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I have a distant friend/acquaintance who I'm on good terms with. I would say stop and say hi to them if I see them in public and make small talk, but nothing much more. Lately, he has been continuously trying to make conversation with me over text and other social media platforms, to the point where I find it bothersome.

I feel like he is trying to make conversation just for the sake of talking, and very rarely about anything I'm actually interested about. All he does is ask me never-ending questions and sometimes it becomes both annoying and exhausting. I have tried to hint that I am not interested by responding with one-word messages or short phrases, or, sometimes, by not responding whatsoever.

He's still pushing conversation, even it feels like I'm being interrogated (he isn't great at keeping an engaging conversation). He is also very emotionally sensitive: a while ago, I requested that he give me a bit of space because I was going through a hard time (true, not an excuse). He then went to a mutual friend and started worrying about if I hated him. How do I stop him without hurting his feelings?

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    Hi Avery! Welcome on IPS.SE! I have no anwser for you yet but I'd like to know: do you have any idea if this person is likely to suffer from depression or such kind of troubles? I had a similar situation with a depressed person and I think those situations should be handled differently. – avazula Sep 19 '17 at 8:45
  • @avazula I do not know him well enough to draw a solid conclusion, but from what I know I don't think he is depressed. – Avery Sep 19 '17 at 8:48
  • Related – JAD Sep 19 '17 at 8:54
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    " All he does is ask me never-ending questions" and "responding with one-word messages" suggests to me that your friend is trying really hard to get a meaningful conversation going, but that you are not reciprocating in any way. Have you ever taken the initiative to start a conversation? – Tinkeringbell Sep 19 '17 at 9:27
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Well first of all you cannot stop someone else doing something. All you can do is control what you do.

You also cannot control how they react.

My impression (and I'm only hearing your viewpoint, of course) is that your friend is trying very hard to do something they're not good at (develop friendships). This may be one of several things :

  • They're just trying too hard and don't understand this
  • They're possibly not aware of the need to listen (it's an art people do not practice enough)
  • You may not be good at listening. :-)
  • They could be romantically interested in you (not enough info to do more than speculate).
  • They could be a very needy personality which can be hard to deal with.

A few comments :

I feel like he is trying to make conversation just for the sake of talking

People do need to talk. People who are lonely or insecure often need to talk more than most and are often the least equipped to do it well.

, and very rarely about anything I'm actually interested about.

This points to a weakness in your mindset.

The way to make friends is to force yourself to take an interest (whether it's real or not) in what the other person regards as important.

This is the art of listening and feeding back to them that you accept that.

I am quite certain I bore the pants of some of my oldest and dearest friends with my interests, but I am equally certain that they listen and laugh with me because I do the same for them.

You may not fully grasp this mechanism. Give it some thought.

All he does is ask me never-ending questions and sometimes it becomes both annoying and exhausting.

Someone who has minimal friend-making skills would probably consider asking you questions as the best way to expand your friendship. Them asking questions is them trying to demonstrate an interest in you.

I have tried to hint that I am not interested by responding with one-word messages or short phrases, or, sometimes, by not responding whatsoever.

Have you tried asking questions back ?

For example :

I'm into football. What about yourself - are you interested in sports at all ?

In a way you are expecting them to do all the work in a conversation.

I have a friend very active and interested in a particular sport which I have absolutely no personal interest in whatsoever. Nonetheless I listen and discuss this with him when I see him. From what you've said your reaction would be to try and turn off the conversation because it doesn't interest you - that's not how friends should interact.

He's still pushing conversation, even it feels like I'm being interrogated (he isn't great at keeping an engaging conversation).

It takes two to tango !

Are you making engaging conversation from his point of view ?

He is also very emotionally sensitive: a while ago, I requested that he give me a bit of space because I was going through a hard time (true, not an excuse). He then went to a mutual friend and started worrying about if I hated him.

The picture you paint is of someone reaching out to you and being rejected by you in a relatively cold way.

The other person may or may not be being oversensitive (I can't properly evaluate that based on what you said alone), but if you said that to them they may simply have picked up (quite correctly it seems to me) that you don't want to be friendly to them and are trying to discourage them.

So you may be the person with the inappropriate viewpoint here. The other person seems to understand exactly the message you're sending - you're sending "get lost", BTW.

How do I stop him without hurting his feelings

Bit late for that. You've clearly already done that.

You should probably give some thought to whether you want to try and heal the rift (which means properly engaging them and helping them have a conversation) or actually want to drive them away, in which case keep doing what you're doing.

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First, talk to your mutual friends who X might consult/vent. Explain that you do not hate him, but feeling disturbed by the frequency of the communications. And then there's also the uninteresting topic. Emphasize that you just need him to slow down, and you do not hate him.

Then, deal with him.

  1. Mute (not block) your channel of communication to him.
    This is to prevent you from getting distracted by the notifications, and to slow down your response time. Try to catch up to his messages only on regular times:
    8 AM, 12 PM, 6 PM, 9 PM. I recommend the bold ones

    He may notice the pattern and expect response on those times. This will solve the problem your getting overwhelmed by the frequency and his feeling ignored.

    At first he may question the change, but you can just deflect it by saying

    Sorry, a bit busy here lately.

  2. Change the topic if the topic is uninteresting to you. Or in chat, simply say "brb" (be right back) and continue with your stuffs, if you feel don't like to continue the conversation.

    You may also want to be direct and say

    Sorry, I'm not into sports, but I enjoy music. Do you like it too?

    If you find a common interest, this may be a start of a new friendship. If not, just consider this person as acquaintance and move on. Slowing down the expectation is the right way to do this without cutting him off your life completely.

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First the question:

How do I stop him without hurting his feelings?

It is easy: You don't. If you can stop him talking to you, it will hurt his feelings and there is nothing you can do about it. You can explain to him that you are not interested in a deeper friendship, you can explain that you don't hate him. It will make it a bit easier on him and it can stop him from talking to you, but he will be hurt.

You also could try something else: The person, as somebody else answered already, seems to be in need of a friend and not able to find one. People need friends, so they try to get to someone. If the stuff he is talking about is boring to you, how about you try talking about stuff that interests you. Possibly you find something he is interested in, too, possibly he finds you as a potential better friend interesting enough so he will start to look into that stuff. If neither is true, you can still hurt his feelings.

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I am assuming you want this person to leave you alone forever, not just tone it down. And are you talking about stopping the social media barrage, or also not talking to him when you pass in public?

If you want no contact with him at all, it's hard to do that without it feeling like a rejection, because it is one. If that is your policy, two options:

  • Don't drag it out. Make it clear and tell him. "We don't get along. Let me be." (I prefer this one, as it's a big time-saver) Block him on social media.

  • Drag it out. Be icy, formal, and polite when seeing him in public, and at first opportunity excuse yourself. Of course, you're dooming your mutual friend to at least one long weepy conversation with the fellow. Block him on social media.

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