As if finding the right guy isn't hard enough, letting down “Mr. Not Quite Right” or even “Mr. Totally Wrong” as nicely as possible is a whole other feat that even the most savvy girl can get tripped up by. Unfortunately, rejection is a necessary part of life. We've all been the victim of it at one point or another, which sometimes makes it even harder to deliver the bad news to someone else. I talked to girls whose approaches range from passive to positively aggressive. Then I talked to an expert on the subject to find out what strategies have the best success rate.
Meet the expert: Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is a Psychologist and author of two books: The Truth: (I'm a Girl, I'm Smart and I Know Everything) and Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I'll Tell You Mine ... Maybe. She knows a thing or two about the challenges of growing up, including the daunting task of rejection.
“We do so many unintentional minor hurtful things already,” says Dr. Holstein. “Things that we can think about, we should try to think about.” She believes that the number one guideline when it comes to guys is knowing yourself well enough to navigate any rejection situation with confidence. “Be true to yourself and don't get swept away in the group dynamics,” she says.
That said, read on for the tactics some college girls have executed.
Keep it Short and Keep it Sweet:
When a guy approaches you at a bar, club, or party, it's easy to assume that he doesn't have the purest intentions. Still, it's important to remember that even the biggest college campuses have that “small world” feel. The drunken party boy from Saturday night may be your group partner in English next semester. Case-in-point: Be nice, ladies. Her Campus writer and Carnegie Mellon senior Elyssa Goodman tries to keep her rejections classy regardless of venue. “If a guy comes up to me in a bar or club and I'm not interested, usually I just smile and say 'no, thank you,” she says. “If they persist, I say no again and walk away, smiling the whole time.” So far, killing the guys with kindness has worked every time.
Why it may work: You're being honest without being mean. Any guy who's been at the receiving end of rejection will appreciate this gentler approach.
Why it may not: Kindness is a great quality, but it also can lead to persistence. If he really won't leave you alone, it may be time to stop smiling and take the “thank you” out of your “no, thank you”.
Deal with Him Later:
Some of us are better at thinking on our feet than others. That, and it's easy to get caught up in the flattery of a phone number request, only to realize your mistake later on in the night (or the next day). That combination of avoidance and kindness may end poorly, but hey, it's a girl's prerogative to change her mind, right? Her Campus writer and James Madison University student Caitlin Hardgrove admits that her method may not be the kindest or most productive choice, but it's certainly the easiest. “I usually end up giving them my number when they ask for it and then get some awkward texts from them down the line that I ignore,” she says. Ouch.
Why it may work: Even the most persistent texter will give up eventually. Instead of leaving him hanging, make this approach more effective by responding by text that you're not interested and apologize for leading him on. Dr. Holstein says that, just like anything else, rejection takes practice. Even the most non-confrontational types should get into the habit of being honest and upfront with guys. Everyone deserves to date and everyone deserves to know the truth.
Why it may not: Sometimes one lie leads to another. If you run into him on campus and he inquires about the lack of response, it's time to come out with the truth. A sweet smile and a, “sorry, my phone's been acting weird lately” will only prolong the problem.
Plan for a Clean Getaway:
Caitlin says she's considering reforming her text-message-ignoring ways and taking up a new technique that her friend swears by. “When a guy asks for her number, she says, 'sorry, but I don't give out my number at bars.” If the situation doesn't warrant conversation, like when you're dancing with a guy who's just not your type, a save-me signal may be the answer. Caitlin and her friends touch their finger to their nose when they need a pal to swoop in and get them out of there ASAP.
Why it may work: Even if your method is completely transparent, that may be enough for the guy to take a hint. If you're not planning on seeing him again, or on him recognizing you when you do, you should have success. “If you're at a party and there's a lot of new guys and you want to signal your friends, there's nothing wrong with that,” says Dr. Holstein. “Our friends are there to help us on many levels.”
Why it may not: If he truly believes your friend was desperate to share a secret or that bars are off-limits for number sharing, he may just try again later. Even Caitlin admits that this may be a complete failure in other situations. “I don't give my number out at the library” seems rather silly.
“I Have A Boyfriend”:
This one deserves its own category because it's probably one of the most common rejection methods out there. If, like Her Campus co-founder Windsor Hanger, you actually have one, then props for being honest in the most straightforward way possible. “It's an easy way to say I'm not available,” she says. Of course there's always the option of pretending you're in a relationship, but make sure you're committed to your “boyfriend” for the duration of your time at the party. Talk about mixed messages.
Why it may work: It's not only clear, but it keeps the guy's ego in tact, too. It's not him, it's you.
Why it may not: If you find someone worthy enough to know your true relationship status, trying to explain how you're suddenly single to the first guy may be quite the challenge.
Learn From Your Mistakes:
One girl, who preferred to remain anonymous, admitted to having a harsh rejection style and shared her tips for reforming your method. . “[At first] I'd assume a guy that was into me without my reciprocation was my misguided little pet who needed a reality check,” she said. “Deep down I probably thought if a guy liked me, he was probably crazy and not worthy.” But this power trip soon led to the realization that having a guy like you is a huge compliment. Being gentle not only shows your confidence and kindness, but it also opens the door to a possible friendship with the guy. Her story is proof that, regardless of how you approach guys now, there's always room for improvement.
As she began to soften her rejection style, she thought of even more clever ways to be proactive about turn-downs. “It's not fair to lead him on like that and in the end, it could lead him to eventually resent you and thus complicate the situation even more,” she says. And that's just what you’re trying to avoid. Now, she's all about kindness and honesty.
“I'll try to mention me liking other guys in his presence early on,” she says. “If that doesn't work, I'll try to ask him about his love life, always keeping a detached interest and encouraging him to like other girls.” Instead of straying from the truth, think of kinder phrases like, “I'm not in the place to think about a relationship or dating.”
According to Dr. Holstein, it's important to keep things neutral with a bit of honesty. “You're great.... but” conversations are a great way to preserve any existing relationship you have with the guy.
The Bottom Line:
“You have to use as much wisdom and discretion turning someone down as you do for any life choice, no matter how minor,” says Dr. Holstein. “You don't want to hurt his feelings since he didn't do anything to you. It's important to be a grownup about finding a way out of these situations. No one wants to hurt or get hurt, but sometimes taking that risk is necessary to move on in life. Here are some final things to remember:
- Just because he's not right for you, doesn't mean he's not good for someone else
- The quicker you can slip out of something, the better it will be for both you and the guy
- When you run into him (and you inevitably will) be polite. He's not boyfriend material, but he's still a human being with feelings
- Sometimes people remain casual friends or end up fixing each other up in the future
Get even more advice from Dr. Holstein here
And check out her new book, Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I'll Tell You Mine ... Maybe and other books here
Dr. Barbara Holstein, Psychologist and author
Windsor Hanger, Her Campus Co-Founder
Caitlin Hardgrove, Her Campus writer
Elyssa Goodman, Her Campus writer