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I struggle with how to tell someone that I’m not interested. It really hurts my feelings when I get turned down and I don’t want to make someone else feel bad. I find myself either making up excuses to not meet up with people or I get passive and block them online, which makes me feel like a coward and it is awkward when I see them in public. How can I be direct with someone, but not hurt their feelings?

It’s sweet that you are considerate of someone’s feelings and are conscious of how others may take your not being interested in meeting up with them. None of us like to be turned down, regardless of whether it is for a job, date, or sex. Rejection hurts, but it may have different impacts on us depending on how it is delivered or how we perceive it. The same is true about how we convey our feelings to others. There are ways to be direct and get your point across without being cold-hearted or cruel. Put away the claws and daggers. Here are some considerations to ponder while you come up with your own unique style of saying “thanks, but no thanks.” We all have our preferred methods of letting someone down or telling someone we’re not interested. Some of these are short and to the point, while others offer more information or provide a bubble-wrap-covered rejection that can help to soften the blow to someone’s ego.

I think we can all empathize with the feelings of being turned down and the struggle of how to tell someone we’re not interested. We want to experience low levels of discomfort when having these conversations while reducing the potential for a dramatic explosion with someone. Sometimes being rejected causes regretfully aggressive confrontations to happen, and it can bring up a variety of strong emotions. It doesn’t matter if you are telling someone you’re not interested during an exchange online or in person.

These conversations can be difficult, uncomfortable, or scary. There are many ways of thinking about how to handle these situations, but you might first want to start thinking about why these types of exchanges are causing you anxiety in the first place. Chances are that you probably have some feelings and memories around being rejected and know how it hurt you in the past.

These types of conversations can bring up emotions from the past, including some deep-rooted insecurities, memories of awkward situations, and the desire to avoid feeling crappy. Some people choose to suffer through endless messages and advances rather than just letting someone down. Telling someone that you are not interested can be a careful balance of standing up for yourself, being thoughtful of their feelings, and not using more energy and time then you want to give to the situation.

There are many methods to let someone know about your lack of interest. They can range from the overly subtle methods where the person doesn’t even know they are being turned down, to the direct ones that can leave the other person feeling like they have been assaulted by a vicious attacker.

You don’t have to choose to be mean-spirited to let someone know that you aren’t feeling an interest in meeting up or that you are missing that fiery spark that makes you excited to hang out with someone. You don’t have to give them a long list of their unattractive qualities or why they “don’t do it for you.” Not everyone can be everyone’s type. By the same token, being direct about your lack of interest is also important so it is not understood as keeping the door open to meet up. This can help reduce the possibility of unreasonable expectations or future disappointment. Sometimes honesty really is the best policy.

Take some time and consider some ways that you would want to be turned down. This exercise many include what language could be used and how much you would want to know about why someone might not be interested. If you’re concerned about the other person’s feelings, you can always start with a general way of acknowledging that they took the effort to get in contact with you and thank them for reaching out either in person or online. Sometimes it is challenging to face personal insecurities when approaching someone, and it can take a significant amount of energy to overcome these anxiety-producing situations.

Thanking someone for their efforts may not make all the hurt go away, but it can hopefully support their future intentions to be courageous in reaching out to others. If you are doing this in person, maintaining eye contact and possibly touching their arm can add another element of authenticity and kindness to letting them down easy.

Keeping kind thoughts in your mind may help you also come across as more caring and compassionate.

Next you can think about if you want to let them know why you may not be interested in pursuing what they are proposing. This is also a time to give a little feedback to them if you feel that it is relevant. You might choose to let them know that they are coming on too strong or that their approach isn’t working well for them.

Since you expressed concern about hurting their feelings, think about what you could express to them that may have a future impact on how they might approach others. You could provide them some useful information that may help them create a more successful exchange in the future. Sometimes we are unaware of how we come across to others, and having an outside perspective can be beneficial. Your feedback may help them get laid, schedule a date, or find a relationship in the future.

There are times where someone may just not be your physical, emotional, or intellectual type. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they may not be an interesting person to know. Maybe they wouldn’t be a great choice for a sexual romp, but a person many prove to be a fun activity partner or a supportive friend. Not everyone in our lives must be what we would consider our “type.”

In addition to developing a thoughtful way of telling someone that you’re not interested, you may also benefit from giving someone a chance and finding out more about them. You may discover that they have more to offer than you thought during that initial impression. You can tell someone that you are not interested, but you many also want to consider the possibility that they may surprise you. First impressions are not always accurate.

There will probably never be a perfect way to let someone down or feel wonderful about yourself after doing it. Most of us would not feel great about a situation where we were told someone didn’t want to hang out with us. We all want to be desirable and confident in our attractiveness to others. We want to be the object of someone’s affection and desire, but it is unrealistic to think that any of us will be everyone’s type. That is the reality, and it is important to confidently stand our ground to let someone know we aren’t interested.

Even if it is difficult or uncomfortable, many times a merciful killing is a more humane method then a slow, painful death of avoidance or endless empty messaging. It is a waste of time for all involved, and personal energy can be better utilized for other important things in our lives. It is better to bark up the right tree instead of the wrong one. Stop wasting time avoiding conflict and simply suffer through it. You can let someone down easily without sacrificing your time, integrity, or heart.