How To Phase Out a Toxic Friend

On the latest episode of my podcast, You Both Suck, we received a submission from a woman in her late 40’s who was having some friend drama with another female friend. She referenced that it was a relatively new friend who basically uses her as her unpaid therapist – complains constantly and never asks how she’s doing, etc. We’ve all had that “friend.”

She thought it might be “pathetic” to have friendship problems at her age, but I think that age has nothing to do with it (and it’s certainly not pathetic). From my POV, friendship issues can occur in your damn 80’s. As long as you’re lucid enough to remember who your friends are.

Contrary to popular belief, aging doesn’t equal maturity. You can be an inconsiderate little prick at 50 just as easily as you can at 20. It depends on a variety of factors, but how you were raised, your friend circle, and the entertainment you choose to consume all play a small but effective part in who you become as a grown ass adult. Which is why I don’t say this next phrase lightly:

Most people are walking around with their heads up their asses.

I’m sorry to be blunt (and vulgar) but you know that’s true. Not everyone is out there working on themselves.

In fact, I’d argue that the large majority of people are NOT actively working on themselves. It takes courage and self awareness to take that step towards self improvement, and not many people carry those traits.

I don’t say this from a holier than thou place (even though it probably sounds like it), but rather from a place of someone who took a strong interest in self improvement over the years. After awhile it became clear that I was the problem in some relationships in my life, and I recognize the flaws I had. That’s why I said this on the pod:

“Aging is a privilege, but getting better is a choice.”

It starts out as small steps, but if you’re diligent about it, there’s an aggregate effect. It’s not an overnight thing.

On the flip side, you can read the self help books, you can watch the Ted Talks, and you can follow the right people on social media. But if you don’t apply all of the things you’re learning, then what are you doing? Wasting time, I’d say.

Just something to keep in mind as you deal with people. Kindly remind yourself that not everyone does the work. Some people are just toxic and choose to stay that way. It may not be an active choice, but doing nothing is also making a choice.

So, how do you phase someone and their toxic shit out of your life?

First, I’d like to preface that the following strategies should only really be used for periphery friends or “new” friends. Anyone who has been in your life for a long time probably deserves honesty and a conversation, but if you’ve been drifting apart for a while and you feel the separation is on both ends, then you can employ these tactics until you reach a point where you feel comfortable with the level of communication you have.

I have some friends that I’ve phased out over the years, but not completely. We’re more “friendly” now, whereas in the past we were “good friends.” It’s like a job – sometimes you get promoted and sometimes you get demoted.

The first step is to simply be less available to them. That friend who calls you 5x per day? Don’t answer 3 out of 5. Ignoring ALL calls would be suspect. Take longer than usual to reply to their texts, and just distance yourself slowly.

I hate to enforce being manipulative, but if this person needs to be pushed out of your life, you’re going to have to do it gently with a little bit of metaphorical oil. As my cohost, Kunal, said: “you gotta be slick about it.”

They ask you to hang out every week? Say you’re busy and you can’t this week, but maybe next week. And don’t set a specific day. If they do and you agree to it, maybeee bail the day before.

It sounds fucked up! I know. But if you want to make this happen without having a conversation about it, this is how you do it. Just trust us.

Will they think you’re a little shitty for bailing the day before? Probably. But if you still care what this person thinks, then your plan will never work. You have to detach from that thought process (aka caring what they think) as much as possible.

If you’re thinking, “I’m not this conniving, I could never do that.” Then CLEARLY YOU HAVE NOT REACHED THE END OF YOUR ROPE WITH THIS PERSON. And actually, it’s better to do this when you’re NOT at the end of your rope, because if you are, that’s when you get sloppy (the pod episode goes a bit deeper on this one).

You can always choose honesty, but most people won’t, let’s be serious. The truth hurts, and you have to decide whether you want to be the one to deliver that to them. Most likely, you don’t owe them that and/or it’s not your place.

“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” That’s a quote from Brian A. “Drew” Chalker. I quoted it (poorly) on the pod but I didn’t know who wrote it so, there ya go. Now we do. And it’s very true.

We put a lot of emphasis on holding onto friendships simply because we “feel bad.” How many times have you invited someone to something because you “felt bad” or didn’t want them to be left out, even though you didn’t actually want them there? I know I’ve done it a ton.

We’re constantly choosing the comfort of other people to avoid conflict or confrontation, rather than choosing ourselves and our comforts. It’s a bizarre trait of human nature. Or maybe it’s just specific to people pleasers.

When you start saying no, you start feeling yes.

To sum it up, you need to slowly distance yourself from this person. It’s not easy, but it can be done. And you have to be very careful of those moments when they get you in a weak state. Much like the woman from our episode, you let one thing slip and the whole system breaks down. Phasing out a toxic friend is a house of cards, and keeping your emotions in check is key.

Don’t be reactive.

Don’t be passive aggressive.

Take a beat or two before replying to them.

Make sure your thoughts are clear but not emotionally charged.


You can also watch our podcast episodes on YouTube!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.