How to Reject Someone Nicely

photo by Brujita

Attention is always flattering, but it’s not always reciprocated — blame it on nose hair, pleated pants, wrong gender, that mysterious “chemistry,” etc. While it’s not fair to lead someone on by giving them a fake number (so mean!) or one of those commercial rejection lines (even meaner!), there is such a thing as killing them softly. We may not be able to solve world peace, but we can make the world a kinder place if we’re a little nicer to each other on the pick-up scene.

Try, “I’m really flattered, but I’m seeing someone right now.” Don’t lie, of course — but a small exaggeration is perfectly acceptable. Perhaps you’re taking a somewhat permanent break from dating men who look like old lesbians or women who have the charisma of a shoe horn, in which case a simple “I’m taking a break from dating” will suffice. It’s not completely untrue: You are taking a mini-break from dating until this excruciating pick-up attempt is over. Of course, a simple, polite, “I’m flattered but not interested, thanks” is admirably honest, but would it kill you to cushion a bruised ego or two?

A note to straight guys: You are less frequently hit on, and thus you have less practice at rejecting an unwelcome pick-up. Which means you’re frequently awkward and weird about it. But women especially need to be encouraged in their attempts at seduction — if only because you guys are constantly complaining that they don’t make the first move often enough! Don’t go along with a hook-up just to avoid hurting her feelings, but don’t treat her like a desperate Donna either. She’s not desperate for hitting on you (who made off with your self-esteem, anyway?), she just knows what she wants and goes after it when she wants it. And ladies, don’t take it personally if he blows you off rudely; he’s just had less practice than you.

A note to the straight gals: You are less frequently the picker-upper, and thus you’re less familiar with the sting of rejection. (Which is why all of you should attempt at least one pick-up to experience it first-hand, in the same way we should all wait tables at least once in order to empathize with servers the world over.) Approaching a stranger in a bar takes more bravery than root canal surgery or listening to a Celine Dion album in its entirety. So be gentle, ladies. And guys, don’t take it personally if she blows you off rudely; she’s just heard a lot of dirty catcalls and cheesy pickup lines in her time and is used to putting up walls.

This column also appeared in print in Metro

One Comment

  1. When single I am pretty much always on the prowl, and I talk to lots and lots of women. I’ve found that very few women will actually be mean about it – and who needs them anyway. They’re either genuinely bitchy or socially off-cue. And for every woman who’s mean about it, there’s the equal and opposite rarity: a woman who’s so into my pickup attempt that she’ll sleep with me right now.

    Most women who aren’t interested (the most common scenario for guys who fall short of super-hot, honestly) will either:

    1. Be uncooperative conversation partners, which is fine. One-word responses, lack of eye contact, closed body language… it’s their way of showing that not only aren’t they interested, but they’d rather be left alone. As a non-social-idiot myself, it’s my job to pick up on that (no pun intended) and move on.

    2. Politely excuse themselves somehow – “well, nice meeting you but I have to go” or “thanks, but I have a boyfriend…” or even a straight rejection like, “mmm, thanks, but I don’t think so…” Any of those are ok too.

    But yeah, I’ve approached hundreds of women, and I’ve been meanly shot down, like, two or three time ever. You just gotta know how to talk to people.

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