When it comes to common rejections, "We can still be friends" is right up there with, "It's not you, it's me " Of course, no matter how many times you hear these lines, sometimes, you're really not in a place to date. Sometimes, it really isn't them. And sometimes, you actually want to stay friends. Whether your coworker asked you out or your hookup is trying to DTR, it's natural to wonder: Is it better to suggest staying friends when you're trying to reject someone? According to the experts, it all depends on what you really want.
"So often, we try to bridge the current situation i.e. 'I’m breaking up with you' with some sort of future i.e. 'We could be friends,'" Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Host of 'The Kurre and Klapow Show,' tells Elite Daily. "There is nothing wrong with stating the present situation with no future, 'I think it is time for us not to be together.' You can be cordial, kind and compassionate, but don’t ask to be friends as a concession."
Like all relationships, friendships take work. Although staying friends with an ex or someone you've rejected may sound nice in the moment, if you don't have the emotional capacity to build and develop a new friendship or you don't actually want to be friends — you don't need to feel pressured to suggest it. No matter how long you've been seeing someone or what your relationship looks like, it is always OK to state your needs clearly. Sharing feelings like, "I've had a lot of fun, but I don't see this going any farther," or "It's been great getting to know you, but I think we should end things here," can be a kind way to call it quits, without offering something more. "The more you make false promises to them and yourself, the less clear you are about your feelings," Dr. Klapow says. "It is important that they understand in a respectful way where you truly are vs. words to make them feel better. Plain and simple — if you don’t want to be friends — don’t ask to be friends."
Of course, if after the rejection they ask to be friends, you may feel some serious pressure to say yes. Yet, according to Dr. Klapow if you're not ready or interested in friendship, it's totally OK to say so. "If they ask to be friends, be honest, 'Not now — that’s not something I’m ready to do.' If they ask about the future, be honest, 'I don’t know where I will be in the future but right now it’s time for us to not be together,'" Dr. Klapow says.
According to Shula Melamed, MA, MPH, and well-being coach, when giving someone close to you a thank u, next, it's important to say what you really mean. Though suggesting friendship may initially feel like you're softening the blow of rejection, if being friends is an empty offer, you may be causing some unwanted heartache. "[Suggesting staying friends] depends on if that is actually a possibility or something that you are willing or able to do," Melamed tells Elite Daily. "If you are offering this be sure to check yourself to see if you are really up for it."
Of course, if you and your hookup have a lot of the same friends or you've been casually seeing someone you work with — you may want to end things as amicably as possible. While instantly suggesting friendship may feel like the easiest way to do this, Melamed shares that it's possible to stay friendly with someone you've rejected, without literally offering to stay friends. "Leave the door open to be in each other's lives in another capacity at some point in the future," Melamed says. "This can help create less expectation of being friends immediately." When calling it quits with a boo, it's OK to take some time to see what feels comfortable for you moving forward.
Dr. Klapow agrees that leaving time and space for the initial rejection to develop into a friendship can be an important practice in creating an actual friendship. "'Let’s just be friends’ may be heartfelt and truthful, but it is the last thing someone who is being rejected wants to hear," Dr. Klapow says. "There needs to be time and space between being a couple and being friends." According to Dr. Klapow, whether you're declining an invitation to dinner or calling things off with a partner, it's possible to be considerate and yet, still clear about your feelings. "Be compassionate, express your care, but do not send mixed messages about not wanting to be with them," Dr. Klapow says. "It is not your job or your right to wrap tings up neatly. It is your job to be caring and compassionate and let the future dictate where the relationship goes."
As Dr. Klapow shares, you can rejection someone compassionately without extending an invitation that you're not actually up to. Though it may seem nice in the moment to end things with the promise of friendship, if you have no intention to actually be friends, it can be kinder to initially say so. Additionally, if you do want to remain friends, giving your ex some time and space after the rejection can give them agency in their healing process. While you may instantly be ready to jump back into a platonic thing, they may need a while to unpack their feelings. Immediately suggesting friendship may make them feel pressured to act in a way they aren't ready for. "Let the degree of friendship develop on its own," Dr. Klapow says. "You may be cordial to one another, you may interact rarely but in a polite way. Be honest and go slow and what develops will develop on its own."
From declining a dinner date to calling off a relationship — rejection is never easy. If you're not looking for a new friend after your rejection or breakup — you don't need to suggest it. And if you are trying to be just friends, give your rejectee some time and space to figure out their own feelings.