5 Steps to Reject Someone Nicely – Firm But Compassionate

We’re just going to put this out there from the get-go—there is absolutely nothing wrong with not being interested in someone romantically. We all have our own unique likes and dislikes and sometimes for reasons that may be easy or impossible to explain, we’re not feeling it.

And while this is 100% true, this doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be friction when one of those people we’re not interested in happens to be interested in us.

So, how do you reject someone you’re not interested in? How do you do it so your intentions are clear but you don’t embarrass them or hurt their feelings?

In this guide, that’s what we’re going to talk about. We’ll share the steps, tips, and resources you need to know how to let someone down easy when you don’t share the same romantic feelings.

two people talking on the beach by a fire

1. Get rid of the word reject.

The first step to all of this is to realize you’re not rejecting anyone. That word carries a heavy connotation and sounds more intense than what you’re actually doing. All you’re doing is sharing that your feelings don’t align with theirs. That’s it.

While they may take it personally, it’s not about that. It’s just two people sharing how they feel and that those feelings are not the same. It’s not a rejection of anyone.

2. Embrace that you’re not doing anything wrong.

And just to drive this point home, there’s nothing wrong with having a difference of feelings when it comes to your life and your romantic choices. Even though someone may get mad and make you try and feel bad for not being interested in them, that’s just a childish response that’s none of your concern.

You are not doing anything wrong. Period. Hard stop.

Even if you’ve flirted some and maybe accidentally led them on, you’re still entitled to your opinion. That being said, we don’t recommend leading people on that you’re not actually interested in, but we’ll leave that for another discussion.

3. Know what to do if you’re caught off-guard.

For most of you, you’re here asking about how to reject someone politely because you’re probably crafting a response to a phone call, text message, or online dating message you received. If that’s you, we’re going to cover those situations next.

What we need to do first, though, is put a tool in your toolbox that you can use in the future if you’re ever caught off-guard by someone you’re not interested in. It’s hard to know when someone is going to reach out and share their feelings about you with you. When they do it in writing or via text, you get time to think and respond. When they do it in person, though, you have to be ready to respond.

Here are the two ways to prepare yourself to approach this.

First, have a canned response ready to go. This is the easiest way to approach this and you can usually use the exact same response every time. Here is our number one way to reject someone politely that you can’t go wrong with.  

“I appreciate you sharing how you feel with me. I’m just not interested, but thank you.”

That’s it. It’s that simple. Notice a few things:

  • We are direct that we’re not interested. This leaves no room for ambiguity, confusion, or creative interpretation.
  • We don’t make an excuse that leaves the door open at a later date.
    • If you say, “I’m not looking to date right now,” that signals that you might be interested, just not right now.
    • If you say, “You’re not my type,” that opens up the door for them to start asking questions as to why—which is never fun.
  • We’re kind about it and let them know we appreciate them sharing their feelings.

Practice this phrase and have it ready in case you ever need to use it. You can prevent yourself from getting into awkward situations. It allows you to clearly convey your message while still protecting their feelings as much as possible.

4. Know how to say no to someone based on your specific circumstances

So, if that’s what you say when you’re caught off guard, what do you say to turn someone down when you have time to think about it?

The exact same thing. Seriously, that one phrase is so short, sweet, and to the point that it solves every situation when this comes up. Here’s why in each of these situations it’s such a helpful phrase. Again, notice that we’re not straying from the script or trying to sugarcoat anything. That just creates issues.

If You’ve Dated Before

When you’re turning someone down you’ve dated before, there may be this feeling from them that you should still like them for whatever reason. If you give some long-winded answer, they’re going to want to start asking questions. Use the phrase, and you’ll be good to go. We’ll address in the next section what to do if they start asking you to explain.

If You Work Together

This simple phrase is ideal for coworkers, as a rejection may have the potential to make things awkward. By being professional and respectful (but direct), you can shut things down without letting them get awkward.

The one caveat here is that if you are interested in them but you don’t want to date them because you work together, you can say that. However, don’t say that if it’s not true because it could get awkward if one of you ever gets a different job. If it is true, though, it leaves the door open if one of you gets a new job down the road. Otherwise, stick to the script.

If They’re a Close Friend

It may seem like you owe close friends more of an explanation as to why you don’t want to go out with them, but you don’t. In fact, the more in-depth explanations do nothing but cause issues in the long run. Keep it short. If they start asking for more of an explanation, read our tips in the coming sections on how to address that.

If It’s Online Dating

Again, the script works perfectly here. You don’t technically have to respond to matches you’re not interested in, but you can if you think it’s the right thing to do. According to a recent study we conducted on online dating messages, only about one-third of singles always respond to messages from singles they’re not interested in.

If It’s Through a Text

Yup! You guessed it. This phrase works perfectly for texts as well. One small caveat is that we’d advise you not putting any emojis or anything like that with your message. These can cloud the message and sometimes make people unsure of what you’re trying to clearly convey.

5. Be prepared to handle questions and reactions.

Ideally, the person you’re talking to is an adult and reacts like an adult. Ideally, they just say no worries and move along with their day. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Here are some things you can say and what you should do when they don’t react the way you would like them to.

If They Ask For You to Explain Your Feelings

First, you don’t have to do this. Second, you shouldn’t do this because it doesn’t benefit anyone. They may think it’s going to make them feel better, but it’s not going to. Often, people ask these questions because they think they’re going to be able to convince you to date them by handling your objections like a salesperson.

Here are a few things you can say:

  • “It’s nothing personal, I’m just not interested and don’t want to get into it.”
  • “It’s just not something I’m interested in.”

Avoid the temptation here to give fake excuses that aren’t the truth that may open you up to issues later. Be direct, and don’t let them badger you for an explanation.

If They Start Trying to Sell Themselves

Phrases like, “I just don’t understand why not,” or “I think we’d be great together,” or “Come on, what’s one date going to hurt,” are, well, annoying. If they say one of these phrases, give them the same line in the previous section about it not being anything personal. That should stop their advances.

If They Won’t Stop

If they keep pushing after you give them the second phrase, it’s time to get a little more forward and stern because they’re now being inappropriate and rude. If they continue their advances and you made it clear you weren’t interested, say something like this:

“Seriously, I’m not interested. Please stop trying to pressure me.”

If They STILL Won’t Stop

If that does not get them to stop, then it’s time to just walk away and end the conversation. You can say “I’m ending the conversation. You’re making me uncomfortable,” if you’d like, or you can just walk away. At this point, they’re way out of line, so it honestly doesn’t matter how you end the conversation.

If They Get Angry

If at any point in the discussion they get rude or angry, leave immediately. If you ever are in fear they’re going to do something, get somewhere safe, and if you have to call the police. This is a rare fringe occurrence that we hope never happens to you, but it has happened before.

Tips for Rejecting Someone Nicely

Here are a few tips that are designed to be used in conjunction with the steps above to give you the best results.

  • Never water down or sugarcoat what you’re trying to say. – When you do this, you aren’t being fair to the other person. They deserve the truth and a direct answer that you’re not interested. They shouldn’t leave the conversation with any inkling of a thought that something might happen down the road.
  • Deliver it in a clear and direct, but positive tone. – Always be direct when talking about things like this so there is no confusion. That being said, be positive about it and don’t sound like you’re disgusted or upset they asked.
  • Don’t get mad at them for asking or showing interest. – Seriously, it should be a compliment that they’re interested in you! And even if you think they’re way off base, don’t get mad at them for sharing their feelings as long as they’re doing it in a tasteful and respectful way.
  • Don’t get into explaining why you’re not interested. – You don’t owe anyone an explanation and giving one only creates issues. They may want to know why, but it’s often an attempt to find a way to convince you to give them a shot.
  • Don’t go telling all your friends they asked you out. – This starts to border on gossip, and it’s where you can start embarrassing someone just for wanting to share their feelings. Tell a close friend if you want, but it’s probably best just kept to yourself.
  • If you’re not sure what you want, that’s okay. – Sometimes someone asking you out is so out of left field that you don’t know how you feel yet. If that’s the case, tell them that. Simply say, “Give me some time to think about it and I’ll get back to you.” And then after you make a decision, get back to them! If it’s yes, awesome. If it’s no, be direct with your no like we talked about earlier.

What to Do After You Reject Someone

Once you’ve said your peace, you can probably expect things to be awkward at least for a little while. This is okay and completely natural. Don’t get upset if they need to take a little time to gather themselves.

But how should you react? We’ll, here are our suggestions.

If it’s someone random (like online dating or a stranger in public), you don’t have to worry about it because you’ll probably just stop talking to them.

If it’s someone you’re closer with or you work with, that can get more interesting. What we recommend is going about things like nothing happened. The quicker you can get back to being normal, the quicker they will as well. If you make a huge deal out of it, it will turn into a big deal.

Now, for how they react, that’s up to them. If they can’t carry on a normal relationship with you after that, that’s their problem. That might sound harsh but adults need to be able to deal with people not being interested in them or feeling the same way.