1. People & Relationships

Walking Away From a Friend With Respect

Ending a Friendship Respectfully

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One friend breaking up with another.

One friend breaking up with another.

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When friendship comes to an end, the people involved often feel bitter and sad at what's happened. It's natural to mourn the loss of a friendship, and in fact grieving the finality of the relationship helps you move on in a healthy way to form friendships with new people. However, if you let anger and hurt rule your actions, you'll undoubtedly cause harm to your reputation and even the other friendships in your life.

Here's how to walk away from a friendship with respect.

Showing Respect for Someone Who Has Hurt You

Friendships end most of the time because one or both friends did something to hurt or anger the other person. When the friends can't work though the argument, they get mad and move on from the friendship.

Or, perhaps one friend has behaved poorly, and as a result the other person moves on because they don't want the negativity in their life.

In either of these situations, it's difficult to end a friendship without name calling or nastiness. You're hurt or mad and therefore want to let people know exactly what your friend did to you. Perhaps you want to tell other friends about how this person behaved.

Before you do that, however, take a step back and get a handle on your anger and hurt. While it's natural to want to seek comfort from other friends when someone has hurt you, if you behave in a disrespectful way, people will pay more attention to that than how your friend acted. In other words, even though the other person is in the wrong, when you try to "match" their anger, negativity, or bad behavior, it reflects poorly on you, even when you did nothing wrong.

What Does It Mean to Show Respect?

Ending a relationship (from a friendship to a marriage) respectfully means that you:

  • Break up in the kindest way possible.
  • Don't gossip about or badmouth them to other people.
  • Don't say nasty things to hurt them.
  • Don't try to get other people to dislike them just because you've had a problem with them. Even when friends ask you "what happened?" you can tell them in a respectful way. Focus on the behavior that your friend displayed on not on the person's character.

Examples of Showing Respect Versus Disrespecting a Friend

A mutual friend says: "I just heard you and Sally aren't talking anymore? What happened?"

Respectful:

"I know. I am so sad about the end of our friendship. Sally made plans with me to go shopping, and then didn't show up to the store. I was there waiting for her for over an hour before I finally left. This was the third time it happened, and I just feel that maybe we're looking for different things in a friendship."

Disrespectful:

"Yeah, she's really something. I was waiting over an hour for her at the store after she blew me off yet again. She's done this a million times, and I've just had it. Who needs people who treat you this way? I'm over it."

When you break up with your friend:

Respectful:

"I was so hurt the other night when you invited everyone but me to your party. This is the second time you've excluded me, and I don't understand why. When I've asked you, you said, "It was nothing personal." I don't know what that means, but I have a different idea of what friendship should be. I know you're a good person but just think that we aren't meant to be friends."

Disrespectful:

"You're so rude and when you didn't invite me - again - to your party you showed what a witch you really are. I don't need this! Don't call me again!"

When you see an ex-friend out somewhere and notice she is talking to a mutual acquaintance.

Respectful:

You say hello to your ex-friend and make small talk. You know you aren't going to be friends again, but you show her that there are no hard feelings.

Disrespectful:

You avoid your ex-friend and then run to the acquaintance she was talking to and tell her everything your ex-friend did to you.

Practicing Respect Can Change Your Friendships

Respect, like forgiveness, doesn't mean that what the person did to you was right. It means that your ex-friend doesn't have the power to make you feel bad anymore, and as a result you are not going to behave in a negative way to "get back" at them.

Instead, you focus on the positive in your life, which is good friends that support you. You don't focus on the negative and hurtful parts of a past friendship.

Practicing respect can be a challenge. A good visual is to see your life with a set number of slots in which you can feel something. When you take up some of those slots with anger and hurt, you aren't able to experience happiness and joy with new friends. This visual will help you put breakups in perspective, and allow you to more freely exhibit respect, even when you aren't friends with someone any longer.

What's more, showing your current friends that you can break up with a pal respectfully helps them see you in a positive light. When you have an argument with someone, they can feel safe that you will either work it out with them or move on respectfully.

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