• Handling Breakups

The etiquette of leaving a clique

Published: December 6, 2013 | Last Updated: December 6, 2013 By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
A woman bows out of a toxic clique and wonders what to say about her exit.


Dear Irene,

In the summer, I politely left a clique because it wasn’t a good fit and because I felt that for the most part, most of the girls just wanted to be friends with the leader of the clique, not with me.

I was recently contacted by one of the girls in the clique, a girl who seemed more caring than the others, asking to meet up for coffee. How do I broach the subject of why I left the clique? It’s difficult to talk about “failed”/unsuccessful/toxic friendships with other people.

Signed, Leigh


Hi Leigh,

You certainly did the right thing in leaving the clique–since it was dominated by one person with whom you didn’t see eye-to-eye. Like individuals, every group has a “personality” and it would have been paddling upstream to try to change the dynamics of the group.

It’s nice that this other woman reached out to you. It sounds like she values your friendship apart from the clique. Unless she raises the issue, you don’t have to explain why you left. If she asks, you can be non-specific and just say that the chemistry of the group didn’t feel right to you and as you wrote to me, “It wasn’t a good fit.”

Unless you are very close to someone, it is usually prudent not to explain why a friendship/relationship with someone else failed. The new friend may worry that you will talk about her in a similar way.

Hopefully, you will be able to find other positive things you have in common with this woman to talk about and share beyond the clique.

Hope this helps!

My best, Irene

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  1. Patricia says:

    If you have time to meet up with this person and would like to do so – do it. Even if it’s just to see what her intentions are – you may be surprised to see that she wants to just meet up for a coffee. Do not speak of why you left the group, or badly about anybody in that group. If you are asked why you do not go out with them – “I enjoy one on one, or small group outings, it’s much more intimate”. If you get the feeling that she is digging for information, cut the date of early and you will know for sure that she was a mole for the group, no biggy!

  2. Liz says:

    I agree with all the posters here – but would go further and give no explanation other than something such as – I’ve just been so busy and have had to cut back on get togethers. The less said the better, but I’d give her a chance to have her say, maybe she is also in the same boat as you and you just don’t know about her situation. If you have low expectations, then you won’t be tricked or disappointed too much – but who knows. She might be lonely and wants out of the clique also, or is just one of the jerks that wants gossip to take back to the leader for brownie points.

  3. Islandgirl says:

    Hi Leigh,

    My advice is to ask yourself if you want to be friends with just the woman who invited you to coffee. If not, then I’d put her off and not go out with her. I agree with Lauren who said that this lady is probably doing the bidding of the leader, aka as her “flying monkey”. lol 😉 Google that term plus “narcissism” and you will go down a rabbit hole you won’t believe.

    You’re definitely in an awkward situation, but you gotta do what’s right for you. It’s all about boundaries. I’m just learning how to navigate this type of situation in my life as well. I’m glad we have the web for support. Good luck to you and let us know how it all pans out.

  4. Lauren says:

    Sorry that this happened to you. Cliques are difficult places to be part of, especially when you are the one who is “cold shouldered”, sometimes in a subtle way or sometimes in a more obvious way. It looks like those others, for whatever reason, like being part of this group.

    The question I would ask myself, is why is this girl (who is a part of the group/clique) approaching you now, and asking to meet with you “for coffee”. It may well be, based on my experience with such cliques, that the leader has asked her to contact you, find out what you have to say, then get back to the rest of the girls with what you said.

    I may be wrong, but I don’t think she is going to be your new BFF, so I would advise you to be very cautious in what you say about your departure from this clique, if you do meet her for coffee. I seems strange that she never contacted you before this to meet for coffee.

    All the best to you, Lauren

    • Anonymous says:

      Lauren, great advice. I left a group of friends due to many reasons. One of the competitive girls from the group decided to be sneaky by asking a mutual friend updates about my life. She was supposedly worried about me but there is absolutely no reason for her to be. It was a lame excuse to be nosy and competitive by comparing my life to hers. Mind you, I left the group and I avoided her calls and texts.

      I found out that the mutual friend who I’m in good terms with had shared with her what I’ve said. I should’ve trusted my instincts. I don’t know who’s worse. The person who asked to contact me and find out what I have to say or the person who did the asking and went back to share.

  5. Amy says:

    I agree with Irene. Always take the high road. It’s best not to burn any bridges by speaking negatively about the group or a particular member. I’d avoid using terms like clique or toxic and stick with the more generic “the group wasn’t a good fit for me.”

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