Telling somebody that you’re uninterested after going on a date or two, or even just after giving them your phone number or flirting for a bit, can be one of the hardest things you find yourself having to do. Yet when you really aren’t interested in pursuing a deeper relationship with someone, it’s best to be upfront and honest than to string them along with hope and lies.
Having the Talk
- Decide whether or not you want to do it in person. The first thing you have to decide is whether or not to let the person down in person. If you’ve actually been dating the person for a while, then of course you owe it to him or her to have the talk in person instead of sending a text or email or giving the person a phone call. But if you’ve only gone on one date with the person or it’s a person who likes you whose feelings you don’t return and who you haven’t really spent any time with, then you may be okay with taking the virtual approach.
- Just make sure to keep things mature and to deliver the message yourself, whether it’s coming from you in person or not. Don’t think that having your friends pass the news along is acceptable.
- Pick the right place and time. If you want to let the person down in person, then you should think about the best time and place to do it. If it’s someone you’re dating, then give him or her the courtesy of alone time during a day when the person is unlikely to be stressed or distracted; however, if it’s someone you just went on a few dates with, you should still make sure you’re alone, but you don’t have to set up a formal appointment and make it sound more serious than it really is.
- Just make sure the place isn’t a romantic restaurant or a dimly-lit wine bar, or even a gorgeous park on a sunny day. Try to keep it as unromantic as possible so the person doesn’t have confused expectations.
- Be honest about not wanting to date the person. Though making a bit of small talk first can help get the conversation going smoothly, the longer you put it off, the worse you’ll feel when you have to deliver the bad news. Instead, after talking to the person for a minute or two, just come out with it and say something simple that gets the message across. Just a simple, “I’m sorry to say that I don’t return your feelings. I’m flattered, but I’m not interested in dating you,” should do the trick.
- The sooner you say this and the more clearly you get the message across, the more easily the person will be able to move on.
- Be direct. Make sure that the person understands, in no uncertain terms, that you are not interested in dating him or her. You don’t want to make it sound like you just don’t feel like dating right now, that you’re just unsure this week, or that you just want to spend a bit less time together. Though it’s unpleasant to be so direct with a sad message like this, it’s important to make sure the person hears you loud and clear.
- You don’t want the person to walk away from the conversation thinking that he or she can try again in a few weeks. Make it less painful for the person by being as direct as you can as early as possible.
- It’s important to be firm, too. Don’t let the person talk you out of your feelings or make you think that you should reconsider, and don’t give in because you feel bad for the person, either.
- Keep it short and sweet. Once you got the message across, there’s no need to hang around and keep talking about it. Of course, if you respect the person and he wants to ask you some questions, you can answer them if you like, but be aware that more honesty may lead the person to be even more hurt. Instead, say what you need to say and make sure the conversation doesn’t last much longer than you want it to. Thank the person for talking to you and wrap things up, as painful as it may feel to do so.
- If you really want to make sure the conversation stays short, you can come up with a plan in advance for leaving, such as saying that your ride is here, or that you have to meet up with friends for a school project.
- If you want to stay friends, then say so. If you and the person really didn’t hit it off, then there’s no need in being fake and saying you want to be friends when you have absolutely no interest in doing that whatsoever. However, if you really do like the person and want to continue a friendship, then you can say so. Though this may not be much of a consolation to a person who wants more from you than friendship just then, it can lead to friendship in the future.
- Sure, it can come off as corny if you say you want to be “just friends,” but if you really do feel that way, then make it clear that you’re not just saying it.
- There’s no need to feel guilty as you wrap up the conversation. You’re just being honest about your feelings. You should be proud of yourself for being clear and direct and not leading the person on.
Knowing What Not to Do
- Don’t wait too long to have the talk. One mistake some people make when they know they’re just not into someone is to prolong the conversation much longer they need to. Whether you’re hanging on to your high school boyfriend so you still have a prom date in two months or waiting to dump the guy you met on OkCupid just after his birthday, it’s never a good idea to put off the inevitable, no matter how painful or inconvenient it may be. Instead, give the person the respect he deserves by being as honest as you can as soon as possible.
- Okay, so if the person is having the most difficult week of his life, you can hold off just a bit, but don’t let it take much longer than that.
- Think of it this way: you’re not doing the person any favors by keeping him interested in a person who doesn’t return his feelings. The sooner you do it, the sooner he or she can move on.
- Don’t insult the person. Some people think that the only way they can get rid of someone they don’t like is by being brutally honest about why the relationship or potential relationship is a no go. However, you should try to be as kind to the person as possible and to say things that make the person feel good without leading him or her on, instead of hurting the person’s feelings by insulting his or her personality.
- Avoid telling the person that he or she is just not your type, or insulting some other physical attribute of the person.
- If you just don’t get along, then you can say so. But don’t tell the person that he or she isn’t fun, exciting, or interesting enough for you. There’s no need.
- Avoid cliches. You may think you’ll make the person feel better if you say something expected, such as, “It’s not you, it’s me,” or, “You deserve someone better,” but these kinds of lines only tend to make people feel worse. Instead, stick to your own words and don’t tell the person something that may be interpreted as corny or stale. These words don’t bring any comfort and they may actually make the person feel worse, because he or she will see that you’re not being honest.
- Saying something like, “I’m just too busy to date right now” is also a tired line, and it’s best to avoid it.
- Don’t feel compelled to give the real reason why. Though you may think that it’ll be better if you just come out and tell the person that you’re not attracted to him or her or say that you’re really into his best friend instead, this won’t actually help the situation. You may even think that one trait about the person is particularly annoying, and you may think you’d feel better if you got this off your chest. However, you’re far better off keeping these reasons to yourself, because you’ll just end up insulting the person even more this way.
- It’s enough to say that you’re not interested in the person. Explaining why you’re not attracted to him or her may only add insult to injury.
- It’s likely that the person will really want to know the truth and that he or she may keep asking you for more answers. However, don’t let him wear you down and make you be more honest than you wanted to be.
- Don’t give the person false hope. You may think that letting the person think he or she has a chance with you in the future will make the conversation seem less sad, but in reality, you won’t be doing the person any favors by getting his or her hopes up. If you flirt because you feel bad, talk about how you’re having a busy few months, or say you’d really like to date the person in different circumstances, then you’ll just be making things worse, in the end.
- Out of respect for the person, make it clear that your decision is final. The sooner the person gets that you have no future together, the sooner he can move on.
- Sure, saying that there’s a chance for future romance will make you feel less guilty in the short term, but in the long run, you’ll be having a negative impact on the person.
Knowing What to Do Afterwards
- Give the person space. After you’ve turned the person down, you should step away for a while. Whether you were friends or formerly dated, you should back off for a few weeks, even if you feel like hanging out with the person. The ball is in his court now, and you should give him the respect he needs if you want him to get over you. If you don’t much care for the person anyway, then try to stay away as much as you can.
- If the person was your friend, then you have to accept that it may take quite a long time for him or her to really get over you, and that you may not be able to hang out in the process.
- Try to act normal the next time you see each other. If you want to make things easier, then you shouldn’t run and hide or act extra friendly the next time you run in to the person you let down. If you cross paths, just be friendly, say hi, and try not to act too serious or overly nice. If the person doesn’t want to talk to you, then you have to accept this as a possibility, too. Don’t force it.
- Just be your normal kind, caring self. You don’t want the person to feel worse because you’re acting like you feel bad for him or her.
- Don’t tell everyone what happened. If you want to make things easier for everyone socially, then you shouldn’t go around broadcasting what just happened. Let the conversation stay between you and the other person. If you broke up, you can let people know, but if you’re just turning down a potential romantic prospect, then there’s no need to go telling everyone about it. You don’t want the person to feel embarrassed about being rejected all over again.
- Think about it: if you were rejected, would you want everyone to know? Though it may make a funny story or give you something to gossip about, you should try to hold your tongue.
- Avoid sending mixed messages. Once you’ve let the person down, you have to come to terms with the fact that your romantic possibilities together are over. Don’t flirt with the person because you’re bored at a party and don’t invite him over for a late night cuddle, either. Instead, be nice, but firm, and wait for the person to initiate contact if you do want to hang out again. If you act too flirtatious, then you’ll end up confusing the person and giving him more of that false hope you were trying to avoid giving out.
- Stick to the fact that you just want to be friends, or that you don’t even want to talk anymore. Don’t ask the person for a ride to school or homework help just because it’s convenient.
- Work toward being friends, if that’s what you want. If you do still want to be friends with the person you let down, then you should take baby steps in that direction. First, hang out with your friends or in a big group, making sure the other person is ready. Then you can spend a bit more solo time together, if you really do want to be friends, but you have to make it crystal clear that you only want friendship so that the person who liked you doesn’t get the wrong message.
- Give it time. It could take months, or even longer, to be friends with the person again.
- If you’re worried about losing a friendship because you don’t like the person romantically, try not to worry about it too much. You can’t help who you’re interested in, and many people do get over crushes.
- If you’ve been disappointed, don’t take it as a bad thing it’s better than a long-winded loveless relationship. Use this experience to inform your own empathetic response whenever you are in the position of having to let down someone else!
- Cold turkey may seem heartless, but is much easier on everyone involved. Long, drawn-out, messy games are very traumatic. Don’t play games with the person.
- Remember that learning to express your emotions clearly is an important part of your personal growth. Don’t shy away from learning this skill, no matter how reserved or rational you perceive yourself to be. Your emotions form part of your whole.
- Avoid staying with someone just to be “nice” or because you “feel sorry for them”. Pity or people pleasing reasons make very poor foundations for long-term relationships and open up both of you to a use-and-be-used relationship.
- Using the behavior, words or actions of the other person as a reason for letting them down comes with consequences; namely, the other person will become immediately defensive and an argument is likely to ensue. It may feel justified at the time but it’s the least effective way to make a clean break.
Sources and Citations
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