Declining the next date could be as quick and as painless as ghosting; but we’re better than that. Be gentle, be honest… most of all: be kind.
Look, I’m putting all my cards on the table here: dating is hard.
There are butterflies, could-be’s, want-to-be’s, never going to happens, and a whole lot of rejection along the way to finding our person.
There is so much trial and error during our search.
People will reject you, just as you’ll reject them. Someone won’t call. The wrong person will call. There are a lot of feelings to be considered—your own, but also the other half of the scenario. If there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far in my life, it’s that although in the grand scheme of things I am very small, the little things I do have the potential to affect the rest of someone’s day, week, month or year in a big way. We never know what else is going on that might make someone hold on to something we deem insignificant, like a breakup of a new relationship or even an unreturned call after a second or third date.
I’m really digging into the dirt here (so quickly) for a reason; there’s a lesson to be learned about humanity, which seems to need all the help it can get lately.
Be kind when letting someone know they aren’t right for you. Return a call even if you aren’t interested. Answer the email from the date who was somewhat insufferable over dinner. Tell the person on the other side of the text message you are really more interested in friendship.
If you’re like me (a born people-pleaser, who honestly just wants everyone to be so happy), rejection is hard on you. Rejecting other people is even harder. That sounds like one of those job interview questions where the hiring manager asks what your fatal flaw is and you’re like, “I just work too hard!” But it’s not.
Because I’m such a feelings person, I internalize feelings to the point where in the past I have started to avoid them because there are just too many to stay sane. Which is exactly why I’ve ghosted on people before—or at least that’s the nice version of what I tell myself. The real reason for ghosting is it’s non-confrontational and feelings often make us uncomfortable (which is why they’re so important and so damn hard) so we avoid them, because we can so easily in this day and age. Our world has made it so easy to simply not see the people and things we don’t want to.
It’s easy to delete a text and move on because it’s so easy to never see someone again. That sounds harsh, but my life is so busy I rarely have time to see the people I try to see—I certainly do not keep my eyes peeled for people I don’t want in my life. I know I am not alone in this current societal phenomenon: we’re all so busy.
And it’s easy to delete contact from phones and emails and dating apps and move on; for all intents and purposes once that’s deleted, we often never have to see or hear from the person on the other side again.
But I also remember the times guys didn’t call or were harsh in telling me why they weren’t interested. The other side of the coin to avoidance seems to be saying too much—hurtful things, so someone will get the point. I remember the time a long-distance guy I was dating ended things in a text in the middle of my workday because he didn’t want things to be awkward. I certainly don’t remember all the guys I’ve met who’ve never called, but there are many.
I know I’ve done the same sorts of things to guys I’ve dated; because it was easy to do. It’s interesting to me that five-year-olds seem to grasp the idea to treat people as they’d like to be treated, yet adults seem to forget it so often.
But little things scar just as big things do, and they add up.
As I’ve gotten older, that’s what I’ve learned most: little moments culminate in a bigger picture of the person we become.
And I’ve certainly decided it’s worth an awkward conversation or two, in all areas of my life, to be a person who’s considerate of other people’s feelings.
Be kind, even if it isn’t easy. That’s how to say you’re not interested: in as many words as it takes to think about someone else’s feelings and do what’s best for them and their next day, month, year; for all the little moments they’ll remember in time.