How to Decline a Date Politely (and Immediately)

Published May 12, 2021
Woman declining a date

It's human nature to not want to cause harm to another person, whether it's physical or emotional, and turning down someone who asks you out on a date can trigger this sensitive instinct. Yet, choosing to say yes to a date you're not really interested in is a well-intentioned form of lying. You're only going to make the other person disappointed when you turn down a second-date after you've gotten their hopes up. So, take a look at a few helpful tips for how you can politely say no to someone who asks you out.

Be Direct and Firm

A lot of people--women in particular--have a tendency to soften their language, using vocabulary like "It might" or "I kind of feel" or "It seems like" and this pattern can unconsciously translate when you're declining a date. Therefore, you need to make sure that you're being absolutely direct and firm about your decision. That way, there's no room for confusion on the other person's part as to what you mean.

Friends having a serious conversation

Don't Be Unnecessarily Hurtful

Using the excuse "you're just not my type" or something similar isn't a response you want to make when you're turning someone down. A cardinal rule of politely handling these situations is to not cite the other person's identity (aka something they can't change) as a reason for not wanting to go on a date. Whether or not that's how you feel doesn't matter; these types of responses can drum up feelings of inadequacy based on the elements of a person's identity that they don't have any control over (things like physical appearance, education, employment, and so on). So, if you really want to be nice when turning someone down, just make an excuse that doesn't have to do with something they can't change in five minutes.

Redirect Their Attention

Unlike the romanticized version of love that Hollywood likes to market to teens and young adults, most people who take the leap of faith to ask someone out aren't entirely obsessed with that person. They think that person's interesting and they want to learn a little more about them; thus, a game-changing way to turn someone down is to redirect their affection. Tell them that you're not really interested in a date, but ask them if they'd like you to set them up with one of your friends (should you have one that would be open to that) instead. This can be a gregarious way to smooth over the tension that can come from someone's denial.

Use Precise Language

The words "I don't want to go on a date with you" in some variation have to be said when you're being asked out on a date that you're really not interested in going on. Occasionally, you'll run into people who are really persistent, and this means that you have to be incredibly precise and specific when turning them down. It might feel like a harsh way to tell them no, but it's much more polite to be fully honest than it is to leave room open for misinterpretation.

Immediately Answer Them

One of the most discourteous ways to turn someone down when they ask you out on a date is to tell them maybe, or that you'd think about it, and get back to them later. There's no reason for you to let the other person stew in their anticipation if you already know the answer that you're going to give, especially if that answer isn't going to change in a day or two. Being honest can be a daunting task, but it shows real strength to speak your true feelings into the world.

Give a Good Reason, Even if It's Not True

Just saying no to a date, while completely valid, can feel impersonal and confusing for the person who asked you out. While they don't deserve anything but an answer from you, the most polite way to respond would be in giving them a valid reason why you're not interested. What's most important is that they get given a reason - not that the reason is 100% true.

Examples for Politely Declining a Date

Practice makes perfect, and these examples of declining a date should help you if you find yourself in a pinch and need a quick, but kind, response:

  • "Thank you so much, but I'm not looking for a relationship right now."
  • "That's very sweet of you, but no. Would you be interested in me setting you up with my friend [insert friend's name]? I think you and them would get along great!"
  • "Oh, that took a lot of guts to ask me, I'm sure, but I just got out of a long-term relationship and am not dating at the moment."
  • "Wow, I'm really honored that you're interested in me. I'm just so busy right now that I don't have the time to be dating. Sorry!"
Young couple having a serious conversation in a bar

Just Say No

The most important lesson to takeaway when you have to put these tips into action is to say no. Don't beat around the bush or camouflage your response in a bunch of flowery language; be clear about your feelings, but don't set out to explain it in a way that's going to deliberately hurt the other person. They're going to be hurting enough when you reject them; the least you can do is reject them in a kind, concise manner.

How to Decline a Date Politely (and Immediately)