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28 Subtle Ways to Friend Zone a Guy & Not Lead Him On or Hurt Him

Is a guy friend getting a little too close for comfort? Learn how to friend zone a guy without hurting him, and keep his hopes more realistic! 

how to friend zone a guy

The friend zone only exists because the required *friends-only* boundaries were never put into place. When a guy friend thinks there’s a chance for the two of you, it’s because he found a sliver of hope in the middle of your budding or long-standing friendship. In that case, you need to learn how to friend zone a guy in the gentlest way possible.

They say the best partner you can have is your best friend, but most of the time that doesn’t work. The reason why some people have been friends for so long is that that’s all they can be.

Yes, there are many who have passed the threshold of the friend zone into the lovey-dovey, till-death-do-us-part zone, but it’s difficult to predict whether it will happen to you.

It might also be that you simply don’t want to be more than friends with this guy in the first place. Letting him down gently will ensure your friendship remains without hurting him or shattering his heart.

[Read: How to be just friends with a guy when he wants something more]

What is the friend zone?

We’ve all been there – maybe you saw him only as a friend from the get-go, or maybe at some point, you were interested in him. However, that moment has passed, and you’re already scoping out the next guy.

It’s completely natural not to be sexually attracted to someone, and remember that you’re never obligated to make a relationship out of something that you’re just not feeling.

In that case, you’ll want him to stay in the friend zone.

The friend zone is a state of awareness. It’s an unspoken agreement between the two of you that you’re friends and nothing more. By being in the friend zone, this person knows that you’re not interested in them in that way, but that you adore them as a friend.

When the lines between friend and something more begin to blur, that’s when the friend zone has been exited. [Read: Friend zone or interested – 15 hints to decode your crush’s behavior]

For the friend zoner…

There’s an argument for who is really at fault when it comes to friend zoning. Is it the impressionable admirer or the clueless admiree? We’ll never know because the situations differ from person to person. But you can at least do something about it before things get out of hand.

For those of you on the giving end of the friend zone label, it’s possible to prevent any hearts from breaking if you take steps to keep your friend from assuming you can become anything more. Read on to learn how to friend zone a guy carefully. [Read: How to be friends with a guy and make sure you always keep things platonic]

How to friend zone a guy and keep the friendship intact

Of course, the likelihood is that you want to remain friends with this guy. You just don’t want to be anything more. So, by learning how to friend zone a guy in the right way, you stand a much better chance of keeping that friendship in your life.

Here are a few ways you can do that, whether you’ve just met, you’re friends already, or he’s already starting to try and ask you out.

1. Casually mention you’re dating or planning to date someone

You don’t need to blurt it out during introductions, but it would help if you mentioned it in passing.

Not everyone assumes their new friend will like them, but if it’s happened to you before, it’s better that you draw the line now before anything else progresses. [Read: Rules of dating – The unspoken guidelines that create the best dates]

2. Tell him you’d like to introduce him to an available friend

Make sure he knows it’s not you. This strategy won’t seem so obvious, especially since you just met, but it does pave the way for you to emphasize the fact that you are not interested in dating your new friend.

3. Always go out in groups of three or more

This way, you can still spend time with your friend without it feeling like a date. When someone else is there, there’s less time to bond with any romantic undertones. [Read: How to make guy friends – 16 reasons why it’s hard and how to avoid hooking up]

4. Don’t ask him out on a friendly date

As much as you’d like to hang out alone with your guy friend, it’s still a risky thing to do if you don’t want them to think there’s more to your friendship.

Not every guy will assume this, but it’s easy to fall for someone when it’s just the two of you.

5. Keep things super casual

Like super-duper casual. Do platonic things and try not to go on unintended dates like romantic restaurants or couple’s activities.

Again, this helps with the not-falling-in-love with the only person you’re spending time with. [Read: The step-by-step guide to stop a guy friend from flirting and hitting on you]

6. Don’t ask for advice on dating when you’re vulnerable

Sometimes this can be misconstrued as a cry for attention, or in this case, affection. You never know how a person will react to someone who is in pain, but we do know, as a friend, they will want to rescue you in any way they can.

7. Don’t hang out alone for long periods

Proximity breeds attraction. If you have to spend time with your guy friend, make sure it’s not a long-winding bonding session.

8. Make sure he knows you’re interested in other guys

Casually mention it now and again. If you want to know how to friendzone a guy, ask him for advice about how to keep other guys on their toes. Don’t ever use your guy friend as an example of your future boyfriend. [Read: 16 most common dating problems of twentysomething women]

9. Never vocalize the possibility of something more, even if it’s just a joke

They say jokes are half-meant. You may not agree on that, but your friend might feel elated at the idea of dating you and end up liking you for real because of a harmless joke where you said something like, “let’s get married if we don’t find anyone else within the next ten years.”

10. Make sure he knows there are other fish in the sea

This is not just about you. It’s also about your friend who is looking for someone to care about and do romantic things with.

Rather than do it with you, help him find someone who is perfect for him, but is absolutely nothing like you. [Read: The clearest signs your guy BFF is secretly trying to seduce you]

11. Tell him the truth

If he’s asked you out or looks like he’s going to, be honest. Make sure that you’re clear and very concise. Don’t leave any room for doubt or any sliver of hope, especially if you think you could never fall for your guy friend.

12. Don’t prolong the agony by avoiding the conversation

We know it’s awkward, but ripping it off like a band aid can be good for you and your friend. It’s one of the best ways to learn how to friend zone a guy. If it looks like he’s falling hard, confront it head on and be as clear as possible. Don’t put it off.

13. Do not have sex with him

Don’t use guilt as an excuse to have sex with your friend. Sleeping with a friend just because you feel bad for him will probably end badly. If it doesn’t, good for you and your friend.

But most people can attest that is not always the case. Also, do your best to avoid drunken mistakes, as hard as it can be. This will only give him hope. [Read: 16 hush-hush signs your friend wants to have sex with you]

14. Make sure he knows there’s absolutely no hope for the two of you

As gently as possible, of course. Don’t give them a statement like, “maybe somewhere along the line, we can make things work.”

If it’s not now, don’t give them any hope for anything else. Set them free and be happy for them if they find someone else.

15. Be the best friend you can be, without making him want you more

The most you can give your friend is a friendly pat on the back or a very brief hug. Anything else inflicts more pain or makes your friend want you more. Sadly, this is the truth for most people. [Read: 20 unmistakable signs your friend is crushing on you]

16. Explain that you value your friendship too much

Now, we know you’re probably cringing at this one. This isn’t an easy conversation to have with someone, especially when you know there are feelings involved. You may also be nervous to do so because you’re scared to jeopardize your friendship.

But this is hands-down the best way to friend zone a guy – with honesty. [Read: Are guy best friends nothing but trouble for girls?]

17. Quit it with the mixed signals

If you end your movie night by unwrapping yourself from his cuddle, that’s not helping. Really. Stop it. You’re giving the guy the complete opposite message. We all like getting attention from someone of the opposite sex, but you have to recognize when your need for attention is becoming selfish.

So take a step back, stop massaging his back or playing with his hair, and keep those hands to yourself. And if you’re finding yourself unable to keep from touching him, then maybe you should reevaluate your potential feelings for him.

18. Re-emphasize your platonic feelings

If you can somehow squeeze in the ole, “you’re like my brother” phrase into a casual conversation, then he’ll most likely get the hint.

That doesn’t mean it will change anything, but dropping hints like these can sometimes help him clue in to the fact that you aren’t interested in him. [Read: How to have a perfectly platonic relationship with a guy who likes you]

19. Engage in conversation about other guys

Don’t overdo it, but you should bring up the conversation of girls and who he’s interested in every once in a while. Even though we all know he’s into you, by discussing women with him, you’ll show him that you’re not interested in a romantic relationship and that he should actually look for someone else.

He will probably be slightly hesitant at first, but you can slowly engage him on that topic.

20. Talk about boys with him

Talk about guys you’re interested in. You don’t have to give him the dirty details – actually, please spare him from the details and ease him down slowly.

But, by talking about other men in front of him, he’ll *hopefully* see that he’s not on your radar and that he should move on. If you want to learn how to friend zone a guy, nothing says, “I’m not interested in you” like, “I want to have sex with any guy but you.” [Read: How to stop a guy from flirting and hitting on you]

21. Decline romantic hangouts

Did he invite you on his private yacht for a dinner for two? Or did he ask you to take a long walk on the beach?

Even though the idea of being on a yacht is tempting, use your better judgment and do not take him up on the offer. If you say yes, you’ll be placing yourself in a situation where he may find it a perfect moment to discuss his feelings for you and may even try to make a move.

Remember, you’ll be on a yacht. Alone. Possibly without a lifejacket. [Read: What do guys think of their female friends? The very honest secrets revealed]

22. Talk about your bodily functions

Not the sexual kind. The ones that automatically kill any sexual energy instantly. This may sound petty, but if you burp or fart in front of him, you’re showing him that you see him as a buddy!

We all know that when we’re interested in a guy, we will hold in that fart until the end of time. Are we right, ladies? [Read: 8 things to do when you’re treated like one of the guys]

23. Play down your appearance

If you’re dressing up like a Barbie and putting on a face full of makeup to go over to his house, you’re doing it wrong.

This doesn’t mean that you have to look like you just returned from dumpster diving. But definitely lay off the perfume and sparkling eye shadow when seeing him. If you put too much into your appearance, he’ll start to think that you’re doing it for him.

24. Try not to meet his friends and family

This may be a hard one if he’s your best friend, as the odds are that his family and friends know you very well. However, if this isn’t the case and he’s just a casual friend, try not to hang around with his family, as they’ll start to ask questions and assume that you’re interested in him.

The same goes with his friends. If you two are always hanging out, his friends will start to ask questions and apply extra pressure on him. That’s when things will get messy.

25. Try not to text him your every thought

Constantly texting him your every thought will only provoke him and, again, will send him mixed signals. He doesn’t need to know about the dream you had last night, unless it was about your friend-zoning him.

When someone is texting you all the time, of course, you think they like you… because that’s a clear sign! [Read: 25 signs your guy friend is slowly falling for you, even if he’s hiding it]

26. Don’t put him first

We mean this loosely. If he is your friend, then, of course, he is a huge part of your life. However, if you’re always making your plans around him, then you need to prioritize.

You’re not his girlfriend and he’s not your boyfriend, so you have to stop treating him like one. Let the man go!

27. Refrain from opening up to him as much

You don’t need to tell this guy your deepest, darkest secrets. If he’s your best friend, it’s probably a little too late for that. However, if that isn’t the case, try not to engage in conversation that will get you opening yourself to him.

He doesn’t need to know that you feel you need to lose weight or that you’re self-conscious about your feet. He may see you sharing personal stories about yourself as a sign that you like him.

Also, it will probably motivate him to say something cringe-worthy like, “I like you just the way you are.” [Read: Is it a date, or are you two just hanging out?]

28. Don’t let him pay for you

Yeah, we know, getting free stuff is great, but if you’re letting this guy pay for your drinks and dinners, not only are you an asshole, but you’re leading him on.

If you want to friend zone a guy, you’re going to have to stop using him. Pay for yourself, you’re independent, you don’t need a handout. When you let people pay for you, they sometimes feel that you owe them. Don’t let this happen between you and him. Keep it Dutch.

[Read: How to stay friends after a kiss and decide the best way forward]

For those of you in this situation, learning how to friend zone a guy before it’s too late can be a big help. You might hurt your friend temporarily, but at least you won’t hurt him over and over again by allowing him to love you without entertaining the possibility of a future together.

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