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Meddling Busybodies In End Of Friendship


I’ve been unsure about whether to submit this or not, but it has become clear that this is a recurring problem and I would appreciate some advice about how to firmly and politely put a stop to it.

A year ago I moved back home. Prior to that I shared a flat with my best friend for two years. It did not end well. In fact, our relationship disintegrated to the point that I was barely in the apartment for the last six months of the lease and I haven’t really spoken to her since. I don’t want to go into too much detail but there was a lot of bullying and emotional manipulation involved and a long list of very petty grievances that built up to the point that I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve really only told two friends details about what has been going on, and mainly because we were chatting when everything was happening and I trust them. When people have asked I have been vague on the details. God knows what my room mate has been telling people but I decided early on not to feed the friend groups appetite for gossip.

Our mutual friends don’t really understand what’s going on and one in particular keeps asking me when I’m going to talk to roomie again and last week, at a party and in front of a few people, said “I figured once all the dust settled you’d go back to being friends”. I understand that she comes from a good place and means well but I’d love some advice on how to shut this down. I find it super awkward and keep fumbling for an answer. It was a close friendship, I’m sad it ended, perhaps in the future we could be friends again but right now that won’t be happening. I thought answering my friend the first time would be the end of it, but I keep being ambushed. How do I get her to stop without having to detail why I’m not interested in a friendship with my former roomie right now? 1124-18

As I’ve gotten older, my tolerance for busybodies has waned. I’m more likely to tell people who should know better that they need to mind their own business. When people will not accept polite deflections of their nosy, rude and presumptuous comments, it’s time to get firm and you do that by stating one of several options:

“This issue is between and ‘ex-friend’, it is none of your business and I would appreciate it if you would stop asking me.”

“That’s an interesting assumption…”, followed with silence.

I’m sure readers can devise even more options. The key is to deliver such statements with a cool calmness. No crying, no drama, no shrieking, no twinge of nastiness to your tone of voice. Just a dead calm poker face that means business.

{ 41 comments }
{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Pep January 31, 2019, 8:21 am

    “Have you tried the bean dip?” asked with a blank but inquisitive expression on your face.

    • BellyJean February 1, 2019, 8:22 am

      +1000

    • Anonymous February 1, 2019, 10:08 pm

      Yeah, I like this approach too. It’s especially easy to use the “bean dip” method at a party, or in another situation where there are a lot of people or distractions around, because it makes changing the subject easier, and less awkward. However, sometimes a little awkwardness can get the point across that you don’t want to talk about something. I’ve used that method before–an awkward subject change, to avoid talking about something I don’t want to discuss, or to politely but firmly let someone know that they’ve crossed a boundary. It’s pretty effective; people generally get the hint, unless they’re legitimately bullies and not just being clueless.

  • staceyizme January 31, 2019, 9:01 am

    You should assume that her concern is about her and not about you. That’s because if it had been about you at all, she would have stopped to observe how you and your former roommate were interacting (not at all!) and taken her cue from that. Since she’s got the narrative written in her own mind about how this should end and she keeps asking/ ambushing/ asserting her views, try saying something like this- “I don’t want to talk about it; don’t bring it up again.” If she keeps on after such plain speaking, you can feel free to completely ignore her. Other friends who aren’t so clueless or so controlling/ drama-seeking will take their cues from you and it shouldn’t be difficult to move forward thereafter. This may prove to be one way to distinguish friends who can follow your lead socially from those who are best kept at a distance due to issues of control/ attention seeking.

  • LKB January 31, 2019, 9:13 am

    “It’s a private matter that I will not discuss.”

    Rinse. Repeat.

    • Ted February 4, 2019, 5:10 pm

      Well said..nice and simple

  • Wild Irish Rose January 31, 2019, 9:23 am

    Throw this “friend” into the ex-friend junk pile with your former roommate. I know that sounds harsh, but people who care about you will respect your disinclination to talk about it. If this individual can’t let it go, then she isn’t your friend and you don’t need to feed her curiosity.

  • essie January 31, 2019, 9:56 am

    (A) “Why do you need to know?”

    (B) Simply shrug your shoulders and walk away.

    (C) (To questions about “when” you’re going to talk again or be friends again, etc.) “Not happening”, then walk away.

    (D) Lean in closer and ask, softly, “Can you keep a secret?” When she assures you that she can, nod and say “So can I”, then walk away.

    (E) Ask her if Roommate sent her to ask. If Roommate did, “Then Roommate needs to talk to me directly, not send an emissary.” If Roommate didn’t, “Then this really isn’t about Roommate and me, it’s about you”, then walk away.

    • Wild Irish Rose February 1, 2019, 11:44 am

      (D) and (E)!!! YESSSSSSS!!!!!

  • Lerah99 January 31, 2019, 10:00 am

    Take the friend who keeps asking aside and be straight with her.

    “I need you to stop asking about when I’m going to be friends with ex-roommate again. It’s really hurtful that you won’t let the subject drop, and it’s not something I’m willing to discuss with you or anyone else.”

    If she pushes with “But why…”, just keep repeating “I’m not going to discuss this. As my friend, you need to stop asking.”

    If she keeps pushing, then cut her out too.

  • Harry's Mom January 31, 2019, 11:08 am

    I don’t think one needs to be snarky to shut something down, just a simple noncommittal statement like ‘yes, perhaps, one day’, followed by a quick change of subject. Let us all try and be nice to one another and assume the best.

    • eddie February 1, 2019, 12:07 pm

      Exactly. A lot of people are assuming that friend is being selfish or nosy. I would assume she is being concerned and trying to reach out to help me (misguided as she may be).

      A direct and kind statement like “This isn’t how I wanted thing to end with ex-friend, but I don’t foresee anything changing. It’s been really difficult for me and I’m not in a place to talk about it right now but when I am, I appreciate knowing you’re there for me”.

      I personally don’t have enough friends that I can throw them away over something so minor (as others have suggested). I’m also glad the friends I do have understand that my intentions are good when I ask them something they don’t like and/or don’t catch on to subtle clues about what they don’t want to talk about.

      • staceyizme February 1, 2019, 10:21 pm

        This is the other side of the coin. However, when you ask about something repeatedly, it indicates the presence of an agenda. This person may be “meddling” with what seem to her noble motives. However, she is creating discomfort and even pain for the OP and is persistent in her efforts. After a time or two of mentioning the matter without any insight, she needs to give up on the idea that she can “manage” the relationships of others. It’s not a minor matter to involve yourself in a situation where your input hasn’t been solicited. It’s presumptuous and painful for the victim of the meddler’s “scruples”.

  • Astrid January 31, 2019, 11:36 am

    I’ve never liked the phrase , it’s none of your business. I just find that to be rude in my opinion. One thing that works as a good alternative that will shut them down is , I am not going to talk about that . Not, I don’t WANT to talk about that , but I am not goin to . If they keep asking, follow it with silence. You need say nothing more , they’ve been told

  • Devin January 31, 2019, 12:17 pm

    Since this is a mutual friend, you never know what she may be hearing from ex friend. Maybe ex friend is hoping to get you back and is using mutual friend to feel out the situation for her. All the more reason to follow the admins advice and give short to the point answers and not to provide any details. ‘That won’t be possible’ is another good response. And if she doesn’t let up ‘I’m done talking about this.’ Make sure you’re not giving in to any gossip about ex friend, or even inquiring about her in mutual friends company cause this could reopen the printing questions.

  • Trish January 31, 2019, 12:54 pm

    Thank you for your concern, but that’s between the two of us. Hey! Did you see that new movie we talked about last week? Etc

    If she asks again completely ignore the question and talk about another subject. If she still keeps on, excuse yourself. The key, like the admin said, is to remain calm so that it’s clear who the problem is. Good luck!

  • AM January 31, 2019, 1:19 pm

    I’m curious what you did say to this mutual friend when you fumbled for an answer before. I think the cool “that won’t be possible” is fine if that’s how you’d prefer to approach it, but if you’re close to this mutual friend and have refrained from telling her more only out of a desire not to speak ill of your former friend, perhaps a one-on-one with a little more openness might be worth trying. You don’t have to go into the details of your former friend’s bad acts; you can stick to “I” statements and just explain to mutual friend that former friend really hurt you, and you don’t see yourself ever being friends with her again.

    My two bridesmaids drifted apart after my wedding. There wasn’t a fight or anything, though I think there might have been some lingering hurt feelings from prior events. That didn’t stop us all having fun together, but might have fed their lack of motivation to maintain their own friendship once the wedding was over. After a few months passed without them seeing each other, I asked each of them, gently, whether something had happened. They both gave me the impression they would like to reconnect, but thought the fact that the other hadn’t called meant their call wouldn’t be welcomed. I let each of them know this, in hopes one would reach out, but neither did.

    Recently, I was organizing a baby shower for friend A, and I called to invite friend B. Friend B told me she appreciated the invitation, but she didn’t feel comfortable coming. She and friend B had now been out of touch so long they hadn’t even spoken since Friend B got pregnant, and she felt like the friendship was over. Although I was sad to hear it, I was grateful for her honesty, which spared me the suspense and indecision for future events. Now I know it’s over; we can all move on.

  • Dawn January 31, 2019, 1:24 pm

    Maybe I’m cynical, but I think the friend’s insistence on the two getting back together is because she wants you to tell her what happened. I think it’s that simple.

    -Dawn

  • lakey January 31, 2019, 2:49 pm

    First, hugs. What you went through with your friend is common. Being friends with someone is very different from living with them.

    Response to others: a calm, firm “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    Bringing up your personal issues in front of others is not nice.
    Bringing it up repeatedly is not nice.

    • anon ever February 1, 2019, 12:23 pm

      Totally agree with “Being friends with someone is very different from living with them.”

      I had a friend in college and we became roommates, and it just didn’t work out very well. Fortunately there were no hard feelings on either side when our lease was up.

      I also agree with the other replies that short, simple answers to shut the mutual friend down are the best.

  • kingsrings January 31, 2019, 3:20 pm

    Whenever there is a conflict between multiple parties, there are always those outsiders who think their job is to meddle in it. They might claim that they’re doing it to try to help the situation, but the reality is that they’re nothing but bored busy bodies who feed on drama. And no outsider should ever take sides in a conflict between others. You have no idea what really happened between the parties, so your opinion could be incorrect. All in all, mind your own business.

    • at work February 2, 2019, 3:10 pm

      Nicely said.

  • Danielle January 31, 2019, 4:04 pm

    If that person (or anyone else) brings up the topic more than once, whether alone or in front of a group, I’d say “I’ve already told you that I don’t want to talk about that, so I’m not sure why you keep asking”. I’d want to make it clear to that person and anyone else listening that you’ve already given your answer to the question and the questioner just won’t stop asking.

    And I wouldn’t necessarily give the person the benefit of the doubt that they mean well. It’s awkward when you’re friends with two people who are at odds, but some people just want you to be friends again so it’s not awkward for them, regardless of what happened between the two people.

  • Lanes January 31, 2019, 6:36 pm

    I went through this with a group of friends, who I ended up falling out with over a small thing, but it was really lots of small things over the years and I just didn’t want it deal with it anymore.

    I bump into ‘extended’ friends of the same group now and again, and they ask why I don’t see them anymore. I used to defend myself like I was being accused, but now I just shrug my shoulders and say ‘people drift apart’. They don’t need to know the details, and I don’t need to tell them.

  • Catherine St Clair January 31, 2019, 7:46 pm

    It is difficult to discourage a true busybody who wants to know all the details. You can try the line from “Victoria”, “We have exhausted the topic.” There is also, ” I would no more discuss her with you than I would gossip about you with her.” The bottom line is that your former friend may be giving her own, unique version of the time you shared a flat with her and she has cast you as the villain. That is also known as “Let’s you and him fight.” to entertain your mutual friends. If true, there is nothing you can do about it and you don’t want to get into a cat fight which will turn into sides being drawn up. I would start with the line about not talking behind someone’s back and then, every time she reintroduces the topic in public, do the, “We have exhausted that topic.” line.

    • admin February 1, 2019, 4:39 am

      “I would no more discuss her with you than I would gossip about you with her.” OOo, that’s a good one.

      • JD February 1, 2019, 9:40 am

        I vote for this response, too!!

        • Catherine St Clair February 1, 2019, 11:21 am

          Thank you too.

      • Catherine St Clair February 1, 2019, 11:21 am

        Thank you.

    • OP February 1, 2019, 6:06 am

      Yeah… things have happened since this submission. I have definitely been cast as the villain. It’s been a super fun couple of months /s

      Still maintaining silence. Whatever roomie says about me at least I can’t be labelled the b*tchy one

      • Catherine St Clair February 1, 2019, 7:27 pm

        If it makes you feel better, I had a roommate who worked, not at my school, but who taught at another school in the district. She told everyone at her school that I moved out because I had very low morals and, as a Christian, she had to reprove me as a sinner going to Hell. Heaven knows that people thought, but she was a fundamentalist and, to her, my going to movies was a mortal sin. Why?” Because some movies were bad movies. I claimed to be a Christian (I’m Catholic and she had all the false notions of Catholicism ignorant people believe) and people might see me going to a Disney movie, think it was “Debbie does Dallas”, not convert to Christianity, and therefore I was a stumbling block to their faith. They’d go to Hell because of my immoral behavior. I also danced, read novels, and played cards (Canasta). I left when she and her mother (who lived with us and slept in the bed with my roommate) put three extra locks on their bedroom door to “keep the rapists out.” They wanted to do the same on my door, but I declined. We were on the second floor anyway. That and her constantly telling me I was Hell-bound made me ready to move out. Join me and we shall twirl our black mustaches together.

      • staceyizme February 1, 2019, 10:30 pm

        If you have friends who have actually cast you as the villain without having witnessed the interactions, they are gullible, gossipy and easy to gaslight! Maybe some distance from those “friends” won’t be a bad thing. What’s the saying? “Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.” (Those who really know you know your character well enough to see through whatever narrative is being crafted by others.)

        • OP February 3, 2019, 12:35 am

          There have been issues with this particular friend group for years. I’m in the process of cultivating new friendships or closer friendships with others so I can eventually let these ones go without ending up with no friends at all.

          The very persistent friend is one I’m trying to cultivate a bit more, so I know she’s meddling for noble reasons. From the outside it looks like I’ve ended a very close friendship for no apparent reason. So I get why mutual friends are curious but I’m not willing to go into detail. I can see why people are trying to fix it, but after two years of having to compromise on absolutely everything with this ex friend I’m not entertaining the idea right now.

          • Leigh February 4, 2019, 10:57 am

            I think you are handling the situation with grace and dignity, OP. Remember: the people that matter know the truth, the ones that care will ask for the truth* (although not repeatedly), and the ones that don’t matter don’t deserve the truth (they probably won’t believe) anyway.

            *Rather than being pushy, continually asking, or pressuring you to change your behavior. I’ve had some people come to me and say “this is what I heard, I thought you should know,” and leave it at that, giving me the chance to respond or not, rather than just assuming. These same people generally respond with “That’s too bad that you’re not in touch. Oh, hey, have you seen ‘World’s Greatest New Documentary on Netflix,'” and stop digging for gossip.

          • AM February 5, 2019, 10:56 am

            So what have you told the mutual friend you’re trying to cultivate? There’s gossiping about someone, and there’s opening up to people you hope will support you.

          • Livvy17 February 5, 2019, 1:59 pm

            Based on what you’re saying here, maybe the best response would be something along the lines of, “I’m trying to keep from dragging all our friends into it by keeping it between the two of us. I really appreciate that your efforts to help patch things up, and I know everyone is curious about it, but I think it will die down quicker if we don’t drag everyone else into it.” (or use Catherine St. Clair’s excellent suggestions for the same point above.)

  • Jenn50 January 31, 2019, 9:16 pm

    With a regretful smile, “Sadly, there’s far too much water under the bridge to revisit that. Have you tried the bean dip?” And if they persist, “I’m not interested in dredging all that up again. Excuse me, I see someone I need to speak to.”

  • Ripple February 1, 2019, 9:00 am

    With a sad face, say “If you were truly my friend, you wouldn’t keep asking me that.”

  • HenrysMom February 1, 2019, 7:43 pm

    When asked, simply say “this isn’t the time or place to get into it – how’s the bean dip?” If this mutual friend is asking in front of others, then I would suspect drama-llamaitis, and we all know not to feed those.

  • Kitty February 7, 2019, 6:10 pm

    “If [Former Friend] and I get to talking again, we will when we both feel ready to do so.” It’s between you and the former friend, not this person. Politely, but firmly, say (and imply) that it isn’t her business.

  • Redblues February 9, 2019, 1:02 pm

    “I figured once I ignored your intrusive remarks enough, you’d stop making them.”

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