38% of girls ages 8 to 12 told us they’re jealous of the way other girls look.
While you can’t always predict if someone will be a good friend, you can sometimes tell that she’ll be a bad friend. Bad friends all have some pattern of mean or unfair behavior they persist in, even when you tell them they’re hurting your feelings! Fortunately, if you know what to look for, you can spot these poisonous behaviors early on, before you get too close. To help you, we’ve put together a glossary of bad-friend patterns to watch out for. Keep in mind, though, that we’re focusing on only one aspect of a girl’s behavior. In real life, people are way more complicated than a one-note description. So even if you meet someone who seems to fit one of these stereotypes to a tee, remind yourself that she’s a real person like you, not a cartoon, and there’s probably a lot you don’t know about her. Still, if you recognize a pattern to her behavior that matches any of these descriptions…proceed with caution!
She borrows your favorite sweater and brings it back with a huge tomato sauce stain. Loan her five bucks and that’s money you’ll never see again. In a healthy friendship, sharing goes both ways, but somewhere down the line, The User got the (wrong) idea that she deserves special treatment from others. She’ll run you ragged doing her favors, but if you ever dare ask her for anything, she’ll kick up a fuss…and weasel out of it!
She always knows who got detention for back-talking the science teacher. She knows who every girl has a crush on and whether it’s returned. Yet no matter how many times you’ve caught her spreading rumors, part of you is still wants to trust this girl. Why? Because Gossips are often friendly, likeable, outgoing people. Unfortunately, they also trade your secrets for attention. Having an audience is so much fun, they’ll keep talking till they’ve said it all. Until The Gossip learns to button her lip, don’t tell her anything private!
Yikes, the girl’s got a split personality…part friendly, part scary! Her temper can turn on a dime, and when she’s not in one of her nicer moods, she’ll go so far as to sneer in your face, scream insults, threaten you, and even shove you or hit you. Her softer moments may fool you into thinking she’s changed, but the “changes” never last long. Whatever is making this girl angry has nothing to do with you. You can’t fix her problems…and you don’t have to put up with her mean moods. Instead of getting upset next time she growls at you, simply walk away. And if you feel at all threatened, don’t hesitate to bring in an adult!
She follows you around like a helpless puppy. Invites herself over to your house every day and won’t take a hint when it’s time to go home. Sadly, The Cling-On is too desperate for your friendship to notice you’re not having fun with her. Be honest, did you actually want to be friends, or did she just guilt you into hanging out because you felt sorry for her? Maybe The Cling-On isn’t exactly mean, but she’s still poisonous in that she’ll keep you from having healthy friendships with other people. (Note: not to be confused with the slightly jealous best friend, who may have a hard time dealing with the fact that you have other friends but who isn’t totally dependent on you.)
Whether she’s bragging about a dream vacation or curling her lip at someone’s non-designer shoes, The Snob tries to convince you that she’s better than you…because her stuff is better than your stuff. And all too often it works. Even when it goes against everything you believe, it’s hard not to end up feeling envious when The Snob’s around. But look carefully: Underneath it all, this girl is terrified that without her cool stuff, she’d be nothing. If you know a Snob who’s otherwise a nice person, make sure she knows you like her for who she is, not what she has…she just might get the message and come down to earth!
She pages you 911 in the middle of your favorite show. Gabs your ear off in class…when you’re reviewing for a big test. Whether it’s family issues or boy trouble, The Drama Queen is always in the middle of a crisis…and soon you will be too, when she pulls you in! Sure, it can feel exciting to act as advisor to this larger-than-life diva, but real friends deserve equal time onstage.
The nerve! This frenemy makes fun of you in front of your other buds, then adds the magic words, “Just kidding!” so you can’t be mad at her. What is her problem? In her mind at least, it’s you: Odds are, she’s jealous of you big time. That’s why she’s focusing so much attention on putting you down even while she tries to be close to you as a friend. The Kidder would love to take your confidence down a notch or two, but she doesn’t want to risk losing your friendship…so she hides behind mean humor instead.
She’s a pro at starting friendships. For a while, The Backstabber can morph herself into exactly the kind of friend you’re looking for. In fact, she may even seem like a perfect friend. But just about the time you really get attached, she finds some dramatic way to dump you for her next BFF. Maybe one day she’ll learn how to have lasting friendships, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow, or even this year (sorry!). So if you see someone end a ton of friendships fast—and with tons of drama—think twice before you get close!
We wouldn’t be too surprised if you felt a little worried at this point. After all that talk about poisonous friends, you may have a sinking feeling that one or two of those descriptions had a passing resemblance to someone you see in the mirror. Don’t panic…because the truth is, every single one of us has been rude, mean, or disrespectful to a friend at some point! So, if everyone makes mistakes, how can you tell the difference between poisonous friends and keepers? Here’s the key: A true friend won’t keep doing something that makes you feel bad. If you tell her she hurt your feelings, she won’t brush you off—she’ll try her very best to make it up to you and avoid making the same mistake again. Bottom line: She’ll honestly care how you feel.
“I’ve had friends who turned out to be two-faced or liars. My mom says I’m very lucky because I have something special that they don’t. I’m happy with who I am. That means I don’t have to lie or be fake with my friends.” -Orlina, age 12, Calif.
Though they show it in different ways (gossiping, bullying, hogging the limelight), the same thing drives some girls to treat people badly. What is it? In a word, they’re unhappy. Something inside them is bothering them in a big, bad way…stopping them from having real, loving, give-and-take friendships. “Yeah, right!” you may be thinking. “The meanest girl I know doesn’t seem unhappy at all. She has tons of friends and she struts around school like she’s 10 feet tall. Her self-esteem must be through the roof!” Are you absolutely sure of that? Here’s a simple way to test our theory that peaceful, contented people who love their lives do not act like jerks. First, imagine you’re in a fantastic mood. It’s your birthday, and you just beat your record for swimming backstroke, your crush told you he thinks you’re the coolest girl in school, and you just earned a big beautiful A+ in geometry, your hardest class. You’re on top of the world when your best friend walks into the room sporting a dramatic new ‘do. Pop Quiz: What do you do? (Pick “a” or “b.”) a. Give her a big smile and say, “Wow, cool haircut!” b. Turn to the popular acquaintance sitting next to you and whisper, “Omigosh, she looks like an ugly boy with that hair!” See how easy that choice was? Now let’s turn it around. Pretend you’re having an absolutely rotten day. You flunked the geometry test this time, while your friend got the A+. Your dad yelled at you for nothing, your parents aren’t going to be able to pay for swim team this year, and the most popular boy in school pointed and laughed when you dropped your burrito on the floor at lunch. Now when you see your best friend sail into the room with her daring new haircut, isn’t there a teeny part of you that’s tempted to make a funny (if slightly cruel) comment about her to someone? Still no? Okay. Now imagine if you felt that awful day after day…week after week. You feel empty and like alone, like no one on Earth really knows the real you. You look in the mirror and hate what you see. You feel like people only pretend to like you. You don’t trust anyone; they’re only going to turn on you like everyone does. Do you feel your inner mean girl coming out by imagining yourself so unhappy? If not, you’re a very strong girl indeed!
So how did your poisonous friend become unhappy in the first place? In a way, it doesn’t matter…because whatever her problems are, they don’t give her the right to mistreat you. For example, maybe your pal who acts like The Kidder is dealing with a difficult situation at home that’s left her feeling like she’s not worth much. Maybe your next-door neighbor who acts like The Part-Time Bully is constantly picked on by an older sibling. But while your friend may have reasons for behaving the way she does, reasons are not the same thing as excuses. And although you may be a helpful person who likes to fix things, it’s not your job to fix her. If you stick around and try, she’ll keep on treating you badly till you’re feeling just as miserable as she is. Walk away instead, but try not to walk away angry.
If you liked this article, check out our book Fab Girls Guide to Friendship Hardship for more!
Originally printed in Discovery Girls magazine. Share this with your daughter.