How do I tell a guy I’m not interested, and just want to be friends without hurting his ego? Especially with the recent UCSD incident, a lot of my friends are thinking, ‘How do I turn him down without endangering my life?’
Regarding the UCSD incident: Never walk into anything potentially unsafe alone. Kitestring is a way to make sure your friends can have your your back in a simple, stress-free way.
Feelings are a sensitive thing, and we are not responsible for how someone chooses to react to not getting what they want. That being said, we want to do our best to take measures to protect ourselves, and be kind.
People have a tendency to take things personally. People also have a tendency to draw a lot of meaning out of a simple fact or conclusion. Take this situation as an example: You’re sitting at a table alone during lunch. You see someone you were friendly with in biology class, and you’re hoping she’ll choose to sit next to you, but instead she sits at another table. What is the fact here? She sat at another table. What is some meaning you could take from this? “She doesn’t like me,” “She didn’t see me,” “She thought I was saving this seat for someone else,” “She hadn’t seen her other friend in awhile and wanted to catch up with her,” “She decided I wasn’t cool enough to sit with,” etc. What we want to avoid is taking the assumed meaning and context we’ve created in our head and acting on it like it is fact.
Now imagine more vulnerable feelings, ones that make you feel exposed, like when you express you like someone for the first time. It is far easier to take rejection here personally, and make more meaning out of it and act like it’s fact: “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not attractive enough,” “I’m not smart enough,” “I’m not cool enough” or “She’s so mean.” We live in a culture where the norm is for the man to ‘make the first move,’ and that puts a lot of pressure on men to take the initiative. A man realizes that if he hopes for anything romantic to evolve between you two, he’ll likely need to make the first move (We encourage you to make the first move if you feel like it. Otherwise you’re limiting your options to just those who approach you). If you do not feel the same way, you can let him down easy. When doing so, it’s always good to keep in mind the way you would want to be let down.
“Bill, I think you are so funny, charming, smart, and I feel a connection but not a romantic one.” He’s not going to feel good about not getting the kind of response he had hoped for, but his ego will not be as hurt as it would be if he received a flat out rejection. Sometimes making some careful comments about your feelings for him before he has a chance to make his move helps minimize embarrassment. “You’re such a great friend.” “You’re so reliable, you’re like a great big brother.” Or “Hey Bill, I noticed you’ve been extraordinarily nice, saying nice things, and spending more time with me, just in case, I wanted to make sure we’re on the same page. I value our friendship so much. And think you’re so kind, fun, cute but I want to keep our relationship platonic.” You may get a “why?” And you can choose how much or how little you want to say. Best policy: be honest. “I don’t feel the chemistry I know I want to feel with a romantic partner.” “I just don’t see you in that light, and I don’t know why.” “I’m not in a place to think about dating someone new.” You can thank him for being so understanding.
I used one of my favorite approaches when a really cute and fun guy, who I would have considered dating if he was looking for a real relationship, tried to make a move on me. He tried to kiss me and I just said, “You’re so cute, nice and fun, but I think we are looking for different things.” He paused, thought about it for 5 seconds and responded, “Yeah you’re probably right.” He walked away feeling just as good about his self-esteem, and I felt so proud of myself for sticking to my boundaries, knowing that I wanted a relationship, not a hookup. He didn’t have to feel rejected, and I didn’t have to feel exposed or go along with anything that I did not truly want. We were not saying no to one another, we were saying no to the terms, which is way less personal.
We also consulted with couple’s counselor, Jeff Wright on this topic, and he offered the following wisdom: “You are assuming that not hurting his ego is your problem. Getting turned down by a girl you are interested in romantically is never easy to take … but it is an honest result. It feels how it feels. It being painful is NOT a problem. Ego’s heal themselves relatively efficiently … It’s your responsibility to be true and clear. It is the most loving thing that you can do in this situation.”