Author Topic: How to word this - backing away from a friendship  (Read 5559 times)

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alkira6

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2013, 08:52:02 PM »
This "how can I end this friendship" question comes up a lot.

People usually advise using some variation of the “I’m so busy” excuse when the fact is the person doesn’t want to continue socializing with the person – at all.

While I can appreciate how awkward it can be to end a friendship (or what was starting out to be one) I think it’s rude and dishonest to string people along and toss vague excuses at them “hoping they will get the idea”.  That’s just playing games, and it can go on and on and on.  Yes, they should know that if you wanted to spend time with them you would make the time and do it – but why not gently and politely tell the person the truth?

“I don’t think we have anything in common, and I would rather not make any future plans.  I wish you well.”   

It's not necessary to try to think of a bunch of excuses or get pulled into a discussion - just repeat the above sentence.  Politely but firmly.  Then don't respond to any text msgs, emails, etc.   Is that so hard?

I have used something similar to this before.  It's to the point, does not leave room for negotiation, and does not string someone along so that they are waiting for a get together that doesn't happen. It is also polite.  In your case it is clear that you do not want to hang around this person, so this might be the way to go.

TootsNYC

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2013, 09:32:37 PM »
You could say what the mother of one of my 4yo DD's former day-care-center classmates said:
"I don't know--we're pretty busy with our family and friends."

Of which, it was clear, my DD was not.

(I've never been so relieved in my life, even though my DD pestered me for a long time about why we couldn't get together with Melissa.)

Danika

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2013, 09:44:02 PM »
OP here. Let's call the lady in the original post "Jane." I'm ok being FB friends with her and occasionally liking her photos and posts. I just don't want to be best buds where she calls me up three times a week and cries on my shoulder. There were a few phone calls last month where I'd call her back and say "I have about 2 minutes to talk and then I gotta run" and she'd just keep talking and complaining. It seems like there's no middle ground for her.

A few weeks ago, she sent us a Save the Date for her 6-year-old's birthday party. I told her then that we'd save the date. My kids like the boy because he's sweet, but they've only seen him once so never seeing him again wouldn't be an issue. We got the official invitation and I haven't RSVPed yet. The RSVP deadline is a week away. Today, Jane left me another voice mail saying "I'm just calling to say hi and I've been calling all the people we invited for the party to see if they're coming."

I was fine with going. The kids would have fun. But that's because I already said we'd go (after the save the date, only) and I'm fine with a distant friendship/acquaintanceship. But is that leading her on?

Thanks for the compliment, MsMarjorie. I try to be nice.  :)

TootsNYC

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2013, 10:39:59 PM »
I distanced myself from a too-clingy, too-negative, too-dependent friend by:
1) never being the one to initiate contact. (In your case, I wouldn't "like" her on Facebook anymore; I'd hide her feed)
2) never staying on the phone--every single time she called, I told her, "I only have a couple of minutes," and then I'd get off the phone. Sometimes I even set the timer and told her I had something baking in the oven.
3) returning phone calls later. Much later--like 2 days later or something. (I'd say, do the same with emails, and keep your answering emails really short, and don't address the substance of her emails, esp. not the negative "shoulder leaning upon." Also do not give her anything of substance about you. So, stick w/ stuff like, "Hi, Joan--we're pretty busy. Same stuff, but it seems to never end. Glad you're [insert one positive thing she mentioned]."

All of those are signals that say, "I'm not really that interested in you."

And it worked. I also didn't ever have to say, "I don't want to be 'real friends' with you," which I'm glad of because:
1) I didn't want to hurt her
2) she was the one who remembered to tell me when a mutual friend of ours was dying--someone very important to me who was in the hospital for months and whose relatives never returned the messages i was leaving for her on her answering machine (they  may not have gone to her home to receive them)

it took a little while, but it totally worked.

blarg314

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2013, 11:40:33 PM »
I get the impression that you don't actually have a friendship here yet - what you've got in an acquaintance who is pushing for a closer relationship that you don't want.

I'd worry not so much about leading her on, as her not being willing or able to recognize that you don't want to be her BFF. Combine that with a negative personality, and it could take a *lot* of work to keep the relationship at the level you want it - FB friends, and the occasional get-together for the kids, but no joint family activities, no socializing with just the two of you.

Backing off completely may be the safest option in the long run.

My experience of people like this is that they end up in a vicious circle. They have some trait or other that make them unpleasant or exhausting to be around (negativity, clinginess, flakiness, poor social skills, emotional vampirism, drama queen tendencies) even though they're not a bad or malicious person. When someone gets to know them, they encounter this, realize they can't handle it in a close friendship, and try to back off. But the person really, really wants to be friends (because they've scared off all the other people they've met). So they push harder - calling more often, not taking no for an answer, responding to every single FB posting with detailed comments. Which of course, sends the target screaming off in the other direction at warp speed, ignoring phone calls, and blocking on FB.

Changing this dynamic is hard. The person needs to recognize that they are the problem, get feedback from someone they trust, and have known long enough to have them give this kind of advice, and to work really hard, often with professional help, on changing the dynamic.  Unsolicited advice rarely make a dent.

Danika

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2013, 02:05:15 AM »
blarg314, everything you've said is spot on!

It's like I'm trying to back away from a rattlesnake very very slowly, when I should probably just turn and run.

MariaE

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2013, 02:42:14 AM »
This "how can I end this friendship" question comes up a lot.

People usually advise using some variation of the “I’m so busy” excuse when the fact is the person doesn’t want to continue socializing with the person – at all.

While I can appreciate how awkward it can be to end a friendship (or what was starting out to be one) I think it’s rude and dishonest to string people along and toss vague excuses at them “hoping they will get the idea”.  That’s just playing games, and it can go on and on and on.  Yes, they should know that if you wanted to spend time with them you would make the time and do it – but why not gently and politely tell the person the truth?

I agree with this. One problem is that it can backfire. I genuinely am busy, but can't use that excuse when I honestly don't have time to see somebody, because it's been used as a "backing away from a friendship"-tool too many times, so that's what they hear. (Not an "interesting assumption", I've had people call me out on it - in a friendly and apologetic manner, "I'm sorry I've been bothering you.." You haven't! I'm just busy).

*sigh*
 
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blarg314

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2013, 03:02:23 AM »
  Yes, they should know that if you wanted to spend time with them you would make the time and do it – but why not gently and politely tell the person the truth?

The fundamental problem with this approach is that no-one's found a reliably good way to unambiguously, politely and gently reject someone because you don't like them, particularly when they have no clue, and consider you a good friend.

If you're dating someone, you can always say "It's not you, it's me" or "We're headed in different directions", in part because most people only have one romantic partner at a time. But people can have dozens of friends, so it's a lot harder to soften the rejection.

I agree with this. One problem is that it can backfire. I genuinely am busy, but can't use that excuse when I honestly don't have time to see somebody, because it's been used as a "backing away from a friendship"-tool too many times, so that's what they hear. (Not an "interesting assumption", I've had people call me out on it - in a friendly and apologetic manner, "I'm sorry I've been bothering you.." You haven't! I'm just busy).

I find that a good way to counter that is to be active in contacting the person when you aren't really busy. So an "I'm horribly busy at work all through January.  How about I give you a call after the work deadline is finished, and we can get together?" followed by a call when you're less busy gives a pretty clear indication that you do want to spend time with them, but can't right now (and that you're willing to put in effort to do so). Or offering an alternate way to get together (taking the kids to the park, say, or meeting for coffee at lunch) that are easier to schedule.

On the other hand, if someone is genuinely and consistently so busy that they have no time for me, and this persists for an extended period of time, where I'm the only one trying to arrange things, then even though they are genuinely busy, the friendship is likely to cool off, because there isn't really room in their life for it, even if they wish it were otherwise.
 

MariaE

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #23 on: January 08, 2013, 03:57:55 AM »
I agree with this. One problem is that it can backfire. I genuinely am busy, but can't use that excuse when I honestly don't have time to see somebody, because it's been used as a "backing away from a friendship"-tool too many times, so that's what they hear. (Not an "interesting assumption", I've had people call me out on it - in a friendly and apologetic manner, "I'm sorry I've been bothering you.." You haven't! I'm just busy).

I find that a good way to counter that is to be active in contacting the person when you aren't really busy. So an "I'm horribly busy at work all through January.  How about I give you a call after the work deadline is finished, and we can get together?" followed by a call when you're less busy gives a pretty clear indication that you do want to spend time with them, but can't right now (and that you're willing to put in effort to do so). Or offering an alternate way to get together (taking the kids to the park, say, or meeting for coffee at lunch) that are easier to schedule.

On the other hand, if someone is genuinely and consistently so busy that they have no time for me, and this persists for an extended period of time, where I'm the only one trying to arrange things, then even though they are genuinely busy, the friendship is likely to cool off, because there isn't really room in their life for it, even if they wish it were otherwise.

Which is perfectly acceptable and a natural consequence. But you're obviously kind enough to assume that I would wish it were otherwise, rather than automatically think I'm trying to back away from a friendship. Not everybody is that generous.
 
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Margo

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2013, 06:53:27 AM »
You could say what the mother of one of my 4yo DD's former day-care-center classmates said:
"I don't know--we're pretty busy with our family and friends."


I think this is excellent, especailly as you are currently only acquaintances

I think you could combine it with yoru original draft so you say somethign such as

" DH is not sure of his new work schedule yet. We don't know how much free time, especially at weekends, he's likely to have, and we'll want to spend his free time with family and close friends, so we can't commit to new things at present"
If you wanted to, you could add something such as 'perhaps we may get to know each other better in future, if things change'.

I also think that Toot's suggestions about backing off are good - you're not rude, or mean, but you don't give her the time and energy and validation she seems to be seeking.

I think that if she keeps pushing then it may become reasonable to say "I'm not sure why you're telling me these things / phoning so often - we don't really know each other very well, and it doesn't seem as though we have much in common. I wish you well, but I don't really see our acquaintanceship turning into a close friendship"

bopper

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2013, 08:44:59 AM »
All I have to say is go all or nothing with this person.  Some people you can have as FB acquaintances and keep it at that level, but she wants to have a higher level of friendship.

So far you have responded to her overtures of friendship so she is still continuing to pursue it.

You can be straighfoward “I think you are looking for a closer friendship than I am interested in  and I would rather not make any future plans.  I wish you well.”   

or  you can stop contacting her.

Ignore her on FB, and stop taking her all her calls.  If you want to then say "We need family time right now and won't have time to socialize."
For the Bday party, respond as she has requested (maybe leave a message when you know she isn't home or send email) that you are unable to attend.

TootsNYC

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2013, 12:32:13 PM »
[
I agree with this. One problem is that it can backfire. I genuinely am busy, but can't use that excuse when I honestly don't have time to see somebody, because it's been used as a "backing away from a friendship"-tool too many times, so that's what they hear. (Not an "interesting assumption", I've had people call me out on it - in a friendly and apologetic manner, "I'm sorry I've been bothering you.." You haven't! I'm just busy).

I find that a good way to counter that is to be active in contacting the person when you aren't really busy. So an "I'm horribly busy at work all through January.  How about I give you a call after the work deadline is finished, and we can get together?" followed by a call when you're less busy gives a pretty clear indication that you do want to spend time with them, but can't right now (and that you're willing to put in effort to do so). Or offering an alternate way to get together (taking the kids to the park, say, or meeting for coffee at lunch) that are easier to schedule.


I also try to counter that impression by dropping them an email at odd times. Frequently. I make a point to initiate contact between us. (that "never initiating contact" was the only big hint I dropped that my former friend commented on.)

And here is also where the "giving the reasons" comes in so handy. And it's why people DO give reasons when they turn down an event, so that their friends understand how much they value them.


Lynn2000

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2013, 01:12:59 PM »
Yeah, I have to agree that "I'm too busy" is so often used as a polite "backing away" excuse that it can be difficult when truly, you're just too busy at this time. Like my relatives who are accountants--in early spring, they get really busy, because taxes are due in April. So a new friend they met at the beginning of the year is going to see opportunities for socializing dry up pretty quickly, and possibly could take that the wrong way.

But, I still think the friendship can proceed, if both people work on it. Okay, Ann is too busy to meet Betty for a shopping day or even dinner. But is Ann too busy to reply to an email, text Betty "good luck at your meeting," or like Betty's latest post on Facebook? I wouldn't think so, if she was really committed to keeping up with Betty.

Likewise, if Ann says, "I'm terribly busy with this project at work, but it's due on March 1, so can I contact you after that to get together?" and Betty can't even wait until early March to see if Ann follows through (and doesn't think her brief emails, texts, and FB comments are sufficient), maybe they aren't really compatible enough to be friends anyway.
~Lynn2000

peaches

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2013, 01:51:53 PM »
You could say what the mother of one of my 4yo DD's former day-care-center classmates said:
"I don't know--we're pretty busy with our family and friends."

Of which, it was clear, my DD was not.


The problem with "we're pretty busy with our family and friends" is the implied "and you're not one of them" at the end of the sentence. I think that's hurtful. (I realize you didn't say this!)

I think I would say "We're so busy with our family and activities. I'm afraid we can't make any plans for the forseeable future."

That's if I said anything at all. My strategy in the past has been to just refuse invitations and quietly disengage.


oceanus

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #29 on: January 08, 2013, 02:34:00 PM »
I don’t care for the “I’m so busy, my husband’s job, my kid’s activities, life in general is busy, busy, busy” excuse.   As I said before, if someone e really wants to spend time with another person they will make the time – even 30 minutes for coffee or 15 minutes to chat.  NO ONE is busy 24/7.

OP, I understand your “backing away from a rattlesnake” analogy – it’s a good one.  But WHY would you want to even be FB friends with someone like that?  WHY would you bother replying to her emails ‘every now and then’?  Do you think tossing her some crumbs every now and then is the route to take?  Is that really a solution?

This might be an extreme example, but I know of a situation where someone kept using the “I’m so busy” excuse for months to avoid getting together with another person who wanted to be friends.  Pushy person saw Target at a mall with one friend and at a restaurant with a group of friends.

Pushy person’s calls and emails were being ignored.  The way I hear it, Pushy person called the Target from a different phone and reached her.

PP: “I’ve emailed and called you several times and left messages.  Haven’t heard from you.”
Target: “Well, I’ve been really busy.”
PP: “Oh?  Doing what?”
(awkward silence)
Target:  “Work, family, househunting, lots of things.”
PP: “So you’re telling me that in the past 6 months you haven’t had any time at all for socializing?”
(awkward silence)
Target: “No, I’m just so busy.”
PP: “Well, I don’t want to hold you up, but I wanted you to know I saw you at X mall and X restaurant.  I also heard you were at so-snd-so’s party last weekend.  You're so full of it.  I wish you had just been straight with me.  You’re a coward and a liar.”  (click)
« Last Edit: January 08, 2013, 02:39:43 PM by oceanus »