How Storytelling Reveals Who’s NOT A Friend: 5 Red Flags

wolf social climbing while storytelling

Using a story to covert-brag can be fair.

But if the covert brag involves you looking bad and your “friend” looking great by comparison, well, that’s a nasty power move.

We call it “nasty social climbing”.
And it’s when someone uses you as a “social peg” to reach higher (while they push you lower).

Let’s see a real-life example of how that would look like:

Red flag #1 🚩: You look bad in the story


Your friend is telling a story involving both of you.

Generally speaking, how he tells the story tells you A LOT about how good of a friend he is.

The key question is:

“How do you come across in that story?”.

If you come across poorly, your friend is “pushing you down”, decreasing your status, and disempowering you.

Of course, someone may ask:

But what if I actually WAS “bad” in tha story?

And of course, it’s entirely possible that in that story you didn’t perform all too well.

But still… Ask yourself: why would a friend share a story where you looked poor?

And compare: how would a good friend share a story where you looked poor?
And the answer is that a good friend would NOT publicly share a story that makes you look bad unless he truly had to.
Not without power-protecting, at least. He would power protect you, for example, by justifying your poor performance, omitting some details, or by at least saying you’re an awesome guy despite that one single f*ck up.

Note that a particularly bad friend instead will revel in telling the story of your f*ck ups.

Red flag #2 🚩: They frame you as “below them”

Poor friends tell stories where:

  1. They’re above you
  2. You’re below them

There are a million ways to be “below them”.
They can frame you as their mentee, their “beta friend sidekick”, their employee, or simply as you asking them for clarification.

And there are also more subtle ways.
But even subtle ways are still red flags.
No matter how small, it’s always a red flag whenever you come out of the story looking like you’re the “junior partner”.

That’s because, again, you must compare it to how a good friend would behave.
And a good friend who’s truly above you would frame any story as you two being equals.

Red flag #3 🚩: They pull power moves on you

It’s a nasty power move if in the story they reprimand you and you take it. No matter how “fair” the reprimand was, it’s a power move because a friend would never share it publicly but keep it private between you two

This is one of the nastiest.

Whether they actually pulled a power move on you in real life or not, it’s still a red-level power move to do so within their story.

If they did it in real life, it’s twice a red flag because they did it in real life, and in the story.

The fact they pull power moves, and then goad about it… That may be all you need to cut ties with those people.

And if they didn’t do it in real life, it’s still twice a power move because they social climb on you, and they lie to do so.

Added redness if they pull the power move, and you submissively and naively take it.

This is what competitors do.
Or even enemies.

Those are NOT your friends.

Red flag #4 🚩: They’re leader-like, you… More like a follower

Generally speaking:

Bad friends who want to social climb share stories where they come across as great leaders, and you as a great… Follower.

They (covertly) brag of alpha male traits, high-value man qualities, or prestigious man wisdom.
You may as well be a good follower… But you’re still a follower nonetheless.

Some red flags include:

  • They tell you what to do, you execute
  • They move first, you right after
  • They suggest or advice, you confirm it’s great advice

Red flag #5 🚩: They look high-power, you… Not so much

Great friends would never share a story that makes them look good if it makes you look bad. Instead, this is a case where some omission and white lies that power protects you are GREAT signs of a good character.

There are a million ways to frame you as low power and themselves as high power.

But no matter which angle they take, if in their stories they look cool and you “not so much”, they’re shi**y friends.

Some red-level signals include:

  • You’re tense
  • You’re afraid or panicking
  • You’re clueless
  • They’re calm and collected
  • They’re in control
  • They know what to do

But also watch out for more subtle framing.

For example, they may not save the day.
But they may offer reassurance and make you feel a bit good again.
Or, at the very least, you recognize that they’re the “voice of reason” and generally provide good advice.

A good friend would never go around

Good Friends VS Bad Friends


Good friends pull you up.
Shitty friends push you down.

Learn to read people: it’s foundational to a successful & good life

Reading people and assessing characters is a foundational life skill.

In Power University we help our students internalize all the red and green flags that make reading others natural and second nature.

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