10 classic signs of a fake friend, according to psychology

This year I made a commitment to myself. My friendships will be about quality, not quantity.

That’s because I’ve been thinking a lot about the connections in my life.

Although I’m surrounded by people, sometimes I find myself questioning the depth of those relationships.

Having someone to hang out with isn’t enough. I’m looking for people I can count on. Those who have my back and cheer me on.

I want friends that over time become more like family. That means ditching any fake friends I’ve inadvertently ended up with.

Whilst at first, they may seem tricky to spot, the truth is that these so-called friendships rarely stand up to any scrutiny.

Here why…

1) They show little understanding of what’s going on in your life

Fake friends often lack empathy towards you.

That’s because their strength of feeling doesn’t run deep enough. Any concern they may display usually smacks of insincerity.

They might say how sorry they are that you’re going through a hard time, but you can tell there’s not much emotion behind it.

The truth is that they show little concern for your feelings or problems. That can mean that they seem dismissive of your emotions or trivialize your experiences.

Not only do they rarely ask about how you are, but if ever you try to share something with them they don’t actively listen to you.

2) Your friendship largely resolves around them

It isn’t always going to be a 50/50 split down the middle. But all relationships need to be balanced when it comes to give and take.

It’s about sharing your lives together. That means creating a space for both of you to do so.

They may monopolize conversations, keeping the focus on them. They don’t ask questions that give you the opportunity to talk.

They come across as quite self-centered and prioritize their own needs and desires above yours.

It feels like they are the star of the show and you are just the side-kick.

They may constantly seek attention and validation from you.

This self-absorption may not even be intentional, it could spring from a lack of self-awareness.

But sadly, the result is still the same. It means they benefit from your energy and effort, whilst you remain neglected.

3) They’re flaky and inconsistent

If we want to be viewed as genuine, then our words and our actions have to match up.

If you are important to someone, they will show it.

They’ll reach out to you to check in, they won’t leave it all up to you.

They will be prepared to put themselves out, because it’s not just about whatever is convenient to them that counts.

If your friend is often unreliable your connection is bound to suffer.

We all have different priorities to juggle. Yet if they think nothing of constantly canceling plans and messing you around, you are clearly not one of those priorities.

If they will happily ditch you if they find something better to do, is it any wonder you are left feeling undervalued?

4) Some questionable behavior in the past means you don’t fully trust them 

Fake friends are far more likely to end up betraying your trust at some point.

That can show up in all sorts of ways:

  • They might share information you asked them to keep private
  • They throw you under the bus to keep themselves out of trouble
  • They’ve lied to you and you caught them out

Whatever it is, you have a hard time believing in them anymore.

This is a huge red flag that reflects deeper problems, as Orange County therapist ​​Ashley Hudson highlights:

“There could be many reasons or motivations why a friend betrays you. Some friendships aren’t healthy from the beginning. When listening to individuals talk about their social conflicts, I can’t help to think these friends weren’t good friends in the first place. A friend who does not treat their friendships with respect and kindness has a higher chance of betraying their friend’s trust.”

Trust is one of the essential foundations for any connection. If it’s not there, you don’t really have a relationship.

5) You discover they’ve badmouthed you behind your back

things you should never gossip about 10 classic signs of a fake friend, according to psychology

Technically this falls under a betrayal of trust. But it’s such a big deal that it deserves a point of its own.

A friend has our back. Period.

That’s not to say conflict doesn’t occur in friendships. We can all step on each other’s toes without meaning to.

Feeling frustrated or let down by a friend doesn’t always equal a bad friendship. The key is how you handle it.

Good friends resolve their problems and practice open communication to do so.

Fake friends go behind your back to vent.

They may gossip about you to others or say unkind things.

Regardless of their motivation, this betrayal clearly erodes the foundation of mutual respect and trust that any friendship should be built on.

6) Your connection feels shallow

That’s because there is a lack of support.

They may be fun to hang out with, but you cannot rely on them or turn to them when times are tough.

Here’s the honest truth:

Not all of our friends will be ride-or-die besties, and that’s okay.

There’s nothing wrong with having a few friendly acquaintances that you only catch up with every few months or so. But it’s important to be aware of your expectations from these too.

As Liane Holliday Willey Ed.D. points out in Psychology Today:

“Realize that some friends are casual once-in-a-while-going-out-to-lunch friends, some are deeper and more important caring friends, and most are somewhere in between. Don’t expect all your friends to be as concerned about you on the same level.”

If you are investing way more than them into the friendship, it will start to feel fake.

If your friendship is shallow in some other ways, it may even be toxic. For example, they judge you on things like your appearance or how much money you make.

7) They seem jealous of the good things that happen to you

Rather than celebrate your good times, you sense their envy.

I remember once telling a so-called pal about a promotion I’d just got at my job. I’d worked really hard and so was understandably proud of myself.

All she said was:

“You’re always so lucky, it’s not fair”.

Something positive in my life, she managed to turn around to make about her. She then proceeded to tell me about her string of bad luck recently.

If a friend is dismissive of or downplays your accomplishments and good fortune they don’t have your best interests at heart.

8) Sometimes it feels like they’re putting you down

It should be obvious, but people can be quite sly with their putdowns.

Backhanded compliments, subtle digs, and sarcasm can mask a friend’s unkindness.

Be on the lookout for the signs:

  • If you are constantly the butt of their jokes
  • They causally say things to you that you find rude or offensive
  • They say mean things but try to laugh it off as “just a joke”
  • Even their so-called compliments contain the hint of an insult. For example, “You know, when you make an effort you actually look very nice”

If you’re picking up on any of these things, they’re not a friend, they’re a “frenemy”.

9) They push your boundaries

Navigating healthy boundaries is so important in all our relationships. But that’s not always easy to do.

As Laurel Healy, LCSW, explains, even in healthy friendships, certain boundaries aren’t always obvious:

“Sometimes we have friends we really like, but they make assumptions about the relationship that make us uncomfortable. They may drop by unannounced or expect to be included in everything we do. Rather than becoming resentful or letting an otherwise wonderful friend go, the most respectful thing we can do is address our differences. No rights, no wrongs.”

But what about when you’re dealing with a friend who won’t take no for an answer?

They’re pushy and demanding. They’re happy to try and manipulate you if it serves them.

Sadly, this is a clear sign of disrespect.

It’s likely brought on by that self-centeredness we mentioned earlier.

They are only really concerned about what suits them. So they think nothing of putting you out or pushing their luck if it means their needs get met.

If you’ve already tried setting boundaries, yet they find ways to step over them, they’re not a good friend.

10) You feel uneasy around them

This is your intuition at play, don’t ignore it.

It means you have been picking up on some subconscious signals they give out. It leaves you with a sense that something just isn’t right.

Maybe after spending time with them, you don’t feel good about yourself. Perhaps you don’t always look forward to seeing them, because of this.

Our relationships should help to fill our cups, not be draining.

Fake friends don’t enrich our lives

At best, they are like fillers. They plug a few empty gaps in your social life. But they rarely bring fulfillment or meaning.

They can’t because the connection lacks the substance to make it sustainable.

At worst, they can actively take from us. They steal our energy, time, and effort when they are not deserving of it.

By recognizing these signs and trusting your instincts about people, you can ensure you surround yourself with genuine friends who uplift and support you.

Because at the end of the day, it matters way less how many friends we have, and way more how true those friendships are.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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