What is the most gentle yet clear way to communicate to a guy that you just aren’t interested in him?
The venerable Sir Unka Glen (He told us that he was knighted on his recent trip to the UK. When I questioned it, he got mad and called me a “peasant”, so I’m just going with it.) gives the best advice about giving unpleasant news: cut deep, cut clean.
You mention being gentle, yet clear. Those are great goals for a conversation in which you have to give bad news, but I would prioritize those as clear first, gentle second.
It may feel like the gentle, nice, christian thing to do is try to cushion the blow as much as possible. The problem with that approach is that, more often than not, it just leads to having to do the whole thing over again when they don’t take the hint. Just dropping a clear “Thanks, but I am not interested” may feel harsh, but it is in fact the gentlest way to do things, because it doesn’t drag out. Of course someone could not take the hint from that clear wording, but that is on them.
Your responsibility in this situation is to be honest and not be a jerk about it. You are not responsible for how the other person reacts. You are also not required to provide a reason that he deems satisfactory. You have the right to make your own decisions, and your reasons are your own. You don’t have to be able to articulate an airtight case, you just have to know that you aren’t interested.
Clarity is the key thing. Males tend to be communicational-y impaired compared to women. What you may think is a thinly veiled euphemism, he may see as an opening, which will lead to trouble. You know that scene in Dumb and Dumber when Mary tells Jim Carrey the chances of them ending up together is one in a million, and he exclaims “so you’re saying there’s a chance?” Well, that’s not too far off. If you say “not right now” they may hear “later.” If you say “I’m kind of seeing X”, they may hear “when X and I break up.”
Nobody likes giving bad news, so it makes sense to adopt a strategy that means you will only have to give it once. So be honest and, be as gentle as you can while being honest, and you will get through it fine.
-Matt from The Bridge