I've often noticed myself not being able to say no to things and I end up in toxic friendships where I get manipulated, and I'm too afraid to leave them because I don't want to hurt people.

All the advice I have been given is to just leave them, "its like ripping off a band-aid" but it really isn't, and I'm scared that they will hate me.

Other suggestions include talking to them, but my social anxiety really gets in the way and inhibits that.

Does anybody have tips for helping me exit friendships politely?

For context, I am on the younger side of being a teenager, so most of this happens through school.

  • 3
    Why do you bother what toxic people who manipulate you think? Do you have any obligation to keep in contact with them afterwards?
    – AsheraH
    Mar 11 at 5:37
  • 3
    If these are toxic people, they won't be hurt. They'll just shrug and find another easy target.
    – Erik
    Mar 11 at 7:46
  • @AsheraH I mean I don't often know who is toxic or who will manipulate me until later into the relationship, otherwise I definitely would try to stay out of anything like that Mar 11 at 15:34
  • The definition of "toxic" inherently implies that they won't do something just because it's the right thing for you - quite the opposite. What leads you to believe that you need the approval of someone who is not interested in what's best for you? (I'm aware you mentioned social anxiety and I suspect this may be your response, but it is important to actually think the problem situation through, and not avoid it "because anxiety")
    – Flater
    Mar 23 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


Being able to say "no" is important for ourselves to establish boundaries, but also for the people who want to respect us so they know how to do so. I want to know about the boundaries of my friends so I don't hurt them.

So the first thing you can do is to to make sure your friends know about your boundaries. Have you had situations before where you said no to something and they kept pushing? If not, you can sit down with them, on a one to one conversation, and be open with them about what hurt you, or what you need. If they are reasonable, they will respect your needs.

For a short term solution: Let's say they are genuinely toxic. One possibility is to let the "frienemy" relationship fade away. What this implies is to answer if they contact you, but don't initiate contact of your own. In my experience the relationship becomes less and less intensive until it dies.

Mind you this is the equivalent of taking a hot shower and then ripping slowly a band-aid off. Each step hurt less than just ripping it off, but it's still not as good as ripping it off at once.

For a long term solution: I once was you, and I once had the same problem as you have now. What made my life long term easier was to work on my self esteem (in my case via therapist) and learning about high sensitivity. It is important to not to hurt people if you can avoid it, but sometimes it is necessary to protect yourself. If saying "no" is difficult for you, start practicing with small things this can look like this:

  • Hey, would you like to come have a walk with us?

  • No, not today, but thanks for asking

This can also work for small favors. In my experience it is difficult at the beginning, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

When I started having a better self esteem and to be better at saying no, less people tried to take advantage of me on the first place. I also found out that good people are fine with being told no, and the once who feel hurt are not worth keeping anyway.


Have you considered that maybe your saying no will not hurt them? Some people are not bothered by this. I had an opposite problem, where I would always immediately say no to things. I got better about this by replacing an immediate 'no' with a non-committal 'hmmmmm' sound, which gave me a minute to collect myself and rationally decide what to do.

If you do want to exit the friendship, though, then the best way to ease someone into it is to flake on them three times1. In other words, if they make plans with you, agree, and then cancel at the last minute.

I'm not saying this is a great way to handle the situation, but it is a way of easing someone into the idea that you don't really want to see them, without having to talk about it.

A much better way would be to either try to change your own behavior and keep the friend, unless the friend really is bad and not considerate, in which case they will not notice you flaking and the relationship will fade away nicely.

1 I have been on the other side of this, where I had a friend who kept canceling on me, after we would make plans. Eventually, I got it through my head that they didn't really want to see me, but didn't want to be rude and say that. So I stopped making plans with them. I wish them well but wouldn't really consider them a friend anymore. This is how I learned that flaking on someone three times is an effective way of letting someone go gently.

  • Hi Nesha25, note that this site has citation expectations for answers, and if you're going to make claims like 'the best way is to flake on them three times', you should either back that statement up with personal experience (did all your friendships end after flaking on your friends three times?) or research.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Mar 15 at 14:08

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