True story: I once got into a screaming match with a girlfriend in front of a Shake Shack in the middle of Times Square, while holding a milkshake in one hand, a cheeseburger-to-go in the other, and screeching at the top of my lungs, “You’re not hearing me! Why aren’t you listening?!”
Needless to say, this is an episode I like to file to the back of my mind. In fact, every time I walk by said Shake Shack, I cringe. I look back at that behavior and that drama, and it makes my skin crawl. I blame it on my youth, but it still makes me uncomfortable.
I can’t imagine behaving now the way I did back then. There’s not a single friend in my life today with whom I could imagine having a blowout fight! I count my close friends to be some of the biggest blessings in my life. However, there was a time when I had some pretty unhealthy friendships. I missed a few red flags to begin with (or chose to ignore them), and then those same relationships were nourished with unhealthy practices.
Positive, supportive friendships can be one of the greatest gifts we can receive; but they require honesty, maturity and care. Some people may not be capable of this for a variety of reasons, so I’ve learned to be a little picker when it comes to who I include in my inner circle.
Here’s a short list of things that helps me avoid drama these days:
1. Steer clear of people who post too much personal information on social media.
It’s a sign of narcissism or deep insecurity, and both conditions scream high maintenance.
2. Heed red flags.
If a friend cancels frequently, bails at the last minute, or is constantly back peddling, take note. These are red flags regarding dependability. No one’s perfect, and every once in a while things come up at the last minute. But by and large, a good friend will show up on time and be there when they say they will.
3. Forgive, but don’t forget.
Forgiveness is key for your own health. We know that holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to get sick. Nevertheless, keeping a safe emotional distance from certain people is necessary because they’ve taught us to do so. Don’t become someone’s punching bag.
4. Know your worth.
When it comes to friendships, don’t sell yourself short. Stand up for yourself. Walk away from people and situations that give you a funny feeling. You’ll respect yourself more, and each time you assert your worth it builds confidence to resist settling in the future.
5. Don’t gossip.
People who talk about other friends behind their backs will absolutely do the same to you. So think twice about engaging in gossip yourself; you’ll lose trust as well.
6. Choose your outlets wisely.
We’re all guilty of complaining about our circumstances from time to time, and misery loves company, but beware; some friends only want to stick by when times are tough, and they may get jealous if your life improves. So the next time you’re with your “blue crew,” simply say, “Nothing to report,” change the subject, and gauge the response. You’ll find out who your real friends are fast.
7. Go with your gut.
We usually get a quick read on people within the first few minutes of meeting them. I was once introduced to a person “everyone loved!” but got a gut instinct to steer clear. In the long run, I’m glad I did. Trust your little inner voice. It never lies.