How to Politely Decline a Date

Knowing how to politely decline a date can be quite tricky.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to politely decline a date without coming off as rude or mean.

Here’s how to politely decline a date, according to experts.

Mandy Kloppers

Mandy Kloppers

Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, Thoughts on life and love

There are many ways to politely decline a date while sparing someone’s self-esteem. They could be the most wonderful person, but a date will be unlikely if compatibility isn’t there. It’s very rarely due to someone not being good enough.

Sadly, many people automatically assume that being turned down for a date confirms that they aren’t good enough. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone out on a date, so it pays to be kind when you respond.

Use the feedback sandwich method

This method is a great way to organize your feedback, so it’s more balanced and easier to deliver. When you offer positive feedback in between a negative piece of feedback, you soften the blow.

Here is an example: “I would love to go on a date, but unfortunately that won’t be possible because I am married/in a relationship/busy/giving dating a miss for a while, but I am incredibly flattered. Thank you.”

The negative feedback has been sandwiched between two positives and will keep the other person’s self-esteem intact.

Consider it a personal failing

Undoubtedly, you would want to be let down gently. The old adage, “it’s not you, it’s me,” still stands true, but you can update it with a twist. When you decline a date, you could humorously reveal that you have been known for not recognizing a good thing when you see it.

Not only does this get the message across that you don’t want to go on a date, but it also compliments the other person while pointing at a possible personal failing — A very diplomatic way of saying “No.”

Explain that the timing isn’t right

Many people had experienced stages in their lives when they needed time alone to reflect or to nurse a broken heart. Declining a date due to the timing not being right may be seen as an excuse, but it’s extremely valid.

It’s normal to fluctuate between feeling emotionally ready and available to date and going through periods when you prefer Netflix and a tub of ice cream as your evening companion. Being clear and honest is the best approach, and others will respect you for it.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

If you have ever had the guts to ask someone out on a date, you will know that it takes courage. We all fear failure or rejection, and you make yourself vulnerable when you express an interest in someone else.

Having that awareness makes it easier to treat someone with kindness, especially if you aren’t interested in them. Adopt open and friendly body language as this shows that you respect the other person, even if you don’t wish to pursue a relationship with them.

Be honest with a hint of kindness. It shows that you value the other person and don’t want to lead them on unnecessarily. Being honest is the easiest way to avoid ambiguity, and you don’t need to provide an explanation. Thank them for their offer when you decline.

We all have insecurities, and I believe bravery should be appreciated, even if the brave don’t get the outcome they had hoped for.

Lia Dugg

Lia Dugg

Relationship Coach and Founder, Glow Up Life

Nobody likes being rejected, and the majority of people don’t like having to reject someone either. Unfortunately, when you’re asked on a date by somebody you’re not interested in, there isn’t really another option, even though it can be a very awkward experience.

Whether you aren’t physically attracted to them, don’t think it would work long term, or are just not interested in dating, it can be difficult to know how you should respond. Of course, you don’t want to be rude or hurt their feelings, but you still need to make it clear that you’re not interested in going on a date with them.

Here is my advice on how to politely decline a date, whether someone asks you in person or over text.

Thank them for asking

Asking someone out on a date takes a lot of courage. You never know, the person might have been thinking about it for weeks before they finally asked you. Even if you aren’t interested, you should still thank them if you want to be polite. Being asked out on a date is flattering whether or not you want to go on a date.

You don’t want to make the person feel embarrassed or hurt. By thanking them, you will take the sting out of the rejection and make them feel valued, even if you said no to go on a date with them.

You could start by saying:

  • “I’m really flattered, thank you for asking…”
  • “I really appreciate you asking…”
  • “Thank you for asking…”

Make it about you

When you want to politely decline a date, it’s important to make it about you rather than about them. If you really think about it, it is you, not them. Everyone has different preferences, likes, and dislikes. Just because you don’t want to go on a date with the person doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them.

Make sure you emphasize this when telling them you don’t want to go on a date so that you don’t knock their confidence or hurt their self-esteem.

Here are some things you could say to make it clear it’s not about them:

  • “You seem like a great person, but I’m not interested in dating.”
  • “I’m already seeing someone who I really like.”
  • “I’m trying to focus on myself at the moment.”

Be polite and honest

When saying no to going on a date, you should be polite but also honest. You shouldn’t say anything that would hurt the person’s feelings. However, it can also be a good idea to tell them the reason you don’t want to date them.

Maybe it’s something they did, the way they asked, or just the circumstances. Being honest about the reason will give them closure and may even help them in the long run.

Also, there is no way that being honest can come back to bite you, as long as you do it in a way that is mindful of their feelings.

You might say something along the lines of:

  • “I think we’re at different stages in life.”
  • “I don’t feel like we would be right for each other.”
  • “I don’t think it would be appropriate for us to go on a date.”

Don’t give them false hope

Although you want to be polite, it’s also important to be firm. If you never see yourself wanting to go on a date with the person, you shouldn’t give them false hope.

Never make up an excuse or pretend that you’re busy. If you do, there’s a big chance that they’ll ask you out on a date again another time, which will just put you in an even more awkward position.

Make sure that they are clear you’re not interested in going on a date now or in the future.

Here are some examples:

  • “I’m not interested in going on a date, but thank you for asking.”
  • “I’m flattered that you asked, but I’m in a relationship.”

Give them an answer

It can be tempting to try and pretend that the person never asked you on a date in the first place. While ignoring the question might be the easiest thing for you to do, it’s not a mature way of handling things.

Not giving someone an answer, or ghosting them, is extremely rude and will make things very uncomfortable if you ever bump into them.

The polite way to decline a date is to thank the person for asking and tell them why you’re not interested while still being mindful of their feelings.

Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey

Lori Beth Bisbey

Clinical Psychologist | Sex & Intimacy Coach | Podcast Host

Saying no is a natural part of boundary setting

Boundary setting often brings to mind strong, and even rude statements said with some angst. Many of us were brought up with the idea that saying no is somehow rude. In some cultures, saying no is considered so rude that people rarely say no.

Instead, people may say maybe or yes in ways that only people who come from that culture realize are actually negative responses. Saying no is the simplest form of setting a boundary, and when said with empathy and tact, it is a very effective response.

Clarity comes from directness

Indirectness when declining a date often gives the person who asked for the date the false hope that you may say yes in the future. Directness and honesty work best. You may have to practice being direct as most of us are taught it is hurtful to tell someone you do not wish for an intimate and/or romantic relationship with them.

Simple and to the point responses can include:

  • “No, thank you. I am flattered, but I don’t want to have that kind of relationship with you.”
  • “I appreciate the compliment. However, no thank you.”

You don’t have to give a reason

A simple “no thank you” will suffice. No one deserves an explanation for your decision. If someone presses for an explanation of why you don’t want to date them, it is best to tell them that you do not feel obliged to explain.

When people explain, they often end up lying and/or embellishing their answer, which catches up to them later or, even worse, eventually agreeing to meet at some future date because they want to avoid telling the person who requested the date they are not attracted to them or being forced into labeling the qualities that mean that they don’t wish to date that specific person.

Chris Pleines

Chris Pleines

Dating Expert, Datingscout

Saying “no” upfront helps them instead of keeping them hanging on to you

Nothing beats honesty. Some might feel bad and string people along, which is ultimately not the better option for the other person. However, honesty isn’t equal to being rude. There are great ways to say no that would help take the sting out of the rejection.

You can start by saying the things that drew you to them while also making it very clear that they are just not who you are looking for or that you aren’t interested in. Saying “no” upfront helps them instead of keeping them hanging on to you when you already know there is no chance of going out with them.

Simply say you’re not interested

Saying straight up that you’re not interested is sometimes the best way to politely decline a date. More often than not, the person asking you out would appreciate your honesty, especially since he or she has not invested any time with you yet as you declined on the get-go.

Don’t make them feel bad about themselves

Make the mood lighter by chiming in a little compliment to console them. For instance, be vocal about it if you are flattered by the invitation. Just remember to only say things when you really mean them.

Just make it clear

There is no better way to say it than being clear. The worst thing that can happen is for them to misinterpret your response. If this happens, the situation between you and that person will become even more complicated and harder to handle.

Robin Sutherns

Robin Sutherns

Relationship and Style Editor, Galtelligence

It’s flattering to be asked on a date. However, it’s not all the time that that’s the case.

More often than not, there will be times when we get asked on dates, and we’re just not interested. And it can feel overwhelming because it’s never easy to turn someone down. It can be awkward. But there are ways to tone down the awkwardness.

Here are three ways to politely decline a date:

Tell them it’s a nice gesture but you’re not interested

When turning someone down for a date, less is more. You don’t have to go on a monologue about why you’re turning them down. Tell them it’s a nice gesture, but you’re not interested. Only elaborate if they ask for it. The simpler you say your decline, the easier it will be for both parties.

Use “I” statements as much as possible

If you’re declining a date from someone, keep it about yourself. Giving them a reason why they’re not enough to get a yes will just put them down even more.

Try to keep your statements, “I” statements as much as possible. Say something like, “I don’t see you that way,” instead of “You’re not my type.”

Give it an end

When turning someone down, we want to be as nice as possible. However, being too nice can have repercussions. If you’re going to turn someone down, give them a hint that it’s already final. Don’t give them false hopes like, “We should hang out sometime.”

When someone asks you out, you’re not required to say yes. Sure, it’s hard to turn people down, but the earlier you’re honest with them, the easier it will be.

Jennifer L. Bennett

Jennifer L. Bennett

Owner, Law Office of Jennifer L. Bennett

Turning someone down is never easy. But here are some tips which can help you to turn down someone without hurting them.

  1. Be honest and direct about your feelings. Be honest with yourself. Do not agree to date out of pity. It can waste your time as well as hurt the other person more in the process.
  2. Treat them how you’d want to be treated. Be polite and show some appreciation for their thoughts.
  3. Use ‘I’ statements to keep it about you. “I think you’re amazing, but I’m not interested in you.” You can always pair a compliment with rejection to make it better.
  4. Make things clear and final. Don’t fool around. Be straight about your feelings.
  5. Remember, you don’t owe the person anything. It is completely okay if you say no.

Adam Cohen-Aslatei

Adam Cohen-Aslatei

CEO, S’More Date

Try a “less-pressure” virtual date instead

I am a big believer in being honest and transparent and not leading a person on. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which means don’t ghost them. Tell the person that you are flattered by the invitation, provide a compliment, and then a soft response that showcases your respect.

I would also like to add that too often, people are not interested in a date because they may view the person as not their “type.” That’s code for I don’t like their headshot. But instead of jumping to conclusions based on little more than a selfie, try a virtual date.

Hop on a video call and see if their personality shines and you are connecting on an emotional level.

I will tell you, guys in my experience don’t take amazing photos or use amazing photos on their profiles. So, try and give a person the benefit of the doubt before instantly rejecting a person based on a headshot! You have nothing to lose.

In the worst case, you are not interested in the person. In the best case, you just found a connection that could have been a missed opportunity.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I maintain the friendship if the person asking me out is a close friend?

Turning down a date with a close friend can be more challenging, as you may worry about damaging your relationship.

The key is to be honest, kind, and empathetic. Express your appreciation for the friendship and acknowledge the courage it took the person to ask you out.

Gently explain that you value your friendship and don’t want to jeopardize it by dating. Reassure them that you still care about them as a friend and that you hope this won’t change the nature of your bond.

I’ve already agreed to a date, but now I want to cancel. How do I handle this situation?

If you have changed your mind about a date, it’s important that you communicate your decision as soon as possible. Reach out to the person, explain your change of heart, and apologize for any inconvenience you may have caused.

Be honest about your reasons and express gratitude for their understanding. Remember that it’s better to be honest and cancel the date than to go through with it if you’re not genuinely interested.

Can I change my mind later if I initially decline a date?

People’s feelings and circumstances can change over time, and it’s not uncommon to develop an interest in someone after initially declining a date. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential to approach the person with honesty and humility.

Acknowledge your previous decision and explain what has changed since then. Be prepared for the possibility that the other person may no longer feel the same way, and respect their response. Remember that communication and honesty are key to building any kind of relationship.

Can I decline a date through text message, or should I do it in person?

How you decline a date depends on the situation and your relationship with the person. If you’re close friends or have a history together, it’s best to have the conversation in person or over a phone call, as this shows respect and consideration.

However, if you’ve only had limited interactions or met through a dating app, a text or direct message may be an appropriate way to communicate your decision.

What if the person asking me out remains persistent, even after I’ve politely declined?

In situations where someone remains persistent despite your polite refusal, it’s essential to remain firm in your decision. Reiterate your reasons for turning down the date and express your desire for the person to respect your boundaries.

If the person continues to push, you may need to distance yourself or bring in a trusted friend or authority figure for support. Remember that you have the right to say no, and your boundaries should always be respected.

How can I decline a date if the person is one of my acquaintances or a co-worker?

If you decline an appointment with someone in your circle of acquaintances or from your workplace, it’s essential to remain polite and considerate, as you’ll likely continue to interact with this person in the future.

Maintain a respectful tone and emphasize your desire to maintain a positive relationship with them. Be honest about your feelings, but avoid getting too specific or personal in your explanation. By approaching the situation with sensitivity, you can minimize awkwardness and maintain the existing relationship.

How can I support my friend who was declined by someone they were interested in dating?

Supporting a friend who was declined by someone they were interested in involves offering empathy, understanding, and sympathy. Encourage your friend to express their feelings and validate their emotions.

Remind them that rejection is a normal part of life and doesn’t define their worth or attractiveness. Offer suggestions for self-care and help them focus on their well-being and personal growth.

By providing a safe space for your friend to process their emotions, you can help them overcome the challenges of rejection and move forward with resilience.

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