How to Dump a Lousy Friend.

Why keep toxic friendships when we could just as easily give them the imaginary hook or noose?

I’ve had to make friends with an awful lot of bad fashion choices.” Robbie Williams

Lately I’ve been wondering what constitutes a friend—not so much a friend as a true friend. I read all these comments on Facebook and LinkedIn, where people say wonderful things like “That’s a great shot of you holding Fluffy,” or “How old is Fluffy now?” Is that being a true friend? If so, I must be a terrible one. I honestly don’t know the age of a single friend’s cat.

A quote came up on Pinterest the other day, saying “As we grow up, we realize it becomes less important to have a ton of friends, and more important to have real ones.”

I’d hate to go through all my friends. Some of them go back forty years. They won’t be happy if I dump them now. They’ll probably say, “You’re dumping me? I should have dumped you thirty years ago.”

The last thing I want is to create a landslide. At the same time, I’d still like to know what makes someone worth dumping or keeping around.

I found lots of definitions of lousy friends on the Internet. Like the Jerk Friend who never lets you get in a word edgewise. Or the Hyper-Needy Friend who shows up late at night with mascara running, a pack of cigarettes and a Snickers. Just out of curiosity, who gets to eat the Snickers?

I read one definition of a “real” friend that stated: “They’re always around when you need them, ready with a bottle of wine and a shoulder to cry on.”

If bringing wine is a good sign, my group of friends deserve top marks. They always show up with a bottle of wine. If it’s providing a shoulder to cry on, that’s a different story. My friends would probably say, “I’ll be with you in a minute. I mean, this bottle isn’t going to open itself.”

Another definition I found said that “Friends who never argue or disagree or criticize aren’t friends. They’re bling.” This is a difficult one. On one hand, none of us likes being criticized. On the other, if we never get any criticism, who knows what stupid things we’re capable of doing.

We’re probably doing them right now.

This is where I agree with Norman Vincent Peale who said “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

That’s very true. Think of all the contestants on American Idol who should have been told they sucked before they auditioned. I think the true definition of friendship is not letting someone suck in front of ten million people.

To make all this even more confusing, now they’re saying there are two kinds of friends: Those we know personally, and those we know online. Seems a lot of people love their online friends because they don’t criticize.

Online friends are often people we don’t really know. You meet them on Facebook or some other social networking site. It’s really based on availability, meaning that little green dot next to their name. I always see a lot of little green dots, so these people must be ready to talk. Supposedly, that makes them better friends than our “real” friends.

Real friends have too much going on. They’ll make time for you in a pinch, but it’s really interfering with other things — like discussing whether they should dump you or not (I missed the cat’s birthday; what can I say?)

What it boils down to — the way I figure it, anyway — real friends are the ones we expect to be honest with us and give constructive criticism. Online friends are the ones we expect will praise the life out of us.

Not surprisingly, this is turning a lot of people to online friends. Studies show we don’t like to bug the hell out of our real friends, whereas, online friends are open territory. Personally, I’ve never thought I was “bugging” my friends. I may bug the hell out of them at an art gallery, but if you look around, everyone’s bugging the hell out of each other at an art gallery.

So how do you know which friends to keep and which ones to dump? From what I can gather, if you’re not getting praise and constructive criticism, then you have some dumping to do. How you do it is the real trick, but I’ve done considerable research and this is what I’ve come up with:

How to Dump Lousy Friends

Passive Rejection: This simply means avoiding them. Eventually, they either get the hint or leave something nasty on your porch in a baggie.

Active Rejection: This involves telling the person they’re a lousy friend. Since you’re ending the friendship, anyway, it hardly seems worth the trouble. Besides, you’ll probably get the response I mentioned earlier, with someone saying “I should have dumped you years ago.”

Mirror Rejection: In this case, you do exactly what your lousy friend does. Never let them get a word in edgewise, or show up at their house with mascara running down, a pack of cigarettes and a Snickers. If they grab the Snickers and slam the door, essentially the friendship is over.

Extended Release Rejection: If you’re familiar with extended release formulations, this type of rejection works the same way. Gradually let your friend down with things they hate, like criticism or empty Snicker’s wrappers. They’ll either dump you or suggest you get an online friend.

In any case, studies show it’s unhealthy to keep lousy friends. They lower your self-esteem—even when they’re praising you. How that works isn’t exactly clear to me, but I don’t argue with studies.

Besides, it’s better to dump lousy friends before they dump you—which is really bad for your self-esteem. In the words of a duelling manual, “It’s always better to shoot first.”

Robert Cormack is a novelist, blogger and freelance copywriter. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.

I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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