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I met a girl through a mutual friend about a year ago. Because of circumstances, we see each other every so often. She occasionally asks to do things together. I usually say I'm busy but sometimes I feel like it would be rude to say no. (For instance, after my birthday, she asked me over for a "birthday dinner" since she felt bad she didn't get to see me on the actual day. I wasn't sure how to say no to that.)

The problem is, I find her negative and toxic. Her humor consists of making conflict and "roasting" people, which doesn't sit well with me. I often just don't like being around her. I'm always friendly with her when we're together though.

I happen to know she suffers from depression and has a history of people leaving her. I'm sure it's too late to not hurt her feelings.

Question:

How do I tell her I don't want to be friends while minimizing hurt feelings?

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    I have my doubts about this being a duplicate, since the situations are very different from each other (e. g. "It's great. Really. It feels like I now have a better understanding of what being "normal" is and I enjoy every time I speak to or meet with him." versus "The problem is, I find her negative and toxic. Her humor consists of making conflict and "roasting" people, which doesn't sit well with me. I often just don't like being around her."). – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Feb 9 '18 at 7:26
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In my opinion, telling this person that you don't want to be friends is a way to clearly make your desires known, but may be a bit of a heavy-handed approach. To minimize conflict and emotional impact, show that you have no interest in being more than acquaintances with your actions.

It doesn't sound as though you have any serious interaction or ties with this person. You will continue to see them from time to time, through your mutual friend or otherwise. Within those interactions, you can be politely distant.

Outside of these moments, minimize interaction. Decline offers or invites to spend time with them. When declining these offers there's no need to elaborate:

Person: Hi Brantly, would you like to come to this event with me?

You: No, thank you.

If pressed for explanation, give non-answers/evasive answers

Person: Why not?

You: "I don't think I would enjoy [$activity]"/ "I have other plans/work to catch up on"

Avoid giving justification or indicating you are interested in spending time with this person in the future.

If/when this person contacts you via social media/texting/messaging channels, don't respond immediately, don't ask questions or extend/expand conversations (this applies to in person one on one conversations as well).

Relationships between people, including friendships, require effort to maintain. Unless this person has a specific desire to develop a friendship with you and is extremely persistent about it, your lack of effort or response will discourage this person from putting effort in.

While this may seem like the opposite of an interpersonal skill, this strategy has served me well as a conflict and tears free method of keeping people with whom I am uninterested in developing a friendship with at a distance. Maintaining a consistent apathy/distance is the key, fluctuating between warm and friendly and this sort of attitude will extend the situation and lend this person false hope.

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    saying you don't enjoy the activity might not be the best way, because it isn't exactly the root of the problem, it might even be an activity OP likes – SomeoneElse Feb 9 '18 at 2:23
  • @SomeoneElse little white lie, the IPS horror i know. The goal is to respond with something simple that works as a blanket excuse for why, without implying that she is the reason so if you have a better response then say it – Jesse Feb 9 '18 at 2:28
  • @SomeoneElse in that situation, OP is not trying to get to the root of the problem. OP is trying to end the conversation politely – Jesse Feb 9 '18 at 2:29
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    Thinking more that it might cause more issues if she gets to know about him doing activity name on a seperate occasion with other people. Since she's kinda negative and toxic, making her feel that she was betrayed isnt the best idea. I don't reallt have a solution but just pointing out something. – SomeoneElse Feb 9 '18 at 3:12
  • The purpose of that response is not to be used as an exact line, more as an example of a vague excuse with little recourse. – spiral succulent Feb 9 '18 at 18:34
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I would try a different approach than saying you don't want to be friends.

Instead, deny her the pleasure of "conflict" and "roasting" people. Consistently ask if you can talk about something else, without putting people down, that you don't like that negativity, or don't like discussing conflict.

If she argues, say you have to go, because you are uncomfortable with the argument too.

You don't say in your post the kinds of friends you like, but have some things you DO like to do, playing games or cards, watching a movie together. Ask her what else she enjoys. Try to find some common ground. Train her to be a better friend!

If that isn't possible, she will dump you as a friend, which is what you want. If it is possible, you won't hate the time together. You obviously know her best, but it sounds to me like she is trying to be funny or bring up conflicts for something funny or interesting to talk about, and that she wants to be friends. If she really does, she will change to please you; if she does not, she will get tired of you walking out on her and stop calling you. (In which case, she rejected you, which should minimize any hurt feelings.)

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How do I tell her I don't want to be friends while minimizing hurt feelings?

Don't answer her calls or reply to her messages. If she is normal, as in "right in the head", she will attempt to contact you a few times, then give up.

The strategy achieves the same outcome as ending a friendship, but without ending the friendship. There are two benefits of this:

  1. The action is non-committal. Suppose 6 or 12 or 24 months down the road you think to yourself "Gee, I wonder how she's doing?" It's far easier for you to re-initiate your friendship with her. After taking a break from her, maybe she will have changed, maybe she will be the same. Or maybe you're the one with the problem, in which case it's best to not burn your bridges.

  2. Some people find "leave me alone, I don't want to be your friend" positively reinforcing. In other words, rather than respecting your wishes, you will find an uptick in their attempts to contact you. I have learned this the hard way.

I believe this practice is called "ghosting". Although it's frowned upon, I personally think it's an acceptable way to conduct yourself. You owe this person nothing. If you happen to bump into her on the street or at a party, you should stop and say hello. If she confronts you, then perhaps she wants the truth from you. I personally would give it to her: "I think you're a toxic person and I wanted a break from you".

  • "Don't answer her calls or reply to her messages. If she is normal, as in "right in the head", she will attempt to contact you a few times, then give up" __ ruthless, yet simple and effective because: "You owe this person nothing." I agree with your assessment and upvote, but just fear that some others might consider this approach "not interpersonal enough" for this website. But why must one try to find complex solutions when simple ones like these exist? – English Student Feb 10 '18 at 8:50
  • Note 2: the Wikipedia article seems to define 'ghosting' as the abrupt cessation of communication in a close or intimate relationship but I am not sure that's the type of OP's relation with the girl here. – English Student Feb 10 '18 at 8:55
  • it may come across as ruthless, but i don't think it is. by way of example, one of my best friends was insufferable and even tried to fight me at a party once. i ghosted him for about 18 months. after that, i re-initiated contact and we're friends again. people change. you change. – faustus Feb 10 '18 at 8:57
  • I say 'ruthless' only because it is a unilateral cutting-off which does not give the other person a chance at 'interpersonal' negotiation, but it's exactly what I would do myself in that situation. Assuming that OP is representing the 'friendship' accurately here, he really owes her nothing and I should think it's his duty to himself to get away from a "negative and toxic" influence that he actively dislikes, @faustus. – English Student Feb 10 '18 at 9:01
  • maybe when you tell your best friend that you can no longer be their friend and explain the reason why in great detail, then they send you an SMS every 15 mins for about 6 hours, then start sending e-mails to every person in your life, detailing all of your darkest secrets... for the second time, the first time being 3 years previously. well, maybe that's when you realise that the smartest thing would have been to just to ghost them. can you teach me how to develop some character, @RandolphCarter? – faustus Feb 11 '18 at 9:23
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My advice might not perform a great help but from my own feelings I only can warn to handle this problem and the involved people sensitively! I can only speak of myself but the natural healthy way of taking action to negative stimuli, if it is required for you to decide, proves the idiom to be true: honesty is the best policy (in the vast majority of cases...); unless no lifes are harmed like being asked by a killer or things would happen that would generally be regarded as grave (for example an agent is discovered operating in a criminal gang or a war conflict with bad authorities could evolve) but normally I try my best to prevent such situations to appear at all. Personally, I feel self-interested inhonesty as a bad character. If no one would want to damage other people and act selfish there would be no need for it. Inhonesty in non-critical situations for living beings leads to suboptimal, expansive and non-transparent living and working together and to the bad unfair world we are living in. Imagine the pointlessness of being asked for feedback, if someone can't be honest with it? If you don't want to hear hontest answers of any sort, don't ask for it! But being honest still must be destinguished from bad criticism and bad expression. If your character is not even good enough to honestly reveal it, you've not earned your friends anyways. No one is being helped with not being honest to someone. It doesn't help solving the actual problem unless your aim of life is not about making the world a good place for all but a place of your very own benefit (for example a good reputation from "friends" or other people) or for your exploit, which resembles more the sort of nihilistic answers to life.

Regarding ignorance: Ignorance might hurt some people more than telling them the direct truth (including me and that's my experience). To me it feels like being not worth or good enough human being, because of the way I am, to being told the truth from someone. For example: Do you know the feeling when not getting replied again by a bad personnel management? The actual drawback on people's feelings is dependent on the psychological setting and therefore it's different for different people however, generally if you don't know someone well enough to make choose your action, still don't forget to consider the case, it could hurt the person's feelings or even worse destroy a person's long-term self esteem and it is even said, the girl from the post suffers from depression. In the worst case you make people more prone to depression or strengthen it, depending on the emotional lability and weakness of the person. It might be that her toxic character and the way she communicates is already influenced by her psychological situation to ease and distract from her own psychological problems, by her environment (not teaching/educating her better) and her experience.

And maybe the strategy works out fine for a lot of people, so you should know the person well enough if you choose the approach of active alienation. Maybe they can call me insane but from my empirical view, being ignored or not honest enough in conversions also can reinforce the reason and desire of conversation and contact. Generally, if you know that close contact will have no overwhelming positive long-term effect for both parties and you need to stop things, you need to remove the reason for the interaction and not (only) the interaction itself. If you have problems being unwillingly contacted by someone, maybe it helps to find out the reason felt by the person who is looking for contact and clear it.

But let's reason from the empirical perspective why we need another answer to the question than alienation: Problems don't get solved by ignoring them, neither in mathematics nor in society. It's like the infant logic: what I don't see doesn't exist. While it might be true for your own consciousness you can't know for sure how other people feel about it. While some people project the behaviour from others back to others, some may project it to themselves.

Even if it doesn't seem so for some people, ignorance can be perceived as an explicit negative action spawning another reaction to it since you can't not communicate, -> Paul Watzlawick (except in some exceptional states of consciousness, for example if people don't know about each other or have the physical ability to change the communication state like passed out people). Otherwise if you force other people in a situation where they "need" the contact to cut it off instead, there is a serious potential of damage and it maybe reinforces their personal problems. If you want a person to change you should help her/him as long as it is obviously safe for your life conditions to try it. Explain the person the problem and what he/she could do against it.

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