10 Tactics to Tell Someone You’re Not Interested

Dating 101
24 Oct 2023
8 min read
How to Tell Someone You're Not Interested: 10 Things to Rely on

Sometimes, navigating the task of how to tell someone you’re not interested is easy. Almost all of us have rejected the advances of an aggressive salesperson, said no to dessert, or even canceled plans with friends.

But at times, saying no isn’t that easy, especially when it involves another person’s feelings. No matter how often you do it, saying ‘no’ to someone can certainly feel like navigating a minefield. How do you stand firm and express your lack of interest without being cruel? What if delicate complications such as existing friendships make all of this more complicated? You need to consider many potential threats to express yourself, in short.

No doubt the art of rejection can be complicated, but every person needs to master it. These tips will help you tell someone you’re not interested while making a reasonable effort to preserve the other person’s feelings.

1. Don’t Apologize

You have the right to tell someone you’re not interested. That’s not something you are doing wrong or have to apologize for. When you become too apologetic about enforcing boundaries, you give the impression that you think you shouldn’t really have the right to make that choice for yourself.

Be kind. Be thankful for the invitation (unless you aren’t). Don’t apologize for choosing who you do or don’t want to date.

Related reading: Apology Language Quiz

2. Don’t Explain

You have to tell someone you’re not interested. Naturally, you want to soften the blow and offer a kind explanation to show you just don’t feel that romantic vibe, and it isn’t them as a person.

You don’t need to do this. Offering an explanation isn’t going to get them on the same page as you. It’s just going to make things worse. When you explain, you:

  • Take on responsibility for other people’s feelings
  • Increase the other person’s discomfort and embarrassment
  • Create a false perception that you may change your mind
  • Risk saying something insulting or unintentionally mean

Remember that brief communication is sometimes the most respectful communication. If they bombard you with additional questions, answer kindly and firmly, and don’t react to manipulations.

3. Be Appreciative With Limitations

Someone feels a romantic connection with you. Even if you don’t feel the same way, that’s usually a positive thing. It’s okay to appreciate their attention and interest if you truly feel that way. Just use some situational awareness.

Being too appreciative is similar to offering an explanation. Fawning and flattery can only make an uncomfortable situation worse. Simply thank them for the offer, and then say no in a straightforward manner.

A few dates don’t create an obligation on your part.

When it comes to romance, the concept of appreciation can lead to some ugly things. This may show up if you’ve gone on a few dates before you tell someone that you are no longer interested in dating them. You may feel guilty or as if you have taken advantage of the other person’s time and attention. Sadly, some people are socialized to believe that going out on a few dates entitles them to attention, sex, or even gratitude. It doesn’t.

Related reading: Are You In Love or Just Clingy? 8 Love vs Attachment Differences

4. Respect Their Negative Feelings

“People we love have difficult feelings. That’s not something to fix or run away from. But accepting that can take practice if you grew up learning that painful feelings were some kind of failure.”

Allyson Dinneen, marriage and family therapist, mental health counsellor

You have the right to say no to a date or romantic relationship. They have the right to be upset or disappointed. You aren’t responsible for a guy’s feelings. At the same time, you don’t get to tell him that his hurt feelings are wrong. Be careful about being overly positive in the moment. You won’t improve the mood and risk entering the realm of toxic positivity.

Remove yourself if the other person loses control, screams, or threatens to break things. But don’t expect them not to feel disappointed or to withhold their negative feelings for the sake of your comfort.

Setting healthy boundaries right away is one of the ways how to tell someone you're not interested

5. Set Boundaries

Stay firm in your decision and set boundaries that allow you to feel safe and comfortable. These should be determined by your needs, not the feelings or discomfort experienced by the other person.

How you proceed in your relationship with that person is up to you. If you are open to dating in the future, that’s fine. However, you are not obligated to entertain begging or arguing about it. Also, if you have no interest in communicating with them at all, that is a valid choice you are free to make.

6. Give a Sincere Compliment

If you want to keep things friendly, you can soften the blow with neither explanations nor extreme appreciation but a sincere compliment. The secret to this is to:

  • Only say something you mean
  • Be careful that you don’t unintentionally give them false hope
  • Keep it simple and platonic

Whatever you do, keep the conversation short. Move on to another topic or get yourself out of the situation entirely. It’s usually best to go your separate ways for a bit before reconnecting socially.

7. Make It About You

Use I language. That way, the discussion is about your preferences, your commitments, and your lack of interest.

Say “I don’t think we are a good match”. Don’t say, “you don’t have a sense of humor that I like”.

Some people will think they can change themselves if it means you will be interested in them. But they will understand they can’t change you. You’ll also help them save face rather than focusing on the fact that you rejected a relationship with them.

8. Tell the Truth When You Don’t Feel the Same Way

“You ask me if I love you
And I choke on my reply
I’d rather hurt you, honestly
Than mislead you with a lie”

Dan Hill, Canadian pop singer and songwriter

Moving forward only happens when you are real with people. Otherwise, they will be stuck wondering if they might have a chance if only they can figure out how to please you. If you are positive that you and they will never be a romantic match, say so.

Yes, you will be dealing with an awkward situation for a while, but that is so much better than dealing with someone who is constantly frustrated at being left in the friend zone.

Related reading: 36 Moving On Quotes to Help You Move Forward

9. Don’t Debate Your Decision

You don’t have to justify your choice. You don’t even owe an explanation if you don’t care to provide one. Most guys will get the picture if you are direct.

No is a complete sentence.

What about the people who don’t seem able to accept tough news from you? Make no mistake. They understand. They just lack respect for your ability to make that choice. If they claim you have no reason to turn down a nice guy like them, remind them that a nice person takes no for an answer.

10. Offer Friendship, But Only If You Mean It

You can say, ‘I’d rather just be friends’ if you want. Just know that the other person may not be willing to accept that. Also, do not say that unless you genuinely feel a friend vibe with them. Otherwise, it’s just fake.

If you do decide to stay friends, don’t make things awkward. Wait a couple of weeks, then make plans to have fun hanging out. Even better, allow them to make the first move. This will allow them to take all the time they need to get over hurt feelings and remember that they value your friendship.

Related reading: What Are the Signs Your Friends with Benefits Is Falling for You

Saying you're not interested anymore in different scenarios

How to Tell Someone You’re Not Interested: 4 Stages of Dating

1. At the Club

You’re out at the club, and having fun meeting people, dancing, and getting your drink on. It’s a night to have fun, but you don’t want to hook up in any way. Despite this, someone has asked you out. It’s a no-go, but how do you tell them you’re not interested?

This can be tricky. One guy may take the ‘L’ in stride. He’ll just go talk to someone else. But some guys can be gut-hurt and frustrated or just want to sweet talk you with more conversation.

What to say: “To be honest, I’m not here to meet anybody. I hope you understand. I’m sure you’ll find somebody amazing tonight.”

2. After the First Date

Sometimes, it’s hard to judge compatibility. At first, everything seems to be great between the two of you. So, you go on a date and hope things work well between you. Then, the actual date happens. The conversation drags, and you feel uncomfortable the entire time. Now, on the very first date, you know you’re not interested. But how do you let them know?

You may feel some anxiety about this. Will the other person feel disappointed or led on? Shouldn’t you try just one more date? To answer the first question, maybe. That’s for them to figure out. For the second, not if you don’t want to. The point of early dating is to get to know the other person. If you realize you aren’t compatible after a single date, there is no reason to engage in a further relationship.

What to say: “It’s been nice meeting you. I enjoyed hanging out with you last night, but I don’t think we are connected romantically. I hope you can find someone who is a good match for you.”

Related reading: Should You Kiss on the First Date?

3. After Several Dates

You’ve gone out on a few dates, but things just aren’t clicking. How can you tell them you don’t see them as a serious partner yet end things on a positive note? No doubt, this is a challenging thing. Here’s an example that involves a gentle but direct approach, as that is your best bet.

What to say: “I have enjoyed spending time with you over the past couple of weeks, but it’s clear we have different interests and goals. I want to be honest with you and avoid leading you on. It’s time for both of us to move on.”

4. When in a Serious Relationship

You love hanging out with them. The problem is that when you spend time together, they make it clear they are looking for a life partner. You want to keep things casual and fun. This means you’re going to have to have a tough conversation. Also, be prepared. They may not be willing to pursue casual dating and friendship. You should be prepared to deal with that. Here’s an example.

What to say: “It’s obvious we just don’t want the same things. I just can’t offer the level of commitment that you want. You are a very good person, but I don’t want to hold you back. I know you’re not interested in casual dating, and I wish you luck in finding that special life partner.”

Related reading: 14 Signs a Casual Relationship Is Getting Serious

Frequently asked questions on how to deliver the bad news that you're not interested

FAQs About Letting Someone Down Easy

There are so many things to consider when you need to tell someone you aren’t interested in a relationship with them. The answers to these frequently asked questions may help you navigate this issue while keeping conversations short and simple.

1. What If They Accuse Me of Sending Mixed Signals?

If you tell them openly that you aren’t interested in in pursuing a romantic relationship with them but they think you are sending mixed signals, that’s their issue to deal with. It doesn’t matter if they’ve misconstrued your body language or words. You are telling them the truth so they need to listen to and respect what you are saying.

Be aware that you will have to be very blunt with someone who thinks this way. They may genuinely need things communicated with them in an honest way. They may also be gaslighting you into thinking you are doing something wrong simply because you don’t see them in a romantic way. Be ready for that.

Related reading: Common Mixed Signals and How You Can Figure Them Out

2. How Do I Handle Someone Who Is Persistent?

It may happen that the other party doesn’t seem to get it. You wanted to be friends, but they won’t drop their romantic pursuit. It may get to the point that you aren’t sure you want any kind of relationship with them. Frankly, they are becoming a pest.

If that’s the case, you should stop going into details, explaining yourself, or attempting to protect their feelings. It’s time to deploy the broken record technique.

This is where you come up with a short phrase like, “I am not interested in dating you. My mind is made up.” Then, end the conversation immediately. If they want to be friends, they will stop.

Rarely, the person will persist. Worse, you may have reason to worry about your well-being and theirs. If that’s the case, you may have to take further action.

You may need to consider cutting off contact or ensuring multiple people are around when you have contact with them. Fortunately, most people will get the picture if you are direct and honest with them.

Related reading: What Are the 5 Signs the No Contact Is Working?

3. Can We Remain Friends?

No, you can’t always remain friends. It’s nice when it happens, but relationships can’t always survive this rejection. Just like you have the right to say you’re not interested in dating them, they have the right to protect their own feelings by cutting you out of their life.

Sometimes, maintaining a relationship ends up being a constant and painful reminder.

If you want to have a platonic relationship with a guy, be honest and let him know. But, you should never use this as a platitude to avoid dealing with someone’s emotions. If you wouldn’t welcome him into your life as a friend in any other situation, don’t pretend to be interested in friendship now.

Related reading: Appreciating a Platonic Soulmate

4. What If I Can’t Say I’m Not Interested Anymore?

This is a tough one if you are a conflict-avoider and people-pleaser. If you don’t like dealing with tough emotions, particularly from other people, dread the moment in which you have to tell a guy you are not interested. So far, you’ve been avoiding the issue. Still, you know there are certain things you can’t keep doing. The most important of these is allowing a guy to think you are interested in dating him.

Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and be straightforward. Lean on friends to help you. Think of a brief but respectful ‘speech’ ahead of time. This will ensure clear communication and help you avoid stumbling over your words.

If that doesn’t work, you may need to speak to a licensed professional counselor. They will work with you to explore why you have such an issue with communicating in your relations. Even better, they will work with you on strategies to communicate things very clearly with the guy who is interested in you.

5. Should You Text, Call or Talk in Person?

You should prioritize what makes you comfortable. If you feel unsafe, then you can absolutely text or call them. If you want to preserve a friendship or have a longer conversation, consider meeting in person to talk.

Many people will see that as being respectful, but you should never put yourself into an uncomfortable situation just to be courteous to other people.

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!
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