how to tell someone youre not interested

How Do You Tell Someone You’re Not Interested in Them?

We all have our preferences in the dating world, right? Whether it’s in the realm of appearance, personality, or other, the majority of us have some kind of boxes we’d like ticked when it comes to finding a partner or merely someone to spend the night with.

In some cases, a potential partner may have seemed like the right fit before or during your date, but then you realized that you just didn’t fancy them all that much. It happens. In fact, it happens a heck of a lot more these days thanks to our seemingly endless stream of modern dating apps.

But you see, when you aren’t interested in someone, things become a bit trickier than, say, returning an item of clothing or putting an item back at the checkout counter. 

These are people we’re talking about. Living, breathing people who have feelings just like you do. 

Letting them know you are no longer interested in them is a sensitive subject—one that some may decide to bypass by simply “ghosting” them. 

And ghosting may just seem like the easiest option. You get to come off scotch-free without having to be accountable. 

Plus, you wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings by telling them you aren’t interested, right? That may lead them to feel bad about themselves, and no one likes rejection. So, is ghosting the way to go? 

“It’s important to reject people kindly so they don’t take the rejection personally, because truthfully, it isn’t about them,” says licenced counselor Bianca Walker.

Let’s talk about the best (and the worst) ways to let someone know you’re no longer interested in them, plus some other useful info on this sensitive topic.  

How to let someone know you’re no longer interested in them: communication styles

In-person, over text, over the phone, or other? What mode of communication is the best way to reject someone? Well, that depends on the situation.

According to sex and dating coach, Myisha Battle, breaking it off with someone over text is actually okay if you’ve only been on one or two dates with them, and if you two are big texters. 

If you’ve been dating someone for a longer period of time however, a text probably isn’t the best idea. And sure, face-to-face conversations like this aren’t exactly a walk in the park. But sometimes, they are warranted.

How to let someone know you’re not interested in them

Once you’ve decided the mode of communication you’re going to use to break things off with someone, here are some tips on the best ways to let someone know you’re not interested in them.

1. Be mindful (of the other person) & don’t give harsh feedback

Both sides feel respected when we validate the other person’s vulnerability,” says psychotherapist Cheryl M. Bradshaw

When you’re having a difficult conversation like this, be mindful about the words that you use. Avoid words such as rejection because it really can sting and possibly even be a trigger due to childhood issues or other situations in the past.

It’s important to be direct and straightforward—yet very kind and compassionate,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly

2. No guilt 

Breaking up with someone isn’t easy. You may be feeling a sense of guilt around the concept because you really don’t want to hurt another person. 

But by turning the break up into something that is not about rejection but rather an observation that you two are not compatible, you can change the entire trajectory. After all, a relationship involves two people who are excited about one another.

Instead of “I’m rejecting you,” it’s more of a “We’re not a good match”. This can neutralize guilt and negativity. 

3. Be honest

Honesty can be extremely difficult sometimes, especially when it involves hurting another person. But being honest shows a lot more respect than telling them things they may want to hear (which could just lead them on). 

It’s hard, but letting a person know why you feel things won’t work is usually the best move,” Battle says. “Most people will respect your honest assessment, and if they don’t, that’s an even bigger sign of incompatibility.”

Of course you don’t want to be brutally honest. Doing so in a kind way with a soft landing is key.

For example, you don’t need to tell them that you don’t find them attractive, or that you can’t stand their laugh. Instead make it more about “I don’t really feel a romantic connection”.

4. Your needs: speak for yourself & not them 

Instead of allowing the conversation to sway in a way which leaves the person feeling bad about themselves, you can focus on yourself and your needs.

For example: “While you’re an amazing person, I have a lot of clarity about what I want at this point in my life and I don’t think we’d be a good match.”.

This shows maturity on your side, and offers the chance for both of you to find what you’re looking for without wasting each other’s time. 

Additionally, remember that you can’t speak for them. You are not in charge of how they feel or what they want—you only know how you feel and what you want.

So instead of using “we” or “us” statements, try to stick to “I” statements. 

5. Be specific but don’t over-explain 

When we say “be specific” we don’t mean telling them everything that’s wrong with them or how they’re most certainly not the one for you. 

Instead, offer a few details of why you’re ending things so that they have clarity. In this way, they don’t need to run away with their imagination, conjuring up all the reasons as to why things ended.

“One of the challenges I hear all the time from my clients is the confusion that they feel when someone isn’t clear about why they are no longer interested,” says Kaitlin Kindman. “When we don’t have specific information, we tend to fill in the blanks ourselves.”

At the same time, keep your message quite simple overall. If you start to over explain, it could lead to more confusion and negative feelings. 

“Avoid over-explaining, rationalizing, or getting into a back-and-forth about how things could possibly work out,” says Battle.

6. Timing is important 

Be thoughtful. Rejection of any kind is hard to dish and receive,” says Battle. “Think about when might be a good time to deliver the news, for them and yourself.”

So for example, if the person has something really important the next day, like a big presentation at work, wait until the following day. 

At the same time, think about yourself too. If you’re not in a good headspace, take some time to relax and become more level headed before you have the conversation. 

Is it ever okay to ghost someone?

And finally, the topic of ghosting! In most situations, ghosting is simply not okay. It can leave a person feeling hurt, confused, misled, and anxious. It can also lead to worrying or obsessing over what went wrong or how they’re not worthy. 

The general rule of thumb here is to treat others how you’d like to be treated. Respect, empathy, and clear communication is the best way to let someone know you’re not interested in them.

But are there some instances where ghosting is okay? Yes. 

Some degree of ghosting could be acceptable if:

  • You feel your emotional, mental, or physical safety is at risk
  • If someone has consistently disrespected, harmed, or manipulated you
  • You’ve already approached the topic of ending things but they simply won’t accept it

To sum up, there are ways you can let someone know you’re not interested in them while being respectful and empathetic. It need not be a situation that leaves one or both partners feeling rejected. 

Just remember that you are only responsible for your own feelings and experiences. But that doesn’t mean you should be harsh towards someone you’re ending things with. 

The golden rule: treat others how you’d like to be treated.