Emotional contagion is real, and you can use it to your advantage.
Have you ever felt drained—mentally and physically—after a night out with a friend? What if you experience this feeling in nearly every interaction with this person?
Being a constant sounding board, safe place, and cheerleader for a friend can be both exhausting and unhealthy. It can also make you wonder if the relationship has become one-sided. When a friendship revolves around the other person’s emotional needs, leaving you feeling stressed rather than supported, it might be time to reconsider if this friendship is worth keeping.
When you invest your time and energy into a toxic friend, naturally, it can have a negative impact. But how do you know if a friendship is toxic? Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., author of “Toxic Friendships: Knowing the Rules and Dealing with Friends Who Break Them”, says there are certain factors that determine if a friendship may be in danger of dragging you down rather than keeping you afloat:
It’s human to want to feel needed. But when the scales tip overwhelmingly in favor of your friend’s wants and needs over your own priorities, then it might be helpful to express your concerns.
“It can be difficult for some of us to get up the courage to confront a relationship issue,” says Degges-White. It’s important to remember that friendships are relationships of choice. Degges-White says that for most of us, the idea of a “relationship of choice” implies an expectation of reciprocity in the relationship. If you feel like you’re being consistently shortchanged, remind yourself that it’s OK to share your feelings with your friend. But before you lay it all on the line, there are a few rules of communication to consider:
If you’ve shared your concerns and the relationship is still causing you stress, then it might be time to remove this person from your inner circle. If you decide to go this route, try to be mindful of how you approach this difficult situation. Being kind and nonjudgmental to yourself can help you be honest about how you feel. Degges-White offers the following tips to help you let go with as little hassle as possible:
The people we choose to surround ourselves with determine how healthy our friendships are. Identifying, confronting, and ultimately saying goodbye to a toxic friend can be one of the most freeing and empowering things you will ever do.
Artwork by KYLE BECK