• Handling Breakups

What Do You Do When An Ex-Friend Won’t Say Hello

Published: March 17, 2014 | Last Updated: October 28, 2021 By | 18 Replies Continue Reading
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When an ex-friend won’t say hello out of courtesy, a woman wonders whether she should do the same.


Hi Irene,

I had two friends who weren’t being considerate. I wrote a long letter to one of them telling her how she had been rude to me. The second friend was also acting rudely.

Instead of the first one apologizing, she decided to never speak to me again. (I found this out through another mutual friend). The first friend told the second friend about the letter I had written and she stopped speaking to me, too.

It’s been almost three years since this happened. I am much happier without having to interact with either one of them, as they are both negative people that constantly gossip about others.

The only problem is that the second ex-friend belongs to my health club. I run into her constantly. We are literally sometimes two feet away from each other and make eye contact. She turns her head away and won’t even say hello.

Yesterday we came face to face, accidentally. Once again she turned her head. I said hello. She didn’t respond. I said her name again louder.

My thought is I should just stop saying hello even if we are standing next to each other. Her past and present behavior solidify that not being her friend is healthy.

It’s just hard not to say hello to someone when you are having eye contact with them. What is your opinion?

Signed, Kelli


Hi Kelli,

It’s always uncomfortable and awkward when friendships break up.

Yet, even when a friendship is over, it is common courtesy to acknowledge someone you see fairly regularly by saying hello. You did the right thing at your health club.

If you have said hello to your ex-friend several times and she doesn’t respond, give up on her and don’t give it any further thought.

It sounds like you are clear and unambivalent about your decision. Some friendships simply aren’t worth keeping, even on a very superficial level.

Best, Irene

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Comments (18)

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  1. Dell says:

    Us humans are funny people you could say the wrong thing and Bang friendship over what makes it worst know explanation on what you may of said to upset them I say keep it moving a real friend will say you upset them just be open with there feelings funny people are strange complex us humans I said hello to ex friend walk right past me I show her I’m mature to be civil and nice as pos polite,kill them with kindness Old Jamaican saying.

  2. mariel says:

    I can’t relate from you guys…since I don’t have a friend. =)

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I grapple with this situation on a weekly basis myself. (After being dropped by two very good friends of four years that blatantly began to exclude me from their lives.) It’s been almost 2 years since this occured and since our children attend the same public school I do see them and I do not acknowledge them in anyway. For me I don’t feel strong enough to put on a happy face and give them a fake smile. I feel like they will be able to see right through to my hurt feelings or take pleasure in ignoring me. I don’t hide or look small by any means but I try to show that I could care less that they exist and carry on with my true friends. I think about this way too much at times, but for me I think this is the best I can do right now. I do believe that things happen for a reason. 🙂

  4. Trish says:

    Kelli, I would treat them as strangers. I have been in the same situation since Jan. 2 this year. I have 2 close friends. One of them I met 12 years ago when I got a new job. The second one and I met 16 years ago and I got her a job in the same company after she got laid off from her previous job. Both of them then work side by side each other while I’m in different department.

    It used to be they and I were on different floors, so I didn’t sense our friendship had been drifting apart. Only when we moved to the same floor, sitting just 20 feet away from them, then I sensed the changes. At first I thought I might be over sensitive, so I kept silent and started to observe the trends. Every thing became clear during last Thanksgiving and Christmas. I sent text messages to both of them, confronting them and also letting them know that I valued our friendship so I decided to speak it out. If I did not treasure our friendship, I would just simply shut my mouth up and slowly walk away from their lives. If they thought I was misunderstanding, then proved to me. I would be more than happy to hear that I was wrong, because I valued our friendship. Surprisingly, the second friend who I considered myself that she was my best-friend, closer to me than the first one, decided to turn away from me without any explanation. The second one took it easy. We still cross our paths every day, both at work or at the gym. I decided to down grade the friendship to become co-workers / acquaintants. When we accidently cross our paths, I either smile or say hi to them, as I always do to my co-workers. The first ex-friend returns my greetings. The second one decides to treat me according to her mood. Sometimes she smiled back, but she never said hi when I said hi to her. Almost 3 months have passed and I gave her at least 3 chances to say hi back to me but received none. I give up now. I will still treat the first ex-friend as co-worker, but the second one will completely be stranger to me. The culture that I was raised has an idiom that states: you keep and treasure the one who stays with you, not the one who wants to leave you. In my case, I’ve done what needed to be done and said what needed to be said. I have no regrets now when letting this friendship go forever. If the old one doesn’t leave, how can the new one come?

    Best wishes,

  5. Jane says:

    I’ve had a few situations where I refuse to say hello to former friends. One just stopped talking to me for 10 months, said she was “busy” , even for occasional check ins by email as we had a pattern of doing, and I saw her at a neighborhood concert alone, where I also was alone.That was months 6 or so. She didn’t see me and I didnt reveal myself. She said hello at the gym 10 months later in a friendly way. I emailed her when I got home not in these exact words, but basically saying I’m not OK with being treated the way I was, dishonestly firstly, and to not say hello to me anymore. As someone posted above, for me, its an integrity thing and superficial to say hello when there’s a big lie, missing apology and lack of respect in the air. Another , who I made effort both non graciously then thoughtfully to clean things up with decides she will only talk to me in one place as if doing me a favor, and totally mischaracterized me. At first in this place I was going to tell her I will only say hello 865.111 feet from the grocery but just decided to stop returning Hello’s. It hurts to behave that way but I feel my self respect remains intact when I do.

    • Jane says:

      Oh. I also wanted to qualify that Kelli did not deserve the brush off from her two friends, only that sometimes not saying hello is not lack of courtesy as in my situations.

    • Norm says:

      Sorry, but your attitude sounded like excess pride and puts into question your own level of friendship with him/her. If the friend took the step to say hi and was friendly with you after 10 months, why did you behave the way you did? The friend made an effort. Maybe the friend was going through something for a while and was not ready to share or whatever. But it sounds like you did not give him/her much of a chance. True friends give one another chances.

      • Jane says:

        There is a new comment on the post “An ex-friend who won’t say hello”.

        Author: Norm
        Sorry, but your attitude sounded like excess pride and puts into question your own level of friendship with him/her. If the friend took the step to say hi and was friendly with you after 10 months, why did you behave the way you did? The friend made an effort. Maybe the friend was going through something for a while and was not ready to share or whatever. But it sounds like you did not give him/her much of a chance. True friends give one another chances.

        Hi! Because the person lived in my neighborhood and, as I said, we had a pattern of at least checking in once a month or so by email if one of another of us was busy. We shared very personal life experiences with one another, and spent time together.  In fact, I was very understanding for about 6 months, let it go in other words. It doesnt take a whole lot to check in.  It also doesnt take much to tell a friend your going through personal problems that she didnt want to disclose, and are laying low, especially since she had previously shared extremely personal things with me. It was just  “too busy”, but then to see at the same concert in neighborhood that I was at alone.  I emailed her after she said hello at the gym and told her how I felt and received quite an invalidating response. I am always open to sincere communication and apologies and felt disrespected. If I dont exist in this persons life without adequate explanation based on the nature of the bond, and the absence of even quick email or phone hellos for 10 months, then dont pretend I exist at the gym. Being understanding for one, two, three, four months, then about 6 or 7 by the time alone at the concert, I decided by month 10 with a hi at the gym, and the follow up response, that this person was not my friend. I did invite her, in a nice way in the email, to be real with me and we could have resumed the friendship. She chose not to make an effort to clear anything up, nor consider how I might have interpreted her behavior. To me, the pride problem is on her end. Also seems you wanted to read between the lines what you wanted to, butthats fine.

  6. caraK says:

    Kelli, I support your idea of writing a letter. It showed you were very serious about the relationship. The only thing I would assume about your letter is, you wanted to say to your friend that you were important in the relationship, too, and you wanted her to treat you accordingly. I’m beginning to have the feeling that anyone who would EVER, EVEN ONCE, treat me as less than equal to themselves is not someone I want as a friend, because to me friends are equals, who both deserve courtesy, love, consideration, and pretty much equal attention and time within the relationship. I am recovering from a very critical medical situation, which has shown me who my true friends and my true family are. It is sad, heartbreaking. Also, I had the one business experience which I wrote about in the comments below, although in that case I believe the situation wasn’t about my medical status as much as she was looking to get something from me which she at some point realized she would not get; a sort of scam or something like that on her part. Anyway I really do support you in what you’ve attempted, Kelli, and like you I am simply going to have to get used to the fact that some people are so very odd that they will not even say a mere friendly greeting.

  7. caraK says:

    This happened to me in a business situation. I met a woman in the same line of business at a conference that occurs 4 times a year. She really initiated the “friendship”, and said she’d love to exchange emails with me. I was interested in keeping in touch and I happily began to exchange emails with her. Her brief emails, though, had little to do with the business and focused mostly on what she was doing on any given day. I decided to give it a chance to develop. A few months afterward I was suddenly facing a critical medical situation, and I briefly mentioned it to her in an email, thpugh I gave no details. She stopped emailing me with no explanation at this point. The next three times I saw her at the business conference, she literally went out of her way to avoid me and refused to acknowledge my simple greeting. My question continues to be related to the business aspect of this, meaning, I expect her to be attending future conferences, as will I. I have no idea what her problem is, but it is a peculiar situation. The last time I saw her, I totally avoided her– she sets up information tables for her company, so this means I literally have to skip her table and maybe those other businesses’ tables near hers. I’ve also been concerned that she may gossip about me to others, although I have no idea what she could or would say except for fabrications, and I realize I have really no control over that. Our friendship lasted less than a year, and really never got beyond acquaintance-ship. Our emails were brief, mine focusing on the business, hers focusing on herself. I guess I should just continue to avoid her, given her behavior, and the advice given above. My husband, who always attends the same business conferences, in a man-like way believes she was fishing for something, but once she started exchanging emails with me, she realized that I wasn’t going to take the bait, whatever that might have been. I suppose that’s possible, but I hate to think of that existing within our business area. I have been working for over 20 years, and never experienced this sort of situation. I yet can hardly believe that the first time I saw her at a business conference after she had suddenly stopped emailing me, and I walked up to her table and said “hi I haven’t heard from you in a while. I’m glad you’re here,” she literally turned and ran away. I was so taken aback. I do not want to give up my interest in being in touch with other women in my line of business, but even this small experience has taught me to be very leery.

    • kate says:

      To CaraK. Sorry that your friendship with this business associate hit a brick wall once you shared some personal medical information with her. Some people seem to be afraid of other’s health problems/ any sort of difficulty and paralysed with fear/ embarrassment that they may be required to listen to the details or be expected to be supportive when they are effectively helpless to resolve the situation for you. A long time ago, my father was terminally ill, and I found that, simply by walking into a room at work, I could clear it, as colleagues fled for the door with their eyes fixed firmly on the ground so as to avoid any kind of contact. (I might add that I never showed any emotion about the situation or brought it up, unprompted). OK, this was a work situation, so there were obviously potential issues about professional boundaries, but I found the lack of humanity shown isolating and felt thoroughly awkward at a very difficult time of my life. Months later, once my father had died, a colleague approached, apologised for their awkwardness and explained that they simply had not known what to say, as anything they could think of seemed inadequate in the circumstances. This is a very round about way of saying maybe your “friend” simply felt panicked, inadequate and therefore unable to deal with you in any way and this operated her “flight” instinct, which is no excuse, but might be a reason. If all her emails to you were all about her, perhaps she is the kind of person who is simply unable to deal with a friendship that does not centre around her and her needs/ issues, in which case, well rid.

  8. Sharon B says:

    Thanks Irene for your response. I feel lucky to hear from you.\

    I now feel it’s alright to also look the other way.

    Tam, although you were trying to analyze everything that has already been done on my side. I have grown from this experience and value my true friends.

    My only regret that I am also over is that I hung in with those ladies as long as I did and not just leave the friendship quietly. They did me a big favor.


    • Sharon says:


      A new problem has arisen in reference to my break-up. My one friend who I have kept from the original circle continues to have a friendship with the person that won’t look at me. That’s her business, however, we had lunch last week and she talked about how she is still friends with that person. How great she thinks she is, etc. I should have told her to stop, but didn’t. I feel like telling her how rude that was but figure why bother. I’m guessing the next time we’re together and she mentions that person I’ll ask her to stop.
      It is bothering me that she even brought that person up knowing the situation.
      I feel like not having her for a friend either.

  9. Tam says:

    Irene, I’d like to debate a couple points about this situation.
    1. Kelli made a significant gaffe in writing to her “rude” friend about her laments. Writing enables us to take license while we are likely to be more reserved/prudent if we deal with a problem face to face… for we are cueing to the person’s reaction. By her own admission, Kelli wrote a long letter to the “rude” friend… bound to be an overbearing letter of condemnation. Ugh!
    2. Kelli got the fall out for that letter… both by the “rude” friend and the other friend. They wanted nothing more to do with her and have registered that. End of story because they are allowed to do that.
    3. When Kelli got no response to her second hello, the message was that this second ex-friend did not want to associate with her. It had integrity ie, it was true to it’s purpose. To say “Hello” as a courtesy seems right on the surface but, in actuality, would be at cross purposes.
    I totally agree with you that a friendship that breaks up in such a fashion leaves awkward situations to occur. The name of the game is to not let them break up in such a manner if one is not prepared for that awkwardness. Kelli was short sighted on a couple fronts: Didn’t let herself see how the letter would occur to the “rude”, didn’t recognize the connection the two friends had (which would make it likely that the second gal would know about the letter), didn’t think about how the letter would occur to the second gal and therefore, didn’t think through what the possible encounters might be like at the health club. She may have not even thought about the fact that she ran into the second friend regularly at the health club.
    There are some valuable lessons for Kelli to learn for this fallout… Under the guise of “Be ready to manage what you bring on” or learn the ways to manage better a gripe you have with another.

    • Irene says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Tam. Sometimes writing a letter gives someone a chance to step back and compose their thoughts in a way that might be less inflammatory than a spontaneous discussion. I guess it depends on the nature of the letter that was written.

      Best, Irene

    • Jane says:

      Even if Kellie’s letter was inflammatory, which doesn’t seem to be the case, her friends inconsiderate behavior that led up to it wasn’t a deal breaker for Kelli. It doesnt seem fair that her expressing a gripe is an unforgivable sin to be shunned the way she was.

  10. Sanda says:

    Great advice from Irene. Who needs friends who insist on playing small? I wouldn’t waste another minute of precious time worrying about these two childish ex-friends!

    I have a distant neighbor, in her fifties, who stops speaking to me when she’s in a bad mood. I barely know this woman, outside my book club, but sometimes when I run into her in a local restaurant and say “hello” to her, she gives me the cold shoulder. Other times, she’s friendly. I didn’t put up with this sort of thing in junior high, and I refuse to start now!

    While some friends may have emotional problems that require our patience and understanding, once in a while, I don’t think anyone should put up with rude or immature behavior on a regular basis.

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