Have you ever been friends with someone who made you feel terrible after spending time with them?
Have you found yourself wondering if they were toxic or whether they might be a narcissist?
Narcissistic Friends: Signs and What to Do
Narcissists often think they’re better than everyone around them and treat others like they don’t matter or aren’t important.
They also tend to be very self-centered and selfish.
And when it comes to having narcissistic friends, you must understand that they are toxic despite what you might want to think.
In the end, the truth is that they’re not always worth keeping in your life. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can deal with them without it becoming a major problem.
It’s important to know what makes a person narcissistic before you can learn how to deal with a narcissistic friend.
Understand what narcissism means.
Narcissism isn’t just looking in the mirror too much or being overly concerned about one’s appearance. When it comes to toxic or malignant narcissism, it’s much deeper and more sinister.
- If we’re talking about a toxic or malignant narcissist, on the most basic level, we’re talking about someone who lacks empathy and acts from that perspective.
- Officially, this term refers to a toxic, verbally abusive person who may have narcissistic personality disorder.
- It’s someone who demonstrates toxic narcissism – as opposed to healthy narcissism; this is excessive self-focus that involves a marked lack of empathy for others.
- Narcissists believe they’re special and superior to other people.
- They are certain that their own opinions and ideas are more valid than those of others.
- They have an inflated sense of self-importance and tend to demand attention and admiration. The type and intensity of their need for narcissistic supply will vary between covert narcissists and grandiose ones.
If you understand what constitutes Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which signs indicate someone is exhibiting narcissistic tendencies, and how to handle each sign using these strategies, then you will be able to change your view of yourself by taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
A Real-Life Example of a Narcissistic Friend
A few months after I left my ex-husband and became a single mom, I got a job working in healthcare billing. The hours were good for a single mom, I got health insurance for my son and me, and the pay was better than I could do elsewhere at that time.
After a few weeks on the job, I met a fellow single mom working in my department. Let’s call her Brenda.
I was so happy to meet Brenda because I didn’t know anyone in the area (because my narcissist ex had isolated me quite thoroughly and because I’d moved to be closer to my family when I left him).
Plus, our kids were of similar ages, and we could hang out and have playdates outside work. It seemed perfect.
At work, we started having lunch together every day. I was thrilled to have someone to hang out with and fully embraced the friendship.
But after a few months, I noticed that every time I spent time with Brenda, I felt super-stressed and like I needed to calm down. I couldn’t figure out why at first, which sounds odd, but I wasn’t as self-aware back then as I am now.
I wrote about it in my journal a few times and realized I must be missing something. There didn’t seem to be a logical reason I’d feel the way I did – Brenda was a good friend, right?
After that, I watched our conversations a little closer and realized that Brenda was very negative.
If I had an idea or talked about trying something new, she’d instantly go into all the reasons I shouldn’t bother doing it, or why it wouldn’t work.
If I bought my lunch, she’d make subtle jabs at me for not being more frugal – and if I brought my lunch, she’d pick it apart for any given reason.
If I talked about a guy I was interested in, she’d do everything she could to tear him down and divert my attention.
And she NEVER liked it if I tried to bring another friend along to hang out – she’d tear that person apart verbally and refuse to participate in whatever we were doing.
She was SO negative!
I struggled to find a time when she said anything positive. But when we’d first met, I had taken her negativity as a sort of commiseration between two single moms – you know how it is.
Once I realized what was going on, I wondered if I should end the friendship.
I mean, it wasn’t like I had a million friends at that point in my life, but should I really maintain a relationship with someone who was bringing me down so much?
After a few days, I realized that I wanted to be her friend, so I started trying to turn our conversations toward the positive subtly.
I’d counter all of her negativity with phrases like “but on the plus side” and “now here’s the silver lining…”
But Brenda didn’t respond much to those things – except to occasionally roll her eyes and continue with her negativity.
Then, one day, I got moved to a new team within the department, and they all invited me to lunch.
Brenda was annoyed when I invited her to go along. She refused and told me she’d rather eat lunch in her car than put up with those people and that we’d just resume our lunches the following day.
After spending my lunch break with this group, I felt a bit of an uplift in my spirits. And the next day, they invited me to join them again.
Once again, I invited Brenda, and this time, she begrudgingly accepted. With all of these more positive people around, I felt better.
Brenda’s negativity couldn’t quite infect me the way it usually did, and it was harder for her to dominate the conversation with so many of us at the table; but after a few days, she told me she was done with them.
It was too much for her. And she gave me an ultimatum: her or the group.
Whether it was right or wrong, I chose the group.
And while I told Brenda that it didn’t need to be this way, that we could all be friends – or at least that I could be friends with them and her as well, she disagreed, and she gave me the silent treatment for the remainder of the time we worked together.
I felt bad about it, but I knew I’d made the right choice. Negativity is so difficult to deal with – and Brenda’s especially toxic version of it was infecting me like a disease. I knew that if I wanted to feel better, I had to move on.
Now, I can’t say for sure if Brenda was a narcissist or just a very broken woman. But either way, she had become toxic for me.
So let me ask – does any of this sound familiar to you?
Have you ever had an experience like that?
Do you have a toxic friend?
They’re extremely sensitive to criticism, so you’ll need to tread lightly when discussing their behavior to keep the peace.
Everyone has a slightly different definition–but the bottom line is that a true friend is someone who is there for you when you need him or her, who you trust, and who makes you feel good.
Probably you have great conversations, share interests, and support one another in your everyday lives. You help each other out. You have each other’s backs. You know.
But what happens when a friend turns out to be “not so good” for you – if the friendship becomes toxic? Worse, what if your friend is a toxic narcissist?
What does a toxic or narcissistic friend look like?
- In layman’s terms, a toxic or narcissistic friend is someone who makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good after spending time with them.
- This person might be critical of you — sometimes subtly, and other times, not so subtly.
- They may also make you feel drained – emotionally, financially, and/or mentally.
- Ultimately, this is someone who you might recognize as not very good for you.
How do you identify a toxic friendship?
It can be difficult, especially if you have been close to a friend for a long time. If you suspect that a friend is (or has become) toxic, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you feel after spending time with or speaking to this person? Do you feel good and positive (for the most part) or do you find yourself worrying, stressing or obsessing about some aspect of the visit or call?
- Are you afraid to tell your friend about some aspect of your life for fear of how they’ll react or fear of being judged harshly?
- Do you sometimes find yourself avoiding contact with the person or ignoring their calls?
- Does your friend consistently “forget” about your plans or cancel at the last minute?
- Does your friend actively insult or offend you on a consistent basis?
- Do you find yourself feeling uncomfortable or bothered by your friend’s life choices, behavior or moral conduct?
- Do you feel comfortable bringing up concerns about your friendship with this friend?
- Does this friendship benefit you?
- Do you trust this friend, really trust him or her?
These are just a few questions to get you started. In general, your friends should be an asset to your life, not a detriment.
How do you deal with a toxic friendship?
Does someone in your life seem to be more of a hindrance than a help in your life? If so, it may be time to reevaluate your choices. So, once we’ve figured out that a friend IS toxic, what can we do about it? How do we deal with a toxic friendship?
1. Recognize the Problem
When we start feeling bad about spending time with or talking to our friends, it’s time to look at the relationship. Identifying the friendship as a toxic one is the first step to dealing with the problem.
Remember too that this behavior isn’t really about you. A narcissist often tries to make herself seem more important by putting others down. She may also use flattery to gain attention. This behavior isn’t personal; it’s just an attempt to manipulate people into doing what she wants them to do.
2. Check Your People-Pleasing Behaviors
Friends of toxic types often have something in common.
According to Charles Figley, a spokesman for the American Psychological Association, “It’s a pleaser personality — you want people to like you, you want to get along, and it’s hard to say no. But you can pay the price in one way by having toxic friends.”
The fact is that, whether you can see it or not, you’ve got some responsibility in this relationship too.
Maybe you’ve allowed your friend to treat you negatively or to make you feel bad about yourself because you want them to like you or because you don’t like confrontation.
3. Develop Strong Boundaries
Often, people pleasers aren’t good at setting boundaries. When your friendships become toxic, it’s time to stand up for yourself and let friends know what isn’t acceptable.
For example, I used to have a close friend in college who always did the “one-up” thing when I told her about my problems or accomplishments.
When I told her about a promotion I had received at work, she was like, ‘oh yeah, I heard I might be getting a promotion at my job, too.’
Then she went on to tell me how much better her promotion would be than mine and how much more money she’d be making than me.
Another time, I told her about a problem with a guy I was dating, and wouldn’t you know it? She launched into a big monologue about her problem with her boyfriend, which was far more serious and difficult than mine.
So, in that case, I could’ve set boundaries by explaining my concerns to my friend and asking her to avoid the “one-up-manship.” I never did, unfortunately. But hindsight is always 2020, right? Anyhoo…
4. Talk It Out
Talk to a trusted (non-toxic) friend or family member about your concerns if you have one you can trust.
Many times, it’s easier to figure out the problem when you’re “outside looking in”–that is, when you’re not the one with the problem, the solution to it can seem crystal clear.
If you can’t find an “objective” third party, it’s a good idea to seek outside counseling. By employing the skills of a trained coach or therapist, you not only get the objectivity you need, but you may also get answers or learn coping techniques you wouldn’t on your own.
If not, talk to a support group like my SPANily group on Facebook.
5. Journaling Helps
You could also journal or blog about the problem. I have worked through almost every problem in my life this way – including toxic friendships.
Sometimes, just putting our thoughts into words and getting them out of our heads can be enough to help us figure out our issues.
6. Stay Friends? How to Decide.
It’s important to consider whether it is worth losing the friendship. If you don’t want to lose the friendship, you need to figure out if the benefits of staying in this relationship outweigh the consequences of continuing it.
- Try using “I Statements” – meaning make an assertive statement without putting your friend on the defensive.
- Explain clearly (but kindly) how their behavior makes you feel. Say something like ‘Brenda, I feel upset when you ask me for advice and then tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.’ Or “Brenda, I feel stressed out after having lunch with you each day because it feels like you rarely have anything positive to say.”
- Be clear and assertive. Let your friend know that you care about them, but you don’t feel like you can be involved in a friendship with them any longer. Give the person a chance to respond, they may not even be aware of their behavior, and the idea of losing a friend might give them a good reason to think about their own behavior. If the conversation turns toward the negative, you can just end it there and walk away.
Of course, this is always much easier said than done. But I promise you, when you have the weight of a toxic friend lifted off your shoulders, you’ll feel so much better and be able to heal that much faster.
7. If All Else Fails, Walk Away and Go No Contact
If you’ve tried setting boundaries and discussing the problem with your toxic friend and have not been able to resolve the issues, it may be time to consider limiting contact or ending the friendship.
It’s not an easy choice and certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly, but when it comes down to it, your sanity and mental health are more important than any toxic friendship.
Take care of yourself first, and then take care of others. People pleasers often forget this little piece of wisdom.
- You can do this in many ways: email, phone call, or just stop talking to the person. But in an ideal world, you’d do it in person. Maybe you’d invite the person to coffee or lunch. Before meeting them, think about why you don’t want them in your life anymore and figure out how to phrase them in non-judgmental ways.
Don’ts: Things to Avoid with Narcissistic Friends
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of putting up with narcissists in our lives, especially if they’re family members. But if you have a friend who’s never going to change, your time is better spent elsewhere. Here are some tips for detaching from someone who has narcissistic tendencies:
Don’t try to change them.
Narcissists have pretty rigid ways of thinking about themselves and the world around them—they don’t want or need your help changing those views.
Don’t get caught up in their drama.
Narcissists often make quite a show of everything that happens to them—whether it’s good news or bad news—and they try to use others as pawns in their own dramas by making them feel sorry for or jealous of the situation at hand (even when there’s no real problem).
By not participating in these games, you’ll feel less stressed and more grounded when interacting with this person overall!
Don’t let them use you as a doormat.
If someone constantly uses your generosity for their own benefit without giving anything back in return, wouldn’t that be frustrating?
The same principle applies here: if someone is constantly asking favors from you while offering little or nothing in return except perhaps an occasional smile or compliment on how nice you look today, it might be time to start reassessing whether this person is truly worth staying connected with.
Don’t try to change them or fix their problems for them.
And don’t let them manipulate you into doing something that goes against your values just because they’ve asked nicely (or not).
Narcissists can easily guilt trip others into doing things for them—and if it doesn’t work out, they’ll blame everyone else around them instead of taking responsibility for their actions.
Don’t take their behavior personally.
Narcissists usually don’t mean anything by what they do; it’s all about getting attention from others so that the narcissist feels better about themselves in the end—even if those actions cause harm on top of what was already there before any incident occurred!
Take Care of Yourself
In this case, self-care is going to be very important for you. And you’ll need to start with your own perception.
- Change your view of yourself by taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
- The first step is recognizing that your friend may suffer from a personality disorder and in some cases, mental illness.
- You cannot control how someone else feels or thinks, but you can control how you respond to them.
- You should not feel responsible for another person’s actions or reactions—even if it seems like they are trying to make you feel bad about yourself.
Ultimately, your choice is whether you want to continue having this type of friendship.
If you decide it isn’t worth it, just cut ties and move on with your life.
However, if you decide to stay friends with a narcissist, then make sure that you know their behavior and nurture your own ability to handle any relationship issues that arise from dealing with this personality type.
Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support
- The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
- Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups – We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
- One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
- Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
- Where Are You in Recovery? You might not be sure exactly where you fit in and what level of recovery you’ve achieved. If that’s the case, you’ll want to check out this self-assessment to help you determine exactly where you fall in the stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse. Once you finish and submit the assessment, you will be given resources for your own situation, along with recommendations of which groups to join.
- Which Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program is Right for You? If you aren’t sure which program you want to utilize to facilitate your recovery from narcissistic abuse, this self-assessment will help you decide.
Question of the Day
Have you ever had a toxic friend, and if so, how’d you deal with it? Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences in the comments section, below this video.