Knowing how to tell someone you don’t like them is never easy. You can’t avoid hurting them but you can let them down easily without being rude or mean.
Learning how to tell someone you don’t like them is an important life skill. Offering the truth, especially when it is difficult, will help you in so many future experiences. Plus, it is the only way to let someone down respectfully.
Most of us know what it feels like to be rejected. It sucks. Because of that, we don’t want to hurt someone else by telling them we don’t like them. But, sometimes, there is no way to avoid it. It is a necessary part of being a decent person.
If you don’t know how to tell someone you don’t like them, you’ll be hiding from difficult conversations forever. So, taking the time to learn how to tell someone you don’t like them and doing it with grace and honesty is always the best move for you and them.
Don’t ghost someone
When you don’t like someone, shutting down can feel like the easy thing to do. Ghosting them or even making up an excuse seems like it would be less trouble, but that isn’t true.
Ghosting is a cruel and cowardly way to deal with someone you don’t have feelings for. Ignoring them and moving on may seem like it won’t hurt them, but it will. Trust me. I’ve been there plenty of times, and it always hurts more than the truth.
Ghosting is simply easy for you. It means you don’t have to have an awkward conversation or deal with what this person has to say.
You don’t have to deal with the rejection. But, whether you tell someone you don’t like them or not, they still feel the feelings.
Ghosting someone doesn’t just mean you are disrespectful. It also means that you’re incapable of dealing with difficult conversations and that will carry into relationships with people you do like.
Benefits of telling someone you don’t like them
When you learn how to tell someone you don’t like them, they will move on quicker and find closure faster. When they have the truth to help them get over you, they get a level of closure.
You should be flattered this person likes you even if you don’t like them back. Appreciate it and respect them enough to offer them the truth, even though it may be momentarily awkward for you.
You don’t want to be that person they think back on as a coward who went silent instead of owning up to the fact that you didn’t like them. Not liking them doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re honest.
So, before you chicken out about hurting someone’s feelings by telling them you don’t like them, know that you likely will hurt them. But telling them rather than ghosting them will hurt a whole lot less.
How to tell someone you don’t like them
Learning how to tell someone you don’t like them isn’t going to be easy. It sucks to hurt someone’s feelings and crush their hope. You feel guilty and uncomfortable, and it will be awkward.
But, that is a part of life. Not everything is easy. And more importantly, not everything is about you.
Telling someone you don’t like them isn’t about you, but about them. It is about respecting them enough to tell them the truth so they can move on.
Keeping that in mind will make learning how to tell someone you don’t like them a lot smoother.
1. Do it sooner rather than later
Just like a breakup, the longer you wait, the worse it will be. If you know someone likes you and you don’t like them, just let them know. Any amount of time you let pass only leads them on. Even if you aren’t doing anything to show interest, they will remain hopeful without the truth.
I know you probably want to put it off because it will be uncomfortable. But it will get worse the longer you wait. Not only will your own anxieties increase as you put it off, but they will likely feel worse the longer you wait.
2. Do it in private
Do not tell them you don’t like them in front of a bunch of their friends or yours. How would this be helpful?
Even if they ask you to prom or on a date in front of others, pull them aside and talk. You don’t need to embarrass them for taking a risk.
3. Plan it
This is important. Yes, sometimes, you have to tell them in the moment because they confessed their feelings or asked you out. Other times, you need to let them down after a date where you realized you weren’t vibing.
In this case, figure out if you’re going to meet up and talk, or do it over the phone. If you’ve been on one date or just talking, texting is totally okay. If you’ve been seeing each other a while and if you’ve slept together, do it in person.
It is the decent thing to do. Be face-to-face.
4. Don’t send a messenger
I don’t mean a literal messenger with the bike and the bag. I mean, don’t have a friend do it. If you’re in a mutual group of friends, do not wimp out and have someone else let them down, especially if they know that you know how they feel.
That is classless and rude. Deliver the rejection yourself. Learning how to tell someone you don’t like them isn’t about dividing responsibility, it is about respect.
5. Listen to their response
This could go a lot of ways. When I’ve had people be honest with me in the past, I appreciated it. So, I’d answer simply with, “Bummer, but I really appreciate your honesty. Take care.” I’m sure that response is what you would hope for.
But, not everyone sees things like that. Some people may be very upset. They may accuse you of leading them on or ask more specific questions. Some people want to know what they did wrong or even make you feel guilty.
Know that going in there are many ways they could react, so try to be patient.
6. Answer their questions the best you can
This person deserves some closure. Some people can move on just by you telling them that you aren’t interested. Others want answers. Answer their questions as honestly as possible without being cruel.
You can say you want different things, you don’t feel any chemistry, or maybe you have feelings for someone else. You don’t need to go into great detail, but giving them some reason as to why you don’t like them can help them move on.
7. Put yourself in their shoes
During this conversation and leading up to it, remember what it feels like to be rejected. Consider how you would respond in a similar situation. It can be hard to see this situation from another viewpoint, but it can help you remain as sympathetic as possible.
8. Use “I” statements
Keeping your rejection free of attacks or insinuations is best. You don’t want to hurt them. That is why you came looking for this feature.
Instead of telling them they are too intense for you, which could be the case, tell them you aren’t ready for that level of commitment. This still lets them know the truth, but without blaming or judging them.
A great example of how to tell someone you don’t like them is, “I’ve had a great time getting to know you, but I don’t feel a connection.”
9. Don’t coddle them
This is where the line between caring and too caring blurs. You want to apologize and comfort the person you’re letting down, but it is not your job. You can be polite and respectful, but trying to comfort them sends mixed messages.
When you are learning how to tell someone you don’t like them, keep it professional. If you get pulled into comforting this person, it can give them false hope that something could happen later and keep them infatuated with you.
10. Stand strong
A lot of people, unfortunately, cannot accept rejection. They will beg or argue to get their way. Even if they promise to change or be how you want them to be, don’t give in. It can be hard to have to repeat something you know is hurting them, but stay strong.
You know you don’t like them, and it won’t work out. Stick to your goal. Let them know you don’t want them to change for you. You are sorry, but you aren’t interested in them like that.
11. Give them space
You don’t need to check in on them to see how they’re doing. Let them be. Whether you work together, are friends, or simply run in the same crowd, give them space to move on.
If you are constantly around or even sending them memes, it will be hard to distance themselves from their feelings for you.
12. Let them know if you want to stay friends eventually
You can let them know what you want after this. For example, let them know you would eventually like to be friends or keep in touch. But, if you don’t want that, make it clear. Also, be sure not to pressure them into being friends. Instead, let them move on and reach out if and when they’re ready.
You can end your conversation by saying, take care, or good luck with everything, to imply you won’t be talking again in the future. Letting them know your goal now will help them prepare for how to deal with their feelings.
13. Shut it down if necessary
Although you want to do the right thing by being honest and respectful, there are some people who will take advantage of that. They will want to sit down together and get closure. They will want you to answer a ton of questions or go on for hours about how you hurt them.
This again is where the line can be crossed. You can be respectful and polite, but if things seem to be going beyond a brief conversation, let them know you’ve answered everything you can and are sorry for hurting them but can’t do anything more. Then, wish them the best of luck.
Sometimes, to move on, people need a firm answer and rejection. Unfortunately, there will always be people that try to manipulate your kindness as a weakness. This is the sort of thing that makes it difficult for you to tell someone you don’t like them, but you can handle it with some tough love.
Learning how to tell someone you don’t like them certainly isn’t fun. But is the best thing to do for both you and them. Just follow these steps, be firm and you’d be able to turn someone down without leading anyone on.