glad you could come by. Have I told you lately that I can't trust you as far as I can throw you?"

4) You're Constantly in the Middle of Drama

Does it seem like no matter what you do, things always blow up in your face? Are you the center of human drama in your social circle? Are you the person who "starts stuff" among your friends?

This is a sign that you're making life harder for other people. You might be disrupting their peace because you have a subconscious need to bring attention to yourself or create conflict.

While this may not be entirely conscious, it can make you a bad friend to others. Don't be surprised if people who have been good friends to you start to disappear.

5) Whenever You Have a Single Argument With Someone, The Friendship is Over

There will always be some amount of conflict among people. The bigger issue is how these conflicts are resolved--if they ever are.

Do you call it quits at the first sign of trouble? If your friend is inconveniencing you by disagreeing with something, do you just wave them away and never see them again? Are your relationships so fickle that even a mild disagreement can blow up into a broken friendship?

If so, then these people are not real friends--but neither are you.

6) If You Can't Get What You Want, You're Gone

Are you always on the lookout for what you want, what you "deserve," and what you "should have"? Do your friends take a backseat to this?

In fact, if a friend stopped giving you some superficial, material thing that you wanted, would you forget about them quickly?

If so, then you have no business calling yourself their friend.

"I love you, Snuggles...but if you stop fetching the ball, you can say goodbye to our relationship."
"I love you, Snuggles...but if you stop fetching the ball, you can say goodbye to our relationship."

7) All of Your Friends Are "Bad Friends"

Finally, another huge sign that you're a bad friend is if all of your friends are "bad friends" to you.

Again, we tend to attract people who are like us.

Sometimes, when the only kinds of relationships that we understand are opportunistic ones, we'll tend to bring other opportunistic people into our lives. From there, we can fall into a pattern of co-dependence.

For instance, let's say you have a coworker named Brenda and she has a huge dislike for your other coworker, Terry. You dislike Terry, too. Before you know it, you and Brenda have forged a pseudo-friendship based on your mutual hatred of Terry. Both of you bond by complaining about Terry and talking behind his back.

Guess what? Brenda is a bad friend. If she's willing to say horrible things about Terry, then she'd probably be willing to throw you under the bus the minute she "decided" she didn't like you, too. In fact, she may have already and you just don't know it.

Similarly, in this scenario, you would be a bad friend to Brenda, too. If your relationship is built on such an unsavory foundation, you can't help but be a bad friend.

If these are the kinds of relationships in your life, then yes, you are probably bad at being friends with people.

What a "Bad Friend" Really Is and What to Do If You Are One

So what happens if it turns out that you're a bad friend? Are you doomed to be that way forever? Is a "bad friend" something that you are, like an integral part of your identity?

As you might have already noticed, whether something is "bad" or not is relative. According to one standard or another, you could be "bad" today and "good" tomorrow.

So don't take it too personally if you happen to exhibit some of the signs listed above. Maybe you are a "bad" friend, but you could just as easily change that in the next month or even the next minute.

The key is being conscious about it.

There's no reason to feel guilty about what you've done in the past. Guilt and shame won't make you a better friend.

Instead, closely examine the friendships in your life. Is there any friend of yours who you love unconditionally? Are you a positive influence in their life?

If, in all honesty, you can't say that you know anyone like that, then you need to work on your friendship game. You need to learn to see life from other people's perspectives and care about them for who they are, instead of simply seeing how they can serve your own self-centered agenda.

The best part is that when you touch people's lives in a positive way by being a true friend like this, they will give you the same in return! Genuine people will start popping into your existence, and the toxic people will slowly drop away.

If for no other reason, learn to be a good friend for your own sake. It'll make your life much better.

How You See Yourself

So...are you a bad friend?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Jorge Vamos

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      • profile image

        Michelle 

        3 months ago

        Thank you, thank you for this post! I was so concerned that I was being a bad friend to everybody, but now I see that I'm overreacting. This is also very helpful to identify bad or toxic friends among your good friends. Thanks a lot!

      • kiddiecreations profile image

        Nicole K 

        4 months ago

        Thank you for this post! You bring up some very insightful points. Friendship should definitely be a two-way street, and a true friend will love unconditionally, not just so they can get something out of the relationship for themselves. Good point about drama, also. Someone who loves to see chaos and drama among their "friends" is definitely not a person who has others' best interest at heart or is a true friend. Well-written and accurate!

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