How To Tell A Guy You Don’t Like Him (The Right Way)

I’ve become increasingly appreciative (although not always in the short-term, nobody is particularly fond of having their ego served back to them on a platter, but in the long-run — definitely) of women people who know how to shut down a romantic avenue that they know is leading nowhere, fast.

However, I do understand that it definitely isn’t an easy thing to do given the complexity of the variables involved. Here are a number of obstacles that are probably making you shy back from delivering the bad news.

Let’s talk about guilt

Unless it’s completely out of the blue, chances are you already have a history with this person. This may also involve a now somewhat awkward friendship to fret over (that you may or may not want to salvage). You know fully well that turning him down will cause pain, and coupled with the tail end of a connection that may shatter in the wake of your decision, you may feel responsible and guilty for the ensuing fallout. Right?


You should not feel responsible regarding the nature of your feelings, they are what they are — irrespective of how unjust you both might feel they are.

The real moral tragedy here is not giving him a straight answer, because that is something you are directly in control of. Bear in mind that when it comes to flirting, many people will assume (usually incorrectly) that even if you are conspicuously unresponsive to their advances, it might just mean you are shy, or want to be won over. A mind holding onto hope will provide its own brand of logic, even if this logic flies in the face of all observable facts. In the words of Robert Anton Wilson:

What the Thinker thinks, the Prover will prove

While, understandably, not doing a thing about the situation is entirely justifiable, especially when you made sure you didn’t lead him on (his feelings are his responsibility, not yours), the fact remains that not getting a solid “no” out there will prolong both of your misery (more on how to go about this later). Forget about feeling justified, and focus on doing what it takes to improve and simplify your life.

Let’s talk about the fear of confrontation

Not many people willingly choose confrontation as a means to solve a problem unless there is no other recourse. Sure, you could just disappear from the radar and hope he takes the hint. Sure, you could feign ignorance and let him lead himself along the prolonged and tortuous path towards (for both of you) disinterest. But I won’t hesitating arguing that while both of those scenarios are more comforting in the short-term (because they skirt around the edges of confrontation), the end result is more pain. Not just for him, but also for you.

Pulling a disappearing act

Disappearing will usually not curb his desire to press matters, rather it will intensify it (because he will wonder what’s going on). So in effect, rather than lead to a scenario of peace, it will result in anxiety every time the phone goes off, you open your email or check your Facebook status. Unless he really does dwell on the fringes of your social life, and has no real avenue to pursue contact, it will only inflate your state of anxiety and lead to a confrontation anyway.

Feigning ignorance

Again, usually, it will prompt an interested guy to redouble his efforts rather than give up, and thus the end result is more likely to be dramatic than reasonable.

I’m aware at how stereotypically I’m classifying guys here, and (ironically) I’m feeling a little guilty about it. Not every guy will be rooted in denial regarding their romantic chances, and our ability to detect a very subtle “no” is generally honed sharp over the course of our lives (we get used to it in a hurry). Which brings me to my third point.

Let’s talk about being shut down

At least on the surface of it all, nearly all my male friends (although frankly I’m sure this goes for women as well) would universally agree that being shut down early and decisively is preferable to being let down in concentric stages of disappointment and disillusionment. Here’s why:

  • It saves us time and energy.
  • It frees us up to seek other romantic conquests.
  • The sooner we’re given the bad news, the less we potentially have invested, and the sooner we can get back on our feet.
  • Personally, I feel it shows more respect and consideration.
  • It spares us a great deal of embarrassment down the line, which may further exacerbate a wound to our already ailing self-esteem.

Let’s talk about how to get the point across

At this point I hope that I’ve laid out a reasonably compelling moral statute for getting it done in no uncertain terms, but that doesn’t mean that just blurting it out dramatically is the way to go about it.

Ideally, I would suggest that the whole shebang unfold in a way that shows that you consider his feelings important enough to make them the focus of the moment (in order to curb resentment). So, how do we do that?

  • Make sure the moment is crystallized around the conversation at hand, devoid of distraction (off-handed shutdowns are the absolute worst, I guarantee it).
  • Set the appropriate stage (nightclub + loud music + alcohol = drama).
  • Don’t mince your words, be very clear about your message. For both party’s sake, this should be a one-off event.
  • Set aside enough time to respectfully answer any questions he might have, it will go a long way with regards to soothing his remorse and pain.
  • Consider the experience a character forming one, rather than a traumatic dilemma.

The last point is especially important; your frame of mind. There is no shame in being shutdown, just as there is no shame in shutting down ill-suited romantic possibilities. That’s the way it goes. And because of this, there’s no need to bury out chins in our chests with regards to the ups and downs of romance.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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