Are You in a Toxic Friendship? Here’s How to Spot a Red Flag Friend

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

A red flag friend is someone who doesn’t make you feel good when you’re around them – but you still spend time with them anyway. You make plans with them and dread it. Sometimes red flag friends can seem cool at first, but those little red flags start popping up very quickly in every conversation, text or night out.

My name is Danielle and I am a red flag friend survivor. Up until a few years, I was a magnet to dominating pals. It didn’t feel good to hang out with them but I was stuck in people-pleasing mode, overlooking and ignoring all of my gut feelings, better judgements and own needs. People pleasing is still something I struggle with and have to take a step back every so often, but I am learning how to accommodate the needs of other people without completely sacrificing my own. I thought I would share a little guide on how to spot those red flag “friends”…

They make everything about themselves, even if it’s about you.

Sometimes I think there’s a fine line between relating to someone’s problems and sharing your own, or completely ignoring someone’s problems to tell them your own. Noticing that they’re not listening to you and just waiting to speak about themselves is a huge red flag and something that I am guilty of noticing in the past and not addressing it. Real friends listen to you, share with you and don’t overtake the entire conversation with their drama. Speaking of drama…

Everything is a drama and it’s a drama involving them.

Not everything has to be a drama, and that is something I’ve learnt with age. However, a red flag friend will make a drama to put the focus on themselves or pull back the focus to them. Especially at group events or things involved other friends or people – that’s if they have allowed you to have other people around. Red flag friends do not like you to have other friends.  

It’s just you and them against the world.

Red flag friends are particularly good at isolating you from other people that can see through them. This doesn’t work both ways and they usually have other friends but those friends tend to be pretty narcissistic too. Maybe you have to listen to your self-centred friend complain about them? Or maybe they find reasons to complain about your friends? Either way, they like it better when it’s just you and them, with your undivided attention.

Bonus red flag: If they’re bad mouthing their other “friends”, they’re probably not being very nice about you either.

Friendship is not a competition.

But they sure make it feel like it is. A red flag friend will always play the one better or one worse card with you. It’s exhausting, especially if you just want a normal conversation or to share your news/ prediction/ opinion.

Bonus red flag: they copy off you and play it off in a way that makes you look silly. Not cool.

Here are a few tips on how to step back, especially if you are feeling particularly overwhelmed by their actions.

Call them out

If your “friend” keeps turning the conversation back to them, point it out. If they’ve cancelled plans with you for a reason but posted otherwise on social media, call them out on it! The more you “ignore” or let them get away with their red flag behaviour, the more this will happen.

Don’t ignore your feelings

If you notice that you feel negative after hanging out with someone, process why you feel that way. From experience, ignoring a reoccurring pang and not addressing the deeper issue does not make it go away.

Take a step back

Turn off your notifications, do something you enjoy and spend some time doing things without your red flag friend. Maybe spend some time with other friends. There’s nothing wrong with stepping back and giving yourself space to clear your head.

Be honest

Probably the most difficult thing but be honest with yourself. Do you still want to be friends with this person? How do you honestly feel after spending time with them?

It took me a few years to spot these types of “friends” and remove them from my life. Every now and again I will meet someone who sets off alarm bells, but I’m very fortunate to have a good, honest group of supportive friends around me now. Taking a step back and a little break from your friends is healthy, especially if you are feeling particularly overwhelmed by their actions.

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Danielle W
Danielle W

Danielle is a food, film and lifestyle blogger from Liverpool. Danielle is enthusiastic about seeing new places and cups of tea in bed. Find her at: and

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