Whether it’s because of a habit you don’t care for, a lack of chemistry, or the person just isn’t “the one,” it’s useful to know how to tell someone you’re not interested. In fact, it’s an essential skill if you’re dating because more often than not, the people you meet may not be what you’re looking for in a partner. By cutting them off while it’s still early, you avoid hurting their feelings later when they’re more emotionally invested.
In this article, we map out the dos and don’ts of telling someone you’re not interested in them romantically.
10 Tips for Telling Someone You’re Not Interested
Learning how to tell someone you’re not interested can be challenging, especially if you don’t like confrontations and hurting people. Unfortunately, it’s part and parcel of dating. Just as it’s great when a relationship works out, you also have to tell your date when it isn’t.
Here are 10 principles to keep in mind when having “the talk.”
#1. Don’t apologize.
The twinge of guilt you feel for not liking someone enough may lead you to apologize to them but before you do, think again. An apology is an indication that you did something wrong. If you’re only fault is not wanting to be in a relationship with them, it isn’t enough reason to apologize. You may even add salt to the wound by doing so. Just be straightforward, polite, and honest.
Try saying something like, “I appreciate your openness and the kind of person you are, but for now, I don’t feel the same way and won’t be able to reciprocate. I am not interested in moving forward, but I enjoyed your company.”
#2. Let them talk.
Hearing bad news can lead to emotionally unpleasant scenarios. The other person may respond with negativity which can be hard for you to hear, especially if they’re emotionally immature. In such cases, be the bigger person and don’t resort to put-downs and insults.
Remain calm, be gentle, acknowledge that they are hurt, and stand your ground. If they respond with bitterness that’s uncalled for, tell them that it wasn’t your intention to hurt their feelings. Even if their words are painful, realize that they probably feel rejected and are only reacting to those feelings. Letting them talk is the least that you can do.
However, if they become abusive, cut the conversation short. Say something along the lines of, “I realize you’re hurt but let’s not say more things we’ll both regret.” Then, walk away.
#3. Remind them of the good.
No matter how distasteful someone is to you, they must have done something right. After all, you agreed to go out with them in the first place. As you let them down, remind them of the things you liked about them whether it’s their smile, a funny story they shared, a habit that touched your heart, or a gesture that meant a lot to you.
This is a great way to let people down with kindness. Though there are no guarantees that you can part ways on a positive note, complimenting the person will help.
#4. Don’t drag it out.
If the first date was blah, don’t drag it out for a second or third try. Respect the other person and yourself. Respect their time and yours by being straightforward. Turn them down gently and let them know you aren’t interested. The longer you drag it out, the more difficult it will be for both of you.
If you find breaking up with someone difficult now, think of how agonizing it will be in the future when the two of you have invested more into your relationship. While you don’t want to be unkind, parting ways in the early stages is the lesser of two evils.
When you finally decide to have your discussion, keep it simple. Avoid long-winded explanations that will keep the person guessing. Tell them the news straightforwardly and clearly without becoming excessively emotional.
#5. Don’t leave room for assumptions, misunderstandings, and false hope.
One of the challenges of turning someone down is that small space for confusion that can lead to assumptions and personal conclusions. Don’t leave someone in the dark. Be clear on the fact that you’re not interested and your reasons for it.
When something is unclear, it’s human instinct to fill in the blanks with our own reasons and assumptions. Usually, these assumptions are a far cry from reality. Save yourself the trouble of rejecting someone twice (or more) because the first discussion was unclear.
One way to tell someone you aren’t interested is by saying, “It was a pleasure knowing you, but right now, I am looking for a serious relationship with someone who shares my passion for… We are not a good match for now, and I want you to find someone you can love and have fun with.”
#6. Don’t mention physical characteristics.
It’s hard enough to be rejected by someone you care about. Don’t make it worse by dragging physical traits into the discussion. If the tables were turned, wouldn’t you hate to hear, “You’re just not my type,” from the person you dated?
#7. Say no to the relationship but never to the person.
When you are turning someone down and telling them that you are not interested in dating, you are saying no to the probability of establishing a romantic relationship with that person. But you don’t have to make them feel that something is inherently wrong with them. Consider this—there are people who previously dated and became friends afterward. But this doesn’t happen all the time.
When you’re telling someone you’re not interested, you don’t have to mention what’s lacking or who is at fault. It is not a question of blame because, unconsciously, this can be a hurtful process. Always remember to separate the actual person from your romantic wants and needs.
Straightforward answers like, “I am not interested in settling down right now or being in a relationship,” can work. So, focus on the connection, not the person.
#8. Tell Them You’re Incompatible.
Regardless of the details of your scenario, this is a universal truth for anyone who wants to discontinue a relationship. The great thing about using incompatibility as a reason is it isn’t anyone’s fault. Who’s to say why two people are incompatible?
Even if you have your differences, it isn’t insulting to have them. You just don’t have enough similarities or complementary qualities to pursue a romantic relationship with someone. If the other person disagrees, remember that this is your choice. Every person has the right to choose who they end up with and you are simply exercising that right.
#9. Own your statements.
When telling someone you aren’t interested, always take accountability for your actions and thoughts by using the I statement. After all, you are expressing your feelings and speaking on your behalf. Do not assume that the other person feels the same way and make the mistake of saying something like “We both know this won’t work” or “You’re wrong.”
You are not a mind reader who knows how the other person is feeling. So, never highlight the flaws of the other person. Instead, use the time to explain your feelings. One research concludes that “I statements” can lead to fewer conflicts because it is less judgmental and assuming.
Try saying something like, “I know that a relationship is not what I want for now.”
#10. Always be kind and honest.
The truth hurts, but it can hurt even more when you use excuses and lies to avoid the inevitable. Many people can read between the lines, observe body language, and instinctively know if you are lying. Save yourself the trouble and be truthful about your feelings.
Let the other person know where they stand and what to expect. This is the kindest you can be to them. Although it is hurtful, it is still the gracious and right thing to do.
This is also the part where you don’t insist on being friends after because both of you need to process what just happened. Forcing and hoping to be friends, for now, can be a little insensitive.
Work on statements like, “I enjoyed meeting you, but I think I have too many personal goals right now to be in a relationship with you.”
A Few Parting Words
How to tell someone you’re not interested? It’s best to accept from the beginning that the decision you’ve made will probably hurt the other person no matter how you deliver your message. In the end, ask yourself how you’d like to be treated if you were on the receiving end of your news.
While you should be kind, gentle, and respectful, you should also make sure that the person understands the finality of your decision even if it hurts.