One of my best friends and roommate of several years recently broke the news to me that he’s leaving our house at the end of the month. He’s moving to a new city, where he’s already signed a new lease, and he wants to try new things with different people.
Essentially, my friend broke up with me.
Though the writing was somewhat on the wall, there was no formal warning of his move. When it came down to telling me, the actual experience was slow, meandering, and excruciating. Sometimes your friends’ lives move in different directions than your own. People drift apart. Their motivations change. It happens. Sometimes they force you into bad situations or life choices you don’t really want, and there are plenty of totally valid reasons to remove yourself from that stuff. You get it. Quite frankly, they get it most of the time, too. There’s a way to let ‘em down, but there’s also a general order you can follow to make a clean break.
1. Be Direct And Honest With Your Friend
Nothing is worse than watching someone beat around the bush. It’s obvious and annoyingly impossible to sit through. Being clear, honest, and direct with your friend about why you can’t hang out or why you have to move or why you need to branch out is a hard issue to discuss, but it’s even worse if you can’t commit to verbalizing it yourself. You don’t have to be brutal or harsh, but clarity is key. The moment you start mumbling or fumbling around your words with mush-mouth, the more you’ll come off as a coward who is fearful of his or her own decisions. As hard as it may be, people value hearing tough news honestly and earnestly much more than being led on to save face. Cut to the chase.
2. Don’t Substantiate Or Blame
Even if you have a toxic friendship, don’t tread through the past to try and find blame or sling mud at your pal to substantiate your decision. It won’t make your friend any bit more understanding, it won’t make you feel better, and it will just all around foreshadow a trip to Negative Town. Being honest with why you’re moving on is one thing. Focusing the reasoning on the other party entirely is another. Don’t blame. Don’t harp on the bad times. Don’t make excuses. Just move on.
3. Look Your Friend In The Eye
Bad news is just that: bad. It’s hard to swallow and tough to get out there. But if you’re going to dish it out, be an adult about it. Sit up straight, speak confidently, and look your buddy in the eye when you talk to him or her. It’s an immediate sign of sincerity and respect to the person you’re speaking to–even if you feel your friend doesn’t deserve it. Your manner commands both a reverent and serious presence. Be an adult. Look your friend in the eye.
4. Be Prepared And Open For Any Reaction
This is really just a variation of “taking the high road.” Some friends will be angry. Some will want to argue or yell. Some friends will be disappointed or upset. Some might want to make a scene. Whatever the reaction, be receptive and understanding of it. You aren’t Jay Mohr in “Jerry Maguire” trying to keep Tom Cruise from flipping out. You’re a real person, and so is your friend. People, understandably, get upset. People have emotions. Don’t cut off your friend and say something like, “We’re not going to discuss this,” or, “I don’t want to argue.” Sometimes, people just need to release their feelings and vent. Take the high road and don’t argue back. If your friend wants to argue, allow it. It’ll all be over soon, anyway, and you’ll leave him or her feeling a little less betrayed.
5. Know That It’s “You Doing You”
If you’re going to be honest with your friend, be honest with yourself, too. It’s difficult for most people to accept that when they move on or cut people out of their lives, it’s purely a self-serving decision that can have negative consequences on others. But it is, and maybe it’s necessary. That doesn’t make it any less selfish. Sometimes you just have to “do you” to move up and on with your life, and that’s okay–really. Just don’t lie to yourself or to your friend, pretending like this breakup is best for both of you. Sometimes in life, we make selfish decisions because we have to. Sometimes the only person these decisions help is us. Be honest with yourself here–the humility is important.
When all else fails, listen to Billy Beane.