Online dating: How to turn someone down

Saying “no” isn’t as easy as it looks. Here’s what to do – and what not to do    

By Jane Hoskyn
Before online dating came along, few of us had fend off dates very often. Unless you were a Clooney-alike barman or the only woman in the engineering department, you probably didn’t get asked out every day of your life.
But online dating has changed all that. If you’re a newbie on a dating site, you’re likely to get several advances every week, if not every day. Unless you have a very broad remit and too much time on your hands, you won’t want to date all of them. Women especially can receive scores of “fancy a drink” invitations every day from men who don’t even spark their zippo, let alone light their fire.
We Brits are notoriously squeamish about saying “no”. It can seem a cruel and rude thing to do. But if, like 8 million other British singletons, you’ve stuck your dating profile online, “no” comes with the territory. So it’s high time you developed an ability to say “thanks, but no thanks”.
Here are a few dos and don’ts of letting down those unwanted online admirers.

  • DON’T think you have to reply to every email. Twenty 20 emails in one day is not an unreasonable haul for a newcomer to a dating site, especially a woman with a great photo. Must you really write back to every one? My advice: save your time and energy for the emails that float your boat.
  • DO remember that “thanks, but no thanks” is seen by some as a come-on. The fact that you replied at all is a red flag to the “playing hard to get” tendency – especially if you use an excuse like “I’m so busy at the moment”. That’s a challenge, not a rejection!
  • DON’T freak out if someone emails for a second time, despite your lack of interest. After their second email, you really do need to reply. It’s common courtesy – and it should stop them trying again. Don’t offer excuses or apologies. Just say, “Thanks for your lovely note, but I’m not sure we’re right for each other. Good luck with your dating.”
  • DON’T ‘block’ someone just because you didn’t like their first email. Most reputable dating sites allow you to block specific members from emailing you. Doing this is no substitute for a polite rejection, because it feels like a slap in the face. Only block someone only if their emails become persistent and rude. If they are personally nasty, report them to the site’s customer services team.
  • DO be respectful if you’ve swapped emails with someone and then lost interest. Just disappearing will leave them feeling confused and possibly hurt. Email them to say that you’ve really enjoyed your exchanges, but you don’t think you’re a match. Thank them for their emails, and wish them well. A white lie that you’ve met someone else, maybe offline, may soften the blow.
  • DON’T offer to continue writing as friends, unless you genuinely want to. An empty offer of friendship breaks two cardinal rules of rejection: be quick and final. Just as when you’ve been in a relationship, “staying friends” offers false hope and prolongs their agony.
  • DO avoid the excuse: “I’m not ready to date anyone right now”. Again, this offers false hope. Your rejectee may pop into your inbox a few weeks later to find out whether you’ve changed your mind.
  • DON’T be afraid to cancel an upcoming date if you’re having second thoughts. Follow the dental appointment principle – cancel at least 24 hours beforehand. It’s very common in the world of online dating to make a date with one person and then be swept off your feet by another. Don’t two-time; cancel instead.
  • DO be sensitive when cancelling a date. Gentle honesty is your best policy. Drop them a note to say that things have changed for you (try the “seeing someone” white lie again), and you don’t want to waste their time.
  • DON’T keep them hanging on. It may be tempting to keep on postponing that mooted meet-up, because it keeps your options open and puts off the chore of rejecting them. But it’s a cruel strategy. Cancel, and let them find someone else to go out with.
  • DO give them a chance if you meet up. If you can tell from the first glance that you don’t fancy them and never will fancy them, give it at least a couple of hours before taking your leave. They went to the trouble of turning up. Say that you had a lovely time, but it’s time for you to head home. Wish them all the best.
  • DON’T do a runner after half an hour by jumping out the loo window or texting a friend to “rescue” you – and definitely don’t end the date by saying that you’ll call them when you know full well that you won’t.