How To Reject Someone Nicely But Firmly, From Dating Experts
It's never easy to reject someone. Most of us don't like hurting people, and rejection can undoubtedly sting.
That said, a kind but clear rejection is a gift: You're letting someone know—in no uncertain terms—that you're not interested in them romantically so that they don't continue to waste their time and energy on you or get their hopes up or face further hurt or disappointment down the line. You're also setting a boundary for yourself and protecting your own time and head space.
To make the conversation a little easier, we reached out to dating experts to get their best tips on how to reject someone nicely but firmly.
Deciding how to reject someone.
The first thing to consider is how you're going to deliver the news, whether that's via text, in person, or another mode of communication.
While it's widely considered best practice to break up with someone in person, letting someone know you're not interested in them doesn't always warrant an in-person meetup. According to sex and dating coach Myisha Battle, M.S., it's totally fine to reject someone over text if you've only gone on a date or two and your primary mode of communication has been through text. "To some folks, rejection by text is even preferable to meeting up in person only to be told things aren't working," she tells mbg.
That said, context matters a lot. "Think about your own specific situation," she says. "If you've been dating for a few months, it might be best to have a face-to-face chat."
If you're going to do it over text, below are a few examples of simple rejection texts you can send.
How to reject someone over text:
- "Hey there! This weekend was really fun. To be honest, though, I'm not really feeling a spark. I hope you can understand, and I really wish you all the best."
- "Thanks for dinner last night! I do want to be honest with you, though—I had a great time, but I don't think we're a great match. I wish you the best, though, and hope you find what you're looking for out there!"
- "I'm really flattered by the attention you've been giving me lately, but just to be upfront with you, I'm not interested in you in that way. I think you're great, though, and I hope we can still be friends."
- "[Name], I think you're a great guy/girl. I'm just not feeling a connection here."
- "Hey, [name], I've really enjoyed getting to know you these last few weeks. I think you're hilarious and such fun. That said, I'm just not feeling a romantic connection here, and I think it'd be best for us to go our separate ways. I'm really glad we met, and I hope you find your person soon."
General best practices when rejecting someone:
Ditch the guilt.
"First, it's important to move away from an 'I am rejecting you' mindset to embrace a 'we're not a good match' mindset," says Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of the book Date Smart. "On a neurolinguistic level, we tend to feel negative and guilty if we reject someone. However, if we switch to a 'we're not a good match' mindset, we neutralize the guilt and negativity."
Think of it this way: At minimum, a good match involves two people who are both really excited about each other. If that's not where you're at, it's in both people's best interests to move on. And at the end of the day, you don't owe anyone your time or affection, no matter how much they like you.
Consider your timing.
"Be thoughtful. Rejection of any kind is hard to dish and receive," Battle points out. "Think about when might be a good time to deliver the news, for them and yourself."
If you know they have a big work presentation tomorrow, maybe save your rejection text for the day after. If you're feeling really stressed out right now, maybe focus on getting to a more relaxed place before you suggest meeting up to deliver the news so that you can let them down with a little more grace and thoughtfulness.
Don't beat around the bush, make up excuses, or reach for cliches ("it's not you, it's me")—just be honest about where you're at with this person. "It's hard, but letting a person know why you feel things won't work is usually the best move," Battle says. "Most people will respect your honest assessment, and if they don't, that's an even bigger sign of incompatibility."
Now, of course, being honest doesn't mean pummeling the person with all the reasons you don't like them. It just means being direct and making it clear that the door is truly closed for you.
"You might skip the feedback about how you're not attracted to them, but you can say that you 'didn't feel a romantic connection' to relay this," Battle adds.
Don't speak for them.
Importantly, remember that you can't speak for how they feel or what they need—you only know how you feel and what you need.
"Never speak on their behalf," Battle says. "It might feel like the right thing to point out why you aren't the best match for them, but it's best to frame things from your experience instead. Use 'I' statements and focus on what you're looking for and why the other person isn't right for you."
Now, while you should be honest and clear about why you're ending things, Manly also recommends keeping your messaging pretty simple overall. "It's easy to over-explain and offer proof of why the person is not a good fit for you. However, this can often create a rat's nest of questions and negative feelings," she notes. "Avoid overexplaining, rationalizing, or getting into a back-and-forth about how things could possibly work out."
If you are having this conversation in person, a little bit of back-and-forth may be unavoidable if the other person chooses to ask questions to understand more. You can offer your honest assessment, as Battle points out, without necessarily getting into the weeds or turning the conversation into a negotiation.
If they push for more answers, here are some ideas for ways to respond without inviting debate:
- "I'm just not feeling a connection, and I can only go with my gut."
- "I just don't feel the same way."
- "That's just the way I feel."
- "I know the feeling I'm looking for, and I'm just not feeling it here."
- "I don't think we're a good match for each other, and while I know you might not agree, I hope you can trust that I know what's right for me."
- "I don't know what else to say. This is just where I'm at, and I hope you can respect my decision."
Avoid harsh feedback.
Be thoughtful about your word choice in this conversation. There's no need to be mean to someone as you walk them to the door (literally or metaphorically). As Battle notes, you can communicate where you stand without turning it into a commentary on this person's character.
"It's important to be direct and straightforward—yet very kind and compassionate," says Manly. It's not necessary to tell someone that you're not sexually attracted to them, that you don't like their sense of humor, or that you find conversations with them uninteresting. "Such comments sting and stick in the other person's memory long after the event."
Manly also recommends avoiding the word rejection in the conversation if possible. "Many people become triggered by the word rejection due to childhood issues, early life dating experiences, and even work situations," she explains. "When we move away from the term rejection, we tend to avoid the land mine personal triggers or the often unknown triggers of the person we're talking to."
Accept that they may be hurt.
At the end of the day, you can't control the way someone feels, and you shouldn't try to.
"The person who wants to disconnect can surely do so in a respectful, kind way, but this does not guarantee that the other person won't feel hurt or disappointed," Manly explains. "However, you're not responsible for that person's feelings when your actions were kind and compassionate. In general, the best you can do is break things off as kindly and gently as possible."
You can and should try to reject someone without hurting them by exercising kindness and thoughtfulness in the conversation, but after that, how they handle that rejection is up to them.
"They may have an emotional reaction to your rejection or want to give their own feedback," Battle adds. "You can listen and then politely disengage. If you have been honest and kind in your delivery, that's all you're responsible for."
How to reject someone and still be friends.
Yes, it's possible to reject someone romantically and still continue to be friends. "If you really like someone on every level except sexually and/or romantically, you can tell them that while you don't think it's a good idea to date each other, you'd still like to hang out if they're open to it," says Battle. "It may take time for them to come around, but some of the best friendships can start after a rejection."
The key here, though, is to make sure friendship would feel good for both people. Sometimes a rejection—and, more broadly, the disappointment of realizing a relationship won't blossom the way you hoped it would—can take quite a while for someone to work through and find acceptance. Battle says to be sure not to force it if the dynamic feels strained or difficult, or if you suspect it may be too painful or too soon for the other person. It may be necessary to push the pause button and give them some space to really move on before you reach out again to nurture a friendship.
(For more, we've got a full guide on how to be friends with an ex.)
Rejecting someone nicely is all about being thoughtful, clear, and direct with your words so there's no uncertainty about where you stand. And remember, letting them know how you feel helps them out in the long run—because it allows them to start working on moving on so they can spend their time on someone who actually likes them back in the same way.
Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.
You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter