It can be challenging to know whether or not your friends are “real” or if one of them is talking about you behind your back.
Here are the signs of fake friends, and how to spot and deal with them, as discussed by experts.
Clinical Psychologist | Author, Joy from Fear
In general, true friends are respectful, kind, trustworthy, tolerant, and willing to compromise. They respect your boundaries and gently require that you respect theirs.
Good friends communicate their thoughts and feelings with honesty and awareness of the self and others. They are willing and able to communicate in order to promote empathy, understanding, and connection.
Fake friends tend to lack many—or all—of these important qualities.
- Fake friends do not truly have your back. Faithfulness is not a priority for a fake friend. Fake friends will support you or defend you only if it’s easy and convenient–or if it makes them look good.
- Fake friends often disappear when real life sets in. If things get challenging or complicated, a fake friend will often be the first to leave or shift allegiances.
- Fake friends are generally “respectful” only when life is going their way. Once they don’t get what they want, the veil of respect can disappear in a flash; the “real” person often shows up with hostility or stonewalling.
- Fake friends are often inflexible with an attitude of “It’s my way or the highway”—which is often a sign of extreme self-absorption and even narcissism.
- Fake friends are kind only when they want to be—when it serves their personal agenda; they do not generally “lead” with kindness in life.
- Fake friends tend to have two distinct sides. They can be sweet one moment yet sarcastic, mocking, and bullying the next. Subtle or overt emotional abuse is often the weapon of choice for a fake friend.
- Fake friends are not trustworthy. They are often deceptive, manipulative, and may not keep your confidences sacred.
- Fake friends tend not to want to invest time and energy in resolving problems. They are either “conflict-avoidant” or “high conflict” instead of being communicative and collaborative.
- Fake friends tend to have little ability or desire to compromise and lack tolerance and flexibility; they may even threaten to end the friendship (relationship) if they don’t get their way.
- Fake friends leave you feeling worse about yourself and life. Fake friends often boost their own poor self-esteem by consciously and unconsciously degrading others. Under the guise of “joking,” or “I’m just being funny,” fake friends often use sarcasm as a passive-aggressive way to deliver their toxic abuse.
- Fake friends are competitive in a toxic way. They do not truly support and honor the successes of others. They may show support to look good to others, but a fake friend is intolerant and envious of other’s successes.
- Fake friends are often joined with other fake friends in a co-dependent way. Fake friends often team up to gossip about others, degrade others, or engage in unhealthy behaviors together. These “friends” often feel better about themselves when with a person who operates at (or below) their own level.
- Although fake friends may seem confident and even have an air of superiority, fake friends inherently have low self-esteem and low self-worth.
- Fake friends don’t take responsibility. They don’t learn from their mistakes or offer sincere apologies.
Even the best of friends aren’t perfect 100-percent of the time, but a true friend will apologize when a misstep is made.
And, in fact, a true friend will not only apologize but will use a mistake as a learning opportunity. A true friend will take the misstep as a chance to be a more loving, trusted friend. Fake friends will do the opposite.
Erica St. Bernard, LCMFT
Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist | Founder, Your Life’s Well, LLC
In a time where social interaction is limited, we’re made more aware of the need for meaningful connections and loyal friendships that weather the seasons of life.
Sometimes in an effort to connect with others, we settle for interactions that are less than authentic and don’t allow for true intimacy.
Fake Friends are those who connect with others for purposes that only benefit them
Maybe they see who you’re connected with, personally and/or professionally, or who you’re in photos with on social media.
They may appear to be interested in who you are or what you’re doing but only to the extent that they can gain access to those individuals or groups you’re connected with. They may seek ways to invite themselves to your events under the guise of support so they can curry favor with those of influence.
Fake friends may also include those who can only celebrate their own accomplishments or wins
They may show up physically for your special events or occasions but may not be willing to share in the moments of celebration.
When others are singing your praises or giving congratulatory remarks, they may appear to be preoccupied, scrolling on their phone or otherwise engaged in activities that pull them away from such moments.
Fake friends may also downplay your efforts or accomplishments, sometimes “yes, butting”
For example, you might mention that you got accepted into a new program and instead of them congratulating you, they mention one of their own wins in a way that dismisses yours.
Fake friends only show up for life’s big moments but not when it counts most
Such as when you need a listening ear, need to process tough emotions or are facing a crisis. They may be repeatedly inaccessible or unavailable when you need them, and they may not see this as an issue.
This is not to be confused with friends who are honoring healthy boundaries and may be unable to hold space for you. Healthy boundary honoring friends can usually acknowledge their limitations and offer support when/where they can.
When one spots these traits or tendencies in a “friendship” it’s important to take account and determine the perceived value of checking in and calling out what you’ve observed over time. You might try something like,
“I’ve noticed you only call or come around when there’s a celebration or opportunity to connect with influencers or those with power… or can we talk about what seems to be a lack of interest or genuine support for my accomplishments.”
One has to acknowledge that while there are no guarantees for the outcome, it also stands that relational changes cannot occur without the acknowledgment of the issue at hand.
Such conversations can bridge the gap between fake and authentic friendship, as you and the friend can make an informed decision about if and how you’ll engage moving forward.
Sara Crowers, MSW, LSW
Licensed Social Worker | Founder, Healing Spaces Behavioral Health, LLC
One of the hardest lessons to learn as you grow as a person is how to let go of bad friends.
There are several ways to know when the person you call your friend is not worth your time
- They cancel or don’t even show when you make plans together. This move is highly
disrespectful of your time and dismissive of the disappointment you will feel.
- They share your secrets and use them to hurt your feelings. Good quality friends keep
your secrets to themselves and take it as a sign of trust between you.
- They exclude you from group get-togethers with mutual friends. When they
intentionally “forget” to invite you, it often causes you to feel anxious and wonder
“what did I do wrong?” This is something a good friend would never do.
- They are not honest with you. Friendship is built on trust and honesty. Not feeling
trusting of the other person can quickly cause a friendship to disintegrate.
- They don’t respond to your phone calls, texts, or emails. Friends don’t ignore each
other, especially when you are reaching out in a time of crisis.
- You consistently do all the work to set up outings. Solid friends share the burden of the
work to pick times, dates, and locations for spending time together. The friendship
street runs two ways!
- You feel bad about yourself after you spend time with them. If this person inspires
feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, shame, guilt, or anger in you, you’re better off spending
time with your dog! At least she doesn’t care if you are dressed well, if your thoughts
and feelings make sense, or if your breath smells.
- They are only your friend because they want something from you. This is the worst.
For example, if they only want to hang out when they need to use your pool pass or
they only contact you when they need money, ditch them. They are not honoring you
as a person, only as a provider of something material. They won’t show up when you
need them, and they aren’t interested in a long-term, reciprocal friendship.
Okay, so, what do you do with these people? Life is too short to waste your glorious self on
someone who is not deserving of it. Generally, you have two options.
- You can stop contacting them and responding to them, and eventually the two of you
will drift apart.
- You can have a conversation with them about it. It will likely be an uncomfortable
conversation, so make sure you are not distracted, you are well-rested and well-fed, and
that you are prepared for the potentiality of things getting ugly.
You may benefit from talking to a somewhat neutral third party (a friend or therapist) about the
issue with your friend, and ensuring your thought process is rational. You may need a shift in
perspective to clearly see what is happening.
Everyone deserves to be heard, respected, considered, included, and loved.
It is also important to remember that most friends throughout your lifetime will be around for a season of time, and then they may move on. It is a natural cycle. My hope for you is that you will know whether the friend is worth fighting for and make decisions accordingly.
Psychiatry Resident, Dalhousie University
You only get one-sided support
Friendship involves mutual caring and support. However, a fake friend can be identified if the support is one-sided. When someone only pops into your life to ask for favors but is unavailable as soon as you request a favor or ask to spend time together, then that person may be faking friendship in order to use you.
A good rule of thumb is to be generous with other people, but set limits if you feel used – don’t be willing to bend over backward for someone who would not do the same for you.
You feel hesitant when asking for support or expressing your feelings
In normal friendships, you will be able to tell a friend when your feelings have been hurt. A true friend will respond with a sincere apology and make efforts to resolve the problem.
On the other hand, a fake friend can be spotted as someone who immediately gets defensive, lies, and refuses to speak to you if you confront him or her for hurting you.
If you feel like you can’t ask a friend for support, for company, or tell your friend when something has offended you, then this fake friendship may not be worth maintaining.
You could try sitting down together in person, expressing your concerns, and asking if the friendship could be saved. Unfortunately, that is both difficult to do and not often fruitful, as the kind of person who would be a fake friend may have underlying character flaws such as narcissism and selfishness.
Fake friendships may be best managed by distancing yourself and finding true friendships.
Terry B. McDougall, PCC, MBA
The two most important aspects of friendship are acceptance and reciprocity.
Acceptance means seeing you for who you are and respecting you without trying to change you. Reciprocity means that there are mutual trust and dependence – that neither person exerts undue control or influence over the other.
In fake friendships, true acceptance and reciprocity do not exist
In any relationship, it takes time to truly get to know someone. With “fake” friends, in the beginning, they may put on an act to try to attract you – basically telling you what you’d like to hear, pumping up your ego, spending time doing things that you both like to do.
You begin to believe that the person accepts you and will be there for you because you enjoy some of the same interests, but over time you find that your needs are taken into consideration less and less.
Here are some of the signs that you’re in a fake friendship:
- You feel manipulated a lot of the time.
- Your needs are never taken into consideration.
- If a compromise has to be made, it’s always you who is expected to make it.
- Though you’re there to support your “friend” in times of crisis, somehow they are always too busy when you need their support.
- Your “friend” is always trying to change you.
- Your “friend” only keeps their commitments to you if they are convenient.
- You don’t feel respected.
If any of these signs sound familiar, it may be time to step back and ask whether it makes sense to continue to pour your time and energy into a relationship that may look like a friendship on the outside, but makes you feel bad.
Recognize that you are worthy of being valued, accepted, and cared for in the same manner that you’re willing to care for others.
Author | Licensed Psychologist
Fake friends can be “energy vampires” or “frenemies”
These are the people who, on the surface, seem like they are your friends, but your gut is telling you something else.
Maybe you feel exhausted after spending time with a particular person and realize that it’s because she is always bringing drama that she wants to get you involved in or to solve.
There are also some people who come across as being a “bestie” but you later find out that they passed on a secret they promised to keep or they undermined you at work or at school.
It’s very important to listen to your body’s signals because your intuition will let you know (via headaches, stomachaches, fatigue) what you may not be ready to consciously see!
Arien Conner, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Owner, Clear Path Counseling, LLC
Are you there at a moment’s notice but your friend is always busy with something? You answer the phone call but yours seem to always go to voicemail? Do you find yourself drained from the amount of support you give but feel alone, lost, overwhelmed with your own struggles? You’re not sure who you could turn to, to talk about your secrets? You might have a fake friend.
There is an imbalance in the friendship
In friendships, like any healthy relationship, there should be an equal balance of back and forth, give and take, support, and venting.
Friends are the family members you get to pick, so why wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with the most supportive, loving, and fun people? The ones that celebrate your wins and can also keep you accountable when needed.
If you feel that you may have a fake friend in your midst, I would suggest having a heart-felt, non-blaming discussion with them. If they are a true friend, while what you have to say maybe hard for them to hear, they will take the time to hear you out and consider your perspective.
Approach the conversation in a curious manner, using “I” statements, and assume that they are well-meaning until they prove that they are otherwise. This can limit blaming, all-or-nothing thinking, and misunderstandings.
Start with a positive statement, something you value about the friendship. For example, “I really value our friendship” or “Your friendship is important to me”. Then discuss that because friendship is important to you, you need to bring up something that has been on your mind.
Keep the focus on how you feel or what you have noticed rather than where you feel they are lacking, as that may feel like an attack to someone, which can lead to defensiveness.
For example, “I have been feeling like I’m not always heard”, “I feel like I’m not as valued in this friendship”, “I feel like I need more support from you/time with you”.
This should be a good starting point for an honest conversation, which will hopefully strengthen the relationship. However, if the other person isn’t even willing to hear your thoughts on the matter or minimizes your feelings, you may have a fake friend and it may be time to cut your losses. Remember, your friendship is valuable too.
Relationship Expert, Dating Pilot
Spotting fake friends is not always easy if you do not know what constitutes as being a bad friend.
It might be easier to spot if you primarily surround yourself with good friends as the behaviors that the bad friend displays will stand out. However, if you constantly surround yourself with fake friends, spotting them may be a little more challenging.
Fortunately, there are certain behaviors or characteristics that fake friends engage in that can make spotting fake friends easier.
Selfishness tends to be a common characteristic of a fake friend
This means that they only think of themselves and reach out when they need something from you. They are not there for you when you need them nor do they care to get to know you on a deep level.
Their needs and wants are the driving factors that make them reach out to you only. They do not call to check on you, they do not care about how you are doing, they make excuses when you need them, etc.
A friend that only contacts you under their wanting or needing circumstances is not a real friend, and it is best to steer clear from and avoid them altogether. Otherwise, you will continue to be used by them.
Fake friends like to gossip
You should also be wary of friends who like to gossip. If gossip is behavior they engage in often, then chances are that they are also gossiping about you. With these kinds of fake friends, it is best to also keep a distance and not share any information you wouldn’t want to be shared about you.
Related: Why Do People Talk Behind Your Back?
Fake friends belittle and make fun of yourself
Other behaviors that you should watch out for are friends that belittle you or make you feel bad about yourself. If they are constantly making fun of the things you do, how you look, or just making fun of you period, in front of others or in private, then this is a sign that they are not a good friend.
Making fun of you at the expense of looking good in front of others or feeling superior, can also impact your self-esteem and emotional wellbeing if a stop is not put to this behavior.
This type of behavior should not be overlooked, and you should also cut ties with anyone who behaves in this manner.
Mental Health Advocate
Fake friends are never there for you
One cannot claim to be a good friend to someone and then never be there for them. If you are always pouring into them, but they are missing in action during your time of need – that is a huge problem!
A fake friend just wants a photo op with you for the gram when it is convenient for them. They rarely offer up quality time to spend with you.
The way to nip this in the bud is to address the problem when it first happens. Let them know that you need them to show up and be present much more in your life.
Fake friends will try their best to make everyone else look bad in order to put himself or herself up on a pedestal
If your friendship consists of him or her giving up all the dirt about everyone else in the friend group, you should be concerned about what they are saying about you to others. Fake friends will share all your wrongdoings and do so all in the name of “caring about you” or “wanting to get others opinions on the situation.”
A fake friend will also be unbothered about your feelings. They will appear puzzled about why you are upset. No one wants their personal business shared with others without permission. In this case, nip the gossiping in the bud early, and if the gossip does not stop, it is time to move on and protect your heart.
Fake friends will never truly give you your props or kudos for a job well done
If you just got a job promotion, they will be quick to point out the long work hours and 1-hour commute. If your partner just surprised you with an international trip, they may remind you of your partner’s wrongdoings and past make-up attempts.
Fake friends rarely find the good in anything you do. A simple “congratulations” or “I am happy for you” is just too much for them to communicate. Yet, they want you to be proud of all their accomplishments and wins.
It is best to recognize early that haters will smile in your face but reveal their true colors with their actions. Address the issue directly, give them examples and receipts, and if the kind of support you need is still not given, then it is time to make room for a new friend in your tribe.
Fake friends make you feel bad about yourself after spending time with them
Typically friends leave each other feeling supported and heard. True friends bring out the best in you and remind you of your strengths.
Fake friends may frequently judge or criticize you
Possibly they point out the things you did wrong or they constantly one-up you, making you feel insecure and less confident about yourself.
If you notice you repeatedly feel bad after spending time with a certain friend, take time to reflect on what is being said or done that triggers your mood.
It’s important to remember that this friend is likely treating you this way because they are struggling with their own internal pain. But regardless of where their behavior stems from, it doesn’t make it okay.
You may choose to spend less time or move out of this friendship, and instead focus on healthier friendships. Or you may choose to speak up to try to improve the friendship.
If you choose to speak up, think about how to calmly and clearly express your concerns. Then, if your friend continues to ignore your request to treat you better, it’s time to move out of that friendship.
Transformational Coach | Nurse Manager | Author
Fake friends can appear to be for you when they only want to benefit from you
A fake friend will stay close enough to be in the loop of your life events but not engaged enough to experience your life events. These people are not happy when there are positive things happening in your life. They are more focused on how and why instead of truly rejoicing with you.
If you take a moment to look at the friends around you when you are celebrating, you will see who is truly happy for you while you are rejoicing and you will see who is concerned with how you were able to make a sale.
Once you recognize the fakers, it’s okay to keep them around but do understand who they are. Be mindful of what details are shared with them.
If you decide that you do not want to keep them around, it’s best to create distance. This distance will lead to them not being close enough to take any of your energy and focus.
I encourage you to un-network by limiting their access to you to protect your energy and focus. Keeping your focus on your true friends and people that are for you is better for you. Protecting your energy should be a priority.
Founder and CEO, Mavens & Moguls
- Fake friends drain you of your energy.
- They are only around when it is convenient for them or when they need you for something.
- They are inconsistent with their loyalty, basically, they are takers, not givers.
- They may judge you, put you down, and are not happy for you to succeed.
- They often break promises or forget about plans you made so it is best to set limits on how much time you spend with them and remind yourself it is their issue and not about you at all.
Do not let their bad behavior affect you, life is too short to waste time and energy with people who do not love and accept you for who you are.
Real friends are the family you choose who are there for you in good times and bad.
Certified Life Coach | Podcast Host | Personal Organizer
Fake friends have two major characteristics: inconsistency and lack of sincerity
To spot a fake friend, consider how they respond to your greatest lessons and your biggest wins. A fake friend finds difficulty in being genuinely available to you.
Another way to spot a fake friend is their accessibility to craving the latest in drama. If they’re calling you to share the news of someone else’s life and immediately follow with “What’s happening with you,” there is a huge chance that they’re sharing your news with other people too.
A final tip resides in the power of observation. Truly observe their responses to your feedback and perspectives. If they’re disconnected or ingenuine, they may not be around for the right reasons.
Co-Founder, Modern Gentlemen
Fake friends hate seeing you move up in life
These types of fake friends are not easy to spot and may even come as a surprise once their true identity is revealed. These are friends that are always there to listen to your personal drama and life struggles but find your success in life a boring topic.
Anyone that’s ever improved themselves over the years will always have this type of parasitic friend, that feeds off your insecurities and failures.
The reason for this may be the simple entertainment factor that they used to expect from your former self and now that you’ve moved forward in life, there is less to talk about.
“Haters” tend to have their own personal issues and sources of unhappiness, which they then project onto you.
So even though people say you should honor your friends that we’re there for you during the bad times, you absolutely should, but if the bad times were the reason you bonded in the first place, “misery loves company” as they say, then it’s time to leave them in the past and move forward with your life.
“They’ll smile in your face when all the time they want to take your place. Backstabbers.”
To put a point on things, if you have a person who is gossiping constantly about other members of your circle to you, you are extremely naïve to assume they are not gossiping about you to everyone else.
Put an end to this behavior by calling them out on it, publicly.
Bring the receipts and have them explain why they have so much to say about everyone who isn’t there at the time. Yes, it will sever that relationship, but you will be better off for it.
Insurance Expert, Car Insurance Comparison
Fake friends are disloyal to other friends while with you
When a friend only has bad things to say about all their other friends, you can be sure that they also have bad things to say about you. In fact, disloyalty to other friends is often one of the first signs that your friend is not a true friend to you, either.
When it comes to dealing with fake friends, sometimes the best thing to do is distance yourself from them. Keep your relationship cordial but don’t try to invest yourself into it.
Conversely, there are other times that you may want to invest in a fake friend. Sometimes their insecurities keep them from being faithful. If you spend time and get to know their past and what makes them tick, you may gain a deeper understanding and grace to accept their actions.
When they experience your acceptance despite their actions, they may be inspired to become a true friend.
Founding Partner, Florida Car Accident Lawyer Team
You only hear from when they need you for something
They need money, they need a ride, they’re moving and need strong backs – that’s when these friends suddenly popup.
Once they’ve gotten what they need, they become invisible again, and certainly can’t be bothered to be there for you when their friendship is needed most, there will be an excuse why they can’t deliver.
The easiest way to deal with a person like this is to simply limit your accessibility. Be unavailable for them when they are in need, which will be every time they see you. Once they see you as someone who can’t help them, they will move on to someone else.