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How to tell a (new) friend that the feelings aren't mutual

This is such an important question because-- whether you know it or not-- you've probably been on the receiving end.

You've likely pursued a woman who had no interest in forming or maintaining a friendship. maybe she began canceling plans more often, not keeping her word, or just completely ghosted. it could have been that she didn't want to maintain the friendship, and that's her right. her mind or be friends again.

We can craft our approach to releasing a friend based on a strategy that's rooted in the empathy and understanding of one who's been on the receiving end.

It's not easy to tell someone you don't want to be friends. You might worry about hurting their feelings or making things awkward. But releasing a friend gracefully is possible-- and it starts with understanding why you might want to in the first place.

There are a few reasons why you might want to release a new friend:

  • You don't have the time to invest.

  • You aren't emotionally invested in building the relationship.

  • The friendship doesn't bring any pleasure.

Whatever the reason, we want to do it with as much grace as possible, doing as little harm as possible. We want to be clear and concise in our explanation as to why we don't want to be friends.

There is no one way to do this, but here are four possible approaches. As you go forward and figure out an approach that works best for you, do your best to stick to these three rules:

  1. Be direct. If you offer tons of excuses, overexplain, or dilute your message with confusing or uncertain phrases. Try practicing your message in the mirror and work on getting it as clear and to-the-point as possible.

  2. Be honest. You might be tempted to lie, convincing yourself that little white lies are harmless if the reason we're telling them is to spare someone's feelings. But we don't want to put ourselves in a position where she's operating with false information. Instead, embrace the discomfort that sometimes accompanies "truth-telling", which gives her all of the information she needs to move forward.

  3. Be warm. Just because you're doing a hard thing, doesn't mean you have to do it with coldness. Be sure to hold eye contact, focusing your message on what you want instead of what you don't want. Then show compassion by allowing her to feel her feelings-- she might be angry, sad, or confused. Her response may surprise you. But she's allowed to express how she feels in response to what may be interpreted as rejection. Be warm in how you receive this, remembering that even though it might be painful, it's for the best.

First determine the medium that's most appropriate to deliver your message based on your friendship history, personality, and context. You could wait until she asks you to spend time together, and then respond with some variation of:

"I won't be able to make it Saturday but I hope you have a good time. Also, I've been thinking a lot lately and realized that between prioritizing [insert things you'll be prioritizing, ex: my job and investing in a few other friendships] right now, I won't be able to spend time together in the way that you'd like. I'm sorry I won't be able to reciprocate in the same way I was before, and I hope you'll understand. But I do very much appreciate the time we've spent together."

Again, consider this a template. Use it as a starting point if you can't seem to find the words. The key is to be honest, direct, and warm-- that's the recipe for releasing a friend gracefully.

Whatever you do, avoid these three things:

  1. DO NOT GHOST. This is simply a matter of respect. Unless there's been an egregious transgression and you're trying to protect yourself from harmful consequences, try your best to at least offer some signal that you are withdrawing your attention. This way another woman is not left wondering what she did wrong for the next five years.

  2. Avoid blame. Don't tell her that she's "too _____" or " not ____ enough". This is less about her inadequacies and more about you pursuing what it is you want.

If this is something you're currently struggling with and it's causing you anxiety, dread, and constant confusion, book a friendship coaching session with our resident female friendship coach and educator Danielle Bayard Jackson.

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