• Handling Breakups

Handling a ‘Friend’ Who Doesn’t Get The Message

Published: December 20, 2010 | Last Updated: August 22, 2022 By | 11 Replies Continue Reading
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It’s awkward and uncomfortable when a friend doesn’t get the message but you need to find a way out.


Dear Irene,

While I was in graduate school I worked on a project with a classmate named Mindy. We hung out a few times and I realized that I had little in common with her, and that I would rather spend free time with my close-knit group of old friends.

However, she would say she’s so happy we are such close friends and planned her parties around my schedule, which I found overwhelming.

Since I’ve finished school and started working, Mindy has contacted me several times to hang out. I tell her I’m busy or have other plans but she doesn’t let up. After a few rejections, she texted to ask whether I was angry at her. I responded that I wasn’t but I was busy with work and life.

I thought I sent a strong signal that I don’t want to develop a friendship with her and she stopped calling me for a few weeks. But I just received a needy email from her wanting to spend time with me and I’m stressed out.

Initially, I wanted to maintain a pleasant relationship with her as I did not mind her occasional company, and we also both work in a very small field. But now she demands a very serious friendship from me, I feel uncomfortable.

Should I ignore her email, come up with another excuse, or tell her that I feel uncomfortable with her expectations of our friendship? Unfortunately, she just doesn’t get the message!



Dear Jade,

Friendships are voluntary relationships and need to be reciprocal if they are to be mutually satisfying. You are under no obligation to be anyone’s friend. It’s a choice you make and it’s clear that you want out of this relationship. It’s also great that you gave a new friendship a chance to see if it would work out.

Even though you aren’t interested in maintaining a friendship, I would respond to her email (although you can wait a few days rather than respond immediately). Since she is involved in your field of work, I think you can tell her that you want to maintain a professional relationship with her but really don’t have much time to socialize with her.

She sounds very needy and probably doesn’t have other friends. So don’t be surprised if she initiates contact again. If that occurs, firmly tell her that you can’t see her and will contact her if things change in your life. Reassure her that it has to do with you, not her.

This sounds like an uncomfortable situation and I respect your wanting to handle the situation gracefully. It’s always tough to end a friendship with someone who doesn’t get the message. Hope this helps.


Other posts about breaking up on The Friendship Blog:

Needy Friends: A Friend Indeed?

Why Breaking Up Is SO Hard To Do

Getting Out Of A Sticky Friendship

Have a friendship question or dilemma, send it to The Friendship Doctor.

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Category: How to break up

Comments (11)

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  1. Mar says:

    My 30 plus friend, when to another country to find a “Mate” he meet this women in a South American hotel, anyway this women took all of us for a ride, She acted like she could really use a friend since I arrive from another country, many years ago I agree, to take her on and show her my new adopted city, yet she used my friends ask me for help even with her bride dress, she bilk me for over $160.00 dollars that she promise to pay back very soon: when her family would “send her her bride monies” I went totally out of my way to help my friend, yet every male friend I introduce her to, after told me to “look out”. She was only a GOLD digger was unfaithful to my Friend and she has demanded child support, for a child that was born during their short marriage. that looks nothing like my friend, yet he can’t look at DNA, for answers. Now my so call friend can’t believe she “took $160.00” from me. And I feel her whole life history talks about her!!!

  2. jealousy says:

    Maybe she just need the attention that she wanted. you’ll never know that she feels alone or she has some problems which she has no one she can share but you. Give her a little time or fix your schedules even for just minutes with her so you could confront her with her problems and tell her too what you think about it. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. Who knows, she could be the one who could help you the most when you need her.

  3. Irene says:

    The spirit of give and take on this blog is wonderful! So many posters say that they are helped by both sharing their experiences and reading the experiences of others.

    Warm holiday wishes, Irene

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is the best description I have read of this issue. I have a friend that has been destroying her friendships based on these issues. Because of this perception she tortures herself and then lashes out at her friends, including myself. In her case in relates to depression so I have had to work hard to not take it personally. It also helps to read your thoughts on this. It is clearly a problem others have.

  5. Laura says:

    And I found an interesting article that I think is applicable to the universe of friendships: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-success/201011/two-things-you-need-and-one-you-dont-happy-marriage.

    The gist of the study cited in the article is: “According to the researchers, people who were more agreeable, conscientious, and emotionally stable reported being significantly happier in their marriages.”

    I think that applies to friendships as well, yes?

  6. Irene says:

    Thanks for such thoughtful comments. I’m not aware of any scientific study of needy friends, probably because it is such a broad term that it encompasses a wide array of people who are needy for different reasons. Looking at your list, I would say, All of the Above.


    I would love to have a post on interracial friendships and I think I might know someone eminently qualified to write a guest post. To be continued… 

  7. Irene says:

    You can be direct and tell a person you don’t want to have a relationship with them any more but I don’t see the need for bluntly telling them it’s because there is something wrong with them. Why tell them that they are boring or needy?

    After all, it might truly be something that’s wrong with you.

    If the person who is dumped finds that they are experiencing a pattern of relationships like this, hopefully they will try to figure out why.

    My thoughts…

    Thanks for your post.






  8. Anonymous says:

    I hate when people say their are too busy or whatever. If they are not really busy they should just say so, tell the person the truth and move on. Why give hints when you could just be honest?! I think people should just be honest! I hate when people beat around the bush and don’t tell the truth. I have been a needy friend before and I would have felt much better if the other person was simply honest as it took years for me to understand that the person really wanted nothing to do with me.

    • Beth says:

      Thank you…I agree totally.

    • Reality Check says:

      I too agree and can’t believe that The Friendship Doctor would suggest doing anything but tell the truth. She seems to do that all the time. Yes, it’s the toxic friend that is the problem, yes, say you are busy, thew will get the hint. NO NO NO!

      Don’t waste my time because you don’t like confrontation or because you are uncomfortable with your own feelings. Don’t invite someone to group activities and then wonder why they still don’t get it.

      You don’t have to tell someone they are boring or needy and walk away. Be honest about your experience with that person, maybe there is more to the story. It would take just as much time to talk to the person as it would for you to ask this blog for advice and probably spend time thinking about how you are going to handle it.

      Get over yourself!

  9. Laura says:


    I have a question: many of the needy friend types that I’ve encountered (similar to this question) all have somethings in common that I would like to have substantiated by scientific study rather than just my own observation (that is of course subject to prejudices that I might not be aware of).

    I find that needy people have this (1) a very fragile sense of self-worth coupled with a contradictory, almost pharisaic reasoning of interpersonal conflict – the other party is always to blame; (2) there is this expectation of everyone having to meet their needs because they put themselves out for others (e.g dinner parties, etc.); (3) they can’t take criticism whose aim is self-improvement and based in reality.

    I find that needy people are so paradoxically selfish looking to meet their needs that their perception of other’ feelings and indirect cues go unperceived or misconceived as judgments about their quality as a person. I think this is a real reason that they can’t let go of people who don’t want to be around them. They have great external validation needs, which is ultimately destructive.

    On another note: I have one issue that would at the same time make a great article but might be considered a third rail issue: interracial friendships. It would be great to explore that topic in a scientific manner.

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