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How to Prevent Friends From Becoming Enemies

Why do friends become enemies and how to avoid it.

Why do friends become enemies and how to avoid it.

Becoming an enemy to an ex-friend is like someone destroying an apple tree after picking all the apples. No appreciation for the apples picked, and no consideration for the value of the tree—only vexation that presently, there are no apples to pick.

It is unfortunate that some ex-friends respond to the end of the friendship with anger and hostility. Nurturing such negative emotions exposes them to the danger of becoming enemies (from the Latin word inimici, which translated literally means bad friends). However, it is possible to remain former friends (no present friendly interaction) without becoming bad friends. The ex-friends are the greatest help in preventing themselves from becoming enemies.

5 Ways to Prevent a Friend From Turning Against You

The key is for ex-friends to maintain the attributes which made them good friends, and not allow the end of the friendship to bring out the worst in them.

For personal character growth, and for the well-being of former friends, consider the following attributes that prevent ex-friends from becoming enemies. They are applicable for any kind of friendship ranging from casual to marital.

  1. Use civility and common courtesy
  2. Use commendation instead of criticism
  3. Use compassion and kindness, including forgiveness
  4. Retain confidentiality and respect for privacy shared
  5. Maintain cooperation instead of disagreement and conflict


Most likely, the ex-friends will meet in public, in the presence of other people. That makes it easy to show the same courtesies to the ex-friend as will be shown to other people. A greeting, a smile, and any gesture that conveys good manners are appropriate. Civility includes the following:

  1. Politeness toward everyone, not just friends.
  2. Good manners practiced in all situations.
  3. Courtesy whether or not the recipient deserves it.
  4. Emotions under control, not in control.

Lack of civility may encourage a similar behavior in the other person, and become a fertilizer for developing animosities. Negative emotions can fester and explode at an opportune time. To prevent that, ex-friends should be as civil as they know how to be.


Whether in the presence or absence of each other, an ex-friend should say something commendable or say nothing at all about the other person. Troublemakers are always available to bring and carry reports about what one allegedly said about the other. Be careful not to start or fuel the war of words. Here are some useful tips to remember.

  1. Practice zero tolerance for gossip about an ex-friend. Simply refuse to listen.
  2. Never criticize an ex-friend, not even in personal defense.
  3. Speak honest praise, when it is appropriate.
  4. If the opportunity arises, express commendation in person.

One of the most humbling experiences between ex-friends is for one to express criticisms or harsh words about the other, only to hear that the other only expresses commendations. The kind one is the smarter one.

When you meet the ex friend in public, act courteously with a greeting, a smile, or  any gesture that conveys good manners.

When you meet the ex friend in public, act courteously with a greeting, a smile, or any gesture that conveys good manners.


No-one is required to consider the feelings of an ex-friend with regard to all the decisions he or she makes. However, kindness dictates a show of compassion in appropriate ways.

  1. Forgive the ex-friend for his or her contribution to the breakup. Free the person to move on without feeling obligated to make compensation.
  2. Do not be deliberately offensive; for example, if an ex-friend eats bugs, resist the temptation to make a Facebook post about the stupidity of people who eats bugs.
  3. Be sensitive and sympathetic in the event of an adverse situation. Do not express joy, or comment on how much it is deserved.
  4. In such in an event, it is alright to pass on an opinion (based on knowledge of the ex-friend) to someone in a position to help.

The Golden Rule applies here. Treat an ex-friend the same way you would like someone else to treat you.


Confidentiality is the line an ex-friend crosses to become a sure enemy. Disrespect for privacy shared during the friendship is a major act of treason. It violates the basic principle of friendship and can create an enemy for life. Be respectful and gain respectability.

  1. Enjoy the trust that the ex-friend placed in you.
  2. Prove yourself worthy of that trust.
  3. Exposing secrets can hurt the image of the exposer as much as it hurts the other person’s image.
  4. Keeping the secrets can be rewarded with lifetime respect instead of a lifetime enmity.

Poll on Attributes


It helps if there is a mutual agreement to end the friendship. It also helps if both people agree on whether they will avoid interaction with each other completely or to what extent they will interact. They can share an article like this one, to ensure that they are on the same page. In addition, the following suggestions will help.

  1. Decide on a mutual response to people who inquire about the relationship. For example, “It didn’t work out,” or “We both chose to end it.” Agree not to discuss who did or said what.
  2. Agree that the only reason for any other discussion is to receive professional help. One may not want help, but should not prevent the other.
  3. Agree on the method by which anything more that needs to be said will be said, instead of choosing messengers haphazardly.
  4. Agree on the return of any items, which belong to one but are in the possession of the other.
It is alright to ask, but you cannot make an ex-friend forgive you.

It is alright to ask, but you cannot make an ex-friend forgive you.


These five attributes, if practiced by ex-friends, can help maintain the emotional and social assets of the former friendship. The end of the friendship does not cancel the memories of concerts attended, travels enjoyed, skills shared and life experiences enhanced. Appreciation of those memories can hardly grow into feelings of hatred.

Instead there will be feelings of gratitude within former friends who have no intentions of becoming bad friends or enemies, making life miserable for each other. Friendship is precious while it lasts; and when it ends, it can become a precious memory.

© 2013 Dora Weithers