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.