Rejection. At some point, we all have to dish it out--and we all have to take it.
In matters of the heart, rejection is an even scarier monster. But why are we so afraid? Dr. Glenn Croston, author of “The Real Story of Risk,” attempts to answer this question in his recent article, The Thing We Fear More Than Death. Croston explains:
"Humans were not the largest, fastest, or fiercest animal — early humans survived by their wits and their ability to collaborate. Those that worked together well, helping others in their group, survived and passed on traits that contributed to social behavior. Failure to be a part of the social group, getting kicked out, spelled doom for early humans. Anything that threatens our status in our social group, like the threat of ostracism, feels like a very great risk to us.
And at a primal level, the fear is so great because we are not merely afraid of being embarrassed, or judged. We are afraid of being rejected from the social group, ostracized and left to defend ourselves all on our own."
"We fear ostracism still so much today it seems, fearing it more than death, because not so long ago getting kicked out of the group probably really was a death sentence."
Last week, I received four separate questions through the ask page concerning rejection. One reader expressed that rejection was painful and asked for guidance on how to cope. Another shared that a close platonic friend recently made romantic advances, and asked how to best let him down. Similarly, another requested strategy for turning down an enthusiastic suitor after a first date. The last (let's call him "Ernie") posed an interesting query--is it even necesary to have the "break up" call with someone you've only been on a few dates with? In his words, "why would I call someone to ask them NOT out?"
Per usual, our savvy matchmakers had deft guidance for all four rejection-geared inquests.
Tawkify Matchmaker Corinne Dobbas kicks off the discussion with a powerful assertion:
Most people equate rejection with failure. It's not failure, it's bravery.
Being rejected means you showed up, you put yourself out there, and you're living your life. There are so many times we're rejected - whether it be for work, in our personal lives or in romance. But again, it means you're living and growing and that's really what makes life interesting. If there was no struggle, there would be no joy. If there was no light, there would be no darkness. Both parts of the equation are necessary to understand that the human experience isn't black and white.
Bottom line: "Rejection means you're trying and trying means you're doing something that matters to you. And if that something stirs something up inside when things don't go "according to plan" that means it's important to you--keep on going."
Corrine also provides language to kindly deliver rejection:
"You know ... I had a really good time with you, but I felt like we didn't hit it off romantically. I respect you and your time, so it's important to me that I'm open and honest with you."
Here, you're being true to yourself and totally honest with them. At any point along the dating journey when you feel like you're not interested, letting the other person know is essential. Otherwise, you're wasting their time and yours. Personally, when I was dating I used this strategy all the time and never once did anyone get mad or upset. Honesty is appreciated. You can never go wrong with speaking your authentic truth.
Tawkify Emissary and Matchmaker, Evyenia Trembois, addresses how to deliver rejection in all three submitted situations:
People are so afraid of telling someone they aren't interested. It's crazy, really! You have every prerogative to feel how you feel and be interested (or not interested) in whomever- and you should never feel guilty about that. What you should feel guilty about is leading someone on-- which is exactly what will happen if you are not clear about your feelings and intentions.
If you've been on one or two dates with a person, I don't think it's necessary to tell them you aren't interested unless they reach out hoping to reconnect again. Otherwise, yes, you do risk coming off presumptuous, or unnecessarily offending someone.
When it comes to Ernie's situation, I would recommend a simple, straightforward text about how you've enjoyed your time together, but don't see the right chemistry for the long term. You can even throw in a "you might agree that ...." if you think they might feel the same way.
As for the nice guy who is enthusiastic, same rules apply. Just be honest. I've tried variations of what I thought were nicer ways to go about this in the past.... I'm not in the right headspace to date, I'm really busy right now, I'm still getting over someone and it's not fair to you, etc. And I've had the same towards me, and let me tell you, you are not doing them or yourself any favors by sugar coating with a little white lie. These types of excuses tend to leave room for the other person to still hold out hope, and continue to try asking you out down the line.
And the end of the day, what I've learned, is that most people find it refreshing to have someone tell them honestly that they just aren't romantically interested.
"It should never be rude, but it also shouldn't leave the door open for any what ifs. Will it sting? Sure. But will they get over it? Yes. And you'll save them a whole lot of time."
Kristina Cappuccilli agrees that clear communication is key:
I think it's unfair to mislead someone, especially when you're fully aware of your feelings. The right thing to do is be upfront and honest. Sure, it's harder to do this, because you're running the risk of hurting someone's feelings. But think about it - would you rather be misled than told the truth? Would you want someone to string you along only to slap you in the face with reality months later? I think not. So be mature and tell the truth - if the other person has any kind of sense, they'll respect you for being upfront.
This is (verbatim) a text I save in my notes for this exact situation: "I want to be honest - I think you're a really sweet guy and I've enjoyed getting to know you - but I see us as being friends, nothing more. I apologize if this hurts your feelings or upsets you, but I don't want to mislead you because I know how that feels and you don't deserve that."
Kathy Ferretti also offers specific language:
I have had good results with...
"I'm so flattered you'd like to hang out again. It was wonderful to meet you and get to know you, but I don't feel the chemistry is there/right for anything more than friends. I hope you understand."
I tweak and try to personalize as much as possible to soften the delivery.
Matchmaker Gaby Aratow offers some comic relief: "Rejection is God's protection. Personally, I've been VERY well protected."
Matchmaker Sierra Janette provides closing encouragement from the Matchmaking team:
When it comes to dating, it's hard not to have expectations. The occasional disappointment is inevitable. Try not to take it personally if the feelings you have for someone aren't mutual- it happens to everyone. Instead, be thankful that they were upfront with you early on, and you can now pursue someone who is better suited for you. Don't let it affect your confidence- just remember all the things you have to offer and continue putting yourself out there! Positive energy and openness attracts more positive energy.
For the Rejecters: Reject as you would want to be rejected.
For the Rejected: The fear of being rejected comes from the fear of not being good enough. Give this fear control and one day you will no longer recognize yourself. For an extra dose of perspective, check out The Best Advice I Can Give You and Matchmaker Says: If You're Feeling Defeated.
Heartalytics Editor, Valerie Presley Ackler & your Tawkify Matchmakers