Years 5-6 Subchapter: Managing relationships

What to do if you want to leave a friendship?

An illustration with a grey background of a toxic friend smirking who also has a grey skull above their head. Two people are in a white glowing bubble looking at the toxic friend, they are shocked and with their hands over their mouths.


Toxic friends

Friends are a very important part of our social and support networks. They’re great company, help us through life, and have many amazing benefits. There are disagreements or conflict, too. That’s normal. Friends, however, should never leave us feeling bad about ourselves.

Sometimes a friendship becomes confusing, tricky or harmful and this can turn into disrespect. Toxic friendships can be stressful and negative and make you feel pretty down on yourself.


What does a toxic friend look like?

An illustration of a toxic friend with a grey skull in their speech bubble whispering something in a person's ear about someone else. The person being whispered to has three red exclamation marks above them and is frowning.


A friend with toxic behaviour might:

  • demand too much, without giving anything back
  • criticise you, either subtly or not
  • try to manipulate you into feeling a certain way or doing something you don’t want to do
  • gossip about others or about you
  • stress you out
  • constantly remind you of your past failures
  • have an angry attitude towards life


The best way to decide whether a friendship might not be healthy is to be honest with yourself about how you feel when you’re with that person. If you generally feel worse when you hang out with them or feel drained of energy when you spend time with them, then it’s likely to be bad for your mental health and wellbeing. If you can’t improve the relationship, you may decide you need to end it.

This toxic friends quiz uses 10 questions to help decide if your friendship is toxic with links for further advice.


What can you do about a toxic friendship?

An illustration of a young person who has a speech bubble, and is explaining something to their toxic friend who has their arms folded looking away slightly. Another friend is observing and has a question mark near their head.


None of us likes the idea of losing a friend, and some people deserve a second chance. Your friend may not be aware that their behaviour bothers you. It might be worth having a positive conversation with them and establishing some healthy boundaries:

  • Say ‘no’ when your friend asks for something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Point out to them when they’re acting mean or being critical of you.
  • Tell them when their behaviour is unwanted and unacceptable.
  • Talk to them about how their behaviour makes you feel.
  • It’s okay to tell them that if they aren’t willing to treat you better, then it might be best if you parted ways.


How do you end a friendship?

Now two friends are communicating to the toxic friend and have speech bubbles. The toxic friend has their arms folded and their head facing down, looking a bit sad.


Friends are amazing, but toxic friendships aren’t good for anyone. There are always new people to meet, new friendships to start, so if the steps you’ve taken don’t improve things, then it might be time to pull the plug:

  • Write down a list of reasons why you think the friendship should end. Keep the list handy in case you need to look at it.
  • Sit down with your friend and explain as best as you can that the friendship isn’t healthy.
  • Try not to point the finger at them or to make them feel bad.
  • Instead, tell them how the time you spend with them makes you feel. Nobody can ever take your feelings away from you.
  • Listen to their point of view and try not to argue with them.
  • If either of you gets angry, calmly remove yourself from the situation.
  • End the conversation as politely as you can, for their wellbeing and yours.


Sourced from the Dealing with a toxic friendship article by ReachOut.