When I said "yes," I meant "no."
December 4, 2006 8:43 AM   Subscribe

You met someone online, you chatted on the phone, you went for lunch, it was fine, but you're not interested. And then on parting you're asked, "would you like to do this again?" and you say, "yes," because it's too embarrassing to say "no." How do you deal with this situation, and prevent it from happening in the first place?
posted by russmail to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I say I'm flattered but not interested
posted by Rubbstone at 8:49 AM on December 4, 2006

With this situation, you wait and see if the other person calls you again. They might not- it's possible they aren't really interested, either. If they call, you don't call back. If for some strange reason you pick up when they call, you say no.

To prevent it from happening in the first place, try using a vague non-answer that will get the message across. Would you like to do this again? "We'll see", "Let's see what happens", etc.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:52 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I usually take the gutless route. After agreeing to meet again (which I always end up doing because I'm always caught off guard by the question), I send an email saying that after some thought, I think we're just not compatible, and that I don't think we should pursue this further after all. I think it's less awkward for all involved - if I were the person being rejected in this situation, I know I'd prefer it done by email rather than over the phone or in person.
posted by amro at 9:00 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Bah, forget being vague, just say thanks but you don't think it's going to work out. I mean, be pleasant about it, but spare the other person the confusion and ensuing effort. If your answer is going to be No, then why would you let them think otherwise?

...then again, I'm a huge fan of being pleasantly honest whenever I'm asked about anything, so my view is intrinsically biased and possibly hideously flawed.
posted by aramaic at 9:00 AM on December 4, 2006

I'm with aramaic here. No reason to say yes if you mean no. Even if you think you're sparing the other person's feelings, in the end you'll look dishonest for having led the person on. Try learning to say no. It can be hard, but it's really the best way to go in situations like this.
posted by smich at 9:04 AM on December 4, 2006

You generally end up pissing off the other person for sending mixed messages, whatever route you choose.
posted by smackfu at 9:19 AM on December 4, 2006

You: "Would you like to do this again?"

Me: "You know, I find you very interesting, but you should know that I'm going through a lot lately and I have a responsibility to taking care of that stuff first. Please don't be offended if we don't get to do this again for some time."

If you press me for specifics, I say it's a long story and I warmly defer. I'm able to have this conversation with people without getting nervous about it, because I'm telling the truth. Always leave people feeling like it was a delight to see them, even if you don't plan on seeing them again.

Steeling yourself up to be able to say things, like "Sorry, not interested" and then dealing with hurt feelings that are bound to result is something that neither of you should have to deal with. Instead, be breezy, noncommittal, and firm.
posted by hermitosis at 9:22 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

As for what to do now, when you get a phone call, simply answer and be honest: you don't think it will work out, but thanks anyway, you're flattered. No need to lie here or make things any more or less than what they are.

This is also the answer to your follow-up question: be honest to begin with and you'll avoid a lot of this. I have a very close friend who can't stay away from creepy guys because she is unable to assert herself and is constantly roped into a cycle of meaningless, boring dates with uninteresting bizzaro dudes.
posted by dead_ at 9:26 AM on December 4, 2006

Also, I'd highly advise again the "I'm going through a lot lately" approach or anything else that obscures the truth, which is that you simply aren't interested.

If you don't directly say that you aren't interested, and this person is, they can easily find any tiny foothold to keep pestering you about it with. If someone has a crush on you, they will invent any scenario in their mind to get close to you, if you leave the door open for it. I've seen it a million times. "Oh, well, he/she is going through a lot now, I'll call back in 2 weeks." ... "Oh, they are busy with school now, work too? It's ok, I'll just call on the weekend." ... "Oh, they just got through some family stuff that was rough? Maybe I can help, I'll give them a week and call back." This is how many people think, especially when smitten, and once they have your number they keep calling... and calling... and showing up places where you're at. Not saying this will happen, but just reminding that honesty is the best policy.

Just be honest.
posted by dead_ at 9:31 AM on December 4, 2006

When a person asks if you'd like to get together again, it's really just a way for them to say that they themselves are interested. Your answer doesn't commit you to anything. If he/she then says to you... "Great! How about Friday?" -- that's when you need to get honest or evasive or vague. There's nothing wrong with making your lack of interest known sooner, but you're not bound by a polite response to a vague invitation.
posted by wryly at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2006

When they say, "Do you want to get together again," you say: "Sure, let me get your number."

When they give you the number, say, "Cool, I'll give you a call."

And then just don't.

They'll get the picture. If they contact you after you've clearly set it up as a "Don't call me, I'll call you" situation -- maybe they're socially inept, or just gluttons for punishment -- just say you've had a busy week but you'll call them the next week once things calm down. And then just don't.

Sure, it's not ideal, but I prefer this to having the "It's not going to work out" talk, which is usually painfully awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved.
posted by hazelshade at 10:07 AM on December 4, 2006

Honesty is the best policy. People like feeling respected. My standard line is this type of situation was along the lines of "I think you have a ton of good qualities, but I have specific goals and needs in a dating relationship, and I don't think the two of us together could achieve them."

And I tailored it slightly to each situation. The very biggest benefit of this approach was that I often ran into people that I had only dated once or twice, and never had to deal with the "that's the guy that didn't call me" vibe. On the contrary, I got Hi's and hugs. And I even developed a few friendships later with some of them.
posted by Bradley at 10:35 AM on December 4, 2006

Presumably the other person realizes it's possible nothing will develop from this first meeting. I understand why it would feel awkward to say you aren't interested in meeting again, but you can spare the other party needless confusion by being honest and saying that you aren't interested.

I don't think it's a good idea to be vague or disingenuous. If you say you are busy or ask for a phone number with no intention of calling, why should the other person assume it means you aren't interested?
posted by spindling at 11:03 AM on December 4, 2006

Bring up if it'd be OK if you're just friends. Something very similar happened to me a few years ago....met online, talked on the phone, all the jazz. Met in real life, didn't click like we thought we would. Near the end, I asked, "Ummm, would it be cool if we're just friends." She said no problem and we've been best friends since to the point where people wonder why we're not dating.
posted by jmd82 at 11:15 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Me: "You know, I find you very interesting, but you should know that I'm going through a lot lately and I have a responsibility to taking care of that stuff first. Please don't be offended if we don't get to do this again for some time."

Oh c'mon, anyone hearing that knows by word 3 that it means "no" but you're making them sit through all the rest of it before it's over. I like being up-front with people, but if you have gotten the end of the date and you're that out of sync with each other's expectations then you may as well take any of the above mentioned "sure, let's talk about it later" methods of sparing them the face-to-face rejection.

Because wryly is right, that's not a date-planning thing, that's a statement of interest. You should be polite and non-committal and make yourself unavailable in the future.
posted by phearlez at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2006

Ouch, hazelshade.
It's one thing to say you'll call someone (like, say, when you don't have their number, or if you already have it) and then not call.

But if you ask for their number right before saying you'll call? That's just mean.
posted by juv3nal at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, a lot of this is ridiculous. The way to avoid this situation is simple; don't say you want to meet again if you don't want to. Say, "You seem like a great person but I don't think we're compatible" or something similar. That's it.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 AM on December 4, 2006

You can only ever bring someone down as far up as you've built them. Just be honest, immediately.
posted by jon_kill at 11:52 AM on December 4, 2006

Seconding, thirding and fourthing what many people have already said: be honest. It's much better for everyone all round. Polite, honest, tactful and firm with as little disclosure as you want to give.

"I think you have a ton of good qualities, but I have specific goals and needs in a dating relationship, and I don't think the two of us together could achieve them."

No offence Bradley but that chat just sounds like shite to me. I can think of nothing worse than being given the elbow via some kind of management speak. I was half-expecting a piechart and some powerpoints there.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 11:56 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

But if you ask for their number right before saying you'll call? That's just mean.

Sorry, I should have been more clear: I just proferred the thing about asking for the number as an example of a transitional phrase to get out the "don't call me, I'll call you" message. Usually I already have the person's digits so I just tell them (OK, yes, I lie) that I'll call. I guess it's the coward's way out, and honesty may be the best policy, but as someone who's been on the receiving side of the "honest" way of handling this I'm not sure I don't prefer the insincere and nonconfrontational "I'll call you" soft blow-off.
posted by hazelshade at 12:47 PM on December 4, 2006

Another vote for... dishonesty! What's wrong with being nice? Who does it hurt? Who really does not know when he is getting the polite brush-off?
posted by Methylviolet at 1:06 PM on December 4, 2006

Can I hijack this a little... I am in a similar situation, and I am pretty sure that "I don't think we're compatible" is gonna fly. He's going to ask why why why. And insist on specifics.
posted by clh at 1:16 PM on December 4, 2006

Who really does not know when he is getting the polite brush-off?

I don’t, often. For one.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 1:24 PM on December 4, 2006

I am pretty sure that "I don't think we're compatible" is gonna fly.

I assume you mean isn't gonna fly, and all I can say is that this approach has worked for me. But if I was ever questioned as to why why why, I would say that it really doesn't matter why and quickly end the exchange. If I was asked via email, then frankly I probably wouldn't respond. Questioning a rejection and seeking specific reasons for the rejection after just one meeting would strike me as a bit pathetic, and it is extremely unlikely that I would be inclined to entertain those questions.
posted by amro at 1:26 PM on December 4, 2006

clh-- if that's the case then you just need to be firm. If he keeps asking whywhywhy, he's being an asshole. If you've be going out for a while then, fine, a bit more time for discussion may be called for but after a few dates people are not entitled to ask beyond what you are prepared to tell them. Don't let anyone bully you.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 1:27 PM on December 4, 2006

From having this conversation a number of times in real life, I've come to the conclusion that, largely (and yes, these are huge, unscientific generalizations, and you and your best friend John totally do not fit this at ALL):

a) Boys are the ones asking "So do you want to do this again?" at the end of the date.
b) Most girls find this behavior totally baffling. WHY would anyone do that?
c) When confronted with this question, if the answer is not a resounding YES, many girls will lie: "Yes, sure." and then not call the boy back.
d) The boy, having had no idea that he was putting the girl on the spot, will be resentful and grumpy about girls and how they're not honest and forthright.
e) Talk about resentful, the girl is right up there. Who asks you out again like that? What's with the pushy, man? Why can't he wait for your "Thank you for lunch!" email and *then* ask?!?
f) Later, in small mixed-gender groups, this subject will come up. The boys will be appalled. The girls will feel guilty, but also pressured and annoyed.
g) Little changes. Everyone is grumpy with the opposite sex.

FWIW, I'm a girl, and I've lied at times: once to someone who asked me out for the second date in the middle of the appetizer course. Which I'm sure seemed totally okay to him, but was horrifying to me, as it meant that I either had to say "No, thank you" and sit there for two more hours, or lie. Ack!

There's this gender gap about rejection, in my experience: men think that rejection should be straight-up, no BS; girls think that rejection should be soft-pedaled as much as possible, both because we feel bad for the person we're rejecting (as long as he's not creepy, anyway) and because rejecting people makes us feel kind of mean.

I don't know that there's *really* a solution to that, except the obvious, which is: folks, STOP asking that question at the end of the first date! That's like asking the hiring person if you got the job at the end of the interview.

And if you're the recipient of the question, and you are - as I am - uncomfortable being put on the spot like that, I think the best you can do is probably a "Well, let's think about it! We'll talk soon!" or something.

My two cents, and of course the above is wildly generalized: I'm sure there are girls who ask this question at the end of the date, and boys who are horrified, etc. etc. etc.

CLH-- I've been there. It's really hard for me to not to give people extensive "It's not you, it's ME!" reasons for why I don't want to see them again, but I've learned through trial and (mostly) error, that there's a certain kind of dude who thinks that if you're still talking, *he can talk you out of it*. So, as hard as it is, a polite-but-firm "I just don't feel any chemistry! Best of luck to you." may be your best bet.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:29 PM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Er. I am *ridiculously* verbose-- sorry! It just gets away from me. Heh.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:30 PM on December 4, 2006

Just say, "May I think about that? Give me your number/email, and if I decide yes, I'll call you."

The advantage of this is that:
(1) you are in control of what happens next, if anything;
(2) if someone calls you first after that, they're plainly pushing to hard - they pretty well have to let you do it your way;
(3) most importantly, you can indeed think about it; otherwise under pressure at the end of a date you may say either yes or no and then end up, on second thoughts, regretting it.
posted by londongeezer at 3:10 PM on December 4, 2006

If the person you went out with revealed themselves to be a creep, a sexist, a racist, an asshole, crazy, etc. --- then, yes, sure, be blunt about not wanting to go out with them again.

But assuming it is a "normal" person you went out with, who didn't do anything extremely offensive (say, they're boring or you just didn't click), I don't think you should say, at the end of the date, that you don't want to go out with them again. I think, having just spent some time with the person, it comes across as hurtful when you bluntly say, "No, I'd rather not." It has the very humiliating effect of passing judgment on them, based on your one or two hours with them, and therefore, it is not very civilized to do.

My suggestions:

"Oh, thank you for asking. I'm not able to commit to anything at the moment, because I've got a lot of things going on in the next couple of months, but I appreciate the invitation."

"Could we play it by ear --- I had a really good time tonight but I've been so overcommitted lately that I am trying to avoid scheduling a lot of things."

People are not objects. Their feelings matter. They will understand, and they will feel respected, if you let them down gently.

If you just say, "No, I'd rather not," you will be showing contempt for them, as if you don't give a shit about their feelings.
posted by jayder at 3:24 PM on December 4, 2006

What's wrong with being nice?

Lying isn't being nice. It's lying because you don't know how to be honest without also being mean.

There is an important point here -- it's possible to be honest without being cruel. Yes, really. I know most people don't realize this, but it is in fact possible. Yes, this means you may have to spend a couple seconds thinking. Tough luck.

The "nice" answer in these situations, when it involves lying, is usually just a bad excuse for the selfish answer. You're trading off a few seconds of your mild discomfort against the virtual guarantee of subsequent embarrassment and discomfort of the other person when they figure out the truth.

So suck it up and be straight with people. It's the decent, adult, and respectful thing to do.

(sorry, but I just hate it when people use the excuse that "honesty is cruel" in order to spare themselves the five seconds it would take to be honest and adult about things)
posted by aramaic at 5:21 PM on December 4, 2006

Then again, for those who find comfort for their romantic disappointments in blame and resentment, it might be kinder to offer a straight-up dis.
posted by Methylviolet at 7:18 PM on December 4, 2006

Oh please.

Everyone, you can be honest without hurting someone else's feelings/ego etc. And there's no way (in this situation) to do so.

If you do this in person, it's inappropriate. It's not "honest." The decent 'adult' and respectful thing to do, is say "I'll call you...."

Here's why. Odds are, you didn't find the person attractive. And there's no need to say to another person - "I don't like the way you look." That's essentially saying "you're ugly".

We'd all like to take the high ground and say "Oh, it's about chemistry, and conversation, etc."

Any time you feel awkward this way (especially after a first date with someone from the internet), looking at it in reverse provides some interesting illumination.

If the person was a great looking model (of your sexually choice, male or female), you'd seriously consider a second date, no matter how banal the conversation was. You'd even tolerate some bigotry. C'mon, you'd explain it away as 'bad upbringing'.

But, since you didn't find them attractive you're not interested.

So you tell them you'll call in the next couple of days.
And if you like him/her call. Late the next day. If you don't, this is the message for "I wasn't interested."

If there is a verbal/email communication, just respond that while you enjoyed their company, it didn't really click for you.
posted by filmgeek at 7:50 PM on December 4, 2006

As someone who is on the receiving end of some vague "not so interested" signs right now, I have to say I'd be *thrilled* if the person in question would just straight up tell me. I'm not quite sure, and the uncertainty is driving me crazy and probably wasting my time.

There are plenty of us who miss social cues, or who wouldn't want to wait around for 2 or 3 days before figuring out that the other person isn't interested.

You don't have to say "you're ugly", you only have to say "I don't think you're what I'm looking for right now." Simple and direct. If the person presses you for reasons why, then they are clueless and maybe saying "you're ugly" is the better plan.

And, I have to say, when I'm the one who isn't interested, I've tried both approaches-- and I feel much happier when I've *been* direct, as well. YMMV of course, but I like the peace of mind of knowing they won't bug me later, especially if the person in question is someone I'm likely to run into again.
posted by nat at 10:58 PM on December 4, 2006

"I'm sorry, you seem very interesting, but I just don't feel any chemistry."

There, done. I used this one a lot when I was dating. And FWIW, I'm a woman and I don't believe in bullshit.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 5:00 AM on December 5, 2006

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