“How to politely decline a date?” In my twenties, this question had me sweating profusely. I’d see a coworker looking at me with that starry-eyed look, and bells would start ringing in my head. He’d ask if we could grab a coffee sometime, and my brain would go into a hyperactive mode, looking for a suitable way to say no to a date from a coworker.
You may think that you owe nothing, not even kindness, to the person who’s asking you out. But unless you’re Regina George from Mean Girls, you would want to reject someone without hurting their feelings. Being nice is a basic requirement, even if you don’t like someone romantically.
7 Things To Consider When Saying No To A Date
Sigmund Freud once said, “Words have magical power. They can either bring the greatest happiness or the deepest despair.” Even though declining a date is an honest response and everyone has the right to express their romantic disinterest in a person, we do need to consider the impact of our refusal. So before you say no to a date and bring them imminent despair, consider the following:
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1. Are you giving them your complete attention?
When Amy asked me out at the university, I was taken aback. I had just learned that I had been selected to go overseas for a year. I knew I didn’t want a long-distance relationship, plus I was overjoyed at the news and could hardly pay attention to what Amy said. So I asked for a day to process my feelings. Thanks to that delay, when I said no to her, I didn’t have a large smile on my face. It would have been villainous otherwise.
Remember that your body language plays a greater role in communication than your words. If you’re distracted by something else, it will reflect in your body language. Try to focus on them during the rejection. If needed, ask them for some time to think about the right approach. Rejection may bring them sadness, anxiety, or even anger. However, if you can empathize with them and give them the right attention, it can help them recover from the rejection faster.
- Suggest a place where you’re least likely to get distracted or run into an acquaintance
- Ask them if they want to talk about their feelings after the rejection
- Focus on what they’re saying and respond accordingly instead of using cliched lines
- Giving a half-smile is fine but avoid a long copulatory gaze or other body language signs of attraction that may be misunderstood
2. Have you prepared a clear rejection?
Many people don’t know how to politely decline a date. They say yes to appear polite, and then feign a broken leg to avoid going on the date. Or, they are so bad with words that they leave the other person traumatized. So think ahead and choose the right words. And muster the strength to say them. That way, it’s easy for both of you.
- Say no politely, but firmly
- Take time to think about what you want to say, but don’t overthink it
- Do not go on a date just to be nice
3. Do you have a workplace relationship?
Despite your professional body language at the workplace, you have landed in a situation where you have to say no to a date from a coworker. This could be either due to your HR policies or because you simply don’t like that person. In either case, it could make the work dynamic a bit uncomfortable. So, here’s what you do:
- Give honest reasons for why you won’t date them
- Don’t lie and decline a date because “I have a partner”. This excuse is overused. It’s difficult to keep the pretense for long and it may get tiring
- Don’t lie about not wanting to date coworkers and then go off on a date with another coworker. That will be the definition of awkward
4. Are they your friend?
You’re wondering how to politely decline a date from a friend without ruining your friendship. How I Met Your Mother gave some great lessons on how to say no to a date but stay friends. When Robin makes it clear to Ted that she is not looking for anything serious, Ted is heartbroken but takes it well. It’s important to consider how often you see a person before you say no to them. It may get awkward afterward, which is why you need to use the right words.
- Try to say it to their face
- If they ask you out by text, then you may reject a guy politely over text
- It can affect your friendship if your rejection comes across as nonchalant or humiliating. So take it seriously, even if it was suggested as a joke
5. Do they have low self-esteem?
You need to know this if you want to learn how to say no to a date. When you reject someone who has a crush on you, and if they have low self-esteem, they might take the rejection personally. Now you’re not responsible for anyone’s psyche, but your rejection could still have a negative impact on their mind. It could make them fear commitment, or fear asking anyone out at all.
- Don’t bring up their flaws or disadvantages, if any
- Explain that your decision is not a reflection of their desirability, so they can deal with rejection in a mature way
- Compliment them on something (like their work ethic or their generosity) to make it easier
6. Are they going through a lot?
My colleague, Nick, told me about me his friend whose father had recently passed away. He knew she was hurting, but she avoided showing her pain. A few days later, she asked him out. He thought of saying yes out of pity but realized it would be unfair to her. So he gently said no to her while explaining that she was going through a lot, and he’d be happy to listen if she wanted to talk. In such a scenario, if you express your rejection plainly and bluntly, it can add insult to injury. Understanding what one’s going through is an important part of how to say no to date but stay friends.
- Try to be sensitive while rejecting them
- Ask them if they need your help or if they want some space to deal with it
- Be respectful of boundaries and avoid saying anything that might trigger them
7. Are you rejecting them because you want to keep your options open?
This may sound selfish to some, but no judgments here. Partner insurance is one of the signs a person is not attracted to someone sexually/romantically, but wants to keep them around anyway. You may find yourself being asked out by someone you kind of like, but for some reason, you can’t date them at that particular time. So you decide to keep your rejection open-ended in case you want to get back to them. However, you must keep in mind that you’d be giving them hope for something in the future, and that doesn’t always fare well.
- If you want to give it a shot later, suggest it, and state the reason for the delay
- Don’t over-promise on what you can deliver; be fair
- Accept whatever they want at that point and do not expect them to be interested in you later
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25 Examples Of How To Politely Decline A Date
Rejecting someone is not just about not being ready for a relationship or not liking someone, it’s a matter of consent. You don’t have to accept someone’s courtship if you’re not interested. However, having said that, it’s not a bad idea to be respectful about it. In certain industries, like legal firms, dating coworkers or clients is often frowned upon or downright forbidden. In such situations, one has to be tactful and know how to say no to a date.
1. Be honest
Honesty isn’t the best policy for nothing. Honesty is what women want from men and vice-versa. A simple ‘no’ is better than lies about how they’re amazing and that you would’ve said yes if you weren’t married/engaged/gay/about to move to Australia/dying from cancer. Secondly, it’s daunting for people to ask someone out. The least you can do is give them an honest answer.
- Be upfront about it
- Don’t lie about sexual orientation or marital status
- You don’t have to apologize about your ‘no’, especially if it’s a stranger. But if it’s someone you know, a sorry won’t hurt
Example 1 – “You’re great. But I don’t feel the same for you. I’m sure you will find someone who will treasure you, but I’m not that person”
Example 2 – “I like hanging out with you, but I didn’t feel any romantic vibe going between us”
Example 3 – “Sorry, I’m seeing someone”
Example 4 – “Thanks, but I’m not interested”
Example 5 – “I just don’t want to get into dating right now. I want to stay single for a while”
2. Be direct and unambiguous
Remember the episode ‘The Window’ from How I Met Your Mother? Leave no ambiguity if you don’t want the proposal-rejection conversation to happen again. Don’t create relationship doubts through an open-ended rejection. For example, if you decline a date because you have a boyfriend, they may come back when you’re single again.
- Don’t beat around the bush giving long-winded explanations
- Politely decline a date from a friend by telling them you value them only as a friend
- Use an open-ended rejection only if you want to keep your options open
Example 6 – “You’re not the person I’m looking for”
Example 7 – “I can’t commit to a monogamous relationship”
Example 8 – “I don’t think it will work out between us. We’re completely different people”
Example 9 – “I think we have a great friendship and I fear that we’ll ruin what we have if we started dating each other”
Example 10 – “I’m with someone right now, but if I wasn’t, who knows? We may have been together already”
3. Reject someone without hurting their feelings — highlight their good qualities
Highlighting their strengths is an excellent way to soften the blow of rejection. Basically, build upon the old cliche: “It’s not you, it’s me.” The next time you reject someone who has a crush on you, tell them that they’re a great person and will fit perfectly with someone else, but not you.
- Praise them for their qualities
- Tell them why you’re not ideal for them, like you belong to the most unemotional and cold zodiac signs
- Try to empathize with them
Example 11 – “You’re an amazing person. And I like you, but not in a romantic or sexual way”
Example 12 – “To be honest, I’m flattered that you think of me like that, but I can’t reciprocate your feelings. And I don’t want to keep you hanging on to the hope that I’ll catch these feelings for you someday”
Example 13 – “I’m sorry but I’m recovering from something, and am not in a place in my life where I can date anyone”
Example 14 – “I don’t know how to say no to a date with you, but there’s too much going on in my life. I don’t think I can provide you with the attention you deserve”
Example 15 – “I’ve been in your shoes. I know what rejection feels like, but I’m sorry, I can’t go through something that I’m not ready for”
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4. Tell them why it won’t work
If it’s someone who said ‘hi’ to you at a bar once, it’s okay to be concise with them. But when you see someone often, like a neighbor or a colleague, it’s important to let them down nicely, as it may affect your dynamic. This is also the case when you want to politely decline a date after accepting it.
- Highlight that you want different things and that neither of you should compromise on that
- Be honest, especially if you think they’re looking for a rebound or if they need the relationship as an excuse to escape whatever they’re dealing with
- Offer help if you think they need it
Example 16 – “I’m looking for something serious right now, and I know you don’t want commitment. So let’s leave it at that”
Example 17 – “I’m still recovering from my previous relationship. I’m not ready for a new one”
Example 18 – “I want to focus on my career, and I’m not sure if I can give the same amount of attention to a relationship”
Example 19 – “I don’t think you want me as much as you want to be in a relationship. And I don’t want to be a token for something I’m not”
Example 20 – “You’re dealing with intense emotions right now, and I don’t think a relationship is an answer to that. Do you want to talk about it?”
5. Be firm
While you’re conscious of being kind while rejecting them, do not put them before yourself for the sake of being polite. You might panic and think, “Does he love me? How can I say no to someone who loves me so much?” But Reddit users shared that the regret of going out with someone out of politeness is often greater than the regret of saying no to them.
- Don’t keep them hanging, come clean without wasting time
- Communicate that you are your biggest priority and will not compromise on your needs
- It’s okay to reject a guy politely over text if you anticipate a confrontation
Example 21 – “I’m going through a lot, I don’t think I can handle a relationship right now”
Example 22 – “I’m already in a relationship with someone else. You should not wait for me”
Example 23 – “You’re not what I’m looking for”
Example 24 – “I don’t want to be in a long-distance relationship”
Example 25 – “Thanks, but romance is not at the top of my list of priorities right now”
- Be honest, direct, and unambiguous when you say no to a date
- Explain why it won’t work
- Be empathetic but prioritize yourself before others
It may sound cruel to reject people who like you. However, it’s not a reflection of you or even them for that matter. Research suggests that people rarely regret being rejected. It’s not like you’re preventing someone from getting great riches or world peace. People develop an attraction for others, fall for them, and get over them all the time. Not everything is likely to click between two people. It is preferable to serve a clean cut, rather than a blunt one and let it fester like a wound. So next time you don’t want to go out with someone, you now know how to say no to a date.