When nice isn’t enough: How to break up with a friend

When to realize your friendship is coming to a close, and how to break the news and move on amicably.

Breaking up with a friend can be a tough decision. Hurt feelings and taking sides can divide a large group, or leave a small clique splintered. But before you pull the trigger on this decision, find out if what you have is salvageable — or if it was ever a friendship at all.

What makes a strong friendship:

Shared sense of humor

The endorphins, serotonin and dopamine released when laughing helps you build strong bonds and feel connected to others. These chemicals make you energized, soothed and excited all at the same time — put simply they make you happy. And when you are happy with someone, you have a good foundation for friendship.

Shared values

Looking at life in similar or compatible ways will keep you and your friend on the same wavelength, even when life takes you in different directions.

Shared interests

The love of similar activities and hobbies gives you something to talk about, and perhaps experience together.

Shared experiences

Nothing bonds people like experiencing similar highs and lows in life. Having and raising children, climbing the corporate ladder, experiencing similar family dramas or working in the same industry can bring you closer together. You can relate to each other, and add value when issues arise.


Valuing your friend as a person and an addition to your life will help you hold them in high regard. When someone is important to you, you’ll want to keep them around.

Compassion and support

Everyone needs a soft place to land during turbulence. If your friend is there for you when you need them, and vice versa, you may have a good basis to stay and work it out.

Enjoying their company

Just enjoying someone’s company can make or break a friendship. If you have to try too hard, it may not be worth the effort.

My personal motto is “make me laugh, make me think, or go away.” As an introvert, the qualities I seek in true friends ensure I enjoy, and do not exhaust myself. My friends are quality, intelligent, spiritual people who give back to society, and are entertaining and fun to be with. Many of my friends are married with children. Yet we have more things in common than not, and find common ground in other areas of life.

So what if your friend doesn’t fit your criteria anymore? How do you know if your friendship is over? You’ll find working at your friendship just isn’t working. When people grow, they don’t always grow together. If you and your friend are growing apart, try to reignite the feelings that made you friends in the first place.

If you can’t remember what that was, or in retrospect these reasons seem trivial and insignificant, you can try to rebuild a new friendship on a new basis. But it just may be time to cut your losses and move on. Once the decision has been made that your friendship has moved from “on the rocks” to “dead and buried,” there are a few ways to move forward with respect for what you had.

How to make a clean break:

Be upfront

Let them know exactly how you feel and why. Take them to lunch and have a face to face chat about the things you want to bring into the next chapter of your life; and the things you need to leave behind. You don’t have to be mean, just be honest. You guys just don’t click anymore.

Be clear and concise

Keep it short and simple. Don’t make long winded analogies or tell tall tales. You two were compatible at one point, but not anymore. Period.

Don’t blame or finger-point



Make sure to refrain from making them the bad guy. Even if you don’t reallyfeel this way, if you have to blame someone, give them the old “it’s not you, it’s me” routine. And after all you are the one doing the breaking up here.

Fade away

If assertiveness and being direct are not your strong suit, you can do the classic “fade away.” I don’t recommend screening their calls, canceling dates and forgetting to send them invites to your shindigs, but they usually do get the message — eventually. It’s not nice, but it works most of the time. But, how would you feel if they did that to you?

Your path in life may be pulling you more toward your family and away from certain friends. Or you may find a change in career reveals a lack of kinship with a longtime chum. But breaking up with a friend doesn’t have to be as dramatic or heart wrenching as breaking up with your significant other. If you have decided there’s no saving what was, be as upfront and concise as you can. Try to leave it on a positive note if you can; even offer them a departing handshake or hug.

Georgia Lee

Georgia D. Lee seeks to empower, inspire, enrich and educate anyone with an open mind, heart and spirit through her most treasured medium - black and white!