Rejection is never pretty. Although there can be grace and dignity in both the delivery and acceptance of rejection, it does not remove the pain of the experience altogether. Unfortunately, rejecting others is often necessary, and no one will be entirely immune to rejection in their lifetime, leaving the necessity of learning how to both deliver and receive a rejection with aplomb.
Why Is Rejection So Painful?
Rejection is painful, even without an intense emotional connection to someone. Someone you are entirely uninterested in could reject you, and you will likely feel pain and frustration-not because of lost hope, but because rejection as a whole speaks primally to human beings and activates the same center of the brain that registers, recognizes, and experiences physical pain. Rejection is not a simple matter of a split-second "no," but is instead an actual trigger for very real, deeply experienced pain.
Much has been said and written about the importance of learning how to deal with rejection, but very little explores the exact reasons why rejection causes such intense pain and how to deal with rejection once it arrives. Although evolutionary biologists believe the pain of rejection has a survival element to it, as rejection used to be tantamount to a death sentence, there are also other factors involved, including the loss of self-esteem and the tendency to dwell in pain and regret.
Should You Ever Avoid Rejecting Someone?
If you aren't sure how you feel, it is wise to put off outright rejecting someone, as rejection can tear down trust. If you have been on a few dates, for instance, and you aren't feeling a spark, but you are enjoying your time together, you may want to wait to terminate your flirtation until you are sure you want to cut off that pathway. If you are certain you want to leave a relationship or avoid starting one, rejection is necessary to complete it as soon as possible. This is to ensure that the person you are rejecting is not getting their signals crossed, is not thinking something could happen between you, or is not convinced that all is right in the world. The pain of rejection could be far more intense if they believe everything is going well between the two of you.
Rejection is hard. Having to sit with someone else's pain, anger, or any other strong emotion can be difficult and can feel overwhelming. Ultimately, though, it is a kindness to let someone know that you are not interested in pursuing any relationship because continuing to pretend everything is fine sets you both up for unnecessary and prolonged emotional pain.
Letting someone down easy is a mercy for you both: you are both able to keep your dignity firmly intact in an uncomfortable situation, and the person being let down can leave the interaction without feeling attacked, mocked, or further humiliated. It is important to note that no one comes out of a rejection pain-free, even with the best intentions and most effective communication. In letting someone down easy, your goal is to minimize the feelings that often accompany being rejected, not mitigate those feelings altogether. To let a guy down easy:
1) Embrace Honesty
Honesty is often mistaken for brutal honesty, but the two are not the same. You can be honest and straightforward with someone without involving brutality or coarse language. Letting a guy down easy can be as simple as saying, "I'm not interested in having a relationship with you." You can give your reasons, or you can leave it at that. But being honest and straightforward simultaneously removes the impulse to wax poetic or further press you and gives you a clear means of removing yourself from the situation.
2) Say What You Want
A part of being honest is saying what you want. If you want to be friends with someone, but don't want romance, say so! "I would love to have a friendship with you, but I don't want a physical or romantic relationship." Suppose the person you are letting down can handle the shift in your relationship; great! If not, he has the opportunity to say so and move on.
3) Keep It Between the Two Of You
Rejection is hard enough without an audience. If you know that you need to have a serious conversation with someone and let them know that you aren't interested in romance or any relationship, make sure you do it in an environment that is at least somewhat private. Your friends do not need to witness you rejecting someone, and neither does him; set aside a few minutes to speak privately, even if you are within view of friends or family, and make a plan to separate immediately after you speak.
4) Follow the Golden Rule
Think about how you'd like to be told that there was no possibility of a relationship and tailor your speech accordingly. Unfortunate though it may be, putting yourself in the recipient's shoes, rather than the instigator, can help you find a kinder, gentler way to let someone know that you are not interested in pursuing a relationship or you want to leave an existing relationship.
5) Show Your Face
Texting, emailing, or DMing (direct messaging) someone to let them know that you are breaking up with them or halting the progression of your relationship is usually easier for you but can feel humiliating or disrespectful to the person you are rejecting. With a few exceptions, rejecting someone in person is difficult but a necessary aspect of behaving in a mature, respectful manner that leaves room for dignity for both of you.
6) Make Space For Them
Make space for the person you are letting down to feel sad, upset, betrayed, or confused. It is not your responsibility to make sure they are managing their feelings effectively, but letting someone down does involve seeing and experiencing the emotional difficulties of others. Provided that you feel safe, and are being treated with respect, make space for the person you are rejected, and allow them to express how they are feeling, as well.
A Note About Safety
In some cases, you might be nervous at the prospect of rejecting someone because that someone has repeatedly behaved in a way that made you feel unsafe. If this is the case, some of the rules of letting someone down easily should be set aside, such as not speaking in the presence of others and making sure your interaction is done in person. If you feel unsafe, you should always have someone else with you and several people who know where you are and who you are with. Even this can sometimes not offer enough protection, and a rejection delivered over the phone or online is the safest and most effective option.
Letting Someone Down Easy
Letting someone down easy and being a pushover are two very different things, but they are often equated. Letting someone down easy does not mean using language that is confusing, unsure, or vague, as this can perpetuate a relationship you have no interest in being in. Far from making you a doormat, letting someone down easy actually allows both of you to move on from the relationship (or budding relationship) with your health and self-esteem largely intact. Because romantic relationships (and friendships) can leave lasting, gaping wounds when they end in traumatic, overwhelming, or closure-free ways, it is important for both of you that all endings are definitive and clear.
Letting someone down easy can quickly turn into waffling if you are not sure of yourself or easily swayed to others' opinions. If, for instance, you tell a man you've been on two dates with, "Thank you for going out, but I just don't feel the spark I'm looking for." He responds with something akin to, "Can you tell after only two dates? C'mon-go out with me again," and you find yourself leaning into his persuasion; you may have trouble with your self-worth, self-esteem, or self-respect. If you suspect you have difficulty in this area, or you have a history of being in lackluster relationships or changing your mind to make others happy, it might be wise to meet with a counselor or therapist before sitting down and having the "let down" conversation.
A therapist can help you navigate your difficulty in staying your course and can assist you in coming up with tools and ideas to make sure that you can feel calm, confident, and resolute in your decisions to avoid falling into the trap of waffling or consenting to something you do not want to do. Letting someone down easy is a kind thing to do, but letting yourself stay in a relationship you want no part of is a deep unkindness to yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you reject a guy nicely?
Ensure the rejection is about not wanting to have a relationship and not an attack on his self-worth. When you reject a guy, it's important to let him know that you don't want to continue or start a relationship with him in no uncertain terms. There's a lot of kindness in removing all doubt that the possibility of a relationship is over.
However, it's also important to refrain from making any personal attacks on his character, appearance, or personality. That's not what this is about, after all. It's about you not wanting to date him in any case, regardless of any changes he might make. It's not easy to make the distinction sometimes, but it will help him face the pain of the breakup. At the same time, it will help you feel good about yourself and be ready to move on, too.
How do you reject a guy over text?
It's rarely a good idea to reject a guy over text. The only real exceptions are if 1) you have no opportunity to be with him for the breakup, or 2) it is unsafe to break up with him in person.
If you can't be with him because one of you is away from home or there are other barriers to your getting together, proceed the same way you would if you were breaking up face to face. Be honest and clear about your feelings without any personal attacks then; if the guy asks why then give him a short but kind answer and then express his feelings. You don't have to keep texting until he accepts your decision – that might take him days or even weeks. However, do let him know that you understand his pain and hope he feels better soon.
But if you feel unsafe being in the same location with him, the best way to break up over text is to keep it as short and clear as possible. Say hi, tell him your decision, and let him know you won't change your mind. Then, if the guy won't let it go, break off all contact with him, blocking his number if necessary.
How do you let a guy down easy – examples?
It's not easy to know how to let a guy down easy, and every situation is different. Here are some examples of how to do it.
What do you say when you let a guy down?
Say something simple and direct, like, "I don't want to hurt you, but the truth is I don't want to be in a relationship with you." While it may seem harsh to say it so bluntly, letting them know your truth is the kindest thing you can do. That way, they know where they stand to make informed decisions on how to move on. If the guy asks for your reasons, you might want to tell him briefly why you don't want to date him. You could say something like, "I just don't feel a spark" or "I just don't think we have enough in common." But you don't need to try to convince him a breakup is best for him. Just state your case, allow him to express his feelings, and then wish him a happy next relationship.
How do I turn him down after leading him on?
The first thing you need to do is be honest and upfront in saying that you don't want to be in a relationship. But very quickly after that, you need to apologize for leading him on. What you did was hurtful to him, even if you didn't intend it to be that way. So, accept responsibility for the things you said and did to encourage him. Tell him you're sorry you gave him the wrong impression. Let him express his feelings about it, acknowledge those feelings, and then wish him well and end the conversation.
How do you know if a girl has Friendzoned you?
There are many ways you can tell if a girl has a friend zoned you. Here are some of the most common.
What does it mean if a girl has a lot of guy friends?
There could be many different reasons a girl would have lots of guy friends. One theory is that some girls with high sex drives prefer to spend more time around males. However, that isn't necessarily true for all girls. Some would like to have girlfriends to find a girl to be friends with who isn't catty or dramatic. Some grew up in a household full of brothers, so being around guys feels more familiar to them. The best way to know why a girl has lots of guy friends is to get to know her as an individual. But if she isn't willing to get to know her, it's best to accept her for who she is and let her do her.