I recently quit my job, after a three months notice, and I've changed my region of residence (it's like moving to another state in the USA, but the regions are smaller).

The last day, when everyone was saying goodbye all along the day, one of them (I thought we were close, but we stopped talking 9-12 months earlier, even though working in the same Open Space) proposed me to stay in touch (like some of my other co-workers did).

I don't have any interest in maintaining this relationship. Nine to twelve months ago I discovered that it was a toxic "friendship" (she was manipulative with me and it was a one-way/asymmetric friendship). I would try to talk to her to fix it, she just laughed and accused me of being a child; she seemed angry/annoyed. We didn't talked since then. She was generally warm and nice in public but in private, either she was charming, authoritative or pushing on my weaknesses when she wanted something; or she was just judging or depreciating when I was opening up.

After a bunch of compliments, she gave me her e-mail address, telling me to use it, to which I answered: "I won't use it".

Thereafter, I think that it was a bit harsh (passive-aggressive). Was/is there a softer (and not too long) way to turn her proposal down?

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    What message did you want to send to her? Was the goal to send the message that you were still offended, or is the goal merely to not be rude?
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 19:15
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    @GlinesMome: your title is a total red herring, please edit it. You're not asking a generic "How to turn down...?". You're asking something like "What are socially acceptable ways to deal with an untrustworthy manipulative coworker?" But even that really has nothing to do with when you leave; you could (and should) have addressed it at any point in the preceding 9-12 months. Asking for how to get in a parting shot on the day you leave is subjective and not really very helpful. There are various ways of responding to her, but at this point what does it even matter which you pick?
    – smci
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 8:20
  • Saying "I won't use it" may have been harsh, but I don't think it was passive-aggressive. You were clear and direct, which is the opposite of passive-aggressiveness.
    – Rokit
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 19:41

13 Answers 13


I agree with other posts that this just might not need to be said...but if responding seems unavoidable, I'd go with something like:

"Frankly...I'm still kind of reeling from (bad past interaction). Sorry."

It offers closure without an excess of rudeness, or the passive-aggressiveness of changing the topic, which I know I for one would find much more painful than an outright rejection.

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    Nice answer. Courteous, and it gives an explanation without delving into specifics, so the person can understand.
    – wildbagel
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 18:27
  • I'm not sure where the implication was that there exists a bad past interaction. The question just said they stopped talking. Surely you don't mean fishing one out of memories for the occasion. "Frankly, I'm still kind of reeling from the time you used my mug and didn't wash it. Sorry."
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 13:51
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    @Dan, its in the comments on the question. Maybe I should have edited the question for him to communicate that there. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 13:59
  • @TheTinyMan Ah I see it now. I think the SX comment layout is appalling for realising important comments are missing.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 14:02
  • @Dan Yeah, hence I think why people usually edit questions, but I'm new enough that I'm not 100% comfortable changing someone else's text yet. xD Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 14:08

It is very rude to bluntly say you won't use her email address.

In my opinion you shouldn't turn her down at all. Take the email, thank her and just don't use it if you don't want to use it. In this case it was a very concrete gesture with her handing an address but usually these kind of things are just said as a gesture of goodwill and friendliness. And even taking the email doesn't mean you are forced to email her. You now just have her contact details.

If you turn this down you basically say 'I don't like you enough to talk to you'. Which is very rude. You don't simply tell people you don't like them. It's not an agreement or a promise, it's just small talk.

This is a 'smile and wave' kind of situation. Smile, say thanks and move on.

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    @GlinesMome moving on to a new subject or sympli ending the conversation is still a lot less rude than bluntly telling her you won't use it. I see from your comments you have had issues with this person specifically. My answer was not written with that in mind, I wanted to write a global response.
    – Summer
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 13:00
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    @GlinesMome - "I felt she was waiting for something like my e-mail address." - In which case this provides a subtle hint that if you are going to stay in contact it will be you who controls the means to do so and if you decide not to contact her, you don't want her to contact you. That makes this polite in that you accept her gesture, without committing to anything or giving her the opportunity to hurt you again. +1 from me Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 16:24
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    @GlinesMome I would just give it to her. It's not like she couldn't find it if she tried, and you don't have to email her back if she emails you. Or you could just filter them out of your inbox. Or you can just say, "Ok, I'll shoot you an email". And then you can legitimately "forget" to send her one. But for goodness sake, don't be so rude as to say "I won't use it".
    – spacetyper
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 21:12
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    @FedericoPoloni to be honest it came from the penguins of Madagascar... I watch too many cartoons lol.
    – Summer
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 9:13
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    This, so much this. Never burn a bridge if it can be avoided
    – user5561
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 1:31

Never burn bridges.

All you ever need say is a simple "Thank you", and then let it go.

It does not promise anything and it is not a slight. When you get home, you can throw the email away, or hold on to it.

In the future, swallow your pride, be polite, and never willingly make an enemy, you never know when you may need a friend

  • That was what I used to think but I have not felt it so far.
    – GlinesMome
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 9:16
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    @GlinesMome - you may not directly, and that's the point. But down the track, that person might be holding a conversation with a potential boss of yours - and your last interaction is plain rude (deserved or not), which is going to stick in their mind.
    – user5561
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 1:33
  • Well if you do that with me and ignore my mail (if I send one of course...), you're burning the bridge. I have got enough of the "too polite" people.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 13:55
  • @Walfrat agreed. I can't count the times when someone I thought was a jerk turned out to just be gruff, but loyal as all get out.
    – user4548
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 13:59

I suppose you did not wish to be insincere by assuring this person that you would keep in touch. Your comments reveal that it had been a 'toxic friendship.' You also probably didn't want to give her your email because you wanted no more contact with this person.

I do not express myself directly in that manner like

"I won't keep in touch with you."

When somebody gives me their contact information I will take it and say OK, I'll keep in touch. Whether I will or not. But I won't give them my own contact information if I don't want them to contact me. I will find some excuse and say I will give them later. A cold or grim body language can express our true feelings on the matter.

What is done is done. In the context of this particular interaction I think your being hurt when the friendship dissolved a year earlier led to your direct response that you will not be using her email to contact her.

While some people would advocate that frank and honest response, it is worth noting that in an interpersonal sense, the woman's action might also be interpreted as an indirect attempt at reconciliation and an expression of interest in renewing the friendship. Again, it is your decision whether you want to continue to interact with this person after relocating to another city.

Whether or not the blunt refusal was necessary is really the only question, and I think your response simply reflected your state of mind, because we tend to react spontaneously and often cannot 'plan' our response in such unforeseen situations.

In general, it is better and more polite to take the contact information and say that you will keep in touch. If the person asks for your contact information you might tell them that you will send it to their e-mail address. That is a way of controlling and being seen to control the interaction. Even if you are not on good terms with that person, you don't want to give them the satisfaction of knowing how much they have upset you, as the direct refusal reveals. Keep your tone of voice, body language and facial expression as bland as you can, and leave them guessing as to your state of mind.

You can decide later if you want to contact that person.

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    I love your optimism, and the astuteness of this answer. ;) +1 Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 17:34
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    Thanks @anongoodnurse! I learnt to look at people's 'better side', whenever it is possible to do so. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 20:21

One thing I, and I guess most people have learned during my working life is that the world is a very small place.

So, when you are leaving a company, appreciate the offers of keeping in touch, accept the LinkedIn connection requests and try not to burn any bridges. You never know how beneficial a network of ex-colleagues are until you need them (or meet them again!)

Since you two had issues, take the note with a smile and tear it up or burn it afterwards if you want to. It might even be therapeutic!

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    This is what I was thinking: the OP is burning bridges. While it might feel good saying, "I won't use it." there are all kinds of possible repercussions: what will that person say about the OP after they leave? Will it ever become part of an 'official document'? If the OP ever needs a reference from their employer, 'doesn't play well with others' is not good. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 17:31

Golden rule:

If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Seriously. You're leaving. You don't have to use their contact details or reply to their messages. Perhaps there was a more polite way to respond but you didn't need to even need to do that.

Turning them down at all makes you seem difficult to work with in the future in front of others that may not be aware of the details of your history. Especially in a workplace, there is no point antagonising people you likely won't have to deal with in the future. You could have just taken it and left.

If you want closure, this is a matter best discussed with them in private, not in a room full of colleagues. If not, just leave and be done with it.


Read between the lines.

She was fishing for an opportunity for a personal rapprochement. Which probably would have gone one of two ways:

  • more of the same, and remaining in contact is a hook to re-engage you, or
  • a genuine apology/I get it, or as close as she was capable of, which would suggest she doesn't have closure herself.

All of which is in the "not your problem" category. Unless you, based of your knowledge of the particulars, think there is something there warranting your attention.

If it's something other than a professional connection, I would say no, no no no, nononononono.... Toxic people are maddening, even if they change, it's hard to see it... Avoid the heartburn, plenty of fish in the sea.

The way you asked the question, you really undersold yourself. I thought your response forehead-thumping "what was I thinking" social maladjustment until you mentioned the toxic relationship. There, it was just good boundary setting. I would've just said "thanks" out of general courtesy and then never called.

When you are courteous to another person who may or may not deserve it, that isn't a judgment on them. It's about you and who you are.

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    "She was fishing for an opportunity for a personal rapprochement (...) more of the same (...) or a genuine apology/I get it, or as close as she was capable of, which would suggest she doesn't have closure herself. All of which is in the "not your problem" category..." __ Very perceptive answer that addresses an important aspect ignored by many other answers; hence deserves more upvotes like my this +1! Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 12:50
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    She did not express any sign of regret or feeling guilty, she nearly insinuate that my actions have led to that situation.
    – GlinesMome
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 9:20

Although I wouldn't normally advocate rudeness, I really want to say 'well done' for your honest answer to her. From your follow-up comment it is clear you had previously tried an interpersonal approach to resolve an issue between the two of you, to which she insulted you and then didn't speak to you for a year. Your response really showed her the consequences to her actions.

Having said that, your response also suggests to onlookers that you are one to bear a grudge, rightly or wrongly. And given that each one of us must control our own behaviour because we cannot control the behaviour of others, it would have been better for you to have just accepted it graciously, and then not followed it up. Always be the better person.


It's fine. Don't over think it. You were straight to the point, didn't lead them on or lie to them to save their feelings.

It's down to them to choose how they want to react, you were honest and shouldn't regret at thing. If said person doesn't like what you said then it is down to them to say so, then you can both decide if you want an out of work relationship and do all of that. (If you then choose not to, then they just have to get over it).

Otherwise, it's done, move on. I'm sure people they don't even know have said worse things to them.

Hakuna matata

  • +1, I usually try the diplomatic approach, but sometimes there's really a need to drop this "save people's feelings" thing that, BTW, got really out of hand lately.
    – r41n
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 9:11

As has been mentioned, don't burn bridges, and if in doubt, a simple smile and "thank you" is enough.

But if you really wished to give an in-depth answer, that would have been very possible as well. Something along the lines of...

Thank you for the offer. Frankly, I am using this opportunity to take a fresh start in my life, and will very much be concentrating on my new environment. I am really trying not to bring too much from my "old life" with me.

If there was anything at all that you enjoyed in your relationship with her, maybe at the beginning, then it would not hurt you to thank her for that.

All of this is designed for your own selfish reasons. I couldn't care less about the person who mistreated you, but you strike me as a person who thinks alot about interactions like this. Doing it this way would really be the best a person could expect from you - altogether friendly, heartily etc. - without inviting any comeback, or any hurt doled out at the last day (which would very likely haunt you back in your own mind in the next months if you did so).


This is a matter of learning to commit what's known as a "social lie". Perfectly acceptable and even expected. She gives you her email address. You say, "Thank you so much!". She walks away. You tuck the email address in your pocket, go home, and drop it in the trash.


Look - a lot of interactions are like this. Both parties semi-agree to something which either one or both do not really want. In this case you don't want to deal with this person, so you throw her email away and never contact her again. But the polite-but-not-real agreement means you end as "friends", for sufficiently small values of "friend".


Lets look at it rationally. Saying "I won't use it" does it: Do you gain or lose anything: No, you don't gain anything from being rude Does she gain or lose anything: Yes, her feelings will be hurt and she will feel terrible.

If you say: "Sure, we'll keep in touch" Do you gain or lose anything: No, you don't lose anything from being polite. Does she gain or lose anything: Yes, she gains something by thinking you are friends (Kinda crummy to lie, but better overall?)

If you say you will keep in touch, and then chat once or twice a year: Do you gain or lose anything: Yes, you gain from keeping a friend and a business contact, while losing an insignificant amount of time. You can also feel Good that you've helped another person feel good about themselves.

Does she gain or lose anything: Yes, she gains confidence and can feel good about herself.

So I feel your best option is to actually stay in touch, it's no burden to you to speak to someone a few times a year, and all parties benefit.


You said in a comment

I felt she was waiting for something like my e-mail address,

and indeed it may be usual to reciprocate. But you don't have to. Nor, indeed, do you have to send her any email.

Just thank her and say that you sending her an email will be the easiest way to give her your email address. Don't explicitly promise to do so: just state the fact.

Given the previous interactions, you might also act surprised that she's given you her address, but perhaps it was a clumsy way of trying to bury the past and actually keep in touch. Why burn bridges? If she did want to keep in touch, it's now entirely your choice.

You can make that choice at leisure, and give yourself an escape route if you're still unsure: use a throwaway email address for that first email, and see how things go. Only migrate to your real email address if you are comfortable doing that.

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