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How to Decline a Date

Recently 2 different women (in one week) have asked me the same question: How do I decline a date?

In both cases, the man who asked them out was someone they already knew, trusted, and considered a friend. (I know, friend zone, sigh…we’ll get to that). Both women were saddened and a little upset that their “friend” had decided to take it somewhere else.

Which brings me to the question: How do you decline a date?

This article will be my response to all women who want to learn how to decline a date. Men, this will help you as well, as it will give you the woman’s perspective on this issue and helps you avoid the dreaded friend zone.

It’s simple: Say ‘no.’

But I know that’s not REALLY what the question is for us women. The question is: “How do I decline a date, gracefully, without appearing mean, cold, bitchy, or ungrateful? How do I not hurt his feelings and keep the friendship intact?” A tall order for sure!

So let’s take a look at each component of this:

How to decline a date gracefully?

The answer is to decline politely. “No thanks, I’m not interested. I appreciate the offer though.” You don’t have to use this exact line, but most of us know what polite sounds like, even if we don’t always sound like it ourselves. :)

Most men mean well. Women, especially women who carry lots of baggage, might start to believe that all men are creepers who only want sex. This is far from the case. Yes, men want sex, but that’s not all they want (the majority of single men out there want to find a committed relationship just as much as most women do!).

This means that you don’t need to put up a huge fortress just because he asked you on a date and you’re not interested. Most men will respect your boundaries.

If you’re not interested in a guy who’s flirting a lot with you, then you can try to “force” the friendship.

This means that you stop acting like such a charming lady and start acting like one the dudes. Not in an inauthentic way (as in, don’t lie or make things up about yourself). But you can get into “extreme rapport” with the man you are talking to. Stand the way he stands, sit the way he sits (as best you can without pulling a Britney Spears), and talk the way he talks. Pretend that you are two alpha males talking business together.

This behavior will turn him off sexually (while still enjoying your company), and that’s the point. He will put you in the friend zone, and eventually walk away to go hit on other ladies.

Sounds crazy, I know, but this is a fantastic way dispel unwanted attention. This is my go-to technique with pick-up artists and male dating experts who want to try their “expertise” on me. I want to stay in rapport without flirting with them. So I don’t flirt. And pretty soon they *decide* that there’s no chemistry and that *they* should just be friends with me.

Keep in mind that in order to make this work, you need to be solid in what you are doing. If you go back and forth between being “one of the dudes” and being a sweet, charming, “Well, I’m not sure, maybe, I…don’t…oh, ok, well, maybe, but…see…the thing is…” then you are teasing. This will actually ramp up the sexual tension. So make sure you stick to being just a friend, just two “dudes” talking business and politics (or whatever you’re talking about).

This, and the polite decline, will work the majority of the time.

What if it doesn’t? Then it’s time to set firm boundaries. If he pushes, insists, gets angry, or tries to guilt you, stand your ground. Say, “No, I’m not interested.”

Here’s the biggest challenge: You need to remember that not everyone has to like you.

Women are often brought up to be charming, sweet, polite, nice, and to not make others feel bad. While you do want to be nice most of the time (which is why you start off polite and in rapport), if someone keeps pressing the issue, they just lost their nice-time privileges.

Ladies, your boundaries are more important than the way you appear to others!

This is especially true with men who do not want to hear “no.” It’s a losing battle to make these men like you, because the only way they’ll like you is if you let them have sex with you. So just assume that they won’t like you because they don’t like any woman who tells them no.

Men who are creepers (again, not the majority!) prey on women who try so hard to be nice, thoughtful, and liked, that they put this above standing up for themselves.

But when it comes time to set boundaries, make that boundary firm, even if you have to mean, cold, or bitchy to do it. The more they push, the stronger you need to hold your ground.

There was one time when I was out with a bunch of female friends and a man came and sat next to me at our table. He started chatting with us, and pretty quickly I could tell that he was making most of us girls–including me–uncomfortable.

So I politely told him that we were having a girls’ night and we weren’t really interested in having a conversation with anyone outside our group right now (the polite decline).

He ignored me and kept talking to us. So I again politely asked him to leave the table.

That’s when he started to guilt me. “What, you aren’t open to meeting new people?” He scooted closer, “Why are you so closed off? Maybe you should be more open-minded.”

I could almost hear some of the women he’d said that to in the past say, “What? I’m open-minded! I’m just…not…um…eh…” But I was not about to take the bait.

“Look, I asked you to leave our table. So please leave.”

“Oh, come on, we’re all having such a good time! Just relax, hang out. What’s got you so uptight?”

“You really need to leave this table.” Now my tone was not so nice!

He looked me right in eyes and said, “Wow, you’re kind of a bitch.”

My response? “Yep, I’m a bitch. I’m a bitch who’s telling you to leave my table.” He got up in a huff and walked away.

The point is, it doesn’t matter if the guy thinks you’re a bitch. It matters that he leaves you alone when you tell him to leave you alone. (By the way, if he hadn’t left at that point, the next step would have been bar security).

Many women are often afraid to set strong, firm boundaries with pushy men because we have been taught that doing so is unladylike. Well, the truth is, setting boundaries is more yang (masculine energy) than yin (feminine energy). But that doesn’t mean that, as a woman, you shouldn’t do it. On the contrary, when you need to set a boundary, you need to set that boundary. Even if you look like a “bitch” in the process.

Who cares if someone you’re not interested in doesn’t think you’re a sweet and charming lady? You’re not interested in them! So it doesn’t matter what they think.

You will rarely need to take it to this level. Again, most men are good, kind, and respectful human beings who will listen when you decline their offer politely.

It helps, though, to know that you can always play the firm boundary card if you need it. Because then you will only play it when you really need it.

What about not hurting his feelings?

It’s natural to feel compassion for someone that you’re declining a date with (actually, it’s probably a good thing, as a lack of compassion would indicate bigger problems ;) ).

However, it’s important not to confuse compassion and empathy with responsibility. You are not responsible for his emotions or his ego. You are responsible for making a truthful choice in response to his offer and expressing that clearly.

You cannot make someone feel one way or another. Each person is in charge of their own emotions. Sure, it’s important to be kind and polite about it (see above) but beyond that, it’s not your duty to spare his feelings. Nor is it your fault if he gets hurt.

If he responds by trying to make you feel bad (by guilting you, for example, pressing the issue, or accusing you of teasing him), do not try to defend or justify your choices. Your choice to decline the date needs no justification or explanation.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if he asks you out, you don’t owe him anything.

For example, let’s say you had gone out to coffee and he treated you (ladies, if you want to be just friends, pick up your own tab as much as possible!), and you say you’ll get it next time. Then, he asks you out on a date and you decline. He might say, “Well, you still owe me a coffee…” When someone puts sexual energy into the equation, all previous bets are off. If he really insists that you owe him, then offer to pay him back for the previous coffee that he bought (I’ve actually done that before. “I’m sorry it worked out that way. Would it help if I gave you the $3 back for the cup of tea?” This is called calling someone’s bluff. :) ).

Again, most of the time, these date-declining conversations will be graceful and polite if you are. These examples are for the extreme cases of when things do go awry. But being prepared for the worst means you’ll be ready for the best.

And finally: Can I keep the friendship intact?

This is similar to the question “Can I be friends with an ex?” The harsh truth is, there probably wasn’t much of a friendship to begin with. This is the friend ZONE–which means one person wants more from the other. This is an unbalanced relationship, very different from a friendship where equality and balance are inherent.

In friendship, both are friends, both like being friends with the other, and both support each other in finding love with someone else (not each other).

Sometimes men mistake a friendship for something more and become disappointed when they find out she didn’t feel the same way. (And women can be in the friend zone too). Many women get frustrated by this and wonder how he got that idea when she thought they were just friends?

In this situation, both parties are equally delusional. One was hallucinating a potential sexual relationship, the other was hallucinating a friendship. But neither were totally aware of what was going on with the other. If you do think a friendship is worth creating, take 30 days and then start from scratch.

Overall, your ability to decline dates will depend on how well you can let go of the idea that everyone should like you, that you need to be nice to everyone, and that if you stand up for yourself, you’re somehow breaking some societal rule about how “nice girls” should behave.

Remember that most men are good. They are kind, well-intentioned human beings who want to form a connection just as much as you do. When they put their interest out there, they are vulnerable, so treat their hearts with care. And if they cross a line beyond that, don’t be afraid to let them know it.



9 Comments
  1. “This behavior will turn him off sexually (while still enjoying your company), and that’s the point. He will put you in the friend zone, and eventually walk away to go hit on other ladies.”

    I know this post was for women, but just had a point to add to this. If a woman that we’re sexually interested in acts this way, we won’t be “turned off sexually” but we will get the point that you’re not turned on.

    “It’s natural to feel compassion for someone that you’re declining a date with”

    “Each person is in charge of their own emotions. Sure, it’s important to be kind and polite about it (see above) but beyond that, it’s not your duty to spare his feelings. Nor is it your fault if he gets hurt.”

    This is a great point Liz. I think this would teach more guys to deal with rejection (or say in my case, be realistic about the kinds of girls that are in our league)

    In fact, I wish more women would err on the side of being unkind and impolite. Because the politeness and kindness is really just a thin veil for what women really think – ie we’re sexually useless

    The same way women “see through” our “inauthentic” approaches and requests to buy drinks as just manipulations for sex, we “see through” politeness and kindness in these rejections as trying to manipulate us into thinking highly or well of you. But we as men have the right to think you’re making a bad decision for rejecting us, we also have the right to feel sad when it happens over and over again.

    If you reject us, then own it and reject us flat out, no bs, the same way you expect us to approach and ask for what we want, with no bs.

    I have enough of these kinds rejections to fill up the library of congress, I could write a Stephen King size novel on the different ways women politely reject. And most of the time, it has the opposite of the intended effect.

    A polite rejection is almost like trying to figure out ways to make tasty cough syrup. It’s cough syrup. its supposed to taste like crap.

    “Remember that most men are good. They are kind, well-intentioned human beings who want to form a connection just as much as you do. When they put their interest out there, they are vulnerable, so treat their hearts with care. ”

    Well thanks for this, of course, I wonder if you’d do a post on the inequity of society that requires men to repeatedly be “vulnerable” then a post like “how to decline a date” wouldn’t only be for the women.

  2. “Many women get frustrated by this and wonder how he got that idea when she thought they were just friends?”

    Is this really true though Liz ? I get the feeling that more often than not, women are fully aware when a “friend” really is into them, and just hopes he doesn’t make a move on it – to avoid any awkwardness.

    I had a discussion with a “female friend” who I haven’t made a move on (mostly now because we live on different coasts), but she was telling me about another guy friend that did. And she was talking about “how they had such a good friendship” and I was trying to explain to her, “it was never a friendship in his mind.” She played dumb for a while but finally conceded deep down she knew.

    1. It really depends on the case. Sometimes it does come out of the blue; other times women do sense something, and they just pretend that it’s not there. And sometimes they will address it when they sense it; or “drift apart” from that guy.
      Either way, many women get frustrated that the men they think of as “just friends” don’t always see them the same way.

  3. “Either way, many women get frustrated that the men they think of as “just friends” don’t always see them the same way.”

    Well, I could appreciate that, but I a lot of it comes from “wishful thinking” in my view.The idea that you could please everyone which you rightfully say that women are just way too conditioned to try and do.

    Realistically, I don’t believe men and women can *ever* be “just friends” unless one of them is gay or something like that. If one of the parties at any point had sexual interest in the other, then it’s going to be there and only some external social condition (she’s married, she’s dating, she’s your cousin, etc…) will prevent it.

  4. […] both men and women, I hear both sides of the frustration that this has created. Women have asked me how to decline a date without coming across too mean. Men have expressed pain, frustration, and heartbreak from having so […]

  5. […] boundaries means saying no to the things that you cannot do because it would take away from something else that is more […]

  6. What if the person is your professor and your thesis supervisor ?

    I really liked my professor. Even thought he was cute, but now that he has asked me out I feel awkward around him. I didn’t exactly realize he was asking me out because it sounded farfetched but after I chuckled softly at his offer (yes, I know. I was shocked at myself too) and he looked concerned, I realized he had been serious. And since he said “SOME DAY we can go to … museum” I said “OK, yeah, someday.” I didn’t want to refuse him outright . I thought I could get out of it later but he said that we can go on Friday! I made up an excuse quickly but said maybe next Friday. Now I don’t know what to tell him but I guess I’ll tell him the truth. My friends are stupid and think I should go out with him because he’s a surgeon and all but I think I saw something in him which tells me he is not going to date and marry me but just want sex which by the way I have no experience of ! I will tell him that I don’t find the idea interesting and also my parents will not like me going out with him. I live in Iran and I need my parents to like the person is date because I live with them till I get married.

    1. I think you already answered your own question: trust your intuition (that he’s not someone you want to go out with) and tell him the truth. :)

  7. […] Almost every woman I’ve coached has, at one point, expressed to me a deep anxiety about declining an offer from a man if she’s not interested in him. This is not just a fear that he won’t take it well; […]

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