Tips for Toxic or Unhealthy Friendships: When you decide to part ways

Walking away from a toxic friendship is a painful, but sometimes necessary choice.  Once you have decided that this is the right step forward, it’s important to try and end the friendship in a way that doesn’t burn bridges nor complicate an already difficult situation. 

How can you part ways with your toxic friend in a healthy way?   Today, we are sharing some tips for an amicable “break-up” with a toxic friend. 

  1. Avoid “ghosting” the other person and instead, aim to have a conversation about why you’ve made the decision to step away from the friendship, or why you feel that you need to distance yourself from them.  While you want to ensure they understand where you are coming from, you’ll always want to keep the conversation focused on you and not just their behavior, since it is likely that you have discussed these issues prior to the actual “break-up”.  
  2. Avoid involving others in your friendship break-up.  Mutual friends shouldn’t have to pick a side and should feel free to continue being friends with the both of you, and bringing it up with others can make them feel awkward or dishonest. 
  3. Move forward after the break-up and refrain from speaking negatively of your ex-friend. Whether a break-up is a permanent severing of the friendship or a distancing that occurred over time, you do not want to involve others in your friendship story, nor should you speak poorly of the other person. 

Saying goodbye to an unhealthy friendship is a tough choice, but one that often pays off in the long run — especially when it is done carefully and with consideration for the future. 


Tips for Toxic or Unhealthy Friendships: Use positive communication


Emotionally unhealthy friendships can be difficult to identify, and painful to navigate.  Learning positive communication skills can help you discuss difficult subjects and express your needs and feelings effectively in relationships and friendships.  

Learning to use I-statements and actively listening in conversations will help you tell your friend how you feel, while understanding their perspective. Read here for more HRI tips on effective communication in relationships of all kinds.

Tips for Toxic or Unhealthy Friendships: Learn the red flags

A good friendship is one of the more important relationships one has in a lifetime. But just like romantic relationships, friendships can be difficult to navigate, especially as things change and life goes on.  What happens when a friendship becomes toxic? How do you know when to walk away? 

This week through HRI, we’re sharing some tips to help you figure out when to potentially say goodbye to a toxic friend. Our first tip is to learn the red flags of a toxic friendship so that you can identify them if you see them.

This article on Headspace provides some insights into possible red flags, such as if you feel worse after spending time with the person.

Tips for Socializing in Person Again: Practice in Comfortable Situations

Practice makes perfect, and communication skills are no different.  Our tip today for returning to social interactions is to practice relationships skills often. You don’t necessarily have to practice these skills in person – staying in touch with loved ones virtually, but being intentional about those interactions, can help you begin to rebuild social skills that may have been lost in the past year.

Depending on your level of comfort regarding face-to-face interactions, you can choose to start engaging with the people you feel most comfortable with first – such as close friends and family members.

Practicing for a limited amount of time, especially at first, can help you build confidence about social situations that may worry you. Setting up a 30-minute coffee date with one close friend, or grabbing lunch with a family member, can be a great way to ease into in-person interactions. You can slowly build up those interactions as your comfort level increases.

Getting back into a “normal” routine will be difficult for all of us, and taking small steps – whatever that looks like for you – will ensure that it is a positive, comfortable, and safe experience for everyone involved.

For more HRI tips on healthy relationships, check out our blog at

Tips for Socializing in Person Again: Ask Questions to Understand

An important part of easing back into face-to-face social interactions is to avoid assumptions about the comfort level of others and aim to ask questions to understand where they may be in the journey of going back to “normal.”

What feels safe and comfortable to one person may be completely different than what feels safe and comfortable to others.  For this reason, err on the side of asking questions, such as, “Do you feel comfortable going for a walk outside?” or, “What are your thoughts on getting lunch on Saturday?”

Aiming for empathy and understanding, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the other person’s approach, will help you continue to rebuild the social skills that may have gotten lost in this past year. Remembering to be honest about where you are will help the other person feel connected to you as well, even if it means that you have to postpone that get-together, or change the nature of the gathering.

Tips for Socializing in Person Again: Communicate Your Boundaries


When returning to face-to-face interactions after the year we have all faced, it can be difficult to overcome feelings of discomfort, awkwardness, and anxiousness. Our second tip in easing this discomfort of returning to a somewhat normal routine is to acknowledge that your boundaries and limits in relationships may have shifted in the past year, and that the same may have happened for the people you love and interact with the most. 

Maybe your energy around social interactions has shifted in that you are more extroverted, or desire to interact with others has increased.  Or, maybe you have found that you need less social interactions in order to feel at peace and content.  Maybe you aren’t sure how you feel and you need more time to adjust before you jump right back into a “normal” routine of in-person interactions.

Wherever you may be in the journey of returning to a normal routine, it’s okay to honor your feelings about that process and to give yourself permission to move at your own pace. Setting boundaries with loved ones can help you ease into social interactions in a way that feels right to you.  Honoring the boundaries that others set is equally as important in resuming a normal and healthy social life after over one year of isolation and social distancing.

Check out this HRI post on setting boundaries in relationships as a guide to help you re-evaluate and set boundaries that feel right to you.

It’s okay if your boundaries and comfort level changes with time. Reflecting on your needs and comfort levels in relationships can help ensure that you return to normal in a way that works for you and your family.

Tips for Socializing in Person Again: Embrace the Awkward or Discomfort

When COVID impacted us all over one year ago, many of us could never imagine getting used to our remote routines, but now, Zoom meetings, Facetime dates, and virtual happy hours have become a staple of everyday life. We’ve adjusted to different ways of making connections and bonding with loved ones, and we’ve redefined what it means to spend quality time.

Now, as many people ease back into some form of normalcy – it can be difficult to return to social situations without feeling awkward, uncertain, or even a bit anxious about how to interact with others in this “new normal.”

Through HRI, we are sharing important tips to help you regain those social skills and communication strategies that may have gotten lost or rusty over the past year.  Whatever your level of comfort is regarding interacting with others, we hope that you will find these strategies and tips useful for reconnecting after over one year of limited in-person interactions with others.

Our first tip is to embrace the discomfort or the awkwardness of going back to normal social settings.  Odds are that just about everyone is anxious or nervous about some aspect of in-person interactions, whether it is at the office or at your next family gathering. If you’re someone who uses humor as a way to connect, consider making a joke about how you’re feeling.  Or if you are someone who tends to address the elephant in the room, you can consider telling the other person exactly how you feel (“Well, I’m feeling anxious about being here!”). If these strategies don’t sound like you, then you can consider asking the other person how they may be feeling as a way to open the lines of communication.

However you approach those initial in-person interactions, it is important to remember that others may be feeling the same way. Using that common bond as a way to connect can help you overcome the initial discomfort of going back to interacting with people face-to-face.

Upcoming HRI Events in May!

The Healthy Relationships Initiative is springing into Spring with two great training programs!

On May 11, join us on Zoom from 9AM-11AM for our Journey of Foster Parenting training program. Participants will hear from foster parents as they discuss their experiences and insights gained while navigating the foster care system and becoming a foster parent. This professional training is applicable for those who work in mental health and/or social services fields, as well as those who may be interested in becoming a foster parent. Tickets are free. To register for this program, visit

On May 14, HRI along with the Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships will hold the Responding to Family Violence: Best Practices for Mental Health Professionals training program, presented by HRI and CYFCP Director Dr. Christine Murray, from 9AM to 2PM. Topics covered will include understanding the different forms of family violence, risk factors for abuse, mental health consequences of victimization, and an introduction to treatment approaches. Participants will learn how to identify common features of abusive relationships, understand how mental health services fit within the range of other community resources for victims and survivors, and gain knowledge about how mental health professionals can support impacted clients in the long-term abuse recovery process. The program is applicable for both professionals and students and has been approved for 4 NBCC credit hours, 4 NASW-NC credit hours, and 4 NCASPPB credit hours. In order to earn the appropriate credit hours for this program, you must attend the entire program from 9AM-2PM. Participants will also be required to remain engaged through both the enabling of their camera feature and by engaging in the chatroom throughout the program. Attendance will be taken in order to correctly distribute earned credit hours. Tickets are $75, but UNCG students, staff, and alumni can receive a discounted price. Please register and reserve your ticket at

If you’re a social worker, counselor, therapist, or other mental health or social services professional looking for professional development opportunities, or just interested in learning more about these topics, please consider registering for one of these great training programs sponsored by the Healthy Relationships Initiative this month!

Register today for our upcoming PD (earn credit hours in NC!)

Professional Development Training: Responding to Family Violence

Calling all NC Social Workers, Addictions Specialists, & Counselors — you won’t want to miss this opportunity to earn credit hours!
HRI and the @uncgcyfcp are offering tickets at an extremely competitive price, and discounts are available for UNCG staff, students, and former alumni.
Presented by HRI and CYFCP Director, Dr. Christine Murray, this training will provide an overview of best practices for mental health professionals working with families impacted by violence and abuse.

Marriage is Not About Age


“Marriage is not about age; it’s about finding the right person.” – Sophia Bush
There is no right age or time to get married or have a long-term committed relationship. Regardless of your timeline, what is most important is that you find the right person — regardless of how old you are or how many times you’ve been there before.