Bullish Q&A: How to Turn Down Guys Without Excuses, Apologies, or Dissimulation

Dear Jen,

I’m a very outgoing girl who gets asked out by strangers a lot. I’m not interested in dating at all right now. I have way too many projects, I don’t have the time or patience for anyone else. I’m pretty assertive so total creeps are easy to flat out say no to, but I keep finding myself in the awkward position of having to turn down guys I just made friendly small talk with: customers at work, acquaintances I run into at parties. What are some ways to firmly say no thank you without being harsh?

Good question!

Certainly, don’t lie about having a boyfriend. For feminist reasons, as well as practical ones (most people are bad at lying, and it’s just a waste of mental resources to lie for no reason).

And I don’t suggest saying, “I’m too busy to date anyone right now,” because it doesn’t sound true, even though it is, and it will prompt a certain kind of guy to argue with you, suggest dates that will fit into your schedule, tell you he’s pretty busy too so you have a lot in common, etc.

That kind of guy is actually going to try to overcome any specific reason you give, so don’t give any; your reasons for saying no are your business.

So, whatever comes out of your mouth, keep in mind that you don’t need to do any kind of verbal or emotional gymnastics here. The answer is no because you don’t want to. Keep that in your head: No, I don’t want to. You don’t need an excuse. Nor does it have to be rude or harsh. What if I asked if you wanted to go get brussels sprouts from a food cart on the other side of town? No. You don’t want to. [crickets]

Things usually sound softer the more unnecessary words you append to them. So, “No, thank you” is softer if you say, “I’m going to say no to that, but thanks, it’s been a pleasure chatting. Excuse me, I’m off to refresh my drink.” Note that “I’m going to say no to that” is sort of mild and polite, while also being definitive. (Unlike, “I don’t really think that’s going to work….”)

Don’t say anything Warren Buffett wouldn’t say. What would Warren Buffett say (WWWBS)? “Thanks, but I’m going to have to pass. Oh look, Bill is over there. Have you met Mr. Gates?”

Also, women talking like Warren Buffett is a turn-off for most heterosexual men, so there’s that.

-Jen

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