Your Call: How Do You Let Someone Down Gently?

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section. 

I went out with this guy I’ve known distantly for a while, a friend of a friend kind of thing where we occasionally bump into each other at parties. It was pretty much a date: we did dinner and drinks. He’s nice but I’m not into him like that. Now he’s texting me and asking when we can meet up again. I keep coming up with excuses about being “busy” (because I’m a chicken) hoping he’ll get the hint. What’s the best way to let someone down gently, without hurting their feelings? I know it’s cliche, but I’d definitely be interested in remaining friends with him. I just don’t want to get with him. Since I know him and we had an official day, do I have to say something in person or make a phone call, or is something written enough? And if so, should it be email or is via text ok? Either way, what do I say???

— Finickey

What should Fin do?
Let ’em know in the comments below!


  1. This is never fun. I’ve had to do it plenty. But I feel like it’s best to just be upfront and quick about it. My standard thing is something like “I really enjoy your company, but I’m just not feeling the chemistry to move forward with anything more than just friendship. If you’re looking for more than that, I understand but in that case I’m going to have to decline further invites. Best of luck to you!” And I’ve gotten varieties of that same message sent to me too. It stings, but I’d much rather the honest communication rather than the avoidance and ghosting.

  2. I think the easiest way to look at is to consider what if the rolls were reversed– as much as it might sting to hear someone wasn’t into you as much as you are into them, it’s so much better than being strung along with vague excuses or ghosted. Also given you’re likely to run into this person again I’d suggest at least tell them by a phone call, if not in person. Because in text it can come off cold and cowardly and there’s no inflections or tone to provide context and no ability to respond– you both may get more closure if it’s clear there’s not malice on your side or too much hurt/anger on his (which isn’t readily clear in text.)
    So go about it as kindly as you can, but also be clear that you’re not interested in further pursing the relationship romantically. Maybe something like ‘while I had fun I just didn’t feel enough of a spark.’ Something that is honest and try to avoid any canned lines.

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