Whether you’re dealing with a close friend, stranger from a dating website, or a coworker, turning a woman down is bound to leave her embarrassed, enraged -- or both. The good news for people who don’t want to spend their lives avoiding someone they’ve rejected is that there are easy steps you can take that will help contain the fallout. You just have to know how to handle yourself.
No.1 How to Turn Down A Close Friend -- It’s a bad idea to do this in person because if you say too much (or too little), you might give her false hope, or make things really awkward. You might try writing an email or a text message that starts by letting her know how bad it feels to let her down, and then give a reason or two as to why you don’t think your relationship would work out. If you do this, just don’t pit all of the blame on her -- even if you think she’s the problem.
Maybe you can mention things you’ve discussed with her in the past, like your commitment phobias, or you can always lean on the trusty “I don’t trust myself not to ruin our friendship” routine. Reading that might sound cliche, but if she’s a close friend, it’s probably the truth -- cliche or not. End the letter by letting her know you’ll give her space if she needs it, and that you hope to hear from her soon. Then you give her space and hope she bounces back. If she doesn’t get over it, don’t beat yourself up. You did all you could do, so it’s on her.
No.2 How to Turn Down Someone From a Dating Site -- If you’re repulsed by a “match” who sends you a message, just ignore it. Going radio silent might seem cold, but a reply message to a stranger that thanks her for her interest and then tells her you don’t think you’d be good together might translate into “sorry, I’m too good for you.” Here’s why that’s bad: it’s a small world, and that woman might know someone else you end up going on a date with (a friend, roommate, etc.). Then she gets to sound off about what a rude and conceited assh*le you were to her, which can make things awkward for you. Ignoring her leaves her nothing to discuss.
No.3 How to Turn Down A Friend of a Friend -- Tell the person who set you up that the date was fun, but the woman isn’t your type. The middleman or woman will take it from there and do any necessary sugarcoating for you. But if she reaches out to you directly for another date, you’ll have to call her -- even if she sent an email or text.
Calling is classier and will be least offensive to her and the person that set you up. Just be careful with what you say. Lying to friends of friends can get you into trouble if you’re caught, so something vague like, “I’m flattered, but I’m kind of interested in someone else right now” should work. Then switch topics and ask if she’s coming out to an event with your group of friends -- like a happy hour -- on Friday. Even if you’re not actively trying to get into another girl’s pants, telling her that white lie will make her feel better about herself and make future run-ins way less awkward. Also, nobody can prove you lied.
No.4 How to Turn Down A Coworker -- Ask if she can go on a coffee run on an afternoon during the workweek. That’ll make it feel less like a date. While you’re out of the office, say something like, “Hey, I wanted you to know that I’ve been thinking about that text (or email, heart-shaped doodle, etc.) you sent me, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a bad idea to date a coworker.” Letting her know you’ve thought about dating will flatter her without leading her on. And if you time the conversation right, you’ll have to get back to work right after you deliver the message. Discussion over.