5 steps to break up with a toxic friend

If it’s time to call time on a friendship, there are some simple steps to ease the split.

When they are good, they are very, very good – but when friendships turn bad, they are horrid.

Our friends are a shoulder to cry on when times are tough, a sounding board when we’re wrestling with a decision, and they share our memories, challenges and laughs.

“We have some friends for a reason, some for a season and some for a lifetime,” says SANE Australia help centre oprations lead Carmel Pardy.

How to know a friendship has turned sour

Carol says we all need “at least one person in the world who has our back”.

“Soul buddies are the people you don’t have to put on a mask for. You can just be present with them and they understand you,” she says.

But sometimes friendships change – for the worse.

“Some behaviour is overtly toxic, or it can be subtle and it’s only later that you realise it wasn’t right,” says neuropsychologist Dr Hannah Korrel, author of How To Break Up With Friends.

“Pay attention to how you feel just before, during and after spending time with a friend.

“If you feel used up and your self-worth drops, it’s a sign that something isn’t right.”

How to break up with a friend

Don’t break up in the heat of the moment

Plan how you will make the break and stay calm and respectful.

“Don’t list all your grievances and turn the moment into a mud-slinging match,” says Hannah. “Always maintain your integrity. Let the person know you are ending the friendship and thank them for the times you’ve enjoyed together.”

Communicate your grievances

Calmly outline the behaviour that is upsetting you.

“Often we want to avoid confrontation but use a measured voice and say ‘please don’t speak to me like that’ or ‘please don’t cancel on me last minute because it wastes my morning’,” says Hannah.

“Communicating what they do that upsets you gives them an opportunity to change and may save the friendship.”

Give them a grace period

You may decide to set a time limit to see if a friend changes their behaviour.

“But you may feel so used up that the friendship is over there and then,” says Hannah.

“If you set a time limit, stick to it and if they do it again tell them you aren’t going to keep the friendship going any longer.”

Silently slip away

If you’re likely to cross paths at work or socially, totally severing ties may be difficult.

Instead, silently readjust how much time and energy you put into that person.

Don’t bend over backwards for them anymore – match their minimal effort.

Be direct

If you don’t have to bump into that “friend” then you can make a permanent break.

“Text is a good idea as you can be more in control of what you say,” says Hannah.

“Explain that you’ve grown apart – it can happen when people are busy.

“You’ve noticed this happening for a while, aren’t able to put in time and effort to maintain the friendship anymore and hope they understand.”

Written by Sarah Marinos.