Saying “No” With Ease

Hi Karen,

I recently accepted a date with a man I met on who was not a good match for me because of his age (57), but I decided to go out with him anyway.  When he asked me out for a 2nd date, I said yes – mostly because I didn’t know how to say no (in person is tough – I’ve gotten great at saying no by email!).  

I’m not really looking forward to going out with him again, but I’ve also been second-guessing myself after learning recently about how important it could be to continue to see someone you don’t feel that “chemistry” with, because he may ultimately be a great fit for you, even if you don’t feel that he may ultimately be a great fit for you.  Argh – any advice on how to navigate these issues? – Katerina

Hi, Katerina,

For the most part, doing something that may hurt someone’s feelings is very hard for women to do.  There’s more going on for you than just that, I know, but that is often a big hurdle for us gals.


The very first thing I want you to understand is this: letting a man know that you’re not interested in moving forward is the kindest and most respectful thing you could do for him.  Otherwise, he keeps thinking he’s doing a good job, and that you’re digging him, when in fact what’s going on is that you haven’t (yet) found the guts to say “no”.  And the more time goes on, the more attached he becomes, so the “no” is harder at that point.

If you can’t get to the point where you can let him know while you’re in person, don’t berate yourself for that…email/call after the fact is okay, too.  If you do decide you want to learn how to respond honestly when a man asks, just say that you’re flattered, and that you’ve enjoyed your time together, but that you don’t want to waste his time and you don’t see a long-term fit between the two of you.  I think that’s the best way to handle that, but see what feels best and most authentic to you, and follow that path.


One other thing that I’d suggest you pay close attention to is the “signals” you’re sending to a man you’re on a date with; if you’re showing all the signs of interest (leaning forward, eye contact, laughing/responding enthusiastically to what he’s saying, touching his arm, etc.), he is going to think he’s “winning” with you.

Keep in mind that, for the most part, men are pretty risk-averse when it comes to women.  That’s why it’s really smart to learn how to communicate your interest in a way that a man is able to register (and then decide if he wants to act on it), with little risk of humiliation for him.

So, if you find yourself on a date with a man who is just not going to stand a chance of having a second date with you, don’t confuse the poor guy by giving him “yes” messages.  Use body language to let him know this isn’t going anywhere (keep your arms crossed, turn your body a little away from him, don’t gush over what he’s saying…you know the deal, right?).  Give him a chance to save face, and just not ask you out again (a win-win!).


Part of your question was about not being sure if you’d be walking away from someone who could be a good fit for you, if you’re not initially “feeling it”.

One of the most important tools a woman can have as she is navigating the dating scene is a completely clear “blueprint” (as I like to call it) of who the man is, and what the relationship is, that’s best for her.

That one item can help you steer clear of the “chemistry” attraction (which often just tells you immediately that you’ve met that same man – again: unavailable/damaged/incapable of loving you/angry/needy/fill yours in here).

It can also help you stay in the game with a man you don’t have that “I must have you NOW!” feeling for…just long enough for you to be able to make a sane assessment as to whether or not a future is at all possible between the two of you.

I know plenty of women who are happily with a man they weren’t that attracted to in the beginning, but were able to give it enough time to see if it could/would grow.

I also know plenty of women who acted on that initial powerful chemistry, got involved with “Mr. Perfect”, only to be unhappily married to the guy, and not quite sure how to fix the problem(s).


The other issue that may be at play here – and don’t feel badly if it is, since there’s an epidemic of women who feel these feelings – is that you’re afraid you can’t have what you really want.

That fear leads to settling for less than what you want, to second-guessing your gut sense of things, and to accepting dates with men you already *know* are not a fit for you.

Whom you choose to be with for life is the most important decision you’ll make – for you, as well as for him.  In fact, you’re better off (and so is/are the man/men you would have settled for) in the long run if you stay single.

No matter how badly you think you want to be part of a couple, if you choose a man you can’t fully accept, appreciate and respect, that will show up (and you can bank on this) in your anger, resentment, frustration, sadness, judgment, etc., leaking out.  This is a bad situation for both of you (and your kids, if you have them).

Make sure you know what you require, work on feeling worthy of having what you want, and remember that saying “no, thanks” is being respectful – of both of you.