Telling someone you’re not interested in going out with them for a first, second, third, fourth date — or any number date, for that matter — can be difficult. But being open and honest is the best way to let someone down easy. While you don’t need a specific reason for not wanting to date someone (sometimes, it’s just a feeling), therapist Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC tells O.school that some common issues include: having different communication styles, misaligned values, or a lack of sexual attraction. Whatever the reason, rejections can be tough for all involved, but employing simple rejection strategies can help.
10 tips for nicely rejecting someone
If you’ve evaluated the situation and decided that, for whatever reason, you’d like to gracefully bow out, here are some rejection tips to keep in mind in order to keep things cordial and respectful.
1. Be forthcoming.
If you’ve realized you don’t see a future with the person you’re dating, be honest and direct by telling them straight away. “While most of us recognize that ghosting is somewhat ‘normal’ these days, no one really likes it,” Caraballo reminds O.school. “Being forthcoming about your choice is the most effective way to communicate while minimizing unintentional hurt.”
2. Exercise empathy.
You may have been rejected yourself and know how it feels to be on the other side. Think about the last time someone turned you down, and choose your words carefully around what you wish that person had said to you.
3. Move quickly.
It can be hard to let someone down by not returning their advances, especially because, let’s face it, many of us enjoy flattery. Sometimes, it can feel easier to keep stringing someone along, hoping your feelings change or that the person will grow on you. Caraballo contends that it's almost always better to let that person know sooner rather than later. “This can help stave off a lot of unwanted communication, confusion and anxiety on everyone's part,” he says.
4. Don’t make any promises.
When you’re turning someone down, it can be tempting to sweeten the deal by offering something that will make the other person feel better. “We should still be friends'' is an all too common phrase. In fact 60 percent of people attempt a relationship with someone they dated at some point or another. However, these friendships are rarely successful. Don’t leave the door open unless you actually want to be friends with this person, as it can end up being more hurtful.
5. Keep it short.
If you’ve only been on a handful of dates with this person, it might be more polite to call it off without much explanation. A simple, “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you, but I’m just not feeling a spark” may do. Keep it brief, concise, and don’t leave them with any questions or doubts about your intentions.
6. Stick to your guns.
If the person you’re trying to reject attempts to negotiate or bargain their way into just one more chance, or one more date, stick to your guns. Don’t engage the conversation further, and let them know that your mind is made up.
7. The Sandwich Technique.
If you have bad news, deliver it in a sandwich: bracket the negative (you won’t be pursuing a relationship) with some positives to make the news gentler and easier to digest.
The Sandwich Technique might look like: “I think you’re a wonderful person, and I’ve loved getting to know you. Unfortunately, I think we have different communication styles and aren’t compatible long term. I hope you kill it on your presentation next week, and have an amazing family vacation in June!”
8. Know you aren’t responsible for making them feel better.
While you can reject someone as nicely as possible, at the end of the day, you can't control their reaction or feelings. If they respond negatively, know that you were open and honest and did your part. It's not a character flaw to not be attracted to them and don't let them make you feel like it is. Don't engage in their negativity if they go on the attack. At the same time, if they are feeling hurt and sad, know that it's not your responsibility to comfort them. They can hopefully find friends and family to lean on for support instead.
9. Express gratitude.
“To the extent that it's true, I often think it's helpful to any relationship dynamic to express gratitude when something ends,” Caraballo suggests. “Being able to say something like, ‘I've appreciated getting to know you but I don't think we're a good match and I don't want to take things further between us,’ is a great way to be considerate when ending something.”
10. Respect your own boundaries.
Even if you’re in the driver’s seat, ending what might have been a relationship can be taxing. Check in with your own feelings throughout the process, and respect them, whatever they are. You could feel compelled to delete your dating apps for a while, or schedule a date for that very night. Show the same kindness to yourself that you showed to the person you just rejected, and honor whatever your emotions might be.
How to reject someone over text
While it’s always respectful to deliver serious news face-to-face, there are some situations that call for a text rejection. If you just got home from a date and feel like there won’t be another, texting them in the moment is appropriate. If you’ve been chatting long distance and it wouldn’t make sense to meet up, don’t beat yourself up about rejecting them over a call. Maybe you haven’t even been on a first date, but texting back and forth has grown stale and you no longer want to meet up. Texting them to say so is acceptable.
“It should be said, however, that texts can feel quite cold and distant as relationships sour or end. Many of us also speak in ways via text that we don't necessarily speak when face-to-face,” says Caraballo. “Ultimately, as long as you can be honest and considerate when not returning someone's interest, that is what is most important.”
Examples of text rejections
While it’s definitely preferred to personalize a rejection text to the individual, it might be helpful to have a few templates on hand. This can make it more painless to kindly reject someone over text. According to The Buzz, blog of the popular dating app Bumble, you can structure your message by starting with a salutation (including their name), then providing your justification for ending things, and concluding by gently closing the door on possibilities. Try these examples if you’re looking for inspiration:
- Hi ___! Thanks so much for drinks on Thursday. To be honest, I’m not really feeling a spark here. I wish you all the best.
- Hey ___. Wanted to say that hiking with you last week was so much fun. While I enjoyed swapping trail recommendations, I don’t feel like there’s a romantic connection between us. I hope you understand.
- Hi ___! Thanks so much for the delicious dinner last night. I’ve had a great time getting to know you, but I think we should end things here. Hope you enjoy your time off this weekend, you deserve it.
- Hi ___. Sorry if it seems like I’ve been distant since our date. You seem like a really great person, I just think our vibe is more platonic. Wishing you the best of luck finding what you’re looking for!
The bottom line
If you’re heading into a potential split situation fearful of hurting someone else’s feelings, that’s just an indicator of how empathetic you are towards others, which is a great quality. “At the same time,” says Caraballo, “it’s important to be realistic. It’s likely that separation will produce hurt feelings, and it’s important to normalize emotions like sadness and disappointment when relationships end.” The best that you can do to mitigate disappointment is express honesty, and communicate that there is no malicious intent to harm or disparage the other person. Be considerate, not cruel. “If you follow this perspective, you can rest assured that you're doing your best to minimize any harm,” asserts Caraballo. “That's the most any of us can do.”