Updated 25 July 2013

Who is your poisonous friend?

She always seems nice, but she makes you feel bad about yourself. Here's how to spot the poison pal in your circle of friends.

She always appears to be nice when you see her, but somehow after your get-togethers you’ve noticed you don’t feel very good about yourself, your car, your life, your relationship or marriage, your outfit or your education.

But what’s in it for people who do this?

“Quite a lot,” says Ilse Pauw, Cape Town psychologist. “Firstly, she probably has a low self-image, and subtly putting others down, gives her an enhanced sense of self-esteem. Secondly, being the bearer of bad tidings concerning other people, puts her in a position of power temporarily. It makes her appear to be a close confidante of the person being discussed and gives her an opportunity to spread a story, often under the guise of being a concerned friend. Thirdly, proclaimed innocence and apparent concern make her appear kind and helpful, which is socially advantageous to her.”


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