In all kinds of dating situations, there are times when you’re going to have to say No. Whether it’s turning down a first-date request or negotiating how the relationship moves forwards – and even to finishing it completely – there are times you’re going to have to refuse. Learning how to do that with consideration, thought and empathy is a wonderful skill. It can even turn saying No into a positive thing that improves the whole relationship.
How to say No…
To someone nice-but-not-your-type
When you instinctively feel that spitting out an open-mouthed, “As if!” might be insensitive, turn to a simple, “That sounds like a really fun way to spend an evening, but I can’t.” Then smile pleasantly and move the conversation on to safer topics. Like whether or not they ever discovered a cure for dandruff.
To a second date
You had the first date and there weren’t fireworks on your side of the table. What to do? First of all, don’t pre-empt. Sending a text on the way home saying, “You’re sweet but I didn’t feel the spark! Good luck in your search!” might seem a tad arrogant if secretly they didn’t think much of you either. Wait until they ask you out again, then lower the boom succinctly. “You’re really lovely but I don’t feel we’re a match.” Done.
To moving-in together
You’ve been dating for a while and now your partner wants you 24/7. Got doubts? Then work out what they are because you’re going to need to be specific – a simple “No” will seem heartless. So -- because they live like a slob? Then enter with a solution: “Yes, but I will need us to have a regular cleaning-lady because our standards of cleanliness are too different.” Because you’d rather get married? “I’m happy you want things to progress, but living together wouldn’t give me the feeling of security I need.” Because it feels too soon? “I love you but I’m not ready - let’s talk about this again in six months.” Because you really don’t want to? Then stop and think. Why are you dating them? It’s probably kinder to cut your losses and find someone you can’t live without.
To something too spicy in the bedroom
Instead of, “There are support groups for freaks like you,” might I suggest a more accepting, “I can see why you’d like to explore that, but it’s not something I’d be comfortable doing.”
To a boring-sounding date
You adore your partner but an evening of night-fishing/ballroom-dancing lessons/karaoke just isn’t your thing. Be sure you state that you’re turning down the activity, not the company. “You know I love spending time with you but that activity would be wasted on me – I’m just not a fan. Go with someone else and tell me all about it when you get home.”
To splitting the bill when they asked YOU out
On a first date, you can’t refuse. Just pay your share then realise it was actually an inexpensive way to find out the other person was a cheapskate. Next! If it’s any other date, but you feel it’s genuinely unfair to be asked to chip in, say: “Oh I’m so sorry! Because you asked me on this date, I didn’t bring my wallet.”
To doing an unreasonable favour
If a new partner asks you to do what feels like an unreasonable favour – like taking them to the airport at 3am, washing their clothes, driving to every date, etc – then don’t be tempted to apologise for refusing. It shows weakness. Smile nicely and simply say, “I can’t.” Their reaction to this will be telling. Do they try to tell you why, actually, you really can? Then they’re selfish and it’s over.
To lending money
The best line to use is always, “I have enough money to live on, but not enough to lend out.”
To anything else
The best way to say no to things is to talk about your feelings. “That’s not something I feel would make me happy,” for example, or “That makes me feel uncomfortable.” The reason is that feelings can’t be argued with. Nobody can negotiate you out of a feeling. Rather than applying logic and reason, just talk about your emotions. And stay calm – don’t let guilt turn you into a Yes person. Showing that you value your own time will earn you far more respect and good-treatment than bending over backwards to be helpful.