6 Tips to Telling Someone, “I’m Not Interested”

By Dr. Kurt Smith

August 6, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Someone at work have a crush on you? A friend of a friend who keeps asking you out? Or maybe someone you have seen a few times and you just do not see a relationship happening? It can be really hard to tell someone we just are not interested.

Few of us enjoy hurting someone’s feelings – and we all know what being shot down feels like. So here are 6 tips on how to effectively tell another person you are not interested and minimize the sting at the same time:

• Be Honest.

It is absolutely necessary to be honest. Being honest does not mean giving a laundry list of their faults or being cruel. And although it is tempting, avoid saying things like, “I’m already in a relationship” or “I just ended a serious relationship,” unless that is completely true. These phrases can be especially hurtful if found out to be untrue or can even lead to false hopes. Plus, it is very difficult to maintain lies, so honestly is always the best policy.

• Be Prepared.

By thinking about and planning what we want to say in advance, we can stay honest and keep the message short and simple. We can also deliver our message in a calm and assured tone, and prevent ourselves from becoming defensive. Being prepared helps keep us from being rude or getting into specifics that may hurt their feelings.

• Be Less Available.

While this way is less than upfront, it can make the situation easier for both parties. By filling up our schedule with things to do and keeping busy, we can honestly say we do not have time for a relationship. This does not mean it is okay to make plans (a date or group event) and then ditch the plans. Keep it to yourself that you are making yourself less available so that the person is not embarrassed or hurt.

• Choose a Good Time.

While there is no “perfect” time for telling someone that we are not interested in him or her, in the middle of a fancy restaurant or while he or she may be studying for a big exam is not ideal. Since we want the person to be receptive to what we are saying, if their mind is on other things or they are already stressed, they may not be very receptive to what we are saying.

• Choose a Good Place.

It is important to choose a place for the conversation that does not look or feel like a date. Going out early in the day to breakfast or lunch or even a park bench keeps the setting from being too romantic, like dinner or evening out might. Being in a public place can be ideal, but take care to be sure there will not be friends close by to save he or she any embarrassment.

• Beware of “Being Friends.”

Saying that we like someone “as a friend” definitely can convey the message we are not interested, it can also lead to false hopes that we ‘may come around’ if they are patient enough. It can also lead the person to believe we are still interested in having them in our lives when we may not really want that at all. If he or she was a friend already, and we want to them to remain a friend, then of course we should let them know how much we value their friendship and would hate for anything to damage that relationship.

No matter how we say it, we are still rejecting someone, and even if they feel the same way, it can be tough for any of us to hear. Ultimately, we all want to be treated kindly and with respect, so we should treat those we are not interested in romantically just as we would want to be treated ourselves. If we keep these tips in mind, hopefully everyone can walk away without being hurt more than necessary.

Dr. Kurt Smith

Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.

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