How to Decline Friendship

Declining friendships on social media may be a concern for young people.
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Maybe you already have all the friends you need -- or you simply do not see yourself becoming close to someone who wants to become your friend. There is no requirement that you must be friends with everyone who seeks out your company -- but there are ways to decline friendship in a gentle manner.

1 On Social Networks

If someone sends you a friend request on a social media site, you can decline for any reason you see fit. If the request comes from someone you do not know, it is acceptable to ask him who he is and how he knows you before choosing to accept or decline an invitation, according to the Emily Post Institute article "Online Friending Etiquette." While you do not have to give an explanation for not accepting a request, you can choose to explain yourself if you wish. You might say, "It means a lot to me that you want to be my friend. But, I make it a policy to only add family. I hope you understand." Keeping the excuse honest can also be important, especially if your privacy settings make it possible for someone to see that you are lying about turning down friend requests.

2 Indirectly Declining Friendship

You can avoid creating a friendship -- or end a current one -- very similarly. Answering the other person's phone calls or emails less often can send the message that you are not interested, as can making excuses about being busy, according to "Psychology Today" psychologist Irene S. Levine in the article "How to Gently Let Go of a Toxic Friend."

3 Directly Declining

In some cases, the other person may refer to you as a friend -- or ask about your lack of interest in becoming pals. Practicing ahead of time can ensure that your response is direct, but polite. You might say, "It's flattering that you think so highly of me and that you want to be friends. But I'm very busy with my family, work and school," according to the Emily Post Institute article "How to Graciously Say No." If you do intend to go the more honest route, do so gently. You might say, "I appreciate that you want to be my friend -- but we have very different interests."

4 Other Considerations

Declining friendship can have a greater impact than you might expect -- declining someone's social media friend request could impact your offline relationship, too, according to "Online Friending Etiquette." You may also find that the other person becomes upset. Stand your ground and do not agree to become friends with someone simply to make that person happy. However, you can give the other person the opportunity to express his feelings about the situation.

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.