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Social: Un-Friendly

How to weasel out of a friendship without looking like a jerk

 by Mindy Lee  published on Thursday, September 22, 2005

<em>Photo illustration</em>/issues/arts/693959
Deanna Dent / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
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I have 120 contacts in my e-mail address book, and 106 of them are in my cell phone. I probably speak to 10 of them on a regular basis, family excluded.

Hi, my name is Mindy and I have too many non-friends.

But at one point in my life, a non-friend was a real friend. There was something about us that clicked and evolved into a relationship that somehow found its way into my e-mail, cell phone, MySpace.com and Facebook.com accounts. That connection usually didn't last. Yet over every winter break, when people have some time for reflection, I get the e-mails. You know the ones. The senders are people I haven't seen or spoken to since 2002, but for some reason, they send out a mass email in which they indulge me with an extensive update about their lives. I half-ass read it and dare not write back. Why do they think I even care?

We all make non-friends. Some become real friends and some don't. It's nobody's fault. You shouldn't have to justify your friendships.

If you're in the mood to clean out your social closet, here are some tips on how to do so with the least amount of damage. Advice comes courtesy of Aaron Krasnow, a psychologist at ASU's Counseling and Consultation Center, who specializes in relationships.

Krasnow lays out three steps to this action plan: defining the challenges, deciding on your actions and figuring out exactly what to say to someone you don't want to be friends with anymore.

Challenges

Krasnow says an inherent problem is that people don't trust those they aren't close to and therefore are less likely to say things to them that they think might be taken negatively.

"The paradox here is, 'Why does it bother us what they think if we don't care about them?'" he says. "It's because we think the way they see us is how the world sees us." And it sucks to be perceived as Debbie Downer. This is a big reason why we avoid ending non-friendships.

Actions

Once you get over the fact that what you have to say isn't flowers and sunshine, it's time to step up and take some action. Krasnow says the first step involves asking yourself, "How do I want this to turn out?"

"Start to develop pathways to figure out what to do," he says. "Saying to yourself you 'should' do something leads to problems, but saying 'you want' to do something about it leads to solutions."

Krasnow adds that the key to action is to be willing to take the steps to get what you need. And if you aren't willing to take such drastic measures, then listen to your gut instinct because maybe you're not quite ready to let this person go.

Speak up

Krasnow's most important piece of advice is to say exactly what you want, not what you think they should do.

"If the person responds negatively, then you probably don't want to be friends with that person anyway because they don't respect what you want," he says. "It becomes a win-win situation because they'll either respect your wishes or go away."

Naturally, your motives will be questioned. What do you do then?

"Keep referring to what you want," Krasnow says. "Stay away from what you think of them or what they need to do. Talk about yourself only."

An e-mail or phone call simply saying, "I prefer not to get e-mails or phone calls anymore from you. Thanks for understanding," should suffice, says Krasnow.

If they demand an explanation, Krasnow advises to say something like, "I believe that our relationship is not what I want it to be, and I prefer not to have that relationship anymore."

The important thing here is to remember that what you're doing is trying to improve your life. If you feel like social baggage is weighing you down, do something about it. Ending friendships isn't fun but it might be necessary.

"You can't avoid making the other person upset, it's going to happen. It sucks to be told that someone doesn't want to be your friend anymore," Krasnow says. "In order to do this and make peace with it, it's important to realize that not all relationships are forever."

Reach the reporter at mindy.lee@asu.edu.



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