Family & Relationships Here's Exactly What To Say When A First-Date Goes Terribly Wrong
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Wondering how to reject someone? In the relationship world, rejecting people is about as much fun as reading the instruction manual to a vacuum cleaner. Which is, to say, not fun at all—not to mention awkward, uncomfortable, and painful. Sigh.
“It's important to reject people kindly so they don't take the rejection personally, because truthfully, it isn't about them," says, a licensed professional counselor in Atlanta. Sure, you might not like certain things about the person you're rejecting, but this usually just means you're incompatible with each other, not that the other person is a monster.
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"To somebody else, that same person could be their perfect package—the one,” Walker says. “Rejecting someone in a mean way says, ‘there's something wrong with you,’ which is very different from, ‘I know what I want and I don't think we're compatible.’”
Still, when it comes to how to tell someone you’re not interested, figuring out the right words to get the message across clearly and compassionately can be tricky, whether it’s someone you’ve only exchanged a few messages with on Bumble or a co-worker you’ve had a strong, totally platonic friendship with for years (or so you thought!).
Below, experts break down how to reject someone maturely and kindly to ease the pain on both sides.
Offer a classy compliment
“Both sides feel respected when we validate the other person's vulnerability,” says Cheryl M. Bradshaw, a registered psychotherapist in Canada, author of. Bradshaw especially likes the below line if you're approached in a public place, which yes, can be awkward.
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Try: "I know it can be hard to put yourself out there, but unfortunately, I'm not interested. I appreciate you asking and being respectful, though.”
An important caveat: The moment someone speaks to you disrespectfully—say, by asking you more than once or trying to change your mind—you should change your strategy. “Be firm, and leave the situation as quickly as you can," Bradshaw says.
Whether you’ve gone on a handful of dates or are getting lackluster vibes after a series of exchanges on a dating app, there's really no need to apologize. Just be direct and polite!
Try: “I really appreciate your interest and openness, but I’m not able to reciprocate it. I know it may be hard to hear, but I’m not interested in moving forward.”
Focus on your needs
It helps to have a boilerplate for dating apps, when neither party invested too much energy yet. “In this case, you're want to say, ‘I'm sure you're cool, just not right for me and I'm mature enough to recognize this and be upfront about it, essentially freeing up time for both of us to find someone more fitting,’” offers Walker.
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Try: "I'm sure you're amazing in many ways, but I have a lot of clarity about what I want at this point in my life, and I don't see us as a good match. Wishing you luck finding your person."
Be respectful and appreciative
There’s no point in dragging things out after a meh first date. “Be kind but straightforward," says Gina Handley Schmitt, LMHC and author of. Remember: Even if the person isn’t your cup of tea, they might have construed the date as a sparks-flying success: “There are actual human beings on the receiving end of a rejection, and these human beings will inevitably be disappointed and hurt when their romantic feelings are not reciprocated,” says Schmitt.
Try: “Thank you for making yourself available. With that being said, I am clear that this isn’t going to be the right relationship dynamic for me. I do hope all the best for you, though, as you continue your journey.”
Don't leave them in the dark
“One of the challenges I hear all the time from my clients is the confusion that they feel when someone isn’t clear about why they are no longer interested," says Kindman. "When we don’t have specific information, we tend to fill in the blanks ourselves." No need to tell every Tinder convo your life goals and values, but if you've gone on a few dates, you may want to offer up a few—kind!—details about your decision.
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Try: “It was nice getting to know you. I’m looking for XX (a serious relationship, someone who shares my political values, a partner who likes to be in nature, etc), so I don’t think we’re a good match for each other. I hope you find who you’re looking for.”
Value your friendship
It’s never easy disappointing someone, especially when it’s someone you care about as a pal. “If this person is in your social circle or someone you're close with, you likely don’t want to lose the relationship,” says Kaitlin Kindman, LCSW, practice director and co-founder of. “Let them know that you see and appreciate their vulnerability and give them space to show that it’s okay for them to feel let down.”
Try: “I hope you know how much I care about you and the relationship we have. I know it’s not easy to share your feelings and I admire the courage it took to let me know how you’re feeling. I don’t want to hurt you, but unfortunately, I don’t feel the same way. I understand if you feel disappointed and that this may make our relationship awkward for a bit. Take all the time you need and when you’re ready, I hope we can still be friends.”
Keep it casual
If a coworker asks you out, be clear that you’re not interested and don’t feel pressured to give any explanation as to why. Keeping a casual tone—like in the example below—will help both parties feel more comfortable during an awkward situation. (FYI, this assumes a peer is asking you out, not a supervisor or boss, which is crossing a line!)
Try: “I appreciate your confidence in asking me, but I don't think we're on the same page. I'm not interested in dating, but thanks for asking!”
Be firm, especially with an ex
When an old flame comes callin’, keep it short and sweet. “Let them know that your focus has shifted,” says Walker. That means, no need to recount details from the past or remind them of how terrible your breakup was! (Related:)
Try: “Hey. While I can appreciate many aspects of our past relationship, going out again would feel like a step backward for me, and I’m committed to my future growth—in all areas of my life. Be well.”
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