4 Ways To Reject Someone You're Dating Gracefully

Ashley Batz for Bustle

There's no question that it stinks to be rejected. But rejecting someone else carries its own set of challenges as well. If someone's relentlessly hitting on you or harassing you, rejecting them nicely shouldn't exactly be your top priority. But if somebody genuinely cares for you and you're just not interested, delivering a kind rejection can be tricky but worthwhile.

"Rejection can be difficult for those who are doing the rejecting and those who are experiencing the rejecting," licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Molly Giorgio, tells Bustle. "However, it is an unfortunate but necessary part of the dating process, because it allows people to actually find the partners they are looking for. If you are rejecting someone who is interested in you, it is important to remember that standing up for what you are looking for is a part of self-care."

You're probably not going to avoid hurting the person you're rejecting, which is OK because that's not your responsibility. But you can minimize the damage and, if you both want to, preserve a friendship with the person who's interested in you. Here are some ways to reject someone that allow you to treat them kindly while also honoring your own boundaries.

1Say You Want To Be Friends (If It's True)

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Don't tell someone you want to be friends as a way of deflecting their advances. But if you actually do want to be friends with them, giving them that option might soften the blow of the rejection. Clinical psychotherapist Kevon Owen recommends saying something like, "I'm not going to date you, but I value your friendship. If that can be enough, I'd still be your friend."

"It's short, simple, and does not open you up for conversation," he tells Bustle.

2Thank Them For The Compliment

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Another way to be gracious is to express appreciation for the flattery, while still making it clear that the feelings aren't reciprocated.

One line you could use is, "It means a lot that you'd find me me to be attractive, but our relationship isn't going to go any further than friendship," Owen says. This shows "validation and gratitude but still a very clear message."

3Ignore Them

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This one may be controversial, but if you don't know the person well, ghosting isn't always the worst thing. "I also don't hate ghosting people," Owen says. "Help them deal with the rejection by removing their irritant."

In fact, ghosting is perfectly acceptable if the other person is giving you a hard time or being disrespectful themselves. "If you experience someone attacking you after you reject them, it's better to disengage. You don't owe them a response," Daniel Saynt, founder of NSFW, a club hosting sex-positive events and workshops, tells Bustle.

"If you're rejecting someone in person and their response becomes angry, hurtful, or upsetting, you can still disengage in the same way," he says. "Walk away. Don't feel the need to get into an argument. Know your surroundings and get out of the argument as quickly as possible."

4Say You're Not Interested

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Don't feel bad about outright saying you're not interested in the other person. This will help them move on by not giving them any false hopes. Saynt suggests using a polite but clear line like "I'm very flattered, but I'm not interested" or "Thank you for asking. It's really kind, but I'm not interested."

"Don't try to lessen the blow by saying, 'If only XYZ circumstances were different, I'd consider.' Don't say, 'I'm not ready for a relationship,' as this will make the person think it's just a matter of time before they can pursue again," he says.

However, you also don't need to emphasize your lack of attraction to drive the point home. "It's easy for us to go to a mean place when we're rejecting someone," Saynt says. "Sometimes this comes from thinking of ourselves too highly, feeling that the person who's asking us should know that we are very 'out of their league.' This type of harsh rejection only increases the chances of someone going to their hurt place. We must practice a little empathy in our approach to rejection. The person who is interested in you could have taken weeks to build up the courage to ask."

Whatever route you choose, don't feel bad about rejecting anyone. "A desire to be nice may cause you to continue to engage with someone who is pursuing you, but the best kindness you can offer someone is a response that is clear so that they can move on and focus their attention on someone else," Saynt says. "You don't owe anyone anything other than the mutual respect and kindness you'd expect out of them. If your rejection causes a response other than 'OK, I understand,' then disengage and distance yourself if needed."