How To Confidently Dish Out A Rejection When You're Just Not Interested

We've all been there. Someone asks you out on a date, and while you're super flattered, you just know you're not interested. Maybe you've already been out with them a couple of times, or maybe you know from the get-go that you two won't be the next Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds (seriously, love is dead if those two ever split). But how do you let them down gently while making it abundantly clear you don't see a romantic future? Rejecting someone without coming across as cruel or cold can be a minefield. 

One thing you absolutely have to do, though? Actually reject them, letting them know in no uncertain terms that you won't be dating now or ever. We live in a world where it's easy for people to slip away by ignoring texts or calls, but, take it from us, if the other person has done nothing wrong, ghosting is not okay. 

As psychiatrist Gail Saltz put it to Well + Good, "It's healthier for all involved to be clear if you wish to move on from dating someone. Understand you are not doing them any favors to just drop away saying nothing." Still, there are a few things to keep in mind during those awkward moments when you need to let someone down, especially when it comes to leading with compassion and kindness. is breaking them down for you.

Don't be afraid to send a text (if it's appropriate, of course)

We know, we know: breaking up with someone via text is totally frowned upon and, in many cases, it should be. However, for a lot of people, digital messages are now their primary means of communication. Plus, if nothing's really developed yet (for instance, if you've been on less than three dates), it is perfectly okay to let someone know via a messaging platform or dating app that you don't see this going any further. "To some folks, rejection by text is even preferable to meeting up in person only to be told things aren't working," sex and dating coach Myisha Battle told MindBodyGreen.

A private message is not only a quick way to deal the blow without prolonging the interaction (by finding a time to meet up), but it can also help you stick to the plan. If you know someone isn't for you, thinking about what you want to say and writing it down exactly as you want it to be read will allow you to accurately explain your feelings and say everything you need to. Equally, you're less likely to deviate from rejection. Some people can feel pressured into giving the person another shot during a face-to-face conversation, but dragging something out that has no future won't be good for anyone.

Keep it positive to eliminate the guilt

Breakups, no matter how long you've been seeing someone, can hurt (and post-breakup sadness is a part of life). Keeping things positive when rejecting someone is one way to soften the blow. As clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly told MindBodyGreen, don't think of turning someone down as a flat-out rejection, instead think of it as giving them the opportunity to find the person who is right for them — rather than wasting time on a relationship that isn't going anywhere. 

"On a neurolinguistic level, we tend to feel negative and guilty if we reject someone," Manly explained. "However, if we switch to a 'we're not a good match' mindset, we neutralize the guilt and negativity." Let your date know that they should use the time they would have taken pursuing you to find the person who's right for them.

Being positive can also include avoiding conversation about negative things you don't like about your date, as that's unlikely to get you anywhere and will only make them feel worse about the situation. After all, something you dislike in someone could be something someone else loves. "It may not be necessary to go into your list of complaints about the person if you're not trying to fix a relationship," psychology professor and president of the American Psychological Society Thema Bryant told CNBC

Try not to give out false hope

When it's time to let someone know you're just not interested, it can be human nature to dance around the issue and try to pepper in compliments to soften the blow. But while it's always important to consider the other person's feelings — and not be so blunt you're hurting someone — you don't want to give them false hope if you don't see the relationship going anywhere. 

False hope may only cause more heartbreak for the person being broken up with, as they may try to continue to pursue you, wasting not only their time but yours as well. "Don't try to lessen the blow by saying, 'If only XYZ circumstances were different, I'd consider.' Don't say, 'I'm not ready for a relationship,' as this will make the person think it's just a matter of time before they can pursue again," NSFW club founder Daniel Saynt told Bustle.

Likewise, if this is someone you've been talking to or have been on a date or two with, but you've come to realize you're just not interested, end things as soon as you know. The more time you wait, the more likely you are to check out or hold back the respect they deserve. "Many of us that don't want to hurt people do avoidance or passive aggressiveness or send mixed messages. When you're avoiding someone you might hurt them worse," Thema Bryant pointed out to CNBC.

Let them know how flattered you are

Let's be honest, it's always nice to know someone has a crush on you, even if that crush isn't reciprocated. So it's also a good idea to let someone know how much you appreciate their interest in you. Getting rejected can be rough — you don't want to embarrass the person expressing an interest in you to the point where they don't feel they can approach someone else. By letting someone know you're flattered, you can help them maintain their confidence and self-esteem and move on to someone who can reciprocate their feelings.

While speaking to Bustle, clinical psychotherapist Kevon Owen suggested a great sentence you can keep in your back pocket: "It means a lot that you'd find me to be attractive, but our relationship isn't going to go any further than friendship." The phrase is blunt enough to let them know you don't want a romantic relationship together, but it still shares your thankfulness that they were so vulnerable with you. You also aren't discouraging them from showing that vulnerability again with someone else who may be more of a match for them. "[It shows] validation and gratitude but still a very clear message," Owen added.

Practice privacy

Let's be honest: being rejected is bad enough, but having it done in public with people watching is even worse. That's why it's always a good idea to make a situation like this as private as you can, to protect the other person's pride. 

"This is one of the very worst ways to reject someone," couples therapist Dr. Gary Brown told Elite Daily, about being turned down in front of other people. "Not only will they feel the pain of rejection, but doing so in public now adds the pain of public humiliation." Brown also noted that "The best ways to deliver the news are privately and in person." As we know, a private message can sometimes be a good option, but if that doesn't work in your situation, try to find a private place to get your words out without any prying eyes, to help avoid embarrassment.

If you're being asked out on the spot in front of a group, try taking the person aside, away from everyone else, to tell them no. Or, if you're at the end of a date you know won't be repeated and it's just the two of you, step outside or to a private table. By keeping the conversation private, not only will your date not feel public humiliation, but they'll also be able to hear exactly what you're saying to them.

Don't make up excuses

As sex and dating coach Myisha Battle explained to MindBodyGreen, honesty is the best policy. "It's hard, but letting a person know why you feel things won't work is usually the best move. Most people will respect your honest assessment, and if they don't, that's an even bigger sign of incompatibility," she said. 

Battle suggested not being too harsh (if you got turned off by an annoying habit, for example, you don't need to go into detail about it), but you do need to make it clear you won't be dating them going forward so they know where they stand. "Try to keep the other person's long-term feelings in mind, not just the short-term pain they'll experience," said Elle Huerta, founder of heartbreak recovery app Mend, while speaking to Elite Daily. "If you want them to be able to let go and find happiness outside of your relationship, the best thing you can do is be clear that they're not your person."

Though it can be tough to be honest, sometimes coming up with an excuse can only make things worse. "Don't make lame excuses like, 'Work is looking really busy for the next few months.' It's cowardly and transparent," relationship coach Alina Berdichevsky told The Latch. Instead, just be honest about the fact you're not feeling a connection with them and don't think you'll be compatible going forward.

Throw in a compliment or two

Chances are there are some things you like about this person, just not enough to spend the rest of your life with them. So, a good way to handle having the breakup conversation is to start by letting them know the qualities you really like about them before dishing out the rejection. 

"Tell the person what you like about them first. Then let them know, without judging them, why you need to end the relationship," couples therapist Dr. Gary Brown told Elite Daily. Psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman agreed, telling the outlet, "It is very important to turn down a date respectfully. Ideally, you want to treat others the way you want to be treated. It's one way we can all make the world a better place."

One way to try this is by using a compliment sandwich. With this method, you start with a compliment, then tell them you don't want to see them anymore, then end with a second compliment. This will let them know in no uncertain terms that this won't work out as a romantic relationship, but, while their ego may still be bruised, they're far less likely to leave the conversation feeling as though they don't ever want to ask someone out again. The more confidence you can give them to pursue someone else, the better.

Walk away if things turn hostile

One of the most important things to remember when rejecting someone is that you don't owe them anything but kindness. Nobody has to date anybody if they're not feeling it, even if they beg you for another chance. That's why if someone's reaction turns angry after you've said you're not interested in them, you don't (and shouldn't) have to stick around to hear it. 

"If you're rejecting someone in person and their response becomes angry, hurtful, or upsetting, you can still disengage in the same way," Daniel Saynt told Bustle. "Walk away. Don't feel the need to get into an argument. Know your surroundings and get out of the argument as quickly as possible," he added. If you opted to do your rejection via a digital message, this may be the perfect time to block this person and remove them from any social media accounts (you can also prioritize your safety on dating apps). It will help you protect yourself and show them you were serious about not wanting to pursue a relationship with them.

Suggest a friendship ... but only if you actually want it

The age-old breakup line is to tell someone you want to stay friends, even if you really don't. It is actually possible to be friends with someone after a romantic rejection, but only if you both actually want it and are genuinely interested in maintaining a platonic relationship. Kevon Owen told Bustle that one phrase to try is, "I'm not going to date you, but I value your friendship. If that can be enough, I'd still be your friend." This makes it very clear you don't see anything romantic happening with this person, but does give you both the opportunity to stay in each other's lives if you want to. "It's short, simple, and does not open you up for conversation," Owen pointed out

There's a bit of an asterisk with this one, though. Whether it's best for you to stay friends after a split depends on a few factors, including how well you knew each other before you shared a romance and how deep their feelings for you were. Some people find it easy to be friends with someone they love, even if the other person doesn't feel the same way, but others find it much more difficult.