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We look to friends to provide social support—to cheer us up when we are down, provide assistance, help us to see things clearly, and provide supportive companionship. Yet all too often, our friends can make everything worse because they engage in patterns of behavior that are not helpful or supportive. Years ago we conducted some research on social support networks and discovered what has been called negativity in social relationships—patterns that increase, rather than decrease, stress.

Here are five types of friends that you really don’t need.

1. Mr./Ms. I-Told-You-So. 

Sometimes, in an effort to be supportive, a friend will say “I told you so.” Of course, this isn’t helpful, nor supportive. It’s really more about your friend being right than it is about supporting you.

2. Debbie/Denny Downer. 

Of course your friends will get depressed, or be pessimistic—occasionally.  However, you don’t need friends in your life who are always negative, especially when you are happy and optimistic—you know, the friend who always sees the drawbacks of everything. Choose friends who can give you an objective perspective, not those who always are drawn to the dark side.

3. Mr./Ms. It’s All About Me. 

Narcissists are simply not very supportive friends. They are self-focused, so they can’t be relied on when you need support. Another type of all-about-me friend is the person who needs to take credit for everything, or constantly needs to be propped up emotionally. All give and no take isn’t what you need in your life.

4. The Backstabber. 

There’s nothing worse than a two-faced friend—a person you confide in who then tells everyone your secret, or the person who tells you one thing, but then tells others the opposite. Trust is a critical element of a good relationship, so if you know you can’t trust someone, you don’t need them in your life.

5. Mr./Ms. Pick-a-Side.

A final type of relationship you don’t need is one in which the other person requires you to be completely “on their side.” Their enemies have to be your enemies. You are either with them completely, or fully against them. Again, this is often the position of narcissistic or borderline individuals whose insecurity requires them to see relationships as all good or all bad.

Good, supportive relationships require give and take. Think of relationships as resources—if you take too much, you deplete your support network. If you give too much, you are unhappy because you don’t have the support you need when stressed or down. It’s all about balance.

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Riggio, R.E., & Zimmerman, J.A.  (1991).  Social skills and interpersonal relationships: Influences on social support and support seeking.  In W.H. Jones & D. Perlman (Eds.), Advances in personal relationships.  (Vol. 2), (pp. 133-155).  London: Jessica Kingsley Press.

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