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5 Ways to End a Friendship in a Friendly Way

11/05/2013 04:16 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Breaking up is hard to do. So hard, in fact, that Neil Sedaka wrote a song about it. Twice. Once in 1962 and again in 1975. Neil was clearly a softy when it came to love and a shark when it came to making money from a record deal, because at the time, Neil was only the second artist that made the Billboard Top Ten with two different versions of the same song. Go, Neil!

So now that we've established that breaking up is tricky and Neil Sedaka is savvy, let's figure out how to handle a break up. And I'm talking about a break up with a friend.

I know, I know, you probably thought I was offering advice on how to disengage from a romantic relationship. Alas, I am an expert at small talk and desserts (not to sound my own horn, but I've won contests so... ), but if I were to give you advice on ending a relationship with a significant other, you'd either wind up with a broken heart or a criminal record. And both are extremely unpleasant.

I have had to formally break up with two friends over the course of my years. I say "formally," because these friendships were something of substance, not simply acquaintances from whom I could slowly distance myself. These were real friends, the kind you call when you are dealing with a broken heart on prom night; a broken oven on Thanksgiving; and a broken ankle after a tumble off the back deck. I handled the first breakup poorly and learned from my mistakes. I did a better job with the second, but even with practice and sound advice from someone who has gone through a friend breakup, Neil wasn't kidding -- they ARE hard to do.

Knowing the reason behind your decision to end a friendship will help you to move forward in the future. Perhaps your friend's behaviors or beliefs don't sit well with you or maybe your lives have changed dramatically, leaving you and your friend with nothing in common. Maybe it is a job switch or a new marriage or your friend loves orange jello and you just can't understand. Whatever it is, make sure your thoughts are clear. I recommend journaling these feelings versus discussing them with other friends, posting them on Facebook, or spray painting them on the side of a Honda, because any of those three things will -- and I promise you this -- come back to haunt you at some point in your life.

Obviously, I am not suggesting that you jump from sharing a BFF charm to lowering the guillotine on a friendship. I am assuming that you have already tried to address the issue(s) you are experiencing. If you are reading this post, I am guessing that you have tried (probably several times) to find a positive place in Friendville and have instead landed this unfamiliar territory. So - before you email me and accuse me of being a cold-hearted wretch (who happens to make a fabulous soufflé, just fyi), know that this piece is dedicated to those of you who have done your due diligence in saving the friendship and have finally faced facts: the best thing to do for all involved is to end the relationship.

Once you've determined your reason(s), you must prep for the hard part: telling your friend that you'd like to end the friendship. Here are a few tips:

Be there: If you are in the same city, schedule a time to meet in person. Sure, speaking on the phone or -- God forbid -- sending a text is easier, but you are better than that. You are.

Hi, Martha. Can we meet for coffee sometime this week?

This is much better than an email detailing your complaints and your desire to call it quits.

Be prepared: Be confident in the reasons behind your decision, and be clear on what you want to happen next. Is your goal to end the friendship permanently or would you be open to a different type of relationship with this person? Understand that your friend may be completely surprised by the conversation and may have ideas on how to recreate the relationship so it fits for both of you. If that's a possibility for you, be ready to address it. If it is not, stand firm.

Martha, I have really given this a lot of thought and I have to do what is best for me.

Be honest: Start the conversation with you and how you feel, versus telling them what they have done. Saying something like:

I've noticed our friendship has changed over the past few months, and I wanted to talk to you about it because it's been bothering me for a while.

This is so much better than saying something like:

Your husband is dumber than a sponge and you made a huge mistake in marrying him.

Am I right? (I am.)

Be kind: Henry James said; "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind." There is no need to attack and no need to be unkind. You can be honest and still be kind, because hearing this:

Martha, I think it is sad that our friendship has come to an end, and I truly wish you only the best in the future.

This goes a really long way in maintaining your dignity and Martha's self-esteem.

Be good to yourself: However the conversation ends, remind yourself that you put time and thought into your decision and did what was right for you. You may be sad or angry or frustrated, and that's normal. But if you were able to speak from the heart and be kind and gracious in the process, you will be okay. Not as okay as Neil Sedaka's bank statement, but okay nonetheless.

For more by Debra Fine, click here.

For more on conscious relationships, click here.