How to Gracefully Get Out of a Bad Friendship

Gently let a clingy friend down by making other plans.
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Bad friendships, like bad relationships, can be exhausting, suffocating and burdensome. Just because you are over your friendship does not mean that you have to end things rudely or impetuously. You can gracefully end your bad friendship by talking to your friend, being polite and avoiding drawing negative attention to yourself, your friend or your former friendship. While letting go of your friendship can be taxing, without the additional burden of this negative influence in your life, you can look forward to each day, build healthy relationships and enjoy the current good friendships that you already have.

1 Downgrading Your Friendship

If your friendship is more casual, you may be able to downgrade your relationship by limiting the contact with your friend. Psychologist Irene Levine suggests, in an article on the Psychology Today website, finding an excuse to drift apart, such as telling your friend that you have to study, or that you're helping your parents with a project. Gradually agree to do less and less with your friend until it is more common to not be around one another than it is to be in each other's company.

2 Being Direct

If your friend doesn't get the hint that you no longer want to be friends, you may have no choice but to be direct with her. Levine suggests that being direct does not need to equate to being cruel or rude, but it does require that you spell out exactly what you want from your friend. Your conversation does not need to be long and drawn out, but it should be gentle, considerate and to the point. A statement such as "I've given this a lot of thought and think that we've just drifted apart as friends," or "I think that we could both benefit from taking a break from our friendship" can clearly and effectively communicate your needs to your friend without coming off as harsh or rude.

3 Think Before You Act

Plan out your conversation with your friend ahead of time to organize your thoughts, understand your motives and keep calm, even if the discussion gets heated. In an interview with Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., for PsychCentral, psychotherapist Aaron Karmin suggests asking yourself questions such as "How would I feel if she was ending her friendship with me?," and "What do I hope to achieve by ending my friendship"? The answers to these questions can provide insight into your motives for ending the friendship and how you can compose your responses to be considerate to your friend's feelings.

4 Avoid Blaming Your Friend

Ending a friendship is a lot like breaking up. There's no easy way to say "I don't want to be friends any longer," but there are many ways that you can cause more pain or heartache in the breakup than you may want to. To minimize the amount of accusatory statements during your friendship breakup, utilize a communication technique known as "I" statements. "I" statements are a way of reframing your statements to focus on your feelings, thoughts and beliefs, rather than your friend's actions. You can reframe a statement such as "You are never there for me," to "I think that our friendship is one-sided," or "I think it's best if we don't hang out as much as we used to." By reframing your statements to focus on yourself and your feelings, you are also making a statement that it is your decision to end the friendship.

5 Handling the Post-Friendship

Unless you or your friend plans on relocating to a new state, chances are you will still have to interact with your former friend from time to time. The age of social media has made it even more difficult to let go of former friendships. Whether online or in person, avoid talking negatively about your friend and, if at all possible, avoid talking about her altogether. How you present yourself after ending your friendship reflects on you as much as it reflects on your friend. If you are pressed to make a comment about your former friendship, stick with a benign statement such as "We just didn't see eye to eye anymore," or "We're just on different pages in life."

Anthony Oster is a licensed professional counselor who earned his Master of Science in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as a writer and lead video editor for a small, South Louisiana-based video production company since 2007. Oster is the co-owner of a professional photography business and advises the owner on hardware and software acquisitions for the company.