Each month, Real Simple magazine runs an expertise column in which 5 experts give their best advice on a particular subject. This month, we had the honor of being one of those experts. The topic this month was how to reject someone nicely (necessary info for a lot of people during a time of hearts and flowers and romance and propositions, sadly). Here’s our unabridged advice (too long for the print magazine); read the rest of the article here for advice on cracking a joke, not overestimating your importance, offering praise, and acting fast whenever you have to say NO to someone.
Be Gentle, But Firm
There’s nothing wrong with a little white lie to soften the blow of a rejection, especially a romantic one. No need to tell them the real reasons you’re dumping them (e.g. you’re interested in that hottie in Accounting), how easy this decision was for you (it should always be very, very hard), or what you really think of their personality/most annoying habit/physique/fashion sense/parents. Instead, emphasize their positives with specifics (“You have amazing taste in music/movies/domestic beer”), avoid cliches (“It’s not you, it’s me”; “I love you, I’m not in love with you”) and, above all else, make sure you leave no room for interpretation. The human heart has a remarkable capacity for convincing the brain that there is in fact a chance for a snowball in Hell, so be clear this is the end. Blaming it on “a lack of chemistry” is the truth, but generic enough not to sting too bad–and a breakup isn’t really debatable when one can chalk it up to evolutionary psychology. In short: kill them with kindness.
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