How to Distance Yourself From a Negative Friend

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Having a negative friend who is mean, overly competitive, selfish, critical or complains too much can take a toll on your emotional health. When a friend’s constant negativity starts to affect your mood or self-esteem, it’s okay to step back and take care of yourself, even if that means spending less time with your friend. But it’s not enough to just stop meeting up with her. You need to deal with the emotional effects of letting go of a friend, by reminding yourself that you deserve better.

Step 1

Talk to your friend directly about the issue. If you want to salvage the friendship, give him a warning with some feedback, suggests psychologist Henry Cloud in “How to Gracefully End a bad relationship -- With a Friend, Loved One or Business Associate” on He may not realize how his negativity can be emotionally draining. You can say something such as, “When I go out with friends I just want to have a good time and be in a happy mood. When you complain all the time, it affects my stress levels. It would be great if you could try to be more positive when we hang out.”

Step 2

Cut back on communication, over a period of time. You don’t have to cut off all contact immediately, but you can slowly phase your friend out of your life. Stop initiating conversations or hangouts, but be warm and polite if you bump into her, suggests psychologist Irene S. Levine in “Ending a friendship nicely” on

Step 3

Keep yourself busy and occupied. In “Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic,” counselor Reneau Z. Peurifoy recommends exercising “creative neglect,” which means that you make yourself unavailable when your friend wants to hang out or talk. Plan activities with positive friends and the kind of people you want to be around. Cloud suggests getting involved in volunteer work for charities and nonprofits, which is a way to appreciate the value of the time you spend with positive company, doing positive things. Even if you are not truly busy, Levine encourages you to use the excuse if you are comfortable doing so.

Step 4

Surround yourself with uplifting people. Though it can be hard losing a friend, no matter how negative, this leaves you with more time to spend with people who bring happiness to your life. Cloud suggests having a continual reminder of those who are worthy of your time -- whether it's having photos of them around your house or on your phone, or imagining how their presence will positively impact your life. This will remind you that supportive friends are valuable and that you shouldn’t waste time or energy on people who bring you down.