Friendzoning has a lot of negative connotations; people sometimes take it as a rude gesture. Learning how to friendzone someone with kindness and respect is a skill that will serve you throughout your life. You can’t help it if your natural magnetism is so strong that everybody wants a piece — but you can develop the tools to know how to friendzone a guy with minimal drama and maximum humanity.
Yes, you’re afraid of hurting someone, and that’s totally fair. But should your fear of being the wicked witch keep you from being honest and ultimately sparing your admirer from worse heartbreak and humiliation down the line? Toronto-based breakup coach and dating expert Natalia Juarez says no. “People are so afraid to hurt someone’s feelings that they just won’t say anything at all, and that is not the way to go,” Juarez says. “These conversations are just a part of dating! And it’s OK! The other person will be OK!”
Of course, when someone has romantic or sexual feelings for you that you don’t return, it’s never easy to know just what to say. And not all unrequited love is created equal: Sometimes you’ve got a friend or acquaintance who thinks you’re cute and likes to flirt with you, even if the flirting is one-sided. Other times, it’s a close friend who’s fallen hard for you — maybe even expressed a desire to be with you — but your feelings remain painfully platonic.
Believe it or not, the act of friendzoning doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out, torturous mess. London-based celebrity life coach and relationship expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams says that, when led by empathy and transparency, the deed can actually be done with Charmin Ultra–level, two-ply softness.
She maintains that the best way to handle a friendzone fiasco is to get it over with ASAP. “Rip off the Band-Aid,” Sheridan-Williams tells Elite Daily. “It’s fast and slightly painful, but the emotional impact heals very quickly. And don’t apologize or feel guilty for being honest, so long as you are kind and clear.”
No matter the situation, consider what you would want if the roles were reversed. Would you want to be strung along until everything blows up in your face? Or would you rather be let down easy from the jump? Read on for tips and tricks on how to friendzone someone the nice way.
Give Your Friend Hints
Let’s say this is a case of a casual one-way crush. Maybe it’s that coworker who’s always stopping by your desk on the way to the bathroom (the one from Accounting who’s peed like seven times before the clock strikes noon), or a friend-of-a-friend who got your number and keeps sending you flirty GIFs. It’s a person you generally like, but you don’t like like them. This is not yet a situation that calls for some big discussion about feelings. Instead, it’s perfectly acceptable to start dropping hints that will cue your lack of interest to your admirer.
Did they throw you a sweet but unsolicited compliment? Say thanks and let it go! If you compliment them right back, it may give the wrong impression.
Does this person keep asking you to hang out after work? If you genuinely want to spend time with them but don’t want to lead them on, pivot the hangout to a mid-day lunch run. Nothing says This Is Not Sexy like waiting in line for 20 minutes together at Chopt. If you do opt for the post-work hang, suggest a few other coworkers or friends who you’d like to invite, as well, to indicate this is absolutely not a date.
Keep the tone between the two of you light and easy and try to avoid conversations about dating, sex, and romance. Now’s the time to whip out all that completely unsuggestive water cooler talk that you have up your sleeve. (“How ‘bout those *insert sports team here*!” anyone?)
Always Suggest Group Hangouts
If you genuinely like spending time with this person but don’t want them to get the wrong idea, pad your get-togethers with other friends to avoid one-on-one time.
After a few five-person picnics and six-person happy hours, your admirer should be able to see that you enjoy their company, but you’re not interested in anything more than their friendship.
Don’t Ignore Them, But Don’t Give Hope
First off: You shouldn’t feel compelled to give your admirer attention just because you think they’re attracted to you. If you feel uncomfortable with their level of flirtiness, then by all means tell them that, or just ignore them. If you’re not looking to push this person away completely, however, then ignoring them is not the move.
If they’re a flirty texter, try changing the subject to something less sexually charged. Ask about their day. Ask about a work thing. Ask how they feel about the new iCarly reboot.
It’s totally fine to hit them back when they reach out to you, but keep in mind that texting them all the time is almost certainly going to give them the wrong idea. Late-night texts, early-morning texts, and drunk texts (ya know, all the texts you generally reserve for your lovers) should be avoided.
If none of the above seems to get your message across, it might be time for a talk.
Sheridan-Williams suggests meeting face-to-face with your admirer in a neutral and “non-romantic setting,” like a park. In your conversation, “you need to be honest and direct, leaving no window open for rekindling any romance,” Sheridan-Williams says.
If you’re unsure how to phrase your soft blow, refer to Juarez’s friendzoning template — a guide that she offers to clients who are dealing with this exact issue. Juarez suggests that you say some variation of the following: “It’s been great getting to know you. I’ve enjoyed our conversations, and it’s great that we have so much in common. However — and I’m not sure about you — I’m not necessarily feeling that we’re a match. That said, I’d be open to continuing a friendship if you’re up for that. If not, I totally understand.”
Juarez says this template is so effective because it’s gracious yet firm, and gives your admirer the benefit of the doubt. “It starts off with something validating, something that says ‘I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.’ Then you allow this person to save face. There’s a little bit of plausible denial with the, ‘I’m not sure about you’ bit. It lets this person say, ‘Oh, yeah, I was feeling the same thing,’ even if they weren’t. [This template] lets the person think everything through. It’s spacious, it’s open. There’s so much this is communicating while keeping it really light.”.
No matter how you slice it, friendzoning is a tender matter. When done well, the friendzoner exhibits respect and kindness and the friendzonee walks away feeling the love — just not that kind of love.
Sloan Sheridan-Williams, celebrity life coach and relationship expert
Natalia Juarez, breakup and dating coach
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