In matters of love, uncertainty abounds, especially for men. Will she say yes if I ask her out? Will she let me kiss her after a first date? I know it can be tough for guys. No one likes to be rejected.
While I applaud guys for their courage in asking, I know that if I’m not interested, I have to be able to convey that. But it’s easier said than done for most of us, and I’m ashamed to say that I have been on a date or two simply because I didn’t know how to tell the guy no.
Wanting to avoid hurt feelings or embarrassing the other person is a deeply ingrained social norm. Saying no to someone can be so uncomfortable for some that it’s just plain easier to say yes. Research done on this topic indicates that rejecting people with whom we think we’re incompatible is hard. But failure to tell a man no doesn’t always come down to pure altruism. When I really took a good look at myself, I could see that the only person I was looking out for in this situation was me.
Sure, I would rationalize my reluctant yes with all kinds of do-gooder thoughts for the other. Well, what was I supposed to say, no?! I would justify to myself. If I rejected him I would break his precious heart, he may lose all his self-esteem, and then he would never be able to ask another woman out . . . yes, yes, better to go on a second date, and then let things fizzle out.
What I needed to hear then was a stern yet loving, “Get over yourself.” And actually, my sister told me just that.
The truth is, I could have the body of Venus and the heart of Mother Teresa (and I don’t), and most men would still move on just fine if I told them I was not interested. A man who is mentally healthy can take rejection. It might sting a little, but he will recognize that you are not the only woman worth having. A man who is truly looking for someone to share his life with will realize quickly that a woman who is interested in him in return is far more attractive than a woman who is not.
And finally, remember that he was just asking you on a date. We are not talking marriage proposals or vows of loving fidelity. This guy just wants to grab dinner or a drink with you because he likes you and wants to get to know you better. You are not breaking his heart.
Even though going along with an undesirable situation can seem like the kindest and most comfortable thing to do in the moment, we always regret it in the end. If you’re just not into him, eventually you’ll have to end things, and it’s often messier after a few dates. And as far as being kind, well, think about how hurt you would feel to learn that the date you spent time planning and looking forward to was actually a pity date. In the long term, the truth is always kinder.
So, how do you say no when a man moves in for a kiss or wants to take you on a date when you would rather not? Here are some tips from a former “yes girl.”
Get used to the word no.
For starters, get comfortable with a kind, clear, and resounding no. It doesn’t have to be a rude letdown, but your refusal should always include the word no for absolute clarity. And, if your gentler rejection does not come through, you must quickly be prepared for a no-mistaking-it (which may sound rude) N.O.
Try out your gentle no nestled amongst some polite words. For instance, if a guy asks you, “Will you come to drinks with me tomorrow night?” you can respond with something like, “Thanks for the invitation, but no thank you. I really appreciate the offer though.” If you get pushback, whip out the plain old no, and let that be that.
Prepare for a request.
My favorite tactic to prepare for an uncomfortable moment used to be to convince myself that it wasn’t going to come. Nope, he won’t make a move on me at the end of the date. No need to think about the second date because who knows if he even wants to see me again, right? Wrong.
If you have a hard time turning men down, prepare for the worst-case scenario. What will you say if he asks you out again? How will you say it? After you have your hypothetical answer worked up in your head, start building up the courage to break it to him kindly by using your clear no.
Learn to be affirming.
A big part of my fear of saying no is a fear of making a man feel dejected. And, even though he will likely bounce back, there is no denying that being turned down is difficult. So, to help me feel more comfortable rejecting men, I like to make a point to offer some sincere affirmation along with it.
“No, I’m not interested in going out again. But I do want to tell you how flattering it was that you invited me on a date.” Or “It is really refreshing to meet a guy who is not afraid to ask a girl out on a casual date.” All this is true; it doesn’t change my no, but it helps turn rejection into more of a high five.
Don’t say ‘I'm sorry.’
It’s tempting to apologize for saying no, but this is actually not a helpful thing to say. First of all, you have nothing to apologize for. Saying no does not mean that you are a bad person. And you do not owe this guy a date, a kiss, or anything else he might ask for.
Secondly, “I’m so sorry” implies pity and calls out the rejection, which can add to a guy’s embarrassment. Nine times out of ten, a guy would be happier if you made it seem like it was no big deal than if you were to act like you’re embarrassed for him.
Beware of manipulation.
By now most of us know that there are certain tricks some men have for getting us into a tight spot. The “Oh, just have one more drink” line can leave you compromised and less equipped to stand up for yourself if no is a word that you are uncomfortable using. “Let’s have dinner at my place” too early on in the relationship means that you will be at his place alone, and this will make saying no and a necessary exit that much more uncomfortable. There is also the “I will pick you up at your place” situation. While not always a trick, it can sometimes leave us open to manipulation and susceptible for caving under pressure. Say you don’t want to go out to another bar, follow dinner with dessert, or go back to his place. Being beholden to him for transportation can make you feel like it would be more polite to just go along with his plans.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to meet up rather than the old-fashioned meet-at-the-door method. Obviously, most guys are not trying to be manipulative, but it’s important to be able to spot situations that may cause you to have a harder time saying no.
It takes practice, but being a “yes girl” who knows how to say no is an important skill to have when dating. Experience the confidence of your yes meaning yes and your no meaning no, and you will never look back.