How to Tell Someone You Don't Want to Be Their Friend Without Hurting Their Feelings

Three Methods:Talking to Your Friend DirectlyMoving OnFading the Friendship Out Indirectly

Ending friendships with someone is difficult for both you and them. No matter your particular circumstances or situation, you'll want to end the friendship without hurting feelings and making an enemy for life. You can choose a direct approach by talking to them honestly, respecting their feelings, and setting new boundaries. You can also minimize hurt feelings and avoid conflict by choosing an indirect approach, such as avoiding them and staying busy with other things.

Method 1
Talking to Your Friend Directly

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    Choose the best time and place. How you decide to meet with your friend and talk about ending the friendship depends on the length of your friendship, how close you are, and how you both usually talk. Make sure you choose a time, place, and method of talking that best fits the needs of your friendship, not the one that’s just easiest or least awkward for you.[1]
    • If you’ve been good friends for a long time, meet in-person. See if you can meet at a place where you can have some privacy. Give them a heads up that you want to meet to talk about something important, so that they’ll set aside enough time for you.
    • If you’ve been friends for a short time, or you usually communicate online or on the phone, send them an email or call them.
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    Be honest and brief. You don’t have to list all of your friend’s faults, but be clear and to the point about what’s been bothering you. Getting into too much detail may be hurtful. Think of what you’d like to stay beforehand and practice it in your head or with someone you trust.[2]
    • If you have a new friend who is spending time with someone you don’t like, you can say, "I enjoy spending time with you, but not Becky. I know you are very close with her, but I can’t be around her. I think for now it might be better if you and I didn't try to take our friendship further."
    • If you just met a friend who has a different lifestyle than you, you can say, "You know, I'm really flattered that you'd like to be my friend, but I’m just not into parties and I need to focus on school. The other friends you have seem to be into that, and that’s okay, but I think it would be too tempting to me to party too much. I don’t want that right now.”
    • If you have a good friend who has difficulty accepting your religion, you can say, "I enjoy spending time with you, but I've been feeling insulted by you, your other friends, and your parents about my commitment to my faith. I just do not want to be around it."
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    Express appreciation. Let your friend know you liked and cared for them. Say “thank you” for the experiences you shared. Tell them what you liked about them as a person, which will balance out and soften the blow of why you want to end the friendship.[3]
    • Do not be excessively flattering or generous. If you try to sweeten things with dishonest compliments, flattery, presents, or snacks, you might send them mixed messages.
    • Avoid giving them false hope that the friendship could continue.
    • You can say, "I appreciate all the experiences we've shared during our summers together. I like that you're always trying to make sure everyone has fun."
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    Avoid blaming and shaming. Do not tell your friend it’s their fault or that something is wrong with them as a person. Instead, focus on the behavior or actions you don’t like. Do not accuse them or shame them for who they are.
    • For example, if you have a good friend who has started to get involved in questionable activities, you can say, "I’ve noticed you’re spending time with people who smoke and drink more. Your friendship has meant a lot to me, but I am not comfortable around those things. That's not how I want to have fun.”
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    Let them respond. Even if you’re very nice and respectful, this is still an emotional and uncomfortable conversation. Give your friend time and space to react. They may be angry, sad, defensive, or try to tell you you’re wrong.[4]
    • Stay true to your feelings. Don’t let them change your mind.
    • If they don’t want to listen or try to convince you to stay friends, be firm. Keep repeating a phrase like “This isn’t working out.”
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    Show empathy. Acknowledge their feelings and express understanding of how they may be feeling. Be kind and considerate to the fact that they may be hurting. Avoid leaving right away because you’re uncomfortable. You might say:[5]
    • “I know you must be feeling hurt right now.”
    • “I’m sorry if I have hurt you.”
    • “I bet you’re feeling really shocked right now.”
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    Stay positive. End the conversation by expressing gratitude and appreciation for who they are as a person, even if you no longer wish to be close with them. Encourage them and remind them of their value as a friend. You can say:[6][7]
    • “I’m so glad I got to know you.”
    • “I appreciate all the good times we shared together.”
    • “I wish you happiness and joy in your other friendships.”

Method 2
Moving On

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    Set boundaries. You may still have to see your former friend at school or work. Try to make the transition from friendship easier by avoiding them, avoiding drama, and avoiding sending mixed signals.[8]
    • Spend less time together or break off all contact.
    • Unfollow or hide each other on social media.
    • Avoid sitting next to each other in class or at work.
    • Keep other supportive people around.
    • Keep things light. Shift how much you rely on them or confide in them.
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    Avoid drama. Avoid insulting them or badmouthing them to others if you do have to interact with them. Even though you’re growing apart, you used to be friends or liked each other at one point. There’s no need to be mean to them in public or talk about them behind their back. [9]
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    Let yourself grieve. Give yourself time to cry and express your hurt, just like you would if you had broken up with a romantic interest. This grieving process is especially important if you were very close or friends for a long time. Ways you can grieve include:[10]
    • Talking to other friends and loved ones
    • Spending time at home with things that comfort you, like your pet or a favorite TV show
    • Getting outside and exercising
    • Journaling
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    Learn from the experience. Once you’ve had time apart from your friend, think about how you felt in the friendship and what you learned from it. Reflect on what went well and wrong in the friendship, what qualities annoyed you about your friend, and what you’d do differently in the future.
    • Look at your own behavior, not just theirs.
    • Learn what limits you need to set with friends in the future.
    • Avoid friends who ask too much of you or always expect you to listen to their problems.[11]
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    Remember that sometimes relationships end. Friendships, just like romantic relationships, have a natural life cycle. This means you might be drawn together because of things you have in common, like work, school, or hobbies, but as you get older and your interests change, you may grow apart from each other naturally. Sometimes you just outgrow people, and that’s okay.[12]

Method 3
Fading the Friendship Out Indirectly

  1. 1
    Avoid them in-person. Sometimes the more direct approach of talking is too hurtful or inappropriate, particularly if you haven’t been friends with the other person for long. Try avoiding them when you see them. They’ll eventually get the hint and leave you alone, but this could take awhile.[13]
    • If you’re in school or work together, you could walk the other way whenever you see them.
    • If you have to be around them, avoid talking to them for too long. Focus your conversation and attention on others.
    • Keep in mind that if you were close friends, this type of avoidance may be confusing to the other person and cause conflict.[14]
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    Avoid your phone. Your friend/acquaintance may still try to interact with you outside of seeing you in person. Do not respond to their text messages, emails, or phone calls.
    • If you’re hesitant to immediately stop responding to all of their texts or calls, you can gradually stop responding to them.[15]
    • Especially avoid responding to text messages or calls that occur late at night or ones that try to pull you into drama. Responding to them with help will send them a mixed message that you’re available to them as a friend.
    • If you haven’t already given them your phone number, make sure you don’t at this point.
  3. 3
    Stay busy. Make sure to spend more time with other friends or with your family. Do not accept any invitations to spend time with this person, especially for anything one-on-one.
    • Give excuses. Anytime they invite you out, tell them you have a doctor’s appointment, plans with your family or another friend, or that you’re not feeling well. They’ll likely get the hint and stop inviting you to things.[16]
    • If they express concern or surprise at you not wanting to spend time with them, you may need to address it directly. You can say, “I know I’ve been fading out, but I just don’t have the time or energy to connect with you as often anymore. I’m sorry.”[17]
  4. 4
    Disconnect from them on social media. Stop interacting with them online. Avoid commenting on or liking their pictures and posts. Adjust the privacy settings on your social media accounts so that they cannot see or comment on anything you post. Consider blocking them or hiding them from your account.


  • Be kind and compassionate. Think about how you’d want to be treated in a similar situation.
  • Even if the other person gets angry, don’t respond to them with anger. Keep calm and remember what’s best for you.


  • This person might spread rumors about you, talk badly about you, or otherwise act out because their feelings got hurt, even if you were nice and respectful. If you become concerned about bullying or abuse after the friendship ends, talk to a trusted friend, counselor, or loved one.

Article Info

Categories: Changing and Losing Friends