One of the benefits of being single is that you can flirt with everyone, from your barista to your mail carrier. It doesn't have to go anywhere — you can just enjoy going through life exchanging spicy banter with strangers. Often, being open to getting to know (and flirt with) other people can help keep you attuned to potential romantic partners. It's all about being open to what the world gives you.
Sometimes, however, flirting can lead to an unwanted advances, and you'll find yourself needing to reject someone. This can be tricky, depending on your relationship with the person — rejecting a stranger feels completely different from turning down a close friend. While it can be tempting to tell them you already have a partner, that method takes away some of your personal agency: it centers your relationship with someone else rather than your personal desires. Luckily, there are many other ways to turn someone down. In honor of everyone's autonomy, POPSUGAR spoke to a few experts to work out the best ways to reject someone clearly and kindly.
How to Reject Someone Nicely
Asking someone out takes a lot of courage, so if you feel safe in the situation, it's best to try to turn down your suitor with kindness. When handing someone a romantic rejection, it can be helpful to administer the blow between a few nice things — for example, "Wow, that was smooth! I'm afraid I'll have to say no, but you're good at this." Try and keep these compliment sandwiches as honest as possible — and if you truly have nothing nice to say, share something generic, such as "I love how you know exactly what you want, and I'm sure your person is out there."
A kind rejection can also help salvage the relationship and keep you on good terms, in case you eventually want to circle back. "I'm a big fan of rekindlers," Jon Birger, dating expert and author of "Make Your Move" and "Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game," says. "There's all sorts of research to indicate rekindled relationships succeed at an unusually high rate." So if you have even a tiny inkling that you might want to connect romantically with this person in the future, rejecting them gently can help you leave things on good terms.
How to Reject Someone Who Won't Listen to "No"
Not being listened to is frustrating, and trying to reject someone who just won't take you at your word is incredibly tough. "This isn't about you, this is about winning," Patti Stanger, an intuitive matchmaker best known for her show, "The Millionaire Matchmaker," says. "Someone like this likes [engaging with] people who don't like them because they enjoy the challenge of winning at all costs." She warns that if you do agree to a date under these circumstances, the pursuer may lose interest once they feel like they have you. When someone fights back, she notes, it's often indicative of deep insecurity and, sometimes, narcissism.
Rather than offering more and more reasons, Stanger suggests that you should simply speak your truth and ignore or block them from there. After all, a simple "no" should be enough for anyone who's worthy of your time and respect. Say it with us: "no" is a full sentence.
How to Reject a Close Friend's Advances
It's a common scenario: two people become friends, and at some point, one of them wants more. This can be one of the toughest (and most cringe-worthy) situations to deal with, and how you handle it depends entirely on the type of relationship the two of you have. If you're on close, jokey terms, the best way to handle it might be with a bit of humor — perhaps something along the lines of, "You know I love you, but never say that again. Let's forget this conversation happened and go get pizza."
However, if you want to show that you truly respect your friend's feelings, a gentler, more formal option could be better. Try something like, "I'm so flattered, but I've only ever thought of you as a friend. I want to protect our friendship and keep it that way it is because I value it so much." Know that they might want more and deeper conversations, and it's up to you to set boundaries on how much you want to discuss your relationship with them. They may be a close friend, and you may want to let them down easy, but be sure to be clear on what you want. Even though it can be a difficult experience, it's important that they respect your decision — just as you respected them by hearing them out.
How to Reject Someone on a Dating App
Rejection is conveniently built right into the dating-app dance: simply unmatch or drop the conversation, Lindsey Metselaar, millennial dating pro and host of the "We Met At Acme" podcast, tells POPSUGAR. After all, she says, "It's not ghosting until you've met in person." The sheer volume of conversations happening on dating apps means that some are bound to naturally drop off, so you shouldn't feel too bad letting a lackluster connection fall by the wayside.
"I don't think I would handle it well if someone told me they swiped yes on me but were no longer enjoying the chat," Metselaar says. "That is totally unnecessary — just unmatch." So many conversations happen on dating apps that chances are they won't even notice when you unmatch. You'll move on to the next person, and so will they.
How to Reject Someone in Person
The stakes can feel higher during a face-to-face interaction, but the golden rule of rejecting a stranger is the same no matter the platform: clarity is kind. Try keeping things simple with something like, "That's flattering, but I'm not dating right now." This puts the emphasis on you, rather than on the person you're rejecting — it's not about something they did or didn't do, but rather the fact that you're uninterested. If you prefer to be more direct, you can try, "Thank you for asking, but I'm not interested." It's polite, direct, and leaves no room for misinterpretation.
If you feel uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation with a firm "no" and physically put some space between you and the person. You can fake a phone call if needed, pretend to "catch up" with an "old friend" who's nearby, or start talking to a bartender or hostess if you're at a bar or restaurant. Don't hesitate to approach someone for help if you feel unsafe.
How to Reject Someone After a First Date
Sometimes, you just know there won't be a second date. Ideally, neither person would reach out; however, if they ask you out again, it can be nice to offer a gentle and concise close-out rather than ghosting.
Stanger says there's nothing wrong with going out again to see if your feelings develop, but as soon as you know for sure, the best thing is to let them down gently with something like, "I've had a great time getting to know you, but I have to be honest, the spark isn't there. I wish you all the best."
Metselaar suggests, "Say something like, 'Hey, I had a lot of fun, but I'm feeling more of a friend vibe between us. I want to be transparent about that because I think you're great — would love to stay in touch.' Usually, if they're a good person, they take it well." While you may get the occasional negative, you'll at least know that you did the right thing.
If you really got along with the person but didn't feel a spark, you can also offer to keep them in mind for someone else. Try saying, "I think you're awesome, but I don't think our chemistry is there. If I come across someone who may be a fit for you, are you open to an introduction?" Metselaar agrees that this is a nice way to end things with someone who is a great person — just not your person.
When it comes down to it, it's best to be direct. "Don't spend time whipping up some lie to sugarcoat your reason," Stanger says. "It's natural to worry about hurting the other person, but don't overcomplicate things. You can simply say you don't feel chemistry." And, hey, at least you gave them a shot.
How to Reject Someone When They Keep Asking "Why?"
Just because someone wants to know why doesn't mean they're entitled to any further discussion. "Breakups are not exit interviews," Jon Birger says, and no one is entitled to an explanation — as noted earlier, "no" is a full sentence. However, if you want to clarify, keep things simple, and don't take this as an opportunity to dump on them. Keep your points focused on you and what you want, rather than on specific things they've done or characteristics they have; for example, go with "I'm looking for a relationship with more constant communication" over "You literally never text me back."
Keep in mind that you don't have to say anything. "If it makes you uncomfortable, you don't have to explain it," Metselaar says. If you're not interested in further conversation, you're entirely within your rights to block or ignore further messages. After all, you're the main character of your story. Keep it kind, and keep it moving.