The Friend Zone is the awkward purgatory that keeps us from advancing our friendships into directions that are as flowers-and-chocolate as we’d like. Most of us have experienced the phenomenon at some point or the other; we are madly in love (or lust) with a good friend who would never bat an eyelash our way simply because they don’t see us in a romantic context.
As a girl, I know all too well the gut-wrenching frustration that the Friend Zone causes (and, sadly, for most of us, life does not play out like it does in the music video for Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”). There is nothing worse than moping around as you watch your good friend fall heels over head for someone who is, by no means, as great as you are — as many of us would like to convince ourselves.
However, terrible as the Friend Zone can be, it can sometimes be a useful tool — especially when you begin to sense that your friend has started to develop feelings for you that are a little too warm-and-cuddly to be simply platonic. When you don’t reciprocate those feelings and also want to preserve your friendship (unrequited feelings have a tendency to mess up friendships), it is sometimes best to play oblivious and quarantine folk into the Friend Zone.
Here are five easy ways to place people in the Friend Zone:
1. Refer to them as “dude,” “bro,” and similar terms of non-endearment.
Perhaps I spend too much time around the FIFA-playing, proud Croakie-wearing, TSM-following crowd — the same population demographic that says “dude” or “bro” or “yeah, man” four times in the same sentence. At some point, I subconsciously integrated these terms into my vocabulary (and didn’t notice it until I went home for the summer, and a high school friend disdainfully told me that I had started to speak like a “frat boy” — whatever, I do what I want). The way in which we speak to people — conscientiously or not — often betrays how we feel towards them, and I’ve found through trial and error that calling a bro “bro” lets him know that I think of him as just a bro.
Similarly, when someone calls me “bro” while he’s talking to me, I know that our relationship will never transcend our mutual love of college football.
2. Let them know that you two are just as close as siblings!
There is nothing that nips a burgeoning romantic connection in the bud quicker (or more potently) than letting someone know that you think of them as a sibling. Telling a guy that he is “just like a brother” to you will conjure to mind his own sisters (given that he has some) and no one wants to associate their sisters with anything romantic or — shudder — sexual. If you’re daring, you can even take it a step further and liken them to a parental figure — “you’re, like, basically my dad” will kill it more completely than you could imagine.
3. Give them relationship advice.
Refrain from asking them for relationship advice. If you know that someone is interested in you, even if you don’t reciprocate, it’s unnecessarily cruel to talk about those who do interest you in front of him or her. It’s like stabbing them in the gut with a rusty knife and then dropping Epsom salt crystals in the wound: unbelievably painful.
However, that doesn’t bar you from giving them relationship advice. Encourage them to pursue other people and give them the tips that will help them succeed in doing so. When they’re focused on chasing someone else, they will concentrate less on you. And even if they aren’t interested in anyone else, your obvious interest in kindling their interest elsewhere will indicate that they have no chance of sowing their wild oats in your meadow.
4. Talk about or perform bodily functions in front of them.
When you want to impress someone, you would have him or her believe that your body is immune to anything less than clean and pristine. You don’t go to the bathroom. You don’t fart or burp. Your body doesn’t produce mucus or snot or poop — or, for girls, icky periods.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to Friend Zone someone, throw your shame out the window and be as open about the most disgusting of disgusting of your bodily functions. Telling someone who likes you “yo, dude, hold that thought because I have to drop a big one” may be a social faux pas (in some circles) but it will cause his or her interest in you to go down the toilet along with everything you digested that day.
5. (Wo)man up and just tell them you’re not interested.
This is a suggestion much easier heard than executed because we’re often afraid of hurting our friends’ feelings (hence why the Friend Zone exists in the first place). However, you’ll want to avoid leading someone on because, in the long run, that could cause him or her to feel ten times more hurt or resentful towards you. When you notice someone’s feelings towards you begin to creep all-too-quickly out of the friendship zone into stronger and more dangerous territory, it is sometimes a good idea to sit them down and say, “Hey, I like you as a friend, but my heart just isn’t in this game.”