Viktor Sander

20 ways to tell fake friends from real friends

How do you tell if a friend is fake or not? It’s not easy because nobody is just good or bad. We all got good sides and bad sides.

But in some people or relationships, the bad sides take over. And that’s when you got a fake friend.

Here are 20 signs that will help you tell your fake friends from your real ones.

1. Pay attention to how much they talk about themselves

I once had a “friend” who would call me almost every day to talk about his ideas and problems. I tried to be a good friend by listening to him and giving him my best feedback.

On some days I also had something on my mind I wanted to talk about, but there was never any space for me to talk. And if I did get to talk a little, he soon changed the topic back to him.

He wasn’t really interested in me or my life. After that, I understood he was a kind of bad friend because I never got anything back in that relationship.

I don’t think he was a bad person, but our relationship was bad since it wasn’t mutual.

Fake friends are not interested in you, they’re only interested in themselves. A good sign to tell is that they almost only talk about themselves.

Here’s a guide on what to do if your friends only talk about themselves.

2. How interested are they in you?

Do they ask you a lot of questions about you? Do you get to talk about your problems and get support or help from them?

Real friends are interested in you and what’s going on in your life. Fake friends are not interested in getting to know you on a deeper level.

Some do care about you but just aren’t used to asking questions. But if you tell something important about you or your life – do they listen?

3. What type of people do they hang out with?

I remember when one of my friends started dating a new girl. He told me she was amazing, but she had some troubling behaviors he was worried about.

Then he told me how his girlfriend’s best friend was a super big douche bag. And she also regularly hang out with some sketchy people.

That got me thinking, why would a good person hang out with bad people like that? Sure, we all make bad choices and it’s often hard to know. But when someone’s best friend is a big douche bag and they even hang out with other bad people, that’s a BIG RED WARNING SIGN.

So, if you don’t like the friends of your friend, that’s a warning flag.

4. Do they apologize and owe their mistakes up to you?

My best friend once forgot about our date and I was left alone in the middle of town. I called him and he was extremely embarrassed and apologetic about it. He later made up for it by making a fantastic lunch for me.

A fake friend would probably not really care, maybe they would be a bit annoyed or irritated that you even mentioned it.

Real friends make mistakes, but they own up to them and apologize. Fake friends don’t.

5. Do they lie to you or others?

A white lie is one thing, but if someone regularly lies, that’s a good way to tell they don’t have a good character.

It’s not easy to know if they’re lying to you, but it’s usually easier to see if they’re lying to others or if they’re insincere.

6. How do they make you feel about yourself?

This is a tricky sign. But ask yourself how you feel when you are with your friends? And how do you feel afterward? Did they do or say anything that affected your mood negatively?

If your situation is hard to read, describe it in the comments below and I’ll help you out!

Here’s what bad friends can make you feel like:

  • You feel bad about yourself
  • You feel there’s something wrong with you
  • You feel you’re not good enough
  • You feel you need to change yourself to fit in
  • You feel ashamed about yourself

Real friends lift you up and make you feel good about yourself.

7. Are they critical of your achievements?

Fake friends criticize

Good friends can give constructive criticism when you need it, but mostly they just support you and make sure you know how awesome you are for your achievement.

8. Do they understand your limitations?

Real friends understand when you can’t or don’t want to do something.

Fake friends will expect a lot from you, and get angry or irritated when you disappoint them.

Real friends have reasonable expectations on you, and they are understanding of your mistakes and flaws.

9. Do they respect your boundaries?

Fake friends overstep your boundaries and make you do and accept things you don’t want.

Real friends respect you and your boundaries. And if they accidentally go too far, they apologize when you tell them.

I’ve written about how to get more respect over here.

10. How do they react when you tell them something you’re proud or happy about?

Fake friends get envious and jealous when you do good and they will probably try to put you down in those situations.

Good friends will be happy for you.

11. Do they stand up for you?

I remember when I was at this house party. Most of us knew each other, but the “leader” of our group never really seemed to like me.

He often gave me backhanded compliments and were always critical of me. And at this party he started making fun of me in front of some girls, it was all disguised as “a joke”.

I even tried to laugh together with them to play along.

I didn’t notice how mean he was until later on when one of my other friends told me how uncomfortable that situation was. He said he didn’t think it was ok to behave as our “leader” did. My friend actually talked to our leader about it after that.

Standing up for me like that really meant a lot for me, even if nobody dared to stand up for me immediately, I could tell by my friend’s reaction that he was a true friend. And that also made me see that our “leader” wasn’t a real friend.

Read more about how to deal with dominating people and bullies here.

12. Is there always some sort of drama going on in their life?

Ever heard someone say “I don’t like drama” even if they seem to constantly be surrounded by drama? That person is usually the one creating a lot of that drama.

Fake friends are often drama queens. They make a big deal of small things and because they can’t own up to their mistakes, the drama just keeps going.

Real friends try to solve your differences and find a nice middle ground where you both agree with each other.

13. Do they help you out when you need it?

Fake friends ask you to do a lot for them and help them out, and their requests are often borderline unreasonable, but you never get anything back.

Nobody can be expected to help you with everything, but real friends are ready to help you when you truly need it.

You can read more here about friends who ask for help but never give back.

14. Do they act differently when around others?

Are they mean when you are one-on-one, but “fake nice” when around others? Or is it the other way around, that they’re nice one-on-one and mean toward you around others?

Fake friends act differently when other people are around. This is a manipulative behavior that’s not acceptable.

15. Do they talk bad about you behind your back?

Fake friends talk shit and gossip about others with you. That’s a sign that they might gossip about you behind your back when you can’t hear it.

Real friends mostly say good things about others and good things about you.

16. Do they seem happy to see you?

When I first got to know David (the founder of SocialPro), I remember how he always greeted me with a big smile and a hug. I instantly felt great around him and wanted to be with him more.

When someone makes you feel good around them, that’s a good sign they’re also a good person and a good friend.

Fake friends are often in a bad mood, they’re irritated on you or others and need to vent A LOT. Real friends need to vent too, but there should be a balance so you also get something positive out of the relationship.

17. Can you be yourself around them?

Can you relax and be yourself around your friend? Or do you have to put on a mask and fake it to fit in? If you can’t, it might be time to stop keeping in touch with them.

Real friends allow you to be yourself because they accept you and like you for who you are. Fake friends don’t.

18. Can you trust them to keep a secret?

Fake friends will tell your secrets to others because they don’t really care about you.

Real friends can be trusted with your secrets. It’s not black and white, but if someone has betrayed your trust more than once (and not apologized!), it might be time to rethink your relationship.

19. Do they try to one-up you?

Fake friends will try to one-up you. For example, if you tell them you got a new phone, they will claim their phone is better, or they will criticize your phone.

The reason they act like this is often because they have an inferiority complex and need to prove they’re better than everyone else.

20. “It was just a joke”

Have you ever told someone you got offended/hurt, and they defended themselves with the classic “I was just joking”?

That means they’re not owning they’re bad behavior and they’re not apologizing, both signs of a bad friend. A good friend will not (regularly) brush your feeling off like that and they will try to make amends instead of excuses.

Have you ever had any fake or bad friends? How did you notice? Write it down in the comments below and help others in similar situations as you!

P.S. I’m more than happy to help you out if you have any ongoing situations you need help with! Just describe it in the comments and I’ll reply.

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Comments (12)

  1. Fake_Smile

    For me a “friend” of mine said “I am not your friend anymore.” After I asked why and then they said “oh I was just joking!” They also used me for a while because I had candy and slime and other things 9 year olds love. Hey kept making me give a ton of it to them sometimes even try to make it seem like they didn’t want it that much. After they found someone else better, they decided to abandon our friendship. I am very surprised that the other people she is friends with haven’t noticed yet. I mean, she made it very obvious that she isn’t a real friend

    • Fake_Smile

      Oops by hey I meant they XD

  2. Isabella

    I’m starting to sit with a new group of people who are deemed “popular”. It isn’t Mean Girls popular but more of the nice kind of popular. They’ve been friends for years, but I started sitting with them about 2 weeks ago. They don’t really include me in their conversations, but then again, I’m like the most shy person with a 2nd grade level of social skills(due to family issues……….my family sucks….). Recently, my grandmother has been sick and may die, so I’ve been really depressed by that. They acted like they cared but it was like…distant. Like, “I know you’re sad and I’m acting like I care but deep down, I don’t.” I don’t have anyone else to sit with though.

  3. michael

    my closest friend keeps on saying stuff like “ur in le(a class for learning disabilities.) but he seems nice and is a good friend. i just cant tell.

    • Viktor Sander

      What happens if you tell him that you don’t like it when he says that? Does he respect your feelings?

  4. Kath


    I’ve been raised as the family scapegoat. This means I haven’t been taught ‘how’ to set boundaries and it has left me making very poor choices of ‘who’ to allow into my life. It has also left me with a very deep inability to ‘trust’ anyone.

    Always attract people (especially my boyfriends, even my husband) who love me being around but when something goes wrong (eg someone is out of order with me) they stand back and leave me abandoned.

    I’d love to know your thoughts please? Also, if you have any suggestions as to how to resolve this?

    • Viktor Sander

      Hi Kath, that sounds really tough. But it’s great that you’ve already started reflecting on it and how you can improve your situation.

      Like you mention yourself, you need to start practicing how to set boundaries with the people around you. I’ve written more about boundaries over here, especially point 6, 7, and 8:

      I also think you should ask yourself which people you actually want in your life and which ones are more negative than positive? It sounds like you may need to cut contact with some. You deserve to be treated with respect.

  5. Taylor

    Hi Viktor!

    Reading through some of these comments, I’m scared I myself fall into some of these fake friend qualities. I have this tendency, particularly with male friends, to pick on them when we’re with other friends but be nice and more myself when alone with them. If someone ever tells me that their feelings were hurt I feel horrible and apologize and try to make sure I don’t do it again. But I do still fall into this quite often if I don’t monitor myself. I’m afraid that I’m not being a great friend myself for falling into these traps, whether I’m doing it because I want people to laugh at my jokes or whether it’s to do the dumb “I’m gonna pick on you because I like you” kind of thing. Do you have any advice on how I can improve upon this?

    • Viktor Sander

      Hi Taylor!

      I see what you’re saying, that’s a common behavior in male friend-groups, especially in younger or less emotionally mature groups. I’ve been there too.

      Just the fact that you can see some of these negative behaviors in yourself tells me that you are a good person and a good friend. And this is reinforced by the fact that you apologize if you hurt someone by mistake. We all mess up from time to time, that’s part of life.

      But onto the interesting part. How can you change this behavior?

      In short, changing a behavior is a 3-stage process:

      1: You need to become aware of your problem-behavior. (You’ve done this already, AWESOME!)

      2: Try to identify when you actually do this behavior. At first, you can maybe see it first after the fact, a day, an hour or a week after you did the same behavior again.

      And by increasing your awareness about it, you will get better at seeing it faster. And eventually, you will see it immediately after you did it. And finally, after that, you will become aware of it BEFORE you do it.

      This brings us to the final step.

      3: Once you’ve become aware of the behavior before you do it, you will be able to stop yourself from doing it again.

      DONE! That’s how you change and upgrade your behaviors. Hope it helps =)

  6. Tim

    Hi there,

    I have this coworker who actually was an old friend at an old company and we had not really kept in touch for couple of years. I used to think he was a cool guy to hang out with, but recently as I joined this new company where he works too, I often find him giving me off handed comments about my situation (no girlfriend, not settled, etc) which he seems to have for him now. I feel like his whole personality has changed now that he is more settled, has a house, etc. I am little hurt since we used to get along well, but these days, I try to avoid talking to him as I feel he often pokes fun at me.

    I am an overthinker and not very good in social interactions, and worst part is this guy actually sits right next to me at work. I am getting sick of being beaten by him through his words and offhanded comments. Please help me how I can get out of this situation.


      • Tim

        Thanks Viktor for the feedback.

        The thing is he is actually pretty socially competent, but in my opinion he is not so good at the work we do and he might be jealous of me in that regards. I just want to focus on my work and not have to deal with his bullsh*t. Anyways, thanks for pointing to the other article, I will try some of those strategies.