How To Firmly But Respectfully Reject Someone Who Won't Stop Asking You Out
There are plenty of things in adult life that get easier with time and practice — like filing your taxes or going to the doctor all by yourself — but trying to figure out how to turn someone down when they ask you out is one of those things that just doesn't seem to get any easier, no matter how much practice you have. And as if it's not hard enough to reject someone once, it gets even more frustrating and complicated if someone "won't take no for an answer" (or simply can't take a hint), putting you in a situation where you have to reject the same person not just once, but many times over.
"Being asked out repeatedly after already expressing a lack of interest is a clear sign that this person doesn't respect your boundaries," Dr. Tanisha M. Ranger, Licensed Psychologist at Insight to Action, tells Bustle. "As human beings, the natural response to boundary violations is anger. Depending on the setting, it can be even more stressful. For example, is this someone you have to see regularly? Someone you work with? Someone who attends your church? Knowing that you are going to, essentially, be harassed while you try to go about your life activities can definitely take a toll on you."
In theory, the idea of someone liking you so much that they just can't stop trying to ask you out might sound flattering; in reality, it's disconcerting and stressful to feel like you aren't being heard and your boundaries aren't being respected. As a woman, this kind of scenario is something I've experienced countless times, and I've always had trouble saying 'no' in a firm way — but is it just me, or do other women find it particularly difficult to reject someone romantically?
"I do think it's particularly difficult for women [to reject someone] because of the socialization we've all gone through that says we should be careful to protect men's feelings, we should always be polite, we should take it as a compliment whenever a man shows interest in us, and we should always try to be accommodating," Dr. Ranger says. "These messages leave women feeling guilty when they have to say no. And the men are also socialized: [they're] taught that persistence is a virtue, taught that performing appropriately (doing things for a woman, or obtaining the desirables of a job, a home, a car, etc.) entitles them to the woman that they want. The combination can be toxic."
Although this is a gendered issue in many ways, it's important to note that being in a scenario where you have to reject a persistent suitor is something that can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. So the next time you need to turn down someone who seemingly can't take a hint, here are six expert tips for delivering a firm, clear rejection — without being unnecessarily rude.
1Make Eye Contact
The first step to delivering a firm rejection that sticks? Be sure to make eye contact (even though it might feel easier to look at anything but the other person).
"This shows that what you say is direct and you have no qualms about stating it," Laura MacLeod, Licensed Master Social Worker, tells Bustle. "You can soften it with 'I'm sorry' but then state clearly, 'I can't accept your invitation' [or] 'This isn't going to happen' (use this if person has been pestering you). Keep it short and direct."
2Don't Make Excuses
As someone who has defaulted to saying "sorry, but I'm taken" one too many times, I know all too well how excuses like that — ones that are meant to soften the blow of rejection — can wind up backfiring.
"Be very careful about excuses," MacLeod says. "Be aware of loopholes and possible ways to get around your excuse. This prolongs the interaction and gives the person hope [which creates] more stress and anxiety for you."
3Be Direct And Firm
If you're usually a people-pleaser, the idea of being firm in your rejection of someone can seem mean or harsh. But when it comes to saying no, being firm is always best — so come up with a few short, to-the-point lines, and practice saying them to yourself in the mirror.
"There’s always a way to speak your truth in a firm, direct, and respectful way but that doesn’t mean that the other person is going to *like* your truth," Eliza Boquin, MA, LMFT, owner of The Relationship & Sexual Wellness Center, tells Bustle. "You can say something to the effect of: 'You've asked me out several times now and maybe I haven’t been clear, so I’m hoping this will leave no confusion. I am not interested in going out. My answer will not change and I expect that you will now respect that moving forward.'"
4Be Consistent In Your Rejection
There's always the chance that the first time you do a "hard rejection" of someone who's been bugging you to date them for a while, it won't stick, either. So if they do reach out again, make sure you're consistent and don't waver in your rejection.
"The most important thing to remember is the importance of consistency in what you say and how you say it — and any follow-up action or interaction with this person later on," Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, Psychotherapist, Relationship Coach, and Divorce Mediator, tells Bustle. "In other words, be mindful of not sending any mixed messages which could lead the person to believe that you really don’t mean what you are saying, and/or are ambivalent and with persistence will say yes. They need to know that NO is NO."
5Don't Feel Obligated To Take Responsibility For Their Feelings
Even if someone is driving you up the wall, there's still the possibility that you'll feel bad or guilty after rejecting them — but it's key to remember that you're not responsible for managing their hurt feelings; you're only responsible for your own feelings.
"You are dealing with adults and adults should be able to manage their own disappointment," Christine Carpenter, PsyD, Dating and Relationship Consultant at Evolve Dating, tells Bustle. "You are not responsible for that. So don’t get drawn into lengthy explanations or justifications about how you arrived at your position. You are informing the other person about a decision. You are not entering a dialogue or negotiation. They don’t have to understand why or see if the way you see it."
6Don't Be Afraid To *Not* Be Polite
The most important thing to remember? If someone is disrespecting your boundaries, verbally abusing, or threatening you after you reject them, you are not obligated to be polite to to them — period.
"Some people tend to be more on the agreeable side of the spectrum, which means that they may experience difficulties in letting people down and disappointing others," Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Despite this fact, you need to know when your agreeableness is to your detriment. You may want to do it politely, but if someone is invading your personal space, or causing you actual discomfort or harm, it is on you to end it, harshly if necessary."
It might not be fun, but learning how to reject someone in a firm, clear way is a crucial part of becoming a confident, independent adult dater — and the sooner you learn how to stand your ground and just say 'no', the sooner you'll be able to put the days of being pestered by the same person behind you.