Editor’s note: The original, unedited question was submitted as follows: I’m the kind of person who sometimes has a hard time saying ‘no’ to people. I don’t know why. I guess I just don’t want people to think I’m cold or mean. I want them to like me, even if I don’t like them. So, my question: How do you respond when someone asks you out and you don’t want anything to do with him because he’s…kind of a douche?
While we want to address the reader’s issue at hand, we also felt it incredibly pertinent to have Scott answer this question in his most honest voice, without leaning on his proclivity for jest. Because while sometimes you’re just not that into someone, the recent events at Isla Vista have reminded all women (and men) that saying “NO,” can be scary, intimidating, and isn’t always taken as intended. A simple “no,” can sometimes be just that, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult to hear. Whether it’s a mother telling a child they won’t be getting dessert, an employer telling an employee they won’t be getting that raise, or a potential suitor being told they won’t be getting that date, “no,” is part of life. That doesn’t make living through it any easier. And while we think honestly is, in fact, the best policy, here is Scott’s unedited advice.
A: It’s admirable to want to be viewed—and to actually be—a nice and likeable person. I can definitely empathize with you. We all want people to like us, and to respect us.
But when it comes to going on dates with people, the best way to be a nice person you’re not interested in is to simply say no. What’s the alternative? You go out with someone you are not at all attracted to, knowing it’s not going to work out. Then, when you call it off after a first date, it’s going to be more hurtful for him and more awkward for you.
It can be extremely difficult to reject someone straightaway. We have all born the brunt of rejection in one way or another, and we know that being rejected isn’t something everyone is able to immediately shrug off. I think it’s natural for people to resent the person who rejects them, even if he or she has no right to. I mean, make no mistake: no man has a right to get extremely upset with you or to totally resent you just because you think it might not work out. Logic dictates that not every straight woman in the world wants to date me. I’ve accepted that, and any man worth his salt has done the same. Attraction is a pretty unpredictable thing, and sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand.
The first method I’m going to recommend is complete honesty mixed with politeness. It’s never wrong to say something like “No thank you, I’m just not interested.”
The guy should probably leave it at that. But if he persists and asks why, then you can shrug and repeat that you’re simply not interested. If he really wants a reason or reasons, give them to him, but continue to do so in a polite tone. It might be annoying to you to have to explain shortcomings to him, but keep in mind that he’s trying to deal with your rejection of him, and that being mean or arrogant about it isn’t going to do much for you, and it’s certainly going to make things worse for him.
And don’t feel like you have to dish out the worst reasons for not wanting to go out with the guy, or that you can’t soften the blow a little bit. Instead of saying “Well, I don’t want to go out with you because [insert shortcoming you’ve noticed],” say something like “I’m sorry; it’s just that you’re not really my type.”
There is also another option: to lie.
Wait! Hear me out.
I’ve never really subscribed to the notion that “honesty is the best policy.” That’s a very flawed idiom. Sometimes it’s best to lie to people, especially about little, mostly insignificant things. (And turning someone down for a date is relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things.) Tell the guy that you cannot go on a date with him, because you are seeing someone or are in a serious relationship. This should work immediately. And the thing that’s extra great about this is that it’s the approach that is least likely to hurt the feelings of the asker. It’ll be a lesser blow to his self-confidence, since he’ll believe you’re rejecting him because you’re already in an exclusive relationship, and not because you’re not inherently unattracted to him.
You can also do your best to distance yourself from the person, if you’re worried about an awkward exchange that will end badly. If a guy asks if he can buy you a drink, or randomly starts talking to you while you’re standing at the bar, there’s a pretty good chance he’s going to ask for your number or ask you out. If you’re not interested, you shouldn’t let him spend money on you by buying you a drink. Just as he’s not entitled to your affection or attention, you’re not entitled to free drinks followed by a “no, I don’t want to hang out with you, but thanks for the gin and tonic.”
In closing, I’ll remind you of The Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Ask yourself how you would best take the sting of rejection, and behave accordingly.
Do not be mean, or a smartass. I assume it must get old having random guys hit on you all of the time, but try to take it as a compliment. You’re a pretty and interesting woman, and it took some sort of testicular fortitude for him to approach you and ask you out. Just because you’re rejecting someone doesn’t mean you can’t try to be kind.
And please—be careful. The tragedy in Isla Vista serves as a recent and really, really frightening reminder that you never know what a person is thinking, what kind of mental battle they’re waging, and how they might act out on their thoughts.
I hope for a day when women and all people don’t have to be frightened of these sorts of things, but until that happens, stay vigilant and good luck.