There was a story recently in the news of a young Harvard Law student who got in big trouble! She was having an e-mail discussion with some “friends” and she made the dire mistake of confiding a politically incorrect opinion or two. Unsurprisingly (or I wouldn’t be writing about it) the e-mail came back to haunt her.

It turns out the student’s politically incorrect statements were leaked to a number of blogs, as well as to a political pressure group. Before long, there was a firestorm of controversy and the young law student found that the prestigious job she had been pegged to receive after graduation was in jeopardy!

Obviously, one of her “friends” had leaked her private e-mail In a calculated effort to ruin her. The young law student who thought she could confide with someone in an e-mail was the victim of a false friend.

Ironically, whoever leaked the e-mail and caused all this hurt was never named. The young law student who made the politically incorrect opinions was the only one who was targeted by her school. But perhaps the false friend who leaked this story is the one who should really be ashamed -- releasing private correspondence for the sole purpose of damaging someone’s reputation shows spitefulness and a lack of decency and respect for intellectual debate.

Certainly the “leaker” understood how hurtful this action would be. Whatever dispute the young law student had with the informant certainly didn’t justify such an action.

I think we’ve all had disputes with others but we, at least most of us, have never wanted to completely destroy another person.

What caused the informant to cause all this trouble? Was it a simple disagreement? Was it an argument from the past? Was a simple jealousy?

Who knows? But I think it is safe to say that this was never a true friendship to begin with. One could even say it, if anything, was a “toxic friendship.”

Aside from the serious free speech issues that this story highlights, and the importance of never writing in an e-mail what you would not want the whole world to know, we can find another important lesson in this story: some of the people who you think of as friends...just aren’t. In fact, someone who you think was a friend can turn out to be a backstabber!

It can happen to any of us--a friendship can go sour--but I think this problem is particularly acute for shy people, because they often have trouble, or at least more trouble, forming friendships in the first place. Not only is it harder for shy people to form close friendships, but they tend to hold on more tightly to the friendships they do have, even when it’s obvious they’re past the point where they should just “let go.”

Just as with many other things, a false friend can be detrimental to your well-being, success, and happiness. In choosing your friends, it is well to be aware of some of the warning signs of a friendship gone bad (or one that was never very good in the first place):

Does your friend get you into trouble? This is a common problem with young people. Many people are led astray by false friendships. People may be pressured by toxic friends to use drugs, get in trouble with the law or even join gangs.

Does your friend pressure you to do things that are wrong? True friends will not ask you to do something that is wrong, harmful or illegal.

Does your friend betray confidences? This is a serious problem. One of the defining qualities of friendship is the ability to share of oneself with another, as well as to keep those confidences. People who can’t truly confide in each other probably can’t be said to have a close friendship. This is why it really hurts to have a friend who betrays a confidence you shared in the past.

Henry Ford once defined a friend as “He who brings out the best in you.” Many people, especially shy people, are so desperate for friendship that they cling to unsatisfying or even destructive relationships. Such people would be far better off devoting their energies to forming new friendships rather than trying to keep one going that has obviously gone sour.

Author's Bio: 

Tim Arends describes many more ways to deal with difficult people effectively in his new course, "Break out of your Shell! How To Overcome Shyness So You Can Get On With Your Life!" In it, he discusses how to deal with many types of difficult people such as constant interrupters, people who go on and on and on and on, snobs, bossy coworkers, constant critics and argumentative know-it-alls.

Learn more about this breakthrough system at Shy Facts and get a FREE ebook, "How to Remember People's Names; the Master Key to Success and Popularity."

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