In difficult times like we’re all experiencing right now, the saying, “Hard times will always reveal true friends,” has never been more true. It seems for many people I’ve spoken with lately, the struggles they’re experiencing have helped some friendships grow stronger, while others have left them scratching their heads as to why they ever became friends with certain people in the first place.
In a post a few years ago, I advocated “Getting Rid of Dead Weight Once and For All.” However, for many people, it’s one thing to know that certain people in their lives aren’t good for them, it’s another thing to actually take steps to end that friendship or other relationship. If you’re struggling to figure out a way to end a bad friendship, here are some options you can consider.
1. Take the passive way out– avoidance. In many situations, culling your friendship herd is typically accomplished by not returning phone calls, cancelling get-togethers, and making excuses to avoid getting together. Since get-togethers seem to be a thing of the past, at least for most people right now, simply curtailing communication might be enough for that unwanted person to drift out of your life. As a person who is an advocate of communication, I have a hard time recommending this because ideally one should be direct and address the issue. However, if it works and avoids hurt feelings, it’s a viable option.
2. Offer an honest explanation. If your interests or those of your friend have changed and you find you no longer have anything in common, you might just say so. If your friend has let you down, is abusive, or otherwise disrespectful, you can say that as well. Although it might be difficult to tell a soon-to-be former friend, “Megan, even though you always say you’re just joking, your negative comments toward me have gotten to the point that I’m not longer interested in being on the receiving end of them. I’m not going to be able to spend time with you any more.”
If a serious infraction of the friendship code has occurred, you should address that as well, by letting your friend know exactly what he or she has done to cause you to end your friendship: “I’m sorry Carol, I just can’t forgive you for telling Joan what I’d told you in confidence about the trouble I’m having in my marriage and I can no longer be your friend,” or, “I’m sorry, but what you’ve done has caused irreparable damage to our relationship. Therefore, I need to end it.”
3. Take the Blame. If you don’t have the courage to be honest and avoidance isn’t working, you might say something like, “My life is really hectic right now and I just don’t have time or the energy to be a good friend right now.” However, don’t use this approach if you and the other person have mutual friends. There’s nothing more embarrassing than telling someone you don’t have time for friends, then running into that person when you’re out with a group of other friends.
Ending a friendship isn’t easy, but if it’s in the best interest of you and the other person to cut ties, doing so clearly and quickly is probably best for both of you.