5 Reasons You’re a Bad Friend

I’ve been working with some individuals recently in the first phase as I start up some formal consulting and personal coaching. Everything from work to finances and all in between. One of the topics that came up with an individual (officially a “Client” I suppose now) is their desire to be thought of as a truly good friend.

So I shared with the client some of the things that I look for in a friend, some of the character traits I try to exhibit so I can be thought of as a good friend, and as well some of the things I view other people as doing that definitely do NOT make them good friends.

Below I’m touching on 5 things that absolutely make you a bad friend. Give yourself an honest look and ask yourself if you exhibit any of the things listed here. It’s never too late to change.

1. You’re Passive Aggressive

I’ll start off this first one with a pretty definitive statement. Passive Aggressiveness is unquestionably the most unattractive, undesirable trait a person can have. Male, female, doesn’t matter. Just as a human being, it’s at the very top of the list. You should pride yourself on having the courage to speak your mind. And if you don’t, your snide, off handed remarks are only cementing the fact that you don’t have that courage.

I used to work for many years in the field of politics and I can’t even count the vast number of times some mid-level manager, with a self-confidence bordering zero made some passive aggressive comment in the office. I can only speak from the man’s perspective here. But from that perspective, there is nothing I view as more of a mark against who is a real man and who isn’t, than those who have no courage of convictions or self-confidence and highlight it by being rude and passive aggressive. It’s about the most cowardly thing you can do and in the long run you’re only hurting yourself by refusing to acknowledge that you have an issue, or issues, you don’t seem able to deal with.


2. You use the phrase, “I’m not sure what I’m doing.”

I haven’t noticed this as much on a personal level with friends to me, but I’ve observed it quite a few times in group settings.

Person A: “Hey I’m planning on doing ______ on Friday, would you like to join me?

Person B: “Oh, I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’ll let you know…”

Let’s name this for what it really is. “I’m not sure what I’m doing” is 100% code for “I’m waiting to see if something better comes along.”

Yes. It is. There’s no way around it. I can hear people arguing now… “But, MY situation is different!”

Possible. But unlikely.

IF (BIG IF) the few exceptions exist where you have to check with your husband/wife because you have to manage a bunch of children on something very specific, or in some other limited case, then maybe, MAYBE you have the occasional out. But I’m guessing this doesn’t apply to you.

Just last week I had one friend ask another friend about attending a show over the summer only to be told, “I’m not sure what I’m doing, I might be going on a trip…”

“okay… so… are you going on a trip or not?” I felt like butting in and asking.

If he wasn’t sure if he was going on a trip, then obviously at that moment he wasn’t going on a trip. And if he made the plans to attend the show, then he wouldn’t be going on the trip because he’d be at the show. Pick a priority buddy. One or the other.

A simple thing like this is VERY common place. But “I’m not sure what I’m doing” is the height of disrespect and tremendously demeaning to the friend who took the time to actually invite you to the activity. Don’t repay his or her kindness by blowing them off in the hope you’ll get a better offer.

If you’ve done this. Its okay. Admit it. Acknowledge it. And change it.


3. You don’t get back to people

I ran a little experiment last month where I reached out to about a dozen people whom I’d helped with something in the past. Friends, and former co-workers. I asked each one to get back to me on a specific question I had or provide me with a quick response back on something I needed help with. Instead of me helping them, this time it was, “Hey this is the one time I actually, genuienly need some help from you…”

Most of them didn’t even bother to return my message.

I don’t believe it’s personally indicative of me or some type of coincidental action against me. Who knows, maybe they all collectively got together and decided to boycott my emails. But rather it’s indicative of them not putting a priority on getting back to someone.

And whether that means they genuinely don’t value me or my time, or just don’t value people in general, it’s certainly something I’ll keep in mind the next time they call asking for an hour to “pick my brain.”
I don’t believe it means one group of people is completely “good” and the other “bad” however it’s a VERY good example of the priorities that people set. I’ve had friends and colleagues who were otherwise very good friends, but were just horrible at returning messages or responding to requests.
However, and this is important, this is not something that should just be brushed off. This seems commonplace. No one seems to make it a priority to get back to people when there’s so many other things to draw away our attention. “Oh I was really busy…” is the response of our age.
But this doesn’t mean it’s proper. And it’s not how it has to be, especially not for someone who wants to be thought of as a good friend. A good friend prioritizes and makes time to return someone’s message. They don’t disregard it as only being convenient for themselves.
“Yea… I’m just not good at getting back to people,” is a failure of an answer. It’s actually become acceptable today to not place a priority on responding to someone’s request or getting back to them when they’re in need. But that’s a bad thing that needs to change. Don’t just accept that this is how you are. You may be a great person, but if this is a weakness for you, take an honest look at yourself and seek to change it.

4. You continue to take from people more than you give

My grandmother had a saying, “You should always bring something to a party besides your appetite.” And it stuck with me. Every party or BBQ or picnic I can ever remember, my first question after receiving the invite has always been, “What can I bring?” Even to the point where I’ll sometimes follow it up with, “I know you’re going to say, ‘Nothing’, but I’m going to bring something anyway so you might as well tell me what you could actually use.”

This extends far beyond bringing soda or chips to a BBQ. Whether it’s time or a shoulder to lean on or just the willingness to listen, far, FAR too many people today have set themselves only on what they can take from other people, never considering long enough what they can provide back in return.

Think how much you truly appreciated the last time you were going through a rough point in your life and needed someone to talk to. Or the last time you needed help or advice on a subject you were lost on and along came someone to lend a hand.

You appreciated that right? You felt blessed and grateful that someone gave you their precious time and resources when you had nothing to offer in return. English writer Samuel Johnson is rumored to have said,

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

It’s one of those quotes that’s become attributed without official proof it was ever said or written. But regardless of who said it, (some think it was actually first said by Ann Landers), it’s a powerful statement, and it should touch a deep emotion in us on whether we feel compelled to take, take, take from others or whether we’re willing to give back when the situation calls for it.


5. You’re genuinely not dependable

One of the best compliments you can ever be paid is to be thought of as someone who is dependable. There are so few people who are, that’s the best way to differentiate yourself from everyone else. In a world where so many people are common and average, that’s a great goal to shoot for.
Pause for a second and think about the following:
If you had that proverbial one phone call you could make from jail, who would you call? If your car ran out of gas on the freeway at 3 in the morning, who would you call? If you needed $500 to pay the rent after a catastrophic accident or emergency and you had no one else to turn to, who would you call?
Not, “Who would you PROBABLY call?”… But who would you definitively call? Can you think of one person who would help you through this? Who would go out of their way to calm you and make you feel safe, and do whatever it took to help you through your problem? If you have someone in mind, then that’s someone you can count on. That’s a dependable friend. If you’re truly honest with yourself the list of people you thought of probably wasn’t too long.
Ask yourself, if the situations above were reversed, do you think you’d be that dependable person? Would you call yourself if you only had one person to reach out to?
Missing appointments, consistently showing up late, even not returning phone calls. It all adds up. We see everyone else do it and accept it for being commonplace, but that only means we’ve become common as well. You don’t want to be thought of as common, you want to be thought of as that one dependable friend that someone can turn to when in trouble.


The above five are just a starting point. Sadly there’s lots of ways to be a bad friend. But there’s good news. One of the best ways to be a good friend is to reverse these points. Take a moment of true introspection. Ask yourself how you’d want to be thought of by others and then take the steps to get there.
It’s truly not as hard as it looks. All it takes is the willingness to go that slight extra step and separate yourself from the masses; the crowds of “bad friends” that you see each day.
What type of friend would you describe yourself as? Have you found yourself falling into some of the bad habits above?
Share this Post: