Signs of Pseudo Friends

Sean Kernan

A 75-year-long Harvard study found that good relationships are the most important factor for enduring happiness and success. Having quality friends and partners protects the brain, preserves emotional wellbeing, and lowers physical pain.

This finding doesn’t include fake friends.

Favors are found on a one-way street

Asking someone to do a favor is a proven way to get them to like you. It signals you trust and like them.

They’ll feel chosen. You’ll make them feel better about themselves for doing an act of charity.

I wouldn’t make that first favor, “Can you help me move into a new house this weekend?” Keep it small.

Conversely, friendship tests are often failed when you ask a friend, who’ve you’ve helped for years, to return the favor. They suddenly have a full schedule or aren’t feeling well. They act like you’re making a massive request.

They can never reciprocate despite all you’ve done for them. Your friendship exists solely for their benefit.

They came with a new tide

I had the unique experience of watching my dad rise from a junior officer to a vice admiral in the Navy.

Over the course of my life, I saw people’s attitudes toward him change dramatically. He went from being a normal dude to being treated like a celebrity.

Even today, when people don’t know who he is and find out, I can see the switch happen. Their tail starts wagging. It’s a whole scene.

Dad is no fool and doesn’t let it get to his head. But you can be sure that, god forbid, the moment there is some sort of scandal involving him, a good majority of those people will vanish.

A successful businessman told me, “As you get more successful, more people want to be near you. The moment things turn south, you are a walking stink bomb. They dive for cover.”

Beware of fairweather friends. It’s as Walter Winchell said, “A real friend walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

They come in too hot

Teenage friendships can feel all-important at the time. Most are doomed. Only 1% of friendships that start in 7th grade last five years and a majority last less than one year.

In adulthood, beware of someone who comes in and is suddenly obsessed with hanging out with you. It can feel cliquey, like high school all over again. They’ll be exuberant, showering you with praise and laughing at all your jokes.

It’s often fake. They may have an agenda to get something from you. They may be going through a divorce, or a difficult period, and have nobody else to get support from — which is fine if you are feeling charitable. Just know that you could very easily become their 4th best friend in a row and you’ll never hear from them again.

They cross the line of tolerable trash talk

Among my family and friends, we often poke fun at people we mutually love. It’s never with malice or envy. It’s about having fun in a therapeutic way

Meanwhile, I’ve known guys who spend 30% of our time together bashing people we mutually knew — in a very mean-spirited way. These guys were typically super insecure and unhappy with their life. I’d pivot and change the subject and within five minutes, they’d lurch back into character assassination.

I had a girlfriend who trash-talked her closest friends.

She literally said to me, “This girl is such a shady bitch.” And 30 minutes later, I’m sitting next to her and her boyfriend at a dinner table and everyone is smiling. Apparently, I was the only one who found it awkward.

That relationship didn’t last.

Lastly, the true friend question

This woman routinely hangs out in our group and has a super abrasive, cold personality. I can visualize icicles growing from her chin and threatening to shoot at my chest.

I’ve spent a hundred hours around her, as have the others in our group, only because she’s married to a friend we love. At various points in time, every person in the group has whispered to me, “What is that woman’s deal?”

I finally realized what put her off with everyone. In all the years I’ve known her, she’s never asked me a single question about my life, nor anyone in the group. Any conversation, or words that come out of her mouth, are about her.

If someone can’t find five seconds to ask you about how your life is going, they probably aren’t a quality friend. Don’t let people use you for attention.

It’s harder to maintain friendships as we get older. Careers and children begin eating up everyone’s time.

If you ask too much of your friends, you’ll probably be disappointed. Yet you still deserve quality friends. Don’t let people freeload off your good character.

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Full-time writer.

Tampa, FL

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