A good friend treats you with respect. Unfortunately, bad friends can be good at making you question whether they’re actually being disrespectful. Manipulative and toxic friends might tell you that you’re being “oversensitive” or that you are overreacting, even when they put you down or make it clear that they don’t respect your feelings. It can be helpful to have an outside opinion about whether something is disrespectful or not.
We’ve put together a list of some of the most common signs that your friend doesn’t respect you. While this can be helpful to reassure you, try to remember that you get to decide whether you are OK with being treated in a particular way. If your friend does something that you find disrespectful it’s worth talking to them about it, even if we haven’t included it in our list.
Not all signs of disrespect are equal. Some are especially serious, even if you only spot one or two. Some suggest disrespect but might have other explanations. We’ve divided these signs into three categories.
- Subtle signs of disrespect
- Moderate signs of disrespect
- Serious signs of disrespect
- What to do about a disrespectful friend
These signs of disrespect can be hard to identify, and you might be able to find alternative explanations for them. You might also worry that you’re overreacting. Although each of these might seem minor, they can quickly add up.
If your friend shows one or two of these signs, you might want to talk to them about it. Remember that you don’t have to put up with even small signs of disrespect.
If your friend shows lots of these signs, this can show as much underlying disrespect as the more serious signs. If you see a pattern in your friend’s behavior, you might need to stop giving them the benefit of the doubt.
It’s also important to consider how often these signs appear. Someone who uses a harsh tone of voice with you now and again is probably being a little disrespectful. If they consistently use a harsh voice with you, it might show a deeper level of disrespect. Here are 14 subtle signs of disrespect:
A true friend doesn’t have to invite you to every event, but they certainly don’t always leave you out.
Sometimes, a friend might not invite you to things because you have turned down invitations a lot in the past or because they don’t think you’ll be interested. Ask yourself whether you might be sending out signals that you don’t want to hang out in a group.
Try mentioning that you feel left out. If they take your feelings seriously and make an effort to include you, you will know that they didn’t mean to exclude you. If they don’t, it may be a sign of disrespect.
People who respect you also respect your ability to change and develop. Someone who doesn’t believe that you can learn and grow isn’t treating you with respect.
This is common with friends who have known you since childhood. They might keep calling you a childhood nickname that you’d rather leave behind or keep bringing up things that you did or liked in the past.
People who are stuck in the past won’t usually realize that they’re being disrespectful. You may have to explain that there are two parts to their disrespect.
Firstly, they are treating you now as they would a much younger person.
Second, they’re also failing to respect the efforts you have made to become a better person. You might have worked on being more responsible or having better social skills. Treating you as the person you used to be doesn’t value any of that effort and achievement.
A good friend wants you to feel included in group conversations. Someone who pushes in front of you and blocks you off from the group isn’t respecting your physical space or your desire to contribute to (and feel included in) the group.
The next time you are in a group situation, look at where they position themselves. Do they make space for you to join a group? Do they make eye contact with you when they’re talking? Do they smile when you’re speaking? If not, you are probably right to feel excluded and disrespected.
This one can be a little bit of a grey area. Good friends will typically be physically closer to each other than strangers, but this is done through mutual consent.
A good friend cares about whether you’re comfortable in a situation. If they are looming over you, standing too close, or touching you in ways that you’re not comfortable about, you should be able to say something about it.
Invading someone’s personal space can be a sign of dominance, which is disrespectful in itself. It’s also pushing or violating your boundaries.
Someone who respects you also respects your right to be an individual. Someone who tries to tell you who you are or what you think isn’t treating you with respect.
This is often also combined with saying something demeaning or belittling. For example, if you were to talk about liking jazz, they might say, “You don’t like jazz. You never like anything cultured.”
Sometimes, people will contradict you without meaning to be disrespectful. If you describe yourself as shy, they might try to “encourage” you by saying, “You’re not shy. You just like to think before you say things.” Other times, they might be trying to show others how well they know you. If you talk about being a cat person, they might say, “She’s just saying that to sound cool. Secretly, she prefers dogs.”
Even if they don’t mean to be, contradicting someone who is trying to express their identity is rude and disrespectful.
Lots of people are sarcastic or slightly mocking from time to time, but there is usually a warmth to their voice when they are speaking with their friends.
Try listening to their tone of voice when they speak to other people and comparing that to their tone of voice when they speak to you. If they sound snappish or cold, it can be a sign of disrespect.
Someone who respects you will typically give you the benefit of the doubt. Consistently assuming that you have bad intentions, even though you have consistently demonstrated that you are a good friend, is actually disrespectful.
For example, if you had plans to go out but had to cancel because of a migraine, they might assume that you are lying and that you never actually wanted to go. If they make similar assumptions repeatedly despite you being reliable and trustworthy, this is a sign of underlying disrespect.
People who make these kinds of assumptions will often explain it as a symptom of their own low self-esteem. Whilst that might be a part of the problem, if you have consistently shown that you act in good faith, it is both disrespectful and hurtful to assume that you are selfish or cruel.
Being late, canceling at the last minute, or asking you to help them with things they could easily do themselves might seem like trivial issues, but they can reflect an underlying lack of respect.
When someone doesn’t respect your time, they are telling you that they just don’t think that whatever you are doing is as important as what they want.
If someone is constantly on their phone when they’re talking to you, they’re telling you that whatever they are doing is more important to them than talking to you.
Someone who respects you might still have to check something on their phone, but it will be unusual. They will usually apologize for having to pay attention to something else for a minute, saying, “Sorry. I just got an urgent email from Amelia at work. I’ll be back with you in a second.”
A friend who doesn’t respect you often won’t accept that they’re being rude. If you point out that they’re constantly on their phone, they might say, “What? I’m still listening to you.” This ignores your feelings.
Everyone forgets details now and again, but if a friend forgets what you’ve said regularly, it can be a sign of disrespect. By not listening, paying attention, and remembering, they’re showing you that they don’t want to put effort into your relationship.
Try to differentiate between the things it’s important that friends remember and the things that don’t matter. Forgetting irrelevant details is OK. Forgetting your likes, fears, and interests is more problematic.
A healthy friendship means that you are both putting work into the relationship. You both reach out and set aside time for the other person. If you feel that you’re always having to do the work of keeping the friendship going, it might be because the other person isn’t respecting you.
If you’re not sure, try keeping a record of all the times you reach out to them and when they reach out to you. You might find that they actually reach out more than you think. If not, you can try backing off a little and see whether they start to reach out when you don’t.
Not all interruptions are disrespectful. Sometimes, it can be a sign that the other person is highly engaged in the conversation. If you feel like you can’t make your thoughts heard, however, it is disrespectful.
There’s more information about what it means when someone interrupts you here.
Friendships are about give and take. If you find that you are always following the other person’s plans, it is possible that they simply aren’t respecting your wishes.
Check whether you’re actually communicating what you would like to do. Remember that the other person isn’t a mind-reader. If you are making suggestions and expressing preferences, but you still end up always doing what the other person wants, this may be a sign of disrespect.
Someone who treats you as a backup plan isn’t a good friend. They’re a user. A real friend doesn’t only ever ask you to hang out at the last minute or cancel plans if they get a better offer. They value the time they spend with you. If they’re only hanging out with you because they don’t want to be alone, that’s disrespectful.
These signs of disrespect are harder to ignore. If your friend shows these signs, you probably know deep down they are disrespectful, but you might make excuses that are specific to your friend, such as “But they have low self-esteem” or “It’s how their parents treated them.”
We call these signs “moderate” because they’re not automatic red flags. Any of these signs is a significant problem. They don’t have to be fatal to a friendship, but they can be. It’s usually best to address them. Again, these signs of disrespect are cumulative. If your friend’s behavior fits several of these descriptions, they are probably being seriously disrespectful.
Rolling your eyes is a way to signal contempt. If a friend rolls their eyes when you give your opinion, they’re telling you that they aren’t even willing to discuss your ideas.
Try to remember that this isn’t about whether your opinion is right or whether you have misunderstood something. We can disagree with someone without being disrespectful or treating them with contempt. If a friend rolls their eyes at things you say, they’re not cleverer or more educated than you. They’re just rude and disrespectful.
If you tell someone something in confidence, you have the right to expect that they won’t share that information without your permission.
There are times when someone sharing your secrets isn’t necessarily a sign of disrespect. If you have told them about something illegal or made them aware of someone else who is at risk, it might not be fair to expect them to keep that a secret. Not only can that be emotionally difficult, but it can put them at risk themselves.
In almost all other cases, however, sharing your secrets or telling personal information about you is definitely disrespectful. If it happens regularly, it tells you that the other person doesn’t respect you and doesn’t deserve your trust.
A little gentle teasing can be normal among friends, but you shouldn’t always be the butt of someone’s jokes. A good friend values your feelings above being funny and won’t make jokes about something they know makes you uncomfortable.
If someone continues to make jokes about you after you’ve asked them not to, this is disrespectful, bullying behavior, and you are entitled to be hurt and upset.
A genuine friend is honest with you. They are also supportive when you’re in public. If you find that someone is being nice to your face but being negative or critical when you’re not there, they’re not treating you with respect.
If someone says things about you to others that they wouldn’t be happy to say to you directly, it’s a good sign that they don’t respect you.
A good friend doesn’t have to agree with all of your opinions, but they should want to understand them. Someone who regularly laughs at your opinions isn’t curious about what you think. They’re usually making you feel embarrassed and making it difficult for you to talk about what you think and how you feel.
It is important to remember that other people aren’t mind-readers, though. Sometimes, we use jokes, smiles, or witty comments to hide how difficult we find it is to talk about a topic. Therapists call this using humor as a defense. While this can let you talk about a topic, your friend may genuinely not realize that it’s important to you.
Ask yourself whether your friend is laughing with you or at you. Laughing with you is an important part of friendship. Laughing at you is disrespectful and unkind.
Although it is important that a friend is honest with you, there is nothing respectful about gleefully passing on hurtful gossip. If a friend keeps telling you what other people are saying about you behind your back, ask yourself what they are trying to achieve and look at how they go about telling you.
It is respectful to tell someone what is being said about them to help them protect themselves from toxic friends. It’s not respectful to pass on gossip to try to create drama or upset someone. A respectful friend will tell you gently and reassure you. They will also usually have challenged the people who were talking about you.
This is a particular problem in the workplace, but it can happen between friends or even with a spouse.
The difference between someone stealing your ideas and them wanting to talk to other people about something you’ve discussed together is often whether they give you some of the credit. Someone who says, “I was actually talking with Steve about this the other day. He had a great idea…” is respecting your idea. Saying, “I had a great idea…” and repeating your idea is being disrespectful.
People who steal your ideas sometimes try to make you feel petty for wanting them to acknowledge your contribution. They might say “Why does it matter whose idea it was?” or “You can’t own an idea.” This is disrespectful because they are muscling in on your intellectual space.
People who don’t respect you will often hold a grudge and expect you to go to unreasonable lengths to make it up to them.
Someone who is holding a grudge might bring up the thing you did wrong regularly, especially in public. They will often do this even after they have said that they’ve forgiven you. They may also sulk or give you the silent treatment.
Be aware that someone holding a grudge is different from you needing to rebuild trust after something has gone wrong.
Someone who belittles you or puts you down in front of others is often trying to make themselves look better rather than thinking about the impact it has on you. That doesn’t mean it’s OK for them to do it though.
You should be able to expect your friends to help build up your confidence, not knock it down. If your friend makes you feel small or insignificant, they aren’t treating you with respect.
Someone who doesn’t keep their promises is someone you can’t trust. Whether they broke one big promise or lots of little ones, they aren’t taking their commitments to you seriously.
Sometimes you just can’t quite put your finger on what feels wrong about your friendship. Try to remember that you don’t need a concrete reason to not be comfortable with someone. If you feel that something is wrong, it probably is.
Some signs of disrespect are particularly serious. Some of these are abusive, whilst others might be unintentional but potentially deeply harmful to your wellbeing.
If you recognize even one of these signs in your friendship, your friendship is probably unhealthy for you. In this case, it might be time to have a really good think about your friendship.
Gaslighting is when someone attempts to make you doubt your own memories and judgment. Gaslighting is abuse, and even mild gaslighting demonstrates a deep lack of respect.
Examples of gaslighting:
- I never said that
- That never happened
- You always remember things wrong
- You’re exaggerating
- You’re being too sensitive
- Of course we invited you. You’ve just forgotten
- You’re imagining it
True friends will respect your feelings, even if they remember an event differently. If they suggest that your feelings make you stupid, weak, or wrong, they may be trying to gaslight you.
We usually don’t lie to people we respect. If someone lies to you, they might be telling you that they don’t think you’re worth being honest with.
There are some situations where someone might not be completely honest with you even though they do respect you. These include when they are scared, ashamed, or they think you might judge them.
For example, a new friend might hide a past history of alcohol abuse because they’re scared you might judge them. That doesn’t mean they don’t respect or trust you. It just means you haven’t reached that level of friendship yet.
If someone lies for no reason, or if they lie about things that impact you, this is disrespectful. Try thinking about why they might have lied and who was impacted by their lie.
Admitting that you’re wrong, and apologizing if you need to, is a key sign of respect.
Nobody’s perfect, so both you and your friend will be in the wrong sometimes. Try thinking of times when your friend has acknowledged that they are in the wrong.
There are two reasons you might struggle to think of a time when they have admitted that they are wrong. Some people find it easy to admit they are in the wrong. They can be so graceful about apologizing for it that those times don’t really stick in your mind.
But more often, you can’t think of a time that they admitted being in the wrong because they don’t ever accept that they’re at fault. They might make convoluted arguments as to why their actions were justified, even when you know deep down that they weren’t.
They might also bring up your past mistakes to deflect attention away from their actions, for example, by saying, “OK, I did break your glass. But you broke my plate last year, and that was a gift from my grandmother.”
A true friend admits when they’re wrong and respects you enough to know that you deserve an apology when they hurt you.
Someone who doesn’t respect you will often not expect to be called out on their bad behavior. When you explain that something wasn’t OK or explain that their behavior has consequences, they will often be surprised or try to make you feel bad.
Being able to be honest about how you are feeling, even when you’re upset or disappointed, is important for a healthy friendship. If it strays into guilt trips or manipulation, however, this is a clear sign that the other person doesn’t respect you.
The key difference here is whether your friend is taking responsibility for their feelings. Saying, “I’m sad about this” is healthy. Saying, “You made me sad” is placing responsibility for their feelings onto you. Even worse is someone who says, “You shouldn’t do X because it makes me sad.”
True friends want you to succeed and are happy for you when things go well. A toxic friend will often become jealous if you get good news and attempt to undermine your achievements.
This can sometimes manifest as them encouraging you towards bad habits. If you’re proud of your weight loss, they might suggest going out for a big meal. Other times, they might diminish your achievements. If you’ve just secured a promotion at work, they might say, “Well, it’s about time. Everyone else our age got a promotion years ago.”
Feeling that you have to defend your boundaries is a big red flag. If someone is pushing you to do things you’re not comfortable with or keeps trying to convince you after you’ve said no, they’re not treating you with respect.
Even if they never actually cross your boundaries, pushing at them or testing them is still disrespectful.
People can mean different things by “respect.” Treating someone with respect can mean treating them as a person or treating them as an authority. Treating someone as a person means respecting their right to their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Treating someone as an authority means deferring to them or giving them influence over you.
Some people use these two different meanings of the word respect to create an imbalanced relationship. They might say that they will only respect people who respect them. This often means that they will treat others as people only if those people treat them as an authority figure. This is both manipulative and inherently disrespectful.
If you feel yourself feeling stressed before hanging out with a friend, this might be a sign that they’re not treating you with respect.
People who are socially anxious might feel nervous or stressed at the thought of social events, but if you find your thoughts straying to one person in particular, it might be because they are a toxic friend. This might also be the case if you feel relieved at finding out that a specific person won’t be at an event.
Think about spending time with your friend in the future and pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel relaxed and excited or stressed and wary? Feeling stressed before seeing a friend tells you that you don’t trust that person to treat you with kindness and respect.
If you’re not sure whether someone is a good friend, try not spending time with them for a few weeks. How do you feel? If you feel better, more confident, or more relaxed, the chances are they weren’t treating you with respect.
Sometimes, spending time with a particular friend leaves you wondering whether you deserve respect. This is a huge red flag. Often, you’ll start to feel like this because they’ve undermined your confidence and your sense of self-worth.
Having someone diminish your self-worth in this way can have long-term consequences. If you’ve been in this kind of unhealthy friendship for a long time, you might benefit from talking to a trained counselor or therapist to help rebuild your confidence.
Realizing that a friend doesn’t respect you is hurtful, and you may need to take some time to come to terms with that. You can then decide what you want to do about it. You have several options.
- You can accept that the friendship is no longer close and allow it to fade away. Your former friend might become an acquaintance or disappear from your life altogether.
- You can talk to your friend and make it clear that you expect to be treated with respect. In some cases, reinforcing your boundaries can help to fix an unintentional loss of respect.
- You can take steps to encourage people to respect you more. You may find that this helps to improve your friendship.
- You can recognize that you had a toxic friend and take steps to end the friendship.