You have decided that you want to break up with a toxic friend. The friendship just is not what it was before. The good times you had are just not that good anymore.
Whatever the reason – whether it is differing outlooks in life or that your friend is just constantly negative and sucking away your energy – you know it is time to break up and get away from this friendship for the sake of your mental health.
The question is, how do you break up with a toxic friend?
Now, if you were merely acquaintances or just friends of friends, you could just ghost them immediately with no hard feelings.
However, it is harder if the toxic friend is someone you have known for years or were even best friends with before. In some scenarios, you might still have to see this person at your university or at the workplace. Perhaps you will also have to work together with them on assignments and projects.break
Most of all, you also want to respect your previous friendship, even if it is not the same as it was before. We grow up and find ourselves going in different directions in life. It happens, but a friendship breakup does not have to be a drama-filled affair.
Here are 4 things to consider doing when you want to respectfully break up with a toxic friend:
Write it all down in a letter
Before you break up with a friend, it is best to sort out your feelings properly first instead of going in ready to say whatever is on your mind. Your friend is likely not to remain calm if you outright tell them they are toxic, and that you do not want to be friends anymore.
A great method to get it all out is to commit pen to paper, or in these digital times, fingers to computer keyboard. Write everything that you want to say to your friend, including all the mean and nasty things you really want to say but cannot.
Write a timeline of when you felt this friendship was going south, include incidences and encounters which you felt was toxic, and also when you tried to give your friend the benefit of the doubt.
This is NOT a letter to send out. It is to help you get any negative emotions out of your system, and to let you filter what you want to tell your friend without being emotional about it. Once you are done writing and organising what you need to say, you can burn or delete this letter.
Have a heart-to-heart talk in a private setting with a mediator
The next thing to do is to talk to your friend in a private setting. Make sure you let them know you want to have a serious conversation. Remember, don’t invite them into your house because you know you will want to kick them out later.
Whether it’s a bench in a quiet park, a study room in a library, a meeting room on campus, or a private dining room, allow for any possibilities that your friend might be loudly and verbally outraged. Do not let them disturb the peace of the public and remember to keep calm yourself.
Find a trustable neutral party – to both you and your friend – to mediate and keep things under control when you say what you have to say to your friend. You can ask the neutral party to sit aside and not listen to a highly private conversation. Just make sure to let their presence be felt so that if things get too heated, the neutral party can keep things under control.
Slowly phase yourself out of a toxic friend’s life in stages
If you are not big on talking to the toxic friend personally because their very physical presence drains you, you can send a condensed and filtered letter explaining why you are ending the friendship.
Alternatively, while not the most recommended method, you can also slowly phase yourself out of their lives in stages. Do not straight up ghost them. Instead, clearly decline to hang out with your toxic friend (“thank you, I don’t want to” instead of “maybe next time!”), limit your responses to them, and remain courteous and cordial in all interactions.
Eventually your toxic friend will move on to find others who will give them the energy and attention they crave, leaving you in the clear. This is only great for toxic friends with whom you do not have deep ties to, however.
Make new friends on your own that are not mutual acquaintances
Finally, breaking up with a friend is hard, especially if you all hang in the same friend circles. The loss of a toxic friend is still the loss of a friend, and we may mourn the loss differently.
Make a conscious effort to make new friends, preferably from different groups. It is better to surround yourself with people who enrich your life, rather than drain it.
May you have a smooth and civil friendship breakup. You can do it.