“Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.”
Yeah. You are known by the friends you keep.
Friends, by definition, are supposed to be with you forever. But that’s not how it is in real life, is it? At some point in your life, you will wonder if some friends are worth keeping.
Then take some advice from Yours Truly, based on a lifetime’s experience of having bad friends. Each of the ‘friends’ below are real people from my life.
The friends that you should dump…
The ‘Reformed’ Bully: He made your childhood a living hell, stole your pocket money, made you carry his bags, clean his locker, pushed you into the dirt whenever he felt like, made sure you were never selected for any games or social events. And he probably gave you that gross and physiologically inaccurate nickname that you carried through your childhood.
After years of trauma, you finally get him out of your head – only to run into him again in adulthood. He’s mellowed with age, greets you like the dear friend that you never were, tries to get back into your life.
Psychologists and sociologists are welcome to their opinions – but there is no justification whatsoever for bullying behaviour. And in my experience, there is no treatment for such people.
Take my word for it … once a bully, always a bully.
No matter how nice he seems to be today, dump him. A bully leaves emotional scars that last a lifetime. Your childhood bully being apparently remorseful and nice to you in your adulthood won’t erase the trauma he caused you in your formative years. His very presence in your life will remind of your childhood pain. Dump him.
If you’re so inclined, and you feel the need for closure, then confront him and let him have a large piece of your mind or a large piece of your fist (if you have a good lawyer).
And dump that son of a bachelor.
The Social Pirate: This one is unadulterated poison. She diligently extracts intimate details of all your other friends and professional contacts, then gets herself invited to their events, and in turn invites them to her events – and cuts you out of both.
Social hijacking of this kind is far more common than you think. Such friends are difficult to catch, because they are really nice to you. They keep cutting you out, but they’re still nice to you. If such a friend is also a professional colleague or a fellow businessman, you can be sure she is stealing customers and prospects from you.
It will usually take a few months for you to realise what this friend is up to, and by that time, the damage to your social and professional life may be considerable. But as soon as you do find out – dump her. The only way to deal with an old friend who is a social hijacker is to do unto him as he would do unto you. Cut her out. Ruthlessly. Doesn’t matter how many years you’ve known her.
A real friend would never steal from you. Dump her.
The Public Jerk: This is the jerk who knows your dark secrets. The stupid antics you pulled as a kid, the teacher you were madly in love with when you were 15 years old, the time your pants fell down in school, the girlfriends (or wives) who dumped you and why they did, that wild afternoon behind the bushes with the neighbourhood tomboy, and all the other weird/kinky/possibly illegal mischief you did when you were too young to understand what you were doing.
Now, as an adult, he takes great pleasure in making you a source of entertainment for your friends and colleagues. He airs out all your dirty linen during any gathering of friends or professional contacts. And if one of your ex-flames happens to be there, then God help you.
Invariably, he or she will be the one person you’ve known from your earliest days in this world. But a long-standing friend like this who respects neither social conventions nor your privacy, must be definitely dumped.
Once, I took a childhood friend of mine to a business meet, after he begged me for an introduction to my client. He turned up ten minutes late, dressed in jeans and T-shirt, spoke only in Bambaiya slang throughout the meeting and kept addressing me as ‘Shendu’, my childhood nickname. I never allowed him to contact any of my clients, ever again.
The ‘Harmless’ Flirt. There is no such thing as harmless flirting, especially when the flirter is your childhood friend – and the flirtee is your wife.
This is the friend who considers it his birthright to share ribald SMS jokes with your wife, ‘accidentally’ brush her arm, or give her a ‘brotherly’ hug or a ‘friendly’ peck on the cheek – and all in your presence. If that’s what happens when you’re in the house, then you really need to wonder what may happen when you’re not.
I’m not being old-fashioned or narrow-minded. There is a visible difference between the behaviour of a friend who is friendly but respectful to your spouse – and one who has something else in mind. And if you can’t make out that difference, you do not deserve to have a spouse.
Don’t blame your spouse. In most cases, she (or he) may be tolerating your friend’s behaviour just for your sake.
Blame yourself instead. And throw that SOB out of your life.
The Moral High-grounder: A friend who judges you, is no friend. This is the friend who makes it a point to let you know what a loser you are, by constantly reminding you of (a) his five bedroom-three garage-two glorious kids-two Mexican maids-one Caucasian wife-one swimming pool mansion in Houston or Hebbal or wherever, (b) his Vice-Presidentship in the world’s largest MNC, (c) his personal friendship with Bill Gates/Warren Buffet/Lord of the Rings/whoever, (d) his priceless Renaissance paintings of naked women, bottles of vintage booze, his commode made of solid gold and so on.
A friend like this, who does not know or care about the hard decisions you had to make in your life, the tough choices you had to take for your loved ones, the obstacles you had to overcome, the pain that you went through to reach the modest station that you are at today, is simply not worth your while.
A friend who would judge you by your net-worth, is of absolutely no worth to you. His net-worth is more than yours, but believe me, you are far more valuable to this planet than he is.
Do your self-respect a huge favor. Dump him.
The Ex’s friend: Remember this – a mediator does not need to choose between two warring parties. A friend does.
He’s either your friend. Or hers. He just cannot be both. This is a fundamental fact of broken relationships. No matter how cordial your relationship with your ex may seem to be, he or she is your enemy. Period. No one really ‘moves on’. There is always residual enmity and resentment. It is simply human nature.
And your friend needs to choose. One cannot be equally loyal to two enemies.
Whether he chooses you over your ex, or not, is immaterial. It is entirely in your interest to know if he’s your friend or hers. If he chooses her, be thankful he showed his true colors. It really is in your interest. And if he remains undecided, then you decide. Dump him.
The Booze-head: I don’t drink. Been two decades since I last had any beverage with alcohol in it. It’s just a personal choice. There was a time though, when I did not mind watching my friends have a drink or two. I was happy to nurse a mocktail or a soft drink as they enjoyed their tippling.
However, I have a simple rule. If you can’t hold your drink, don’t drink.
Watching a friend make a drunken fool of himself in public, pacifying him as he flies into an abusive rage, holding him steady as he pukes his guts out in my lap, trying to convince him he’s too drunk to drive, somehow managing to drive him home in spite of his best efforts to kill me on the highway, and then at the end of it all, facing an angry cop or worse, his angry wife – is NOT my idea of a fun evening.
I did this far too many times for my friends, until one fine day, I told myself that enough is enough.
Keep such brainless booze-heads completely out of your life. There are better ways to commit suicide.
Integrity, loyalty and respect form the bedrock of friendship. Friends are expected to be loyal. They are expected to be there for you. They are expected to stand up for you. They are expected to respect you.
Even stray dogs and donkeys stick together. Homo sapiens is expected to do much better.
Truth is, if you implement all this advice I’m giving you, you’ll probably have to dump 80% of your current friends. But the truth also is, the remaining 20% are the friends who really matter.
The question I have to answer to myself now is, are you in my 20% – or not?
Cheers … Srini.