Online dating diplomacy.
January 31, 2005 11:04 PM   Subscribe

Online dating diplomacy. If you decide after an email or two that you are not interested in the other person, either because the conversation is uninspiring or the pictures they send are unappealing, should you actually write to tell them "sorry, but I'm not interested?" Or is that worse than falling silent and letting the correspondence die? Some people persist if you don't respond, and ask "what's the deal? you didn't like my pic?" I honestly don't know what's the best thing to say, if anything. Honesty is not the same as full disclosure, and I just feel that random people really don't need to hear that I find them undesireable / uninteresting. I figure if I just stop writing, most people will simply write me off and move on. What do you think?
posted by scarabic to Human Relations (38 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think just not responding is fine. Most people will get the message soon enough. If someone is persistent in emailing you then that person is the stalker type and would be regardless of how you ended the quasi-relationship.
posted by Jim Jones at 11:46 PM on January 31, 2005

A friend (really!) joined a dating service, and she was much more angst-ridden over matches who simply stopped responding than those who said 'no thanks.'

The non-responders would linger in her account until she finally decided they weren't on vacation, or sick, or an ice storm victim.

The ones who broke things off were easier for her to deal with.

You don't have to be honest, or give full disclosure, just be tactful. I thought that a primary benefit of online dating was that one could break things off without going into a whole song and dance. Craft a non-judgmental platitude and let them move on.
posted by seajay at 11:51 PM on January 31, 2005

Hope kills sometimes more than anything else, it eats at you all the time, it consumes your thoughts. If you really don't believe there's a chance, either now or ever, just say it. Otherwise you lead them on, whether intentional or not, and give them that hope.

Break it off, either honestly or not, but even a simple "it's me" bit goes so much further than just not writing at all. After the initial email if there's nothing there, ignoring him or her would be fair game.
posted by bigdave at 12:00 AM on February 1, 2005

A simple "You're a nice person, but not my type" or some variant thereof is perfectly adequate, and leaves no confusingly mixed signals. Leaving someone hanging is rude. Considering how easily messages can get lost in a crowded inbox or get diverted to a spam folder, there's no reason why anyone should automatically conclude that you've permanently dropped out of the conversation just because they haven't gotten a new reply from you for a few days. Give them the courtesy of that bit of finality, so that he/she can focus on the prospects where there is real hope of mutual interest. Wouldn't you want as much for yourself?
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:14 AM on February 1, 2005 [2 favorites]

Just write "You seem like a great person but I'm afraid I've met someone else with whom I've decided to be monogamous. Sorry about the timing, and good luck with your endeavors, romantic and otherwise."
posted by nicwolff at 12:24 AM on February 1, 2005 [2 favorites]

Most people tend to just ignore you - by stopping replying. But this can be hurtful and it's a bit cowardly.

I think lying ("I've met someone else with whom I've decided to be monogamous") is a problem. The reason for this is that some dating sites, like Match, allow users to monitor other users' site activity - so they can see you're not monogamous because you keep logging on to the site every few days.

Nakedcodemonkey's advice is, in my view, the best. It doesn't hurt you in the least to write a brief mail saying "thanks for the communication but I feel you're not quite what I'm looking for. Good luck in your search." Then everyone knows where they stand. As Nakedcodemonkey says, this is the do-as-you-would-be-done-by fair thing to do.
posted by skylar at 12:30 AM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Been there, done that. Best to let them know you are not interested, being generic in your reasoning. Something along the lines of "I realize after corresponding that this could not work out. I thank you for your time, and wish you the best in your search." The services I belonged to allowed you to "block" the person on the site if they became obnoxious. I would only do that if the person keeps hounding you. But, with all this said, that's what on-line dating sites are all about-- getting to know people so you can find someone. It's an elimination process. Good luck!
posted by 6:1 at 12:59 AM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Let's put the feelings of the other party aside for a moment. What would be easier for you? If you answer that it's easier to do nothing, I don't reckon you're taking a full accounting of the calories spent drafting a form letter versus the calories spent dealing with the worry and guilt that nibble at you when you open your inbox. Because you are a compassionate and sensitive man, it's actually easier to break it off clean.

As for the feelings of the other party, 90% of people would rather be let off early so they don't waste their time and energy.
posted by squirrel at 1:07 AM on February 1, 2005

I vote for a white lie. It's not a job interview, and something too carefully drafted sounds pompous. If she catches you in your lie, she'll get it. Just say something like, 'you seem like a nice person, I don't want to just disappear, but I've met someone.'

I say this as someone who has both fallen silent, and told white lies. I felt crappier about not calling back. (I've also let things go on to long, which I still feel terrible about).
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:07 AM on February 1, 2005

If you decide after an email or two that you are not interested...

Um, after one or two emails I would not be too worried about hurting someone's feelings by telling them they weren't my type. I mean, you don't even have to tell them, it's email right? Drop them a line and let them know, don't make them waste their time.
posted by rooftop secrets at 2:09 AM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's necessary to break up with someone with whom you've only exchanged a few emails. Anyone who's on this sytem regularly has had messages not returned - it barely registers with me. Or at most I think, damn, that cute smart guy wasn't interested, and then I forget about it, because these sites are crawling with thousands of people of all types. And I'd far rather have an email not returned than get some fake note that says it's not me, it's him, while I'd know the truth was he just didn't feel attracted to me.
posted by orange swan at 2:16 AM on February 1, 2005

nicwolff is spot on. That's perfect.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:04 AM on February 1, 2005

My position may be extreme here, but I don't think it's EVER okay, when relating to a person who hasn't done you harm, to simply cut off communication. To me, that's the height of rudeness (though I understand, scarabic, that your intent is partly to space the person's feelings).

Total lack of communication says, to me, "you aren't worth my time." Which is a bigger insult that "you're ugly." Not that I'm advocating saying, "you're ugly."

While I think you're required to say something, I DON'T think you're required to go into details. By my ethics, you're required to write a short, "thanks but no thanks" email. The other person is required to deal with it.
posted by grumblebee at 4:12 AM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Umm, it really doesn't take too many calories to send a generic "not my type" e-mail back to someone. I agree that some sort of note should be sent, just craft a single generic one and keep it on hand.

What grumblebee said.
posted by jeremias at 4:24 AM on February 1, 2005

I'd stay away from nicwolff's idea. You'd still be using the dating site, so if you refresh your profile they'd see you to be a liar. A simple "Thanks but no thanks" should be enough.

Never, ever let them extend that "Not interested but don't want to be a jerk by saying 'L8r' period." Bad times, man, bad times.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:31 AM on February 1, 2005

It's frustrating if you're having a nice conversation and then someone blanks you. I have thought that my mail has got lost in the spam and sent another, only to feel like a dickhead when they write back with some equivocation.

I would always write a note to say no thanks.
posted by lunkfish at 4:36 AM on February 1, 2005

One side note.
If you find the picture(s) unappealing, this I understand....Follow up using whatever advice you've gleaned from above. Defintely send something.

But one/two emails? Unless the person said something racist; something terribly offensive, chalk it up to email being a lousy communications medium, and at least talk to the person.

Even if it's been five emails, and you're not terribly hopeful.

You'll find that there are some people who just don't 'do' email well, and you might be missing out on someone you want to know.
posted by filmgeek at 5:00 AM on February 1, 2005

As Nakedcodemonkey says, this is the do-as-you-would-be-done-by fair thing to do.

Yeah, but I think that's the problem. I generally prefer not to hear back; then it just dissolves away. Getting a specific note of "you're not my type" is a more explicit rejection. I mean, either way is fine, it's no big deal, but I think just not responding is perfectly fine.

However, in the majority of cases I am not particularly interested anyway, so it is just a way of avoiding us both writing little 'it's not you it's me' notes to each other, which just seems stupid. So maybe the thing to do is, if you get the sense the other person is into you, write a nice little generic note, but if you get the sense they're kinda on the same page about things not working out, let it evaporate into the ether without comment.
posted by mdn at 6:23 AM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've been on both sides of this, and for me it generally comes down to thinking what I would want to hear if the situation was reversed. I generally write a short note that says something to the point like "I'm glad to have corresponded with you a bit, but at this point I don't think we're exactly what each other is looking for right now. Best of luck in your search." Sometimes, though, I just let it go.

These systems should automate this somehow with a little "it's not you, it's me" button that, when pressed by the uninterested party, delivers an amusing message to the recipient and encourages them to start looking for someone more interesting/attractive.
posted by judith at 7:23 AM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'd say one or two emails, it's ok to halt communications without any explanation. But if the second email was them sending their pic, and you don't respond, the other person is going to assume you find them unattractive anyway.

If it is more than two emails, you really owe them some sort of explanation, even if it's a white lie. I'd say honesty is the best policy though. Besides that maybe the other person would appreciate the feedback? (Unless you don't find them attractive - please don't ever tell anyone that...)
posted by sarahmelah at 7:33 AM on February 1, 2005

The problem with the golden rule is that different people want different things. It's become obvious in the thread that there's nothing you could do that will make everybody happy.
posted by Eamon at 7:35 AM on February 1, 2005

Ditto everyone who said drop a note to indicate disinterest, through a white lie of things taking off with someone else or otherwise.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:21 AM on February 1, 2005

Definitely respond and let them know you aren't interested, lest you wish to form a reputation and incur bad karma…

Keep your note extremely brief, do not ramble, and try to blame yourself.

"I've realized that you are not my type, and therefore incompatible. I'm terribly sorry, but I will be reopening my search for a prospective mate. Further correspondence is unnecessary." ktnxbye!!!! (…maybe leave off that last part!)
posted by naxosaxur at 8:25 AM on February 1, 2005

It's not fair or nice to leave someone hanging. Just send a quick note saying 'it was nice to hear from you. I don't think we're a match, but best of luck in the future' - something clear but inoffensive.

If they write back asking for an explanation, THEN it is ok to ignore it since you've already made your position clear.
posted by widdershins at 8:26 AM on February 1, 2005

I'd say one or two emails, it's ok to halt communications without any explanation. But if the second email was them sending their pic, and you don't respond, the other person is going to assume you find them unattractive anyway.

God, am I just out of touch with the social rules of the time? To me, this seems really rude. If you were walking down the street and someone said "hi" to you, would you feel okay ignoring them? If not, is it different because it's email? Why?
posted by grumblebee at 8:32 AM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Getting a specific note of "you're not my type" is a more explicit rejection.

Yeah... I was renting a room recently, and someone I showed it to actually wrote me to say she was "concerned about several issues" and had decided to keep looking. I was like "Hm. I didn't even offer it to you!"

I don't really like the nicwolf idea, though. I'd rather suffer the anticipation and guilt of radio silence than the anticipation and guilt of being found out in a lie. Plus, I always try to do the right thing with online dating, because it's totally been a great new thing for me and I want other people to have positive experiences so it will continue to grow. Lying isn't part of that.

It's just a matter of finding the right wording, I guess, and you guys have definitely helped. I think something along the lines of "not feeling a connection here" is fair to say, clear, and doesn't cast a good or bad light on anyone. If it really is just the one email and they don't persist, then I don't have to say anything.

Thanks for all the advice and encouragement.
posted by scarabic at 8:40 AM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

How about, your first email to them ends with "By the way, if I decide I don't like you, would you rather hear nothing, or get an explicit rejection? Thanks!"
posted by agropyron at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2005

When I was using online services, I just quit talking to people and they did the same to me. I also didn't respond to all the emails I received. It seemed to work fine and I only had one person write a second time to ask why he never got a response. Maybe this is rude but it seems to be SOP.

nicwolff's idea is terrible. my roommate is using these services now and he gets very irate when women blow him off by saying they have found someone else but he sees them online every day.
posted by amber_dale at 9:18 AM on February 1, 2005

From a male's perspective, I have found that the decision to send a rejection depends on the situation. For instance, if the emails and the replies occurred over a short period of time and my disinterest is based on some specific warning flag, then I send a rejection. Otherwise, if the correspondence was intermittent over a period of time, I don't bother.

As amber indicates, women receive much more email than men, so their overall situation is different.

As for nic's advice, although I stretch the truth sometimes, I never outright lie.
posted by mischief at 9:30 AM on February 1, 2005

On Craigslist, silence works fine and I'd be much more upset to receive a rejection note. However, I suspect the rules might change when you've paid money to contact someone.
posted by inksyndicate at 9:51 AM on February 1, 2005

I'm not in the dating pool (and maybe my comment will reflect this), but I wonder if it would work okay to give an explanation as to why the person is not your type, but cite a trait that is not necessarily negative. For instance, if someone told me I wasn't his type because he was looking for more of a partier/dog person/cooking enthusiast/tv watcher/hockey fan, I would agree with him and not find it insulting in the least.
posted by xo at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2005

Actually xo, I had an experience just like that. I was honest and told him he wasn't exactly my type, he responded back that I wasn't his either, we had a laugh about it and wished each other luck. So yeah, that's definitely an option.
posted by sarahmelah at 10:48 AM on February 1, 2005

Response by poster: Well, that is a good way to go if the character trait presents itself. But trying to come up with one as an excuse when, really, the reason is physical or more generalized is just another type of lie.

I've tried a couple of "non judgmental rejection" notes. We'll see how they go. I guess it's gone without saying this whole time that many exchanges *clearly* don't require a follow up. One email sent in with no pic goes straight to the trash without a second thought 99% of the time. I'm really talking about the situations where there has been a little back and forth, or if the person is persistent in asking for more.
posted by scarabic at 10:52 AM on February 1, 2005

If you get all bent out of shape when a prospective mate stops talking to you, that means you're not talking to enough prospective mates. You should always be able to go "Oh well, these three other people are still interested in me."

If that's not happening, maybe online dating isn't working for you.

From the flipside, you must assume that anyone you are interested in also has several other people interested in them, because interesting people usually do, and therefore they won't particularly miss one person who simply drops out of the dance.
posted by kindall at 11:26 AM on February 1, 2005

you must assume that anyone you are interested in also has several other people interested in them, because interesting people usually do, and therefore they won't particularly miss one person who simply drops out of the dance

Yeah, exactly, I think that's why the explicit rejection note sometimes seems more rude to me - it's like they're assuming I was focused on them. When people disappear, it's easier to just think of it as somewhat mutual, that just 'nothing came of it', not that it was specifically due to some quality of mine. Although, like I said I haven't yet really had to deal with a case where I was seriously hawt for someone who then just faded out; perhaps if I really were focused on them, I'd want to know that it wasn't that email just got lost or something.

But honestly, I think if I were feeling that way, I'd write to the person and say, "by the way, haven't heard in a while - please let me know if you've just been busy or if you weren't really feeling it. No hard feelings either way, but I'd be up for keeping in touch if you are," - or something like that.
posted by mdn at 3:30 PM on February 1, 2005

I think something like "I'm sorry, nothing personal, but I'm looking for someone with a (slightly) different set of characteristics" would be fine. Short and undetailed but leaves no room of misinterpretation. Plus, it's honest. You would obviously still be looking and they wouldn't fault you for it if they knew.

For bonus points, thank them for their e-mails/stuff they sent.

Never, EVER go into sudden or total silence. This drives people crazy and will only intensify your presence in their minds and for much longer than YOU would like, especially if they're hopeful and interested in you. No one likes to be left hanging. Be kind to your rejectee!
posted by furious blush at 6:02 PM on February 1, 2005

Correction, "room FOR misinterpretation".

This is what happens when you change your mind about a phrasing mid-sentence!
posted by furious blush at 6:09 PM on February 1, 2005

Response by poster: "I'm sorry, nothing personal, but I'm looking for someone with a (slightly) different set of characteristics"

That's fair and accurate, but like many responses I've considered, only begs the question.
posted by scarabic at 9:09 PM on February 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

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