6

I currently have a friend who is someone "clingy" to me, and often calls me their "best friend". I have no issue with this, I am fine with being the best friend of multiple people. However, I have an issue when they make comments such as "Best friends for life", as this implies that they are my best friend too, when in fact they are not and I have no intention to be.

Currently, whenever they a make a statement or comment implying that they are my best friend too - I simply reply in a neutral manner, neither confirming nor denying that they are in fact my best friend (as I don't want to hurt their feelings).

For context, I do already have a "best friend", however, I do not believe it is appropriate to have more than once (as otherwise that would defeat the point of having a "best" one). In addition both of us are teenagers (over the age of 16 but under 19). So, how would I inform a friend that I already have a "best friend" without rubbing it in their faces or offending them?

  • Is this an issue of them making statements like "Best friends for life", setting boundaries, and expectations between the two of you, or both? – sphennings Mar 14 '18 at 17:10
  • I may be slightly confused by your comment, but it's about me finding an answer to such a comment rather than my replying in a neutral manor all the time and them repeatedly saying it. – Crafter0800 Mar 14 '18 at 17:13
  • 2
    Is this about telling your friend that you already have a best friend, or is it more about telling him that he is not your best friend? Those 2 options are similar but it could make a difference for future answers. – Kaspar Scherrer Mar 14 '18 at 17:20
  • It's that I already have one - I have no issues about being their best friend, just about them implying that they are mine. – Crafter0800 Mar 14 '18 at 17:21
  • 1
    I don't understand the idea of best friend. What is a best friend? – Rohit5k2 Mar 15 '18 at 9:33
12

I will assume that this non-best friend is still your friend and that you care about their feelings.

If you want to retain your multiple friendships and for everyone to be happy, I advise you to drop the use of the term, "best friend." This term, while very gratifying to the person it applies to, is designed to exclude everyone else. It is a barrier to anyone who would like to become close to you.

You, of course, can have a friend who is #1 in your heart, but the more you flaunt that, the more likely your other friends will be annoyed that they are ranked lower that your best friend. At best it would be disappointing to them; at worst it would make them feel like they have to compete for your affection.

Now, once you have stopped dividing your friends into "best" and "not best," you should ask those who call you their best friend to follow suit.

Hey, I noticed you were calling me your best friend to other people. I used to do that with [name of best friend], but I feel like it could hurt other people's feelings if they aren't considered my best friend or your best friend. I just want everyone to feel included, so is there a chance I could ask you to do the same? We're all good friends, right?

The important thing here is to make sure this friend still feels welcome and loved by you. If you are careful to cease from identifying best friends, and diligent in asking others to do the same, you will all be happier. Bonus: People who aren't your "best friend" will stop telling other people that they are.

  • The OP specifically says that he's uncomfortable with this person calling himself his best friend. Presumably, his actual best friend can do this, and it would be fine. So then you're saying: in order to avoid making this other person uncomfortable, let's just stop using the term "best friend" altogether (aka self censure). Well, no, that's not what the OP wants. He wants only his actual best friend to call him that. That's setting boundaries, not being mean, and your call to self censure, and the destruction of a perfectly normal social convention (having a best friend) is worrying. – AndreiROM Mar 14 '18 at 21:57
  • 3
    @AndreiROM yes, self censure is a wonderful tool that socially savvy people use to avoid offending and alienating those around them. The use of the term "best friend" is a common social convention among 1st graders, not mature adults. Telling a friend that they are not as good as another friend isn't setting boundaries; it's cruel. – BlackThorn Mar 14 '18 at 23:56
  • You may feel like calling someone your best friend is immature, while others may not. I hardly think that your standards are the cultural norm. And self censure is a useful tool, but not the one that should be used in the context of setting boundaries (and yes, sometimes we hurt feelings when doing so). In my own answer I asked the OP to contemplate on why he would like his friend to stop his behavior - why such a seemingly silly matter bothers him. However, if the OP does decide that it's important to him, then he is well within his rights to discuss that boundary with his friend. – AndreiROM Mar 15 '18 at 0:06
0

I feel like this comes down to a miscommunication.

Not that this miscommunication is anyone's fault, mind. It seems to stem (potentially, at least) from either differing definitions of "best friend" or from your friend feeling they are closer to you than they feel you are.

Start by understanding why this bothers you. If it's just about putting words in your mouth, that's certainly something to discuss, and a much easier topic (in my opinion) to address:

Joe, I've noticed you speaking for me on certain occasions, saying things like X or Z. (Add in any other times of speaking for you that you can think of, because that detracts from the best friend thing.) I would like you to please stop doing this, as it makes it sound like I've said things that I haven't, and one day it could upset someone and start a conflict that no one wants.

If this is not why this bothers you, and it truly is the fact that they assert they are your best friend, then consider the steps below.

Disclaimer: The remainder of this answer will not work for everyone. This answer may still result in you losing a friend over this matter. This is a very tricky topic to discuss without hurting feelings. Consider your friend's personality before using this approach. And consider how worth the risk of losing this friend it is to correct this behavior before taking any steps to do so. Of all possible solutions I can think of, most have a high chance of upsetting or hurting the other person.

Sorry for the use of bold, but I find this incredibly important to stress. This topic may well end in disaster no matter how you handle it.

Different Definitions

If this is the case, and you won't know until a conversation is had, then a discussion on your definition versus theirs may be in order. How do you define "best friend"? Is it your oldest friend? The friend you spend the most time with? The friend who has had your back the most often? Your first step should be understanding your own feelings on the matter.

This definition can be as loose or as strict as you like. This may even lead to you reevaluating this whole situation, though it sounds like it will not. It sounds to me like you already have some sort of picture of your definition of "best friend" in your mind.

Once you've sorted out your definition, find a time when you and this friend are alone. You do not want to make this a public discussion. That will only guarantee hurt for your friend, and make you look like a jerk. (I assume you are aware of this, but other readers may not be.)

Start this discussion by talking about them and how they feel about "best friends", such as by asking

Hey, Joe, I've been wondering lately... What does "best friend" mean to you? How do you define who is your best friend?

This opens the door to the possibility that they have the same definition. If they don't, continue by explaining your definition. (Assumptions about your definition are made here, so sub as needed.)

I hadn't ever thought of it that way- To me, a best friend has always been the person who has been there for me the longest and through the worst of things. Unfortunately, by my definition and how I feel about things, it's not right to have more than one best friend.

This starts to pin the blame on yourself. Remember, likely no one is at fault, but you don't want you friend to feel accused of being to blame.

From here, they may understand immediately where things are going. They may not. If they do and wish to stop discussing things, drop it. Do not push them for a conversation they are not emotionally prepared for. If they don't, you may need to explain further, such as

You are a great friend, because X, Y, and Z. But Rob has been my best friend by my definition for years, and you're not quite there yet. I feel uncomfortable when I hear you tell people you're my best friend- You are one of my great friends, and I have (only a few, many, a handful) of those, but you are not my best friend by my definition.

As you feel necessary, add how you think this would make them feel, or apologize for telling them this.

They may take this poorly. Not everyone can handle this conversation. See the disclaimer above one more time. I don't advise this for emotionally clingy people, or for people who take things more personally than they need to on a regular basis. Think carefully before having this conversation. Once more, read the disclaimer again. Seriously. I want anyone considering any of these answers, as great as they may be, to carefully consider how important this issue is to them versus the risk of losing this friend.

Feeling closer than they are

This, likewise, is a tricky topic. Your definition question should still be the start of this discussion, to rule that approach out. If they have the same, or incredibly similar, definition of "best friend" as yours, consider the following.

We're on the same page, then! That's how I feel about best friends, too.

This could be a point to say something along the lines of, "This is why we're such great friends, we think alike so often" or some such, if this is the case. You want to reinforce that you find them a good friend or a great friend, depending.

Then, you will likely want to follow with a similar vein as the end of the previous approach. Heck, it may even be the same ending. But try to turn it so it cannot be taken as their fault that they feel differently about the title, for lack of a better term, than you do.

Again, this may not end well. Again, re-read the disclaimer. Have you read it again? Read it once more. Memorize its message. This is a topic that many people can and may take incredibly poorly.

Conclusion

I've used a lot more bold and italics than I like to in this post, but I want to make it crystal clear that none of these answers can possible guarantee that your friend will 1) change their behavior or 2) take this without getting upset.

I'll end with this, because I really feel I cannot stress this enough: No matter how you word this conversation, and no matter how close you two are as friends, you may lose them over this conversation. Is this behavior really worth it to you to lose this friend?

-2

Let's unpack the issue and analyze it. The concept of a best friend is not necessarily one which refers to a single person. You could be a part of a group of friend who are really close, and thus are all best friends.

I think the real problem is not so much that you already have a best friend, it's that even if you did not, this person would not be the one you'd choose to bond with.

This is perfectly reasonable, and essentially transforms the question into:

How do I tell this person that I don't feel about them the same way that they feel about me?

Since this person seems to value your friendship so highly, there may not be a particularly pleasant way of breaking to them that you don't reciprocate their feelings. You have to ask yourself why it's so important to you to distance yourself from him.

Your continued approach may work perfectly well for most purposes - after all, why does it really matter whether he calls himself your best friend or not? Your true best friend knows how you feel about him, so what's the harm?

Does it hurt your reputation or social standing to have this person identify himself as your best friend? Who is he damaging your reputation with? Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

If the answers to those questions is that it does matter, or that it's simply making you uncomfortable, and don't want to encourage his attachment to you, then it's best to be truthful:

Hey X, I have to talk to you about something. I'm honored that you consider me your best friend, and I don't want that to change. However, you're going around telling everyone that you're my best friend, and that's making me uncomfortable. While I consider you a good friend, I don't see you as my best friend. I'd like it if you stopped speaking in my name about these things. Thank you.

Your friend may not like what he hears, but you will have imposed your boundaries, and made your feelings on the matter clear in as neutral a way as possible. It will then be on your friend to accept it with some degree of maturity.

  • 1
    Down-voters should probably explain themselves. – AndreiROM Mar 14 '18 at 19:21
  • It's an answer firmly grounded in logic and reason. I don't see what's wrong with it. You acknowledge there isn't any "easy" way to break this to someone. – Froopy - GoFundMonica Mar 14 '18 at 20:25
  • 3
    I was not the first downvoter, but I'll explain my feelings on this answer. Your example quote is alienating. If someone I considered to be my best friend told that to me, I would feel mortified, embarrassed, and betrayed. This is in no way a "polite" way of telling someone you are not their one best friend. – BlackThorn Mar 14 '18 at 20:37
  • 3
    Honestly, I agree with BlackThorn. If someone I considered a (best) friend said that to me, what it would really convey (to my mind) is that they're embarrassed to be considered such a good friend by me. I wouldn't see that as something a good friend does, I'd see that as something... Well, I don't have a name for it, but "friend" isn't part of the descriptor. I would indeed feel alienated, scorned, perhaps even used depending on what the "friendship" had entailed so far. Having a talk with someone about speaking for you is one thing, but this feels... Wrong. Very wrong. – Kendra Mar 14 '18 at 20:59
  • @kendra - The OP specifically says that he's uncomfortable with this person calling himself his best friend. Presumably, his actual best friend can do this, and it would be fine. BlackThorn is saying: in order to avoid making this other person uncomfortable, let's just stop using the term "best friend" altogether (aka self censure). Well, no, that's not what the OP wants. He wants only his actual best friend to call him that. That's setting boundaries, not being mean. The call to self censure, and the destruction of a perfectly normal social convention (having a best friend) is worrying. – AndreiROM Mar 14 '18 at 21:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.