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How to Decline Friendship

by Maura Banar

Despite the benefits of friendships, not every friendship is healthy. At times, the offer of a friendship can feel like the relinquishing of your free time and psychological well-being. It is this offer of friendship that might be more beneficial if it is declined. Although declining friendship may help preserve your sanity, it can be difficult to say no to the offer. This is where skills that include frank honesty can come in handy.

Take the direct approach by simply saying "no." While this approach to declining a friendship isn't for everyone, it can provide your potential friend with a clear answer. Avoid stepping around any explanation that you might use instead of a brief, simple decline of the offer of friendship. Using statements such as "maybe" or "I'm not sure" don't clarify that you are declining the offer of friendship. As a result, the person you are turning down may return again and again, believing that there is a measure of hope to be friends.

Be honest about the reason why you are declining the friendship. It isn't necessarily a bad thing to explain to someone honestly that you just don't have the time to work on being friends. In addition, if you don't feel like you and your potential friend have anything in common, making that statement may provide them with some clarity about who they choose as a potential friend. In declining a friendship honestly, it isn't necessary to be mean or demeaning. Keep in mind that the individual offering friendship is in an emotionally vulnerable position, so be polite in your response.

Stick with your decision once you've declined a friendship. Although declining a friendship may seem definitive to you, the person requesting friendship doesn't always see it that way. Instead, some individuals may return for a curtain call, offering or requesting friendship in a slightly different--or exactly the same--manner as they had previously. For those people, you may need to say "no" more than once, but stick to the same answer and the same explanation each time. Ideally, the person will understand that you mean what you say and will stop approaching you.

Don't feel responsible for the other person's happiness and well-being. While it's true that friendships provide health benefits, declining a friendship isn't a life-altering behavior. Even if the individual offering friendship appears emotional or particularly hurt by the decline, it isn't your responsibility to find them a more appropriate or willing person to be their friend. If you know of someone in your social circle who might be a better fit for the individual who's friendship you've declined, speak privately with that person and allow them the option to pursue the friendship.

About the Author

Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.

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