• Keeping Friends

What NOT to say to a friend

Published: July 8, 2013 | Last Updated: July 8, 2013 By | 23 Replies Continue Reading
Saying the wrong thing can end close friendships, even very good ones.

More often than not, the notion of being “best friends forever” is a romanticized myth perpetuated by pop culture. In fact, research suggests that we keep only one out of 12 close friends we make over the course of a lifetime. To improve the odds, it’s important to learn what to say—-and what NOT to say to a friend. Sounds simple but it really isn’t.

Sharing intimacies is integral to bonding and making new friends because friendships deepen when we break down the walls between us, slowly revealing our real selves to our f riends—including our hopes, secrets and our concerns. Yet, friends need to be cautious NOT to reveal too much too soon, to make sure that sharing is reciprocal with give and take, and not to say the wrong things.

What lines need to be drawn in terms of being totally forthright and honest with a friend? They’re murky at best. But certain topics or types of comments are risky because they are so emotionally loaded that they might compromise even a very close friendship.

While a friend may appreciate your telling her that she has spinach between her teeth or that she better pop a breath mint, there are many things she may prefer NOT to hear. In fact, below are a baker’s dozen of things NOT to say to a friend, things better left unsaid because saying them may jeopardize a friendship. Where did I find them? I asked my friends.

1 – Don’t tell your friend when you don’t like their significant other simply because he wouldn’t be your choice.(Of course, all bets are off on this one if  the significant other is abusive).

2 – Don’t tell your friend details about your sex life. Think about whether you would want your partner doing the same.

3 – Don’t tell your friend you don’t agree with the way she is raising her children—-for example, that you think she is spoiling them or sending them to a lousy school. Or if the child is older, that he/she is a bad person.

4 – Don’t tell your friend she’s noticeably gained weight, she really shouldn’t be eating chocolate brownies or ice cream, or that she doesn’t look good in the new outfit she’s wearing.

5 – Don’t tell your friend she’s looking old.

6 – Don’t tell your friend that her husband has hit on you (as long as you’re not a guilty party).

7 – Don’t tell your friend that her estranged husband is a jerk and she’s better off without him. They may get back together again.

8 – Don’t criticize your friend’s habits unless it is something that really is endangering her health and safety, especially if it’s something that may just be a phase.

9 – Don’t tell your friend her job seems boring and unfulfilling to you.

10 -Don’t tell your friend how much money you make.

11 -Don’t tell your friend anything about another friend that you wouldn’t want the third person to find out.

12 -Don’t tell your friend negative things others are saying about her (unless it’s something she can do something about).

13 -Don’t give your friend unsolicited advice you wouldn’t want to hear from someone else.

Of course, sometimes we can’t predict when a comment or advice will unintentionally set a friend off. One woman told me that a long-standing friendship ended when her friend made a negative comment about her sofa (one which she really liked). It was the final straw in a relationship gone sour that was characterized by critical, undercutting comments.

Do you think close friends should be able to tell each other ANYTHING?

Has a friend ever said something to you that got you really upset and miffed? 


Comments (23)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Confused. says:

    Ok, so I’m sitting in bed, and I did not go to work for I am sick. I get a text when my co-worker friends come home. 2 out of the three make a separate group chat, saying that they have something important to tell me, and not wanting the third friend to see. I ask frantically, “What is it?!”, and they have not responded yet. My stomach is nauseous thinking about it and I feel scared of what I’m going to find out. Can you help?

  2. Maria says:

    Have a friend who never comes to my home because she’s afraid to drive too far. My other friend is afraid to leave his sick mother with another caretaker. I’m stuck driving everywhere. I hate it. My mother and brother are either fearful or don’t have a license. Why is everyone so annoying? Need to find friends nearby.

  3. Lauren says:

    I realize that this in an older post, but I just stumbled on it! I liked Irene’s post on what not to Say to a Friend. All of the other posts are very interesting too.

    I had a friend who became more aggressive, and made more mean-spirited comments as time went on. My older brother got cancer in his thirties and he died of it. I also have the mutated gene that causes several cancers, and I, to my shock and horror, got cancer too. Long story short, I caught in in Stage One, and I am free of it now, so far, Thank God.

    My friend merrily told me that SHE never gets sick as SHE always thinks positively! I tried to explain about the genetic element, but she said no, Shirley MacLean says disease is dis-EASE, and thinking positively prevents it. Then another time, a little later , while having lunch with another friend, she talked me into telling the other friend about an argument I had with a family member, and then when I finished talking, she brightly announced, in a loud, cold mean voice, “You are weak!! That’s why you let her speak to you like that!” I defended myself right there, but she sat there looking straight ahead with a mean expression on her face. I wished that I had not confided in her.

    She said and did other mean spirited things to me and about other friends also, and yet she always expected me to be her sounding board/ therapist. The list goes on, but I finally had enough of her. I probably stayed friends with her longer than I should, but we were good friends at one point.

    • Maria says:

      Good for you. I recently dumped a mean spirited friend who was very jealous of everyone. No matter how good I was to her, her misery turned her into a bitch. Better off without her!

  4. S says:

    Ummmm Don’t tell your friend that her husband hit on you????!! You are not a true friend if you don’t tell your friend that…

    • Denise says:

      Totally agree!

      • Donna says:

        If you tell the friend about her husband hitting on you, most likely she will blame you, not the husband. I’d just distance myself from situations where I had to be around the husband, and carry on as if it never happened (after making it VERY clear to him I’m not interested).

  5. kim says:

    Do you think it is ok to tell a good friend that she has changed and/or that you feel you can’t trust her anymore?
    I feel like this about a very close friend of mine…
    I have seen a side to her which i don’t like and its made me pull back..
    I feel like i don[t want to introduce her to my husband or let her stay at my home as my intuition tells me really strongly its not a good idea..
    I have a feeling we are heading for a frank discussion (tho not heard from her for a month or so), so if she asks why i’ve been a bit distant, i have no idea what to say..
    I get the feeling telling a friend of 10 years that you no longer feel you can trust her, is not a good thing to say…!
    I am still pondering on this!

    • Mimi says:

      I have told someone she has changed alit in the past. Because she was no longer the compassionate person I knew for so long. Ever since she met her husband she would talk about how dumb people were. And her superority complex just was way too much at times. She wasn’t always do critical of people. It’s sad. I also had the impression that when I was no longer useful to her, and she found a new friend, I wasn’t that important to her. I think I would say something, in a nice honest way. But be prepared to be let go. Maybe your be better off?

    • Denise says:


      You say you’ve seen a side to your friend you don’t like. Can you tell her, for example, “Remember last week when _____________ happened and you (did this or said this)? Can we talk about that? I’d like to get your side of it.” or “I’m not sure what to think of that. Can we talk about it?”

      If you don’t want to introduce her to you husband, let her stay at your home, don’t trust her and your intuition gives you negative vibes, I’d be cautious. Maybe you could interact in ways that don’t require trust necessarily. People may have genuine reasons for not sharing or talking sometimes, but the feeling of mistrust is significant. How can she be a friend if you can’t trust her?

  6. Mimi says:

    Rachel, thank you;) that was a really nice post! I appreciate that! Sounds as though you violins some interesting people to hang with.
    I have my hubby and child in life… My two little dogs. I thankful for that..trust me in that!
    I grew up very alone and really had no one to defend me or love me. Found my hubby at 29 and moved far away from all the noise.
    I think people sense when your wounded. They pick up on it and cut right in cause some people are that way. I like to think there are some who aren’t.
    At age 48, after what I have been through ally life. I just want peace and quiet.
    I have no more energy anymore. Sadly someone could come along but as I feel right now. I have nothing left to give.
    I spent all my youth pretty much alone too. I use to stutter and people had fun with that. Things I couldn’t help. I couldn’t understand why people never liked me. I watched others get. Invited to bday parties, graduations, then weddings etc. and I was just never thought of.
    I don’t want to feel sorry for my flight in life and never see the goid either. I love animals and nature. I have learned to be my own best friend. Finally. It took awhile!
    I have decided to just be content. I seem so many get bitter Nd angry who had my upbringing experiences and I don’t want to go that direction either.
    But I have come to the conclusion, people aren’t safe.
    Thank you again… I am happy for you, glad it worked out for you!

    • Ebony Addison says:

      Mimi, I just wanna reach out and give you a hug. You are worthy of love. God loves you. You’re precious to him no matter what anyone else has said or done.

  7. Rachel says:

    My heart breaks listenting to your story. You simply had a bad batch of friends. It sounds like you are a very good friend, and simply had some bad judgement, and didn’t see that your friends did not recipcrocate the loyalty that you showed them. It’s natural that you don’t want to trust again. After I was burnt by my nasty group of woman frieds, I didn’t trust woman for years. I’m lucky that my husband isn’t jealous and one of the most healing friendships I had was when my husband and I made friends with an Australian who lived in the same Apartment with us for a time and has dual citizenship. For about six months Matty and Mark and I hung out several times a week, we sort of adopted him because he was home sick. Mark taught him how to cook. He always made me laugh because he had a bawdy sense of humor and we would watch silly tv shows together like Jersey Shore. He would call me Ruthie Baby and Mark Marky Baby and we call him Mattty Moo. He would say: I really don’ understand why your group of friends turned on you like that.
    He made me feel like I was worth being friends with again.
    Now I have two close women frineds. One is the woman I mentioned who tells it like it is, no skirting around the truth, she hates gossip and so do I, we have each other’s back. The other is extremely loyal, and we’ve had arguments when we disagree. These make us both uncomfortable, but they’ve brought us closer. When life punches me in the stomach, I call her. We call each other Ma Belle Soeur, which means my beautiful sister, in French, because when I wasn’t getting along with my own family last year, she said something I will never forget. She said that there is the family you are given and the family you choose, and that she would be glad to call me her sister.
    Hang in there MImi, and please do not give up on friendship, life and love. I’m proof that it’s possible to go through hell and come through with a better life. I wouldn’t give up my current friends for my old friends. No way. Never.G
    Good Luck. Remember, sometimes, our old self has to die sometimes so a new, better self can be reborn.

    • Mimi says:

      Rachel, thank you do much for sharing. I sorry to hear that happened to you, seems to happen alot in life. I am happy you found some interesting new friends. 😉

  8. Mimi says:

    Seems most my friends were fair weathered birds. I was displaced with no heat in the dead of winter due to major century snowstorm. My dog was shivering and I feared he would die. I had no money for a hotel and even if I could get there, they were all booked up anyhow.
    Two of my fair weathered friends, who both had heat, one went to the mall and drive around examining the mess and then went out to eat while another had a party to attend and said she needed her alcohol. Lucky me.
    One called the other and bitched her out for helping me and the other blamed her. In the end, we were without lights, heat and limited food.
    My little dog pulled through, seems the comforter dud help after all. My car was under snow and ice so no hear there either.
    These two so called friends would talk about there plans with their friends and I was there lunch date fir a hour in ca week, even after years if being there fir them and me being a real friend.
    Today, I have no friends by choice. I don’t trust people. My other friend left just stop talking to me and won’t say why. I asked and begged to tell me why she won’t talk to me…. She refuses to respond.
    Funny thing is that her daughter was doing that exact thing to her and left her out in cold, and she apparently did the same thing to me she disposed in her daughter.
    I been there 24 /7 for people. I am done. The nicer you are, the more you do, the more people hurt you. I seldom ever asked for Nything, excite one time in a few years, and I get what?
    No more. I rather be alone.

    • Carolaqdeana says:

      I quite agree with you. I been there 24 /7 for people as well. I guess it is only us who really wants a friendship and they only take us for granted. Only remember us when they are bored and isolated. Therefore we felt hurt easily when we were left alone because we actually feels friendship in the relationship and they don’t.

      • Mimi says:

        I agree. There are people who do put some of their lesser important friends in reserve. They call you when they want someone to have lunch with or to walk their dog with. After years of knowing someone, being there for them, you think you would be included more. I had two friends years ago who would have lunch with me. And they would brag about the vacations and outings, dinners at their homes, with all their other friends.
        And with one friend in particular, I think she did that on purpose. She was a heavy drinker and I sensed that she actually hated me on a level for working on my childhood abuse issues.
        I suspected she made her bed with predators, sticking around for money and etc.
        looking back… she was a real witch.

  9. Denise says:

    I would definitely tell a friend her husband is hitting on me! First he thinks about hitting on me, then does it. This is the early stages of cheating and she needs to know.

    If she doesn’t take it seriously, that’s her choice, but now she knows. If things escalate, my warning flag was up from the beginning.

    Now I’m no longer comfortable around him and that could affect plans she and I make. What good is there keeping this a secret?! I want to know if my husband is hitting on someone.

    • Mimi says:

      I think your friend would have the right to know. But do keep in mind she could turn on you and accuse you of what she rather not accept about her own husband.
      But yes she should know because Aids is real and so are other diseases. She needs to know to protect herself.

    • Destiny says:

      Tell your friend straight forward, she has every absolute right to know especially if it is about her. hope this helped… im going through the same problem… 🙁

    • Destiny says:

      Tell your friend straight forward, she has every absolute right to know especially if it is about her. hope this helped… im going through the same problem… 🙁 you are important to this world. keeping holding on you’ll make it through i promise you will

  10. Rachel says:

    I think it defends on personal preference and what you are comfortable with. I went through a stage where i had a group of friends who were sweet to my face and saying the nastiest things behind my back. They ended up dumping me in just about the worst, drawn out way possible.
    Now, one of my closest friends is a very blunt person. She always says what she thinks, but she’s not rude about it. I laugh at her because she always prefaces it with. It’s hard for her to say, and she worries that I’ll be offended. She’ll say, this may make you really mad, but I’m uncomfortable keeping quiet. I think you’re unconciously sabotaging yourself because… Or if I’m doing something that’s bothering her she’ll say somehting instead of seething silently and withdrawing. I’ve assured her many times I vastly prefer her method of behavor that a friend who says nothing and then talks to someone else behind my back about it. I think so many woman have the “nice girl syndrome” much to their own detriment.

    • Donna says:

      Amen to that last sentence, in particular. And I totally agree about preferring friends who are straightforward in a polite way.

Leave a Reply