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15 Genius Phrases to Respond to a Toxic Friend's Text

Woman trying to decide how to respond to a text from a toxic friend

What can be worse than trying to communicate with a toxic friend in person? Arguing with them via text.

Aside from the lack of a face-to-face conversation, trying to interpret someone’s intention over text is difficult—and I say this as a therapist. Are they really trying to be hateful, or are they just having a moment? Either way, you want to get to the bottom of the situation before things escalate and take a toll on you.

Regardless of how long you’ve been friends with someone, the second that things sour, the effects are devastating—on your mental and physical health. The longer you spend in a toxic relationship, the more likely you are to have higher cortisol (stress) levels, which increases your risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions. Depression, anxiety, substance use and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also risks of staying in these types of friendships.

So, how do you respond to a toxic friend? Fighting fire with fire seems like the way to go when facing this type of friend, but it usually only ends in an explosion. Instead of igniting the conversation, use these therapist-backed phrases to respond to a toxic text.

Related: How to Spot the Tell-tale Signs of a Toxic Friendship

15 Phrases to Respond to a Toxic Friend’s Text, According to a Therapist

1. “It sounds like you’re having a rough time. Maybe we can revisit this conversation another time.”

Everyone has bad days, but that’s no excuse to be rude (or toxic). Rather than trying to calm them down or get involved in their business, offer to return to the conversation when they’re in a better headspace. By suggesting this pause, it also shows you’re willing to conversate peacefully, which likely isn’t what they’re expecting.

2. “I’m not going to entertain this conversation.”

Shutting down the conversation altogether is another option. If this person is your friend, you might not even want to discuss a sensitive or offensive topic—especially if you know how it will end. But whether or not your friend is a repeat offender of getting upset over the little stuff, not entertaining toxicity is within your right in the friendship.

Related: 12 Phrases to Shut Down a Toxic Friend, According to a Psychoanalyst

3. “What’s your motivation for bringing this up?”

Sometimes, you’re downright confused about why a friend chose to send a hateful text message. Send a text immediately questioning their motivation to catch them off guard, forcing them to either explain themselves or not respond.

Other options like “How do you think that makes me feel?” or “Why would you think it’s OK to say that to me?” are equally effective in getting the answer you want.

4. “I need to think about that.”

Take some time before you respond to a toxic text. This is a polite way of saying, “I need some space,” without further inflaming the conversation. It also allows your friend the time to justify their message, if that’s possible, as you’re crafting what to say in return.

Don’t feel guilty if it takes you a while to get back to them; true reflection can take hours or days, and you don’t want to escalate things if you don’t have to.

5. “Have I done something?”

No one wants to admit fault in a fight, but it’s important to acknowledge if you’ve contributed to a person’s anger—right? Absolutely! Although it may be a blow to your ego, it’s important to understand where your friend is coming from before reacting. If there’s a chance you can resolve the conflict and you believe the friendship is worth reconciliation, go for it.

Related: 16 Signs You're Losing a Friend—Plus, How To Cope, According to a Therapist

6. “You don’t have the right to talk to me like that.”

Boundary setting is a vital part of dealing with any toxic person. Without setting and maintaining strong boundaries, they can walk all over you and cause more harm than necessary.

This response blatantly signals to your toxic friend that they can’t engage in conversation with you if they’re going to talk like that. Further explanation can sometimes help in these situations, but keeping it short and straightforward usually does the job.

7. “Sorry, I’m not going there with you right now.”

Shut down the conversation if you feel like things are getting too toxic. Even if you’re angry and feel like arguing, sometimes it’s best to set a hard boundary with yourself in addition to the one you set for your friend. This statement is a form of self-advocacy and can be a big breakthrough if you struggle to stand up for yourself. In some cases, it even stops a toxic friend in their tracks.

8. “I feel so disrespected now.”

Communicating feelings is something that many people struggle with, especially in toxic friendships. You may feel shut down or unheard by your friend, making it all the more important to express that you feel disrespected, hurt, angry or sad by their words and actions. They may not have the capacity to understand your feelings, but you’re at least bringing to their awareness and holding them accountable by letting them know their words impact others.

Related: 11 Phrases To Use That Communicate 'You've Hurt Me,' According to Psychologists

9. “Are you sure you want to go there?”

Before walking into the line of fire with a toxic friend, ask them if they want to reconsider their approach. This also puts the responsibility of escalating things on them, not you. If appropriate, go into more detail about why you’re hesitant to have the conversation with them.

10. “That’s your opinion, not mine.”

Instead of resorting to name-calling or stooping to their level, keeping it simple is often the best option. This response reinforces the idea that both of you are entitled to your own thoughts and beliefs, allowing you to uphold them without conforming to the other person’s perspective. If your toxic friend can’t respect your position, the likelihood that anything productive will come out of the text conversation is slim.

11. “Tell me more about that. I’m curious what you mean.”

Invite your friend to explain why they’re angry or hurt. Maybe they’re just having a bad day, struggling with something unrelated to you, or didn’t even mean to come off as harsh.

On the other hand, they could be harboring anger or resentment because of something in the friendship, so asking them for more details helps you get to the root of the issue. Plus, discussing things openly tends to smooth over rough patches and keep the conversation constructive.

Related: 5 Phrases to Counter (Unjustified) Criticism, According to a Therapist

12. “I don’t have to justify my [life choices, decisions, etc.] to you.”

A lot of the time, in arguments, it’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to defend and justify your actions to others. However, you don’t have to apologize for your decisions—but you may have to deal with criticism from others. If you do something your friend doesn’t agree with, hear them out; if you don’t agree, simply tell them that you don’t have to explain yourself. Don’t add fuel to the fire by getting defensive when you don’t have to.

13. “I’ll screenshot this and send it to you when you’ve calmed down so we can talk.”

One good thing about texting is the ability to screenshot a conversation. Like recording a phone call, screenshots give you “receipts” to save for later or show others.

While sending messages from your toxic friend to the group text isn’t the best idea unless you want to start more drama, keeping them to revisit with your friend later is useful. Usually, people are much braver over the internet or through text than in real life, so a reminder that you have proof of their negativity might be enough to make them stop. In case of emergency, screenshots also help you prove your experience.

Related: The #1 Best Way To Stop Being Defensive in Relationships, According to Therapists

14. “I hope you find it in your heart to be a little kinder the next time we talk.”

Every friendship is different, but toxicity can ruin even the strongest bonds. If you can apply kindness to the conversation, this statement is how to do it—and a few other things simultaneously. You’re encouraging them to be more empathetic when you talk next but also shutting down the conversation, leaving little room for misconstruing your meaning.

15. “Bye.”

Ending the conversation abruptly is helpful in many situations, including dealing with toxic friends. You can’t argue with someone unwilling to listen, so don’t be afraid to disengage if you get that vibe. “Bye” is the simplest of all the responses, but it also tends to be the most effective in shutting down nonsensical toxicity.

Next: 7 Subtle Signs Someone's Trying to Distance Themselves from You