How to Find Real Friends in a World Full of Fakes
Struggling to identify real friends vs fake friends? Our blog post gives you easy-to-implement tips so you can tell who to avoid and who to keep.
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Identifying real friends vs fake friends
Alarm bells are ringing in your head.
You’re sitting in a room with the company’s top brass two days after drinking with a close friend at work. There was a lot of alcohol involved, and what started as gentle teasing had devolved into a total hate-fest about this one manager who made everyone miserable. You and your friend had agreed that this manager should leave – and made one outrageous joke after another about the best way to make that happen.
Could this emergency meeting be about that?
But when your friend joined the meeting, sat beside the same manager you were talking about, and disclosed your entire conversation minus her part in it, you knew what was coming.
And you were right.
You got fired and your “friend” got your job.
Clearly, you trusted the wrong person and paid a steep price.
How do you make sure this doesn’t happen again?
That’s what this post is about. It’ll help you get better at reading people, so you can tell who’s got your back – and who is more likely to get a knife and stab you with it.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
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How to avoid Judas
Have you ever imagined what it must’ve been like to be Jesus, knowing that Judas would betray you to your death? The trauma and distress must have been immense.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever experience the depth of betrayal portrayed in the Jesus story, we’ve all been betrayed at some point. We all know how bad it can be, especially when the betrayal comes from someone we truly love – and who claims to love us back.
In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, betrayal can be traumatic and may result in PTSD symptoms as well as shame, guilt and self-blame, depression, and low self-esteem and self-worth.
Clearly, it’s in your best interest to avoid the Judases in your life. But you can’t do that until you learn how to spot them in the wild.
Vanessa Van Edwards, Founder of Science of People, talked about the three types of fake friendships you need to watch out for:
- Toxic “friends”
- Ambivalent friends
Let’s call them the three faces of Judas.
For more information on Van Edwards’ view on fake friendships, watch the video below:
Judas #1: Toxic “friends”
According to Van Edwards, of the three types of relationships, toxic ones are the easiest to spot.
A toxic “friend” may put you down, gossip about you, apologize insincerely (“I’m sorry you feel that way, but that wasn’t my intent.”), make you feel nervous or uneasy, compare you (negatively!) to someone else, put themselves front and center all the time, or even try to change you. In short, they leave you feeling bad about yourself.
Because they cause such negative feelings, it’s easier not to hang out with them. If they do invite you, you find yourself declining without losing much sleep over it. After all, you know that you don’t want toxic relationships in your life.
Ambivalent relationships, on the other hand, are a whole other kettle of fish.
Judas #2: Ambivalent “friends”
Are you friends or not?
Do they like you? Do you like them?
Is spending more time together something you really want to do?
By its very nature, ambivalent relationships are uncertain. Maybe you’ve met someone new, and you kinda like them, but you don’t know if they like you back. Or, it’s clear that they like you, but you’re not sure you feel the same way for whatever reason. You can spend a lot of time wondering where you stand and what your relationship with this person is.
You could believe that you’re friends with this person, share personal details that could leave you vulnerable, and find yourself betrayed in the worst possible way. Or, you could believe that you’re not friends (when, in fact, the other person would like you to be) and inadvertently betray their trust.
In a rom-com movie, this confusion and insecurity could be an acceptable start to a good romance. But in real life? Ambivalent relationships take a lot of mental effort to navigate and can extract a heavy toll.
That’s why they’re dangerous.
Judas #3: Frenemies
“Congratulations, Vanessa!” A “friend” once “celebrated” my promotion with me before promptly scheduling an urgent meeting with my manager to complain about how my new position would undermine hers.
It turns out she just wanted my job.
If you’ve ever achieved a promotion or celebrated a win and then found yourself keeping that a secret from a friend because you just know that they’ll give you a sarcastic or passive-aggressive backhanded compliment, you don’t have a friend. You have a jealous, undermining, and (possibly) unsure frenemy.
You want to get this type of person out of your life before you get hit with a full-blown act of betrayal.
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How to recognize Samwise Gamgee
In Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, we watched Frodo fight and eventually succumb to the siren call of the One Ring. His saving grace was fellow hobbit Samwise Gamgee, who stayed with him all throughout the series, making sure he had food to eat, water to drink, and protection from all that would hurt him.
Sam was Frodo’s ride-or-die, the kind of true ally and loyal friend that we all wish we could make.
But how can you recognize Samwise Gamgee in the real world?
According to Psychology Today, a real friend:
- Is committed to your happiness – They’re genuinely happy when you’re happy. And when you’re sad, they want to make things better. Real friends care about your best interest. And if you’re doing something that is not in your best interest? They love you enough to tell you so.
- Will never ask you to compromise your principles – A long time ago, I had an office friend (incidentally, the same frenemy I mentioned above) who expected me to share confidential company information. When I refused, she branded me a traitor and started undermining me at work. We stopped speaking before I even left the company. In hindsight, I recognize that she was never a real friend because real friends will never ask you to give up on your principles and values for the sake of your friendship.
- Is a good influence – Rising tide lifts all boats. You want to cultivate high-vibe relationships because a real friendship lifts you both up, not keep you down.
So, if your friend is jealous of your happiness, expects you to put your friendship above all else – including over your principles and values, or encourages you to be a lower version of yourself, they’re not a friend.
You’re spending precious time, not with a Samwise Gamgee, but with a Judas.
Building a group of friends worth its weight in gold
So, we’ve tackled the three faces of Judas: toxic friends, ambivalent friends, and frenemies; these are the people you want to avoid. We’ve also explored the qualities of the people you do want in your life – a real friend, like Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings.
But let’s be honest, life isn’t as simple as a movie or a book, and figuring out the real from the fake is often confusing and tough. People are complex creatures, after all; it takes time to see their true colors. The important thing is to pay attention to how they make you feel and how they act when the chips are down.
So, what can you do moving forward?
First, trust your gut – it’s usually right. Second, know where your boundaries are, enforce them, and see how the people around you react. Third, be the kind of friend you want to have. Be your own Samwise Gamgee, and you’ll start to attract the same. And if you need more tips on attracting – and keeping! – real friends, read our post, “5 Foolproof Ways to Help You Make & Keep Real Friends.”
Remember, you deserve real friends who’ve got your back, and you should take your time figuring out who they are. Keep an open heart, but stay wise and vigilant, and you’ll soon build a group of friends that’s worth its weight in gold.
Note: The information on this website is for general information only, and is not a substitute for medical, financial, or legal advice. You, or anyone you are concerned about, are encouraged to seek independent medical, legal, financial, taxation or other advice to check how the website information relates to your unique circumstances. If you or the person you are concerned about appear at risk of self-harm or harm to others, please seek immediate professional assistance.