Letting someone down can be difficult. You want to be clear that you are not interested, but at the same it is important to 1) be respectful to the other person and 2) be consistent with your own personal image of yourself (e.g., that you are a nice or honest person) (Dillard, 1997). Are there ways to say no that can fulfill these goals? Can you say no without being rude?
In a recent study, researchers asked participants how they would respond to an email or an online dating message asking for a date (Tong & Walther, 2010). Responses declining the date ranged from direct responses – “I just can’t go out this weekend” to more indirect ones – “I’m sure you can find someone else”. Inspired by their research findings, here are seven ways to let someone down:
Direct – “I can’t go out with you.”
Explanation – “I’m not ready for a relationship yet.”
Apology – “I’m sorry, but…”
Appreciation – “I’m flattered that you asked, but…”
Concern – “I hope you don’t take this too hard…”
Encouragement – “You’re a really great person…”
Different relationship – “Maybe we can be friends first.”
Research shows that women are more likely to use statements of encouragement and appreciation whereas men are more likely to use direct rejection messages. What other ways do you know of to let someone down easy? What works for you?
Dillard, J. P. (1997). Explicating the goal construct: Tools for theorists. In J. O. Greene (Ed.), Message production: Advances in communication theory (pp. 47-69). Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum.
Tom Tong, S., & Walther, J. (2010). Just say ”no thanks”: Romantic rejection in computer-mediated communication Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 28 (4), 488-506 DOI: 10.1177/0265407510384895