Don’t Let Bad Friends Drag You Down

It turns out Garth Brooks was right. When you have friends in low places, you’ll have plenty of company to help you drown your blues away. But did you ever consider that your friends are contributing to your problems? Research shows thatwho you are is a function of who you know. Your friends help shape your outlook, values, emotions and behaviors. Their influence acts like an invisible hand that can either pull you down and thwart your efforts to reach your goals or give you a physical and psychological boost to help you create the life you want. Psychologists call this invisible hand “emotional contagion” or “social contagion,” and it can work for or against you. Learn how to avoid its death grip and start letting social contagion help you create a richer life.

News flash! Your income, weight, happiness and professional success are the average of your best five friends. When you hang out with rich, fit, happy and successful friends, guess what happens? They rub off on you. More specifically, social contagion says their emotions and behavioral attitudes rub off on you. If you think about this, it makes sense.

Parents have long known to be careful of who Johnny befriends, knowing that the wrong crowd could sway little Johnny to do things he might not be inclined to do on his own. Of course, once we grow up, we’re sophisticated and mature enough to not let outside forces shape us, right? Woops.

Emotions and attitudes are infectious. Have you ever brainstormed with somebody really creative and found yourself becoming more creative? That’s why having a workout partner is so successful. You pull each other up and shape each other’s attitudes and behaviors. You instinctually want to order the chili-cheese fries but at the last minute decide to order what your more fit and healthy friend orders instead. However, social contagion also has a dark side. Ever been around a bunch of Debbie Downers? What happens to your creativity, outlook and ideas. They turn to rubbish.

So what’s the takeaway? How can you exploit social contagion to help you create a richer life? You need to be more conscious about who is in your life. You wouldn’t let a stranger in your house to rob you, so why would you let a colleague or “friend” rob you of your best life, something much more valuable than your big screen TV and Bee Gee’s record collection? It’s time you give the finger to those people in your life that are dragging you down — kindly, but firmly, pointing them toward the door.

Sound too harsh? Social contagion says emotions, attitudes and behaviors are contagious and can spread from one person to another like a virus that causes the flu. Do you go out of your way to be around people who can make you sick? No, of course not. Then why risk being infected by those in your life that spew their negative attitudes and behaviors onto you?

But how do you know who’s a friend and who’s a foe? There are only two types of people in this world, and the sooner you discover this, the happier, more fulfilled and successful you’ll become — even if it meansdumping your best friend, neighbor, or, yes, even your mother.

The “friend” types are what I callEnergizers. These are people that lift you up, give you energy, make you want to be a better person, inspire you, make you feel good about yourself and your life, encourage you to take risks, and motivate you to achieve your goals and dreams.

The “foe” types are what I callLeeches. These are people who suck the energy from you, who make you feel bad about yourself and your life, complain, are negative, gossip, talk you into doing nothing, and bring you down.

The next step isn’t rocket science. You need to rid your life of Leeches and replace them with Energizers. Yes, it’s really that simple. It might not be easy, but it’s simple. If you’re struggling with eliminating the Leeches in your life, then give them a second chance. Tell them that you’re on a mission to reach your goals and that you need positivity, constructive feedback and support. If they’re not willing or able to do this for you, cut them loose. They’ll be okay. They’ll have plenty of friends to drown their blues away.

(Clouds image byKarindalziel,CC 2.0)

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dennis T5 years ago

I think this is a great I measure a friend is by asking myself one question.
What if I had 5 more friends in my life just like you?
I'm sorry to say, but the answer to that question has caused me to drop a lot of so called "friends"

Sarah Helper
Sarah Mussa5 years ago

THANK YOU. I needed to read this article so much!

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

We have an opportunity to learn from those we keep around and they from us. Are the same disappointments and negative attitudes still in our space? Time to build up your own spirit and take action for growth.

Nimue Pendragon

Yep, getting rid of the "emotional vampires" feels great :)

Unusable Lost Account
Past Member 5 years ago

Cut loose the negative friends from your life!

Jelca Bruigom
Jelca Bruigom5 years ago

Sometimes you need your own special day to see how bad someone can be for you. Guess you first couldn't believe it for you are different yourself and can't imagine. But when you do understand its not to late to get rid of them. So, always check how someone makes you feel and stay close to yourself.

Ron B.
Ron B5 years ago

If they're that bad, why are you still friends with them?

Silvija Vlahovec
Silvija Vlahovec5 years ago

I don't think we should all lose our friends and go search for the richer ones, that's just wrong, good friends can do a lot for us and we for them, no matter the size of their wallet. But, there is one thing I do agree with and that's the leeches. Let me give you one example: it's my birthday today, and a friend of mine caught me online and wished me all the best. But as soon as she did that,she started making me feel guilty for not having found the time to call her for a week, and inverting my appologies and explanations. Then she took over the blame, and started telling really bad things about herself, so I had to comfort her and lift her up from her self-induced depression. And then, when I thought that we had dealt with the topic of me not calling her, she brought it up all over again followoed by another fit of self-loathing. That kind of behaviour has been going on for years, with me as her confessor, while she puts herself in the role of the victim and torturer at the same time. Honestly, I'm sick and tired of that and of her. I want a normal, healthy friendship that I have with other friends, not dramas. I keep on suggesting, listening to her problems, lending a helping hand, but even thought we have known each other for more than 20 years, nothing has changed. It's been driving me mad. And especially since she's driven me insane on my birthday, of all days!

Cynthia Blais
cynthia l5 years ago

true sad but true Friends--true friends- are a reflection of us. sometimes people see what they want to see in others Having a friend that believes in you and your causes and stands is Priceless. It's all about choices anyhow, walk away from those dragging you down

Rose K.
K K5 years ago

I really dislike shallow articles like this. Choosing people based on an external situation? How typically western society selfish and self-absorbed- the opposite of being a REAL friend. Being a true friend means supporting people who are not the perfect caricatures that were presented in this piece. The people who need friendship the most are the ones going through hard times, had bad luck or are otherwise in a bad space. The automatons that the writer described, don't need friends, they need a personality. While we need to avoid being codependent and completely self-sacrificing, we also need to try to be a real friend, now a pretend friend as was suggested here.