I’ve gotten very good at saying no to second dates, largely because I go on so many first dates. There are times when we both acknowledge there’s no spark and go our separate ways; there are times when they reject me; and statistically, there are a fair number of people who want to take a second run at it even though we have literally zero chemistry.
Having been ghosted or strung along by people I genuinely liked, I’ve made it a personal policy to never leave someone hanging. If somebody likes me enough to ask me out again, I will try to always respond so they’re not left wondering what happened. This is how I do it.
Make the “no” very clear
There’s a tendency in our passive, text-based communication dating world to just hope someone takes the hint. People will wait a long time to respond, they’ll say, “Sorry, I‘ve been busy!” without offering a window of free time, or they’ll claim they’d like to hang out again, but never follow up. Do not do this.
Perhaps your admirer should just understand that you’re not into them and have no intention of ever seeing them again, but it’s not fair to keep that little glimmer of hope alive. Let’s be honest: Often, part of the reason folks won’t say no directly is because they want to keep the door open a sliver, just in case. That sucks. Cut the line and let them go. If you really want them that badly in future, it’s on you to reach out, not for them to keep checking in every few months.
Say what you liked about them
Texting does make considering your words a lot easier. If someone asks you out on a second date in person, and you’re not sure what to say, tell them you will text them later. Then, text them later, and soon, as outlined in my previous point.
I try to always say something I thought was cool and nice about them; for the most part, even if I don’t like somebody, they’re still a multifaceted human being. They talked about something interesting, they bought me a coffee, they met me in my neighborhood. Saying, “You were really interesting and I loved talking to you about beekeeping,” or “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me,” before your “No” is a little sugar to help the medicine go down.
Say why you’re not into it
This is the tricky part; there’s a huge range of reasons for why we’re not attracted to a person. They can go from the arbitrary to the offensive. In my experience, it works best to point to something fairly neutral, but true. It gives them a reason for why that doesn’t feel deeply personal, yet makes sense as a deal breaker.
The things you can list are generally very basic—for example, telling someone you don’t think you have enough common interests to sustain long-term dating. What can they say to that? You have your interests, they have theirs. Another specific example: I once told someone I didn’t think we’d be sexually compatible because he spent much of our date explaining he was into sadism. Sorry! Best of luck, though!
Folks want closure more than a dissertation, so keep it simple with, “You’re [ ] and [ ] and it was great to meet you, but I don’t feel the romantic chemistry I need for dating. Thanks for meeting with me.”
Stick with the classics
If you don’t feel like you can get that personal, don’t avoid the clichés. Saying you’re not looking for the same things is popular for a reason; it’s a staple of the gentle letdown. People just don’t use it as much now, because they’d rather let their first dates dangle in romance purgatory.
Though I much prefer to be honest, I think it’s also okay to use old favorites like “I need to take a break from dating,” or “I’m actually not ready for dating,” even if you’re just not interested in dating them. If they contact you in the future and get rejected again, it’s what they should expect—you told them you didn’t want to date.
When it comes to safety, say anything you want
All of these tips are contingent on your date being a reasonable human being. If they’re not, or you feel unsafe in their company (especially in person) say whatever you have to. Safety is paramount. But if you just don’t like someone, don’t leave them hanging.