Letting Them Down Easy – Here’s How

Relationships A-Z
04 Jul 2023
12 min read
How to Let Someone Down Easy: Ending Things Without Drama

Most of us have been there, rejected by someone we were hot for. Sometimes the dumping happens right after we have felt a romantic connection (a few weeks); sometimes it happens after a serious relationship was established (a few months or even longer). Whenever it comes, it is a blow. If we’re rejected, we feel bad and may even seriously question our worth. If we are to reject, we are bound to hurt someone else. So the question arises, how to let someone down easy?

The depth of hurt is different if you need to end things by being no longer interested after the first date or when the connection is already strong. Even tougher may be ending a relationship that has been going on for some time because you have found someone else – but it happens. The key is to find the right words and be prepared for all of the feelings the other person may experience. We’re here to help you go through this with 9 basic rules.

How Will You Let Someone Down?

So, how will you break up with or reject someone nicely? Because you do want to do it nicely, right? If you have ever been dumped in a cruel way, remember how you felt? Just don’t do that to someone else.

You may be unable to prevent the other person from feeling rejected and hurt, but you can learn how to let someone down easily.

“Most people think that moving on is just a matter of time … but if you feel devastated, it’s not going to be as simple as sleeping it off like a bad hangover.”

Antonio Pascual-Leone, clinical psychologist

9 Rules for Ending Things as Nicely as Possible

Depending on how long you have been with the person, the ways to communicate that you want to end things are different. If you break things off after a first date, a text is totally fine; after a period of only months, a phone call is better; and after a longer-term relationship, do it in person.

But no matter what method you use here, there are some general “rules” that will protect the person’s feelings as much as possible. Let’s uncover them all.

Rule #1 – Never Lie

The saying, “Honesty is the best policy” applies here. While it may be tempting to let someone down easy by coming up with some fabricated excuse, just don’t do it. You owe it to this person to tell the truth, and here’s why:

  • Both of you need closure so that both of you can move on with your lives
  • It’s the respectful thing to do. If someone were giving you the bad news that they didn’t want to move forward with you, wouldn’t you want the truth?
  • It’s an act of personal growth for you. Here’s a lesson in learning how to be assertive and yet empathetic of another person’s feelings. You’ll be using this skill many other times in the long run
  • Once you lie about the reasons, you may have to tell other lies to reinforce the first one. Or you may get caught in that lie.

Here’s a simple example of how you get caught in a lie. You’ve told the person that you don’t want a relationship now and are just too overwhelmed with work and stress. In truth, you have a new squeeze. So, you begin dating this new love interest, and you hit a club one night. Your old flame comes in and sees you all warm and cuddly with your new love. They realize they have been lied to, and their healing process must start anew.

Don’t make things worse than they already are. If you give a dishonest excuse, you leave the door open for them. You let them think that maybe there is hope for the future, when in fact there is none. They may cling to that hope and not move on. Don’t do that – it’s better to be brutally honest instead.

How to let someone down easy: Be honest and don't give false hope

Rule #2 – Don’t Procrastinate

Once you are clear in your own mind that you need to make a clean break, don’t put it off. We all have a tough time doing the hard things in life, and the easiest thing is to find excuses to delay the inevitable. But the more you delay, the tougher it becomes for you, and the less you are focusing on both of you getting on with your life.

Respect the feelings and time of this person. You need to end things as soon as you are certain of your feelings. Then you can both go your separate ways without any lingering entanglements. If you do procrastinate, you are kinda playing games with their heart and feelings.

Rule #3 – Be Mindful of How and Where

How to let someone down easy requires you to think through the how and the where this will all happen. The “when” is not too tough – it must be as soon as possible. The how and the where will have to be planned, depending on how you’ve chosen to communicate the breakup.

Related reading: What Is a Break in a Relationship?

By Text

Do you send a text message? Yes, if the dating relationship is really new. If you have had a date or two and you know that you don’t want to go on, a text message will be fine.

Just give a brief explanation that you are not interested in going forward. You don’t need to over-explain why. The relationship has not even really begun. You may want to offer your friendship, but if you feel that would complicate things, just don’t do it. Make a clean break instead.

Text something like this, “You are a nice person, but I am not interested in moving further in a relationship. It’s nothing you have done. I just don’t feel any connection. I wish you the best of luck.”

By Phone

Making a phone call is a better way to end a relationship that has begun to develop but you are really not “into” it. It may have been easy and comfortable, but now you know that it is really going nowhere, and you are not interested in going on. You just aren’t a good match.

The other person has developed feelings for you and thinks this relationship may be going somewhere. And you have been involved for a few months now. That’s why you owe this person more than a text message – at least a phone call, voice-to-voice.

Of course, they will feel hurt and may even respond with lots of emotion. You’ll probably feel bad too, but you must be honest. Rejecting someone is not easy.

Call and tell them the truth. Explain that you don’t want to lead them to believe that there will be anything serious, so the best thing is to cut it off now. If there is a lot of emotion on their part, don’t even suggest that you two be friends. That’s for a much later time, if at all.

In Person

A face-to-face meeting is the only way to let someone down that you have been with for a long time. It will be extremely hard, but you cannot control their reaction to rejection. You can only control how you respond. So, prepare the place in advance and remain as calm as possible.

Carefully pick where this will happen. Obviously, a crowded noisy place won’t work. It could be at their place because you will be able to leave once you have broken the news, and your now-ex-love will not be sitting in an uncomfortable place dealing with their emotions.

If you believe the person you have been dating for so long might get over-emotional or even violent (and you should have some inkling of this by their behavior during your dating), then arrange to meet them for lunch in a public but quiet place.

Meet and be clear that it is over. You can express empathy with statements like, “I know how hard this is,” or “I understand how you are feeling,” but, above all, do not say anything that leaves a door open for getting back together. That will only make things worse.

You may feel that this is not how to let someone down easy, but in the long run it is.

Rule #4 – Be as Brief as Possible

When you practice your rejection speech, the best way to let someone down easy is to make it short. Stay on point. Getting into lengthy explanations, giving them all the reasons, or staring a drawn-out conversation only prolongs the situation and causes deeper misunderstanding.

Say what you mean – get to the point, be clear, firm, and honest, but get it over with.

Rule #5 – Never Give Someone False Hope

This is an easy trap when you don’t want to hurt someone. Don’t think that letting them down easily means paying them all sorts of compliments. But this is not how rejecting someone nicely works.

When you spend time telling them what a wonderful and attractive person they are, you are really giving them false hope. You don’t make them feel good about themselves in this situation but create a false expectation that they can win you back. This strategy only prolongs the rejection and the hurt because they will wait for you to change your mind long after the breakup.

Get ready for their reaction when you want to reject someone nicely

Rule #6 – Prepare in Advance for Their Reaction

When relationships end because of rejection, the “injured party’s” reaction can run the full gamut – from quiet sadness and tears to full-blown anger and rage. You cannot predict what they will do, but you can prepare yourself for any scenario.

By Text

Here are several scenarios that can happen:

  • If you send a direct text after a date or two, you can get in response anything – from no reply to nastiness, anger, and anything in between. If their reaction is unexpected, react accordingly – but respectfully and maturely.
  • If the reply is calm, and it looks like they accept your rejection, then you should not feel uncomfortable with a follow-up text suggesting that you be friends.
  • If their answer is a bit over the top, it’s best to block them.

By Phone

Treat a phone conversation the same way as texting. You’ll get a sense of how they are feeling by their voice as well as their talk, so you’ll know what action to take after that.

In Person

Face-to-face can be tricky because you are physically there with your rejection and their response. But one thing is certain: you must watch your words and your body language so you do not give the person false hope that there could be a future.

Related reading: The Art of Body Language: How to Guess What Your Dater Is Thinking

It’s easy to get into that trap if there are either tears or pleading. While it may seem a bit cruel, you must honestly but nicely stick to your guns – there is no chance for a future. If you are met with rage or anger, the talking is over. Leave the situation with a statement that maybe you will be able to talk at some future date.

Remember this: When you want to reject someone nicely, but they are not willing to go along with that, don’t buy into bashing on social media and with mutual friends. If it ends badly, simply block the person and reject their attempts to contact you. And above all, don’t dive into bashing in response. You wanted to reject someone nicely and tried your best, but they don’t go along with that. That’s how it is.

Rule #7 – Hold a Balance, or TMI Is Not a Good Thing

If you’re really going to reject someone nicely, don’t fall into too much honesty and tell things that are hurtful. Here are examples of such things:

  • Telling them you have found someone else who is more attractive, better educated, or more suited to your social circle – Yikes!
  • Revealing things like they need to dress better or get a new hairstyle, or otherwise improve their appearance to attract someone else – Double Yikes!
  • Explaining to them you are turned off by their body in the bedroom or by sex with them – Triple Yikes!

You can be honest with yourself about all these things, but being too honest when you reject someone is just not cool. Keep your opinions about their faults and flaws to yourself. Just be direct and respectful. Your goal is not to hurt them but to end the relationship. Their flaws don’t matter in this situation. You’re simply piling on the hurt and trying to justify your actions. It’s just wrong.

If they want reasons? Be general and direct. “We are just not a fit, and we both need to move on.” That’s honest, no matter what the specific reasons. All the detail will only make things worse and prolong the conversation and will be a big blow to their self-esteem.

Rule #8 – Talk About Friendship If You Feel It’s Appropriate

Rejecting someone requires a lot of skill and finesse on your part. And you must be honest about there being no chance for a continued romantic relationship. You are kinda the “bad guy” here, but there is nothing wrong with how you are feeling. The rejected person will recover on their own time – that’s not up to you.

If the relationship has been rather short, and their response has been pretty calm, then you might want to offer friendship as an alternative to romance. It’s up to them whether that will be a good thing. Don’t push it – just offer it.

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

Rule #9 – Always Focus on Yourself

When you reject someone, you are the person with the problem, not them. So, make it all about you. You are the one who is not into this relationship, not them. You are the one who is rejecting them for whatever reasons you may have. When you use “I” statements, you are communicating to them that it is your problem, not theirs. You are then not putting them down, assigning any blame to them, or communicating that anything is wrong with them. And the conversation shows that you have respect for their feelings. You don’t need a dating coach to tell you this.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

The only thing you may talk about, if the time seems right (and depending on their reaction) is if they want to remain friends.

Now You’re Ready

If you trying to figure out how to let someone down easy, these tips should help for whatever situation you are in. Rejecting someone is not easy, even if you are only doing it via text message. Don’t be afraid, tell your truth. If it’s not working already, the best thing you can do for both of you is to be brutally honest and end your relationship as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more pain you’ll bring that person.

Dating Tips Author
Shelly Standford
After a devastating relationship breakup, I threw myself into the dating scene by registering on Hily. I had over 100 dates - some absolute disasters, some pretty average, and some that were actually great. So many stories to tell and insights to share with you guys!
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