By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW
It’s a Saturday night and you’re out for drinks with a really nice girl/guy, but it’s just not working out. The conversation is awkward, the person does not look like their online picture, and you can’t listen to one more story about their love of fly fishing. So how can you handle this situation without hurting the other person’s feelings?
Telling someone you’re not interested in them is always difficult. No one wants to hurt someone else’s feelings, but it’s not fair to continue dating someone just to be nice. I’ve had clients tell me that they’ve stayed on bad dates for hours or agreed to go out again because of guilt. Here’s the good news: wanting to go home or not wanting to see someone again doesn’t make you a bad person and you shouldn’t feel guilty. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
So how do you let someone down easy? To answer this question, think about being in the other person’s position. If someone wasn't interested in you, how would you want to be treated? Often people “ghost” after a date, meaning you just never hear from them again. This is a cowardly response and one I don’t recommend. When you “ghost”, you are depriving the other person of closure and they may feel inadequate or as though they did something wrong.
A much better approach is to be honest, but kind. Find something you genuinely liked about the person and explain that although you had a good time you don’t think the two of you are a good fit. A text is fine if you’ve only gone on a few dates. Here’s an example of a text you could send:
“Hi Todd. I had a nice time last night and it was great meeting you. You’re a really nice guy but I don’t think romantically we are a good fit. I just wanted to be upfront with you.”
Seems easy right? Then why are people so terrified of sending a simple message telling the truth? People often feel guilty and afraid of the other person’s response. During my single New York years, I sent some version of the above text many times. Not once did I have a bad response. Usually, the guys appreciated me letting them know and respected my decision. And when I was on the other side, I appreciated when someone simply let me know it wasn’t working.
Often we overestimate the amount of pain we will cause someone if we say we don’t want to see them again. After only one or two dates, the emotional aftermath will likely not be nearly as bad as you think.
Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in New York City. If you or a friend need counseling about relationships, improving communication, or other issues please visit cobbpsychotherapy.com.