Earlier this year, I summoned up the courage to ask a cute guy out on a date. His answer perplexed me.
“I’m flattered… but I really need to focus on my goals this year.”
What goals, I wondered, could come ahead of dating me? Personally, I think I’m a pretty great goal in myself.
And so, last week, when Goal Boy contacted me on another matter, I decided to find out.
“How are the goals going?” I asked.
“What goals?” he responded.
“The ones you were so busy with that you couldn’t go on a date with me.”
After a bit more digging, I found out that as a practicing Jew he was committed to finding someone of the same religion. No big deal, but why not just say so in the first place?
It’s never fun turning someone down and so – in our fears of turning the other person into a sobbing mess or an angry, vindictive tyrant – we often go through all sorts of mental gymnastics when we do it.
So how can you gracefully let someone know the feeling isn’t mutual without feeling like you’re ruining their day?
1. Stop putting yourself on such a pedestal.
Yes, they think you are hot but it’s not like every breath they take silently whispers your name.
They’ll get over it.
Unless they are a stalker.
Then you have bigger problems.
2. Realize that whatever you say it’s going to sting a little.
It takes guts to flirt with someone, ask someone out, or even leave a post-it on their monitor with the words “Someone likes you. – signed, anonymous.”
No one likes to be rejected. Ever.
But most of us have to face it at one point or another and, guess what? We get over it.
Unless, we’re a stalker.
3. Do it early.
Although it can be tempting to string someone along to flatter your ego, it’s also cruel.
Don’t give a person hope if there is none.
Nothing is worse than finding out after months of flirting in the friend zone that he or she doesn’t share your agenda to move beyond it.
If someone’s interest in you is making you cringe, let them know as soon as possible (without using the word “cringe” of course).
4. If the reason isn’t personal, be specific when explaining why.
If my friend had simply told me he was looking for a Jewish girl upfront, I would have totally understood. Despite my devastating good looks, I’m not Jewish. No feelings hurt.
Similarly, if the reason you aren’t interested is because you:
- only date redheads
- are allergic to their dog
- have a close family member that looks like them or
- play sexually for the other team
chances are they will understand.
It’s not them, it’s you.
Just do not say, “It’s not you. It’s me.” No one believes this.
5. If the reason is them or it’s too personal, keep it generic
If someone is too short, too loud, too thin, or wears flood pants you are under no obligation to tell them and it is best if you don’t.
Often a simple, “I’m flattered but I’m not interested in you that way,” is sufficient.
What you find unattractive someone else might find magnetic. No sense fostering unnecessary self-doubt in others.
Of course, if the person asks you straight out if it is because they are too short, too thin, too loud, or too much of a bad dresser? Answer honestly. “Yes, but only because floods don’t work for me personally.”
6. Do not lie
Although it’s tempting to say “I’m not ready to date right now,” this will bite you on the ass when they “accidentally” see you making out with someone you are ready to date right now.
Similarly, objections like I’m gay (if not) or straight (if not) can be interpreted as a challenge by some to try to bring you over to their team.
Again, not worth the hassle.
Finally, be warned. The old “I’m seeing someone” line will screw you over when you become interested in seeing one of their friends.
In fact, the only time you should ever say you are seeing someone when you’re not is…
If you want to star in your own romantic comedy.
This typically works as follows: someone boring is hitting on you. Meanwhile, you can’t stop thinking about that intriguing stranger across the room.
In this scenario you approach the stranger and ask them to pretend to be your partner for a few minutes to fool the clinger at the bar.
The risk, of course, is that the person saving you already has a romantic partner who shows up at the worst possibly moment (although chances are good he/she wasn’t really their boy/girlfriend because the situation was actually much more complicated than the attractive stranger, who you oddly keep bumping into in other places, could explain at the time).
But now I’m writing a romantic comedy starring Bradly Cooper and Katherine Heigl.
If this works for you in real life, let me know and I’ll option the screenplay.
Long story short: saying no to what you don’t want is an affirmation of what you do
We get what we settle for.
When it comes to romance, don’t settle for anything less than you want and have the compassion to set other’s free to do the same.
Unless they are a stalker.
Then, call the cops.