How Do You Deal With a Selfish Friend?

What to Say to Someone Who Behaves Selfishly

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If you've ever had a friend that seemed to take more from the friendship than give, you can relate to the term "selfish friend." A selfish friend is one that has made things all about them most of the time, which means you spend time, attention, energy, and probably, money, on their needs.

How Can You Tell If Your Friend Is Selfish?

Selfishness isn't always an obvious thing to spot in a friend. At first, this person might seem like they are very interested in you. Perhaps they ask you questions but before you can really answer they talk about their own life instead. Or maybe they go out of their way to ask how you are, but then turn the conversation to something they need right now instead.

It's nearly impossible to determine the selfishness in a friend until you've known them for a while and have seen them in a variety of situations. After all, we've all got our quirks and we can all be selfish at times.

Friendship, like any relationship, isn't always an equal division in who "takes." To be labeled a selfish friend, someone that embodies that term wholly means that the times when they put someone else before themselves are rare. In other words, they take much more of the time and give much less of the time.

Why Are You Friends?

There might be times when you question your friend's loyalty or attitude. The most common question people ask themselves when they realize their friend is selfish is: "Why am I friends with this person?" After all, no one likes to feel that they are being taken advantage of.

Don't be too hard on yourself. In order to be friends with a variety of people, you're going to come in contact with people who are selfish. It's a fact of life that you'll deal with selfishness at some point.

Here are some reasons you might have chosen to stay friends with a selfish friend:

  • You enjoy their personality.
  • You have other supportive friends that give you the emotional lift you need.
  • You feel that your selfish friend is irritating but harmless.
  • You think your friend will change.
  • Your friend is the only one who will join you for a favorite activity, like biking, going to the ballet, action movies, author appearances, etc. In other words, your friendship is based on this activity and lacks the emotional connection that you have with other people.

Telling a Friend That You're Tired of Their Selfishness

The irony of selfish friends is that if you tell them you feel they are acting selfishly, they will either be shocked, offended that you suggested such a thing, or not care at all. If someone lacks the self-awareness to notice how they treat people, then you telling them might just cause an argument between the two of you rather than resolve this imbalance in your relationship.

Having said that, you owe it to yourself and the relationship to relay your concerns, but be careful. If you start randomly accusing them of things without examples you'll be the one behaving selfishly.

Avoid saying things like:

  • "You always..."
  • "You never..."
  • "I hate when you..."

Instead, focus on specific times your friend has acted selfishly, and why this is bad for your friendship.


"When I told you I was really lonely and asked if I could see you, you laughed at me. I needed company and I'm there when you want to do something. This was an important moment and I felt that you weren't concerned about my feelings."
"I have listened patiently when you complained about your boyfriend, but now that I'm having problems you don't seem to care. Yesterday when I told you how I was feeling you just told me to get over it."
"You used to call me every day last summer when you wanted someone to watch your kids. I was happy to do it. But today when I asked you for a favor you blew me off. I've come to realize this instance happens more often than not."

Remember, as you talk to your friend, don't attack. It's a hard balance. Ask them to listen to your feelings rather than accuse them of things. Even if they did do something wrong, their memory of the situation might be different so be prepared for that. Also, be prepared with reasons why you feel your friend has acted selfishly so you can discuss what you'd like your friend to do instead. That's easier than just saying, "You're so selfish" without giving an example.

What Is Your Goal in Talking to Your Friend?

Before you speak with a friend about being selfish, determine your intentions. Do you want to work through things or end the friendship?

If you just want to end the friendship, you can do that without getting dramatic. A part of you might want to yell and tell the person how selfish they are, but instead, keep your composure and calmly tell them how you feel, even if you know this is the end of your association. This approach will have a much greater impact on a selfish person than hysterics or mean behavior.

Don't Try to Change a Selfish Friend

While you should definitely discuss your concerns about their selfishness, never assume that you'll change them. People will change when and if they want to, and while you can tell them how they make you feel, you can't expect them to turn into another (more caring) person. People are who they are.