Friendship groups are rife with politics and the potential to turn nasty. When you put a group of people together, it’s easy to get along on a superficial level, but once real personalities start to emerge, it can become difficult to maintain a friendship, particularly when all you initially have in common is one interest, a group you all attend, a business type, or whatever.

But I want to let you into a secret. It’s OK to not be part of this.

If you know your friendships are dying then there are lots of ways to break contact, but it needs to be done. Suddenly finding yourself ostracised is very unpleasant and an unhappy place to be, particularly when you didn’t realise there was anything wrong. And, it doesn’t matter how old we get. We are talked about, ostracised, bitched about; it doesn’t change. My mum lives in sheltered housing for the elderly where gossip is rife; I have been in the position where my “friends”, and yes, I use the term loosely, have dumped me.

Here are the things to watch out for that tell you the dynamics of your friendship group have changed and it’s time to move on:

    1. Bitchiness; when the coven is starting to gather and gossip about other people, and it’s making you feel really uncomfortable, it’s a sign that things are on the move. Gossip is harmful not just to the subject, but to the participants. Listen to your gut feeling on this, and start to take a step back from it.


    1. Isolation; when friends disapprove of your friendship choices, warning bells should start ringing. We’re allowed to make our own choices; they’ve got no right to move you away from the social circles you’ve constructed for yourself.


    1. Put downs; remember, a put down is never about you, it’s always about them.


    1. The silent treatment; oh come on, are we in nursery school? If I wanted the silent treatment, I’d have stayed married to the ex.


    1. You don’t feel good about yourself after you’ve been in their company; says it all, really…


    1. Give and take; you give, they take; we all know people like this, to some degree; but it’s harsh when it’s constant and your exciting news NEVER gets a look in, isn’t it?


    1. Imitiation; no, it’s not the sincerest form of flattery. It’s annoying, it’s disrespectful, and it is, above all, cheating. When a friends does this to you, particularly if it’s with your business or your job, it feels like it negates your hard work. It doesn’t really, but it’s difficult to understand how a “friend” can do this.


  1. Passive resistance; you know what I mean; when you help out, give advice, etc, and they are deeply unhelpful in return…

There’s a theory of group dynamics that shows us that when we get together in a group of people, we’re all jostling for position. Who’s going to be the Alpha in the group, who tags along, who just happily gets on with it. We settle into the roles that we have fought for, all get along for a while, and then the cracks start to show when we are getting on with being ourselves.

In this situation, the thing to do is to be an adult about this. Unfortunately, Facebook means it’s all to easy to “unfriend” (ever had someone put themselves on the “maybe” list for a party you were having, from the “attending” list? Ouch… ) without ever having to make contact, and this seems to permeate through 21st Century life now. We don’t break up properly. But if your friendships are doing you harm, it’s OK to say it. They’ll get over it, and then so will you.

So what do you do? Do you say goodbye? Or do you turn it into a really toxic situation and shove the person you’ve decided you don’t like out of the group? There’s a lot of this about.

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Written by: Paula Jones