How do you refuse a date and keep the friendship?
It’s not as simple a question as it may sound. Lots of people have weak ego, will get hurt and will resent you when you turn their date invite down.
By the end of this article you will know the most socially savvy way of refusing a date and still keep the friendship.
Why How To Say No To a Date Matters
Why does it even matter how you refuse a date invitation?
After all we’ve all heard them:
“just be honest”
“just say it as it is”
And sure, all your friends swear they’d rather hear the truth, right?
Of course, ideally, we’d live in a world where ego-resilient people can take an honest no without repercussions and how to say no to a date never becomes a relevant question.
But guess what, we don’t live in an ideal world.
And knowing how to turn down people tactfully is a a skill which will take you farther -and yes, make you a better person too-.
Some advantages of knowing how to turn down a date politely:
- It nets you friends
Social mastery is about getting it your way without hurting anyone. And not hurting people around you allows you to make -or keep- a friend. Good for the world, and good for you – Research shows that social liars are more popular-.
- It doesn’t make enemies
On the other hand, a flat out “not interested in you” can easily lead to resentment. It can even lead to more serious issues, like retaliation or stalking.
You keep doors open
Guess what, things can always change. You might become single, or change your mind about that person. If you didn’t burn bridges, you will have more options.
How to Refuse a Date Gracefully
The 4 categories are designed to turn down a date with the kindest possible way you can get away with.
They go from kindest to bluntest:
#1: Say Yes And Do Nothing
Yeah we should do that
and never take steps to make it happen.
People who understand social interactions know that words are just endearing filler and only actions matter. And they’ll understand and appreciate.
If they don’t get it and ask again, say you’re busy these days.
If they still don’t get it, reply with longer and longer delays or move to #2.
- Softer asks
These are indirect, social approaches -ie. “we should grab a drink one of these days”. Very easy and natural to defer into oblivion.
- Women asking you
Being rejected is more painful for women but they know how to take a hint. I’ve done it a few times myself, worked like a charm and kept a good relationship every time.
- Your inner circle
If you see them often -colleague or in your friends’ circle- a softer approach will help you stay friends (if hopefully they get the hint).
Simply the way to go when meeting exes, which can be awkward for some. One proposes a coffe, the other says “for sure”, and both know it ain’t gonna happen. Carrie in Sex & The City shows it brilliantly:
#2: Say You Are Seeing Someone
Chances are you probably are “kinda” seeing someone, or thinking about seeing someone, the fault lines can be blurry when you need them to be ;).
It’s a very pain-free way of turning a date request down and you also come across as caring and respectful towards the person you’re seeing.
And while “I’m not interested” is often a conversation ender with “I’m (kinda) seeing someone”, you can easily keep interacting with your pursuer.
A friendship might blossom, or who knows, maybe you change your mind and suddenly that “someone” was not so serious anymore?
- Direct approaches from strangers
They have no way to know whether it’s true or not, and it’s enough to stop most socially calibrated people from pushing further.
- Preventing stalkers
There are no studies telling us what’s most effective to prevent stalking. Some suggest clear and direct “no” while John Moore suggests too direct a no will trigger a hurt ego and, possibly, violence.
Being clear without sub-communicating they are the issue seems a perfect happy medium to me.
#3: Say You Rather Keep It As It Is
It’s a firm no, but rather than stating outright you’re not interested in them, you refer to some rule or situation beyond you.
For example, you don’t date in your company, or you have a no friends rule, or you are focusing all your efforts on your project / studies.
Say you cherish them as friends and want to keep it like that. Chances are he knows about the friend zone, so you might even add “you know how it is with friends”.
He protects his ego by blaming the “friend zone rule”, you keep a friend without drama.
And of course, he doesn’t need to know you wouldn’t date him anyway, friend or not?
Dating at work can get thorny. I personally have a rule of not to get involved with colleagues (or anyone too close for that matter).
I also know I’d probably throw that rule away under the right circumstances, and I’d bet it’s the same for you.
But you can easily use it for anyone falling short of those right circumstances 😉
#4: Say You Are Not Interested
No excuses, no sugar coating.
You won’t do it “one day”, you don’t have any rules. And you don’t have time to protect someone’s ego either and just wanna make it damn clear.
Rather than “not interested in you (that way)”, I would phrase it as
“Thanks, but I will be honest, you’re not my type”.
Less biting, but equally effective.
If they ask “what’s your type”, don’t go into description or you might get sucked into a discussion.
Just say “different” or turn the question back to them.
- Strangers / Rude People
Total strangers don’t always need the special treatment reserved for friends. And of course, rude people can -and should- be treated the same way. So “you really don’t want to be rude, but a stinking breath is a bit of a deal breaker for you” ;).
- People who don’t get it
You tried to be polite, but they just don’t get it and keep bugging you. Fine, you tried, now tell them like it is.
- People hooked on you
Before they find some funny way to embarrass you, get clingy (I had a girl dropping gifts in my mailbox and showing up uninvited) or too dependent, it’s time for some tough love. Cut the face time and help them move on. For example you can show some ugly side of your character or intro someone.
The opening with:
Should be enough to warn you that you should go with the bluntest option here.
No kindness to aholes.
Never Refuse a Date Like This
Whatever you pick, please avoid these all too common ways to say no to a date:
- You’ll find someone eventually
It’s patronizing as F, babying people should not be your default setting.
- Who knows, maybe in the future…
You’re placing them as second fiddle and you’re entertaining the possibility of working both side of the street.
The former doesn’t say good things about them. The latter doesn’t say much good about you.
- You’re such a nice guy but / You’re such a great girl but
They are generic and the “but” voids whatever you say before.
If they are great guys and great girl, then say what’s so great about them (and no, “nice” is just too hopeless to be spun into anything remotely positive).
How to say no to a date is all about letting them down as easily as possible.
It’s good for them, and it’s good for you.
Go with softer versions first and they’ll hopefully take the hint. Otherwise, you’re (kinda) seeing someone.
If all else fail, well, you did your part and now you got permission to be blunt.