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How to Show a Man That You Are Not Interested

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When I was in high school, there were a few guys I dated on and off. They were good guys, and I was flattered by their attentions, but I wasn’t really attracted to them. I tried to show them I wasn’t interested, but they just didn’t get the hint.

Several readers of an earlier post, How to Show a Man That You Are Interested without Giving Him the Wrong Idea, have recently asked me how to show him you aren’t interested. I never really learned the answer myself while I was still dating, so I took the question to my informal panel of men. Their answers might surprise you.


The Friend Zone

I’ve been out of the game long enough that the term “Friend Zone” didn’t mean anything to me when my informal panel started tossing it around. According to Wikipedia, the Friend Zone is a platonic friendship between two people where one—usually a man, at least if he’s using this kind of terminology—wants the friendship to turn into a sexual and/or romantic relationship. At least according to pop philosophers, once a man has entered a woman’s Friend Zone, it is very difficult to change the relationship to something more.

Women like the Friend Zone. It’s a convenient place to put the men we like and care about, but who aren’t quite what we’re looking for. We plan to be supportive and caring, fun and sociable. Generous, right?

I thought so, too.

Apparently men hate the Friend Zone. (One went so far as to say “Let’s be friends” is the phrase he would abolish from the female vocabulary.) Even though letting a man down gently may seem like the nice thing to do, it can have unexpected negative consequences.

One the one hand, you may string him along indefinitely. Most men aren’t subtle and don’t get subtle hints. Any hesitation on your part may give him false hope. Several of my panelists quoted Dumb and Dumber: “The chances are one in a million? Then there’s a chance!”

On the other hand, you deprive him of a chance to grieve. He should have the opportunity to be sad, even angry. If you insist he treat you civilly right away, you’re probably protecting your own feelings—not him.


So How Do You Show Him You’re Not Interested?

When it comes to bad news, men crave directness. Don’t use excuses to avoid going out with a man. If you are busy and interested, say so and suggest another time. Otherwise, be more direct. Several men also said not to apologize. Your feelings aren’t your fault, but he doesn’t want your pity. Again, be direct.

What do men want you to say–if you can’t give them the positive answer they’re hoping for? I could hardly believe some of the lines men would rather hear than excuses, apologies, or “let’s be friends”:

  • “I’m not interested in you.”
  • “I’m not interested in you, so please stop the advances.”
  • “No, no thank you.”
  • “I’m flattered, but no.”
  • “I don’t think of you that way.”
  • “I’m not interested in that kind of relationship with you”

Men who have gone out on a limb to ask a woman out want a clear-cut answer. When you can’t tell a man directly that you aren’t interested, perhaps it is time to reconsider your motives. You may not be truly convinced you won’t change your mind. Or you may be holding out hope that someone better will come along, but trying to keep him as a back-up plan. Treat him like a person, not like an investment. Let him go and give him a chance to find happiness with someone else.

As one panelist said,

“Love is not a game. If a man had the courage to ask her out, then shouldn’t she have the courage to reject him honestly and not “gently”?”

What If You Think He Might Be Interested, But You’re Not

From my own experience, I would give him a chance. Many women are happily married because they gave someone a second look.

If you are absolutely certain you aren’t interested, my informal panel was divided on what you should do. Most suggested waiting to see what happens. Some said move him to the Friend Zone as quickly and clearly as possible. And a few recommended a simple, “You know I’m not going to date you, right?” to keep the friendship unambiguous.


What lines have you used to let a guy down “gently?” Let us know in the comments.

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