Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ladies, Listen Up: The Proper Way to Tell a Guy You're Not Interested

This is primarily a sports blog, but I do venture out time to time on different, non-sports topics. And really that was my original intention with this space. Anytime something or some event brings an illicit reaction from me, or I have a detailed (not always fluid, I know) thought arise - I want to put it down and share.

And most of the time, I've surrounded myself in the sports world. So that's why sports often dominate the opinion-making synapses of my brain.

About a week ago, though, I participated in a different kind of conversation with a group of women, ages ranging from 28 to 32(ish). And from what happened, I felt it was just too important to not share.

It started out with one of the girls describing a situation where someone (a guy) she had been working with for some time had asked her out on a date.

And, so you know the details: She 1) already had a boyfriend, and 2) really didn't see this guy in that way, and only saw their relationship as being on the friend level.

She told the guy those things - that she had a boyfriend and only saw him as a friend.

This is where I leaped into the conversation. I couldn't help it. I took this opportunity to explain to the five young women at the table what a mistake she had made, and (when asked) went on to tell them all what the proper thing for them to do in this situation was.

And surprisingly - it actually gave me pause while I was talking to them - they all hung on every word I said. Nodding - as if they were actually learning something new! They even thanked me after I was done!

(Incredible. It really seemed that I was actually helping these girls.)

But it wasn't my intent to help the girls - my intent was to help the guys. I will explain.

And anyone who knows me personally knows that when it comes to relationships - I am a personal disaster. On the surface, you would think that I should be the last person giving relationship advice. But I do pride myself in that I have spent a great amount of my adult life studying people. What they are truly interested in, how they react to different situations... anything that deals with predicting behavior patterns, I can't get enough. I read all kinds of books about it - hunter-gatherer stuff and up. Perhaps it's a little dorky, but it's what interests me - so don't hassle.

When comes to people's behaviors, I've got an opinion, no matter the topic. Now, I may not always be correct, but I can always make a convincing argument.

So there's my validation for the instructions below. If you're not convinced of my credentials, read on - you will be when you're done.

I also speak in generalities. That is, I'm telling you what applies in MOST situations. And in most, I mean in over 90%. If at any point while reading this, you think, "Uh-huh! I once knew a girl who did this and it worked out fine!" or "This doesn't work in my situation," then congratulations - you are the exception. (And you're probably just being difficult.) But I promise you, by and large, what I say in these matters is what applies to over 90% of us.

Now, my advice on the PROPER way for a girl to tell a guy - who she is NOT interested in in a 'more than friends' way - that she isn't interested. From the reaction I got last week, to share it here seemed like the right thing to do.

Going forward, I will be speaking to the woman in this situation. But guys, pay attention.

First, it's important to note the conditions on this advice (I have to include these because I started getting questions as I was explaining last week - and the girls kept trying to change the situation):

1) This will not apply if you have already gone out on dates with the guy. That's a break-up. Totally different.

2) There is no previous romantic relationship. If it's a singular 'hook-up', that's fine, those things can happen, and everyone should be able to move on. But if it is something that has happened on multiple occasions (a 'series' of romances) - then you're in a different place that doesn't apply here. In this case, you've really created a mess for yourself.

3) You've known this person for a minimum amount of time. For this advice to apply there must be some kind of familiarity with each other. Whether you've known each other your entire life, or if you've been to the same parties for the past few months - and have had multiple conversations. In short, you do know the guy.

4) And this is the most important - you have made the conscious decision that you are not into this guy, and you cannot foresee under any circumstance that you would date this guy. I'm talking you are concrete on this.

Now, here we go:

My friend was asked out by a guy who she was not interested in. (That she had a boyfriend was a factor, it does not necessarily have to be. She wasn't going to be into this guy whether she was single or not.) She told him, "You know, I just don't think that would be a good idea. I think we're better off being friends."


Let's start with the first half of the sentence. The key is that she didn't think it'd be a "good idea". Well, that's debatable. And what I mean by that is, you're making an unsubstantiated statement - just an opinion. It's too easy to counter that with, "Sure it is."

Which of you is correct? I know you think you are, but he thinks he's right, too. And why should one of you be more correct than the other?

The problem is with your message. In a situation like this, you can't use 'soft' language. "I just don't think" or words like "probably not", "maybe not", etc. aren't definitive enough. You're leaving yourself open to some wiggle room - and that's what we call, 'leading on'.

You may not even realize it. I know that girls do a fair amount of leading on purposely. All apart of their 'game'. But, in this situation, you're leaving a window cracked on the possibility of you two dating. And if you remember condition #4 from above - you're breaking rules.

Bottom line here is that if you're serious about not wanting to date this person - don't fool around. Use strong language, "I don't...". There doesn't need to be any wiggle room or opportunity for debate.

The correct first half of this sentence?

"I don't feel that way about you."

Pretty damn clear.

Now, the second half of her response, "I think we're better off being friends."

She might have said "just friends". I'm not sure if this is what I heard or what I thought I heard. Regardless... DO NOT give the guy the 'just friends'/'let's be friends' crap. Because that's what it is - CRAP. The 'just friends' phrase is absolutely infuriating to a guy.

And this is a MAJOR disconnect with the female psyche. You think, "Why should he be mad? I told him I would be his friend. There's no reason for him to be mad."

Hell yes there's a reason to be mad.

You need to remember that you just rejected this guy. That's number one. He's embarrassed, and he got his heart stomped on. He ain't got to be happy about that.

Second, you've put him in a 'friend box'. I know you've heard of the phrase 'friend zone', but this is different - this is a box. And you can't get out of boxes.

You see, what you've done here is that you've taken away his options. By telling him that you just want to be friends, you have designated him to this status. He doesn't have a say in the matter - and THAT is what makes this all go south.

You can't lock him in that box. You've classified him as a 'friend' - a classification that he didn't necessarily want or agree to. Remember now that it has been revealed that the two of you have different desires of where you want your relationship to be. He wants to date, and you don't. There's a big difference there.

The only way that it can work going forward as 'friends' is if HE wants to. Not you. You have to give him the choice. In the end, if he wants to make the friendship work, he choose to go that way.

And you have to be cognizant of this - that the relationship (such that it is) has found a tipping point. It will either move forward with the two of you being friends, or it will end swiftly.

You have every right to tell this guy you don't want to date him. Every right. He also has the right to tell you to go to hell and never want to see you again. (Remember, he got his feelings hurt.)

But do NOT take this knowledge and tell him that you will go out with him because of the fear that you'll lose a friend if you tell him you won't date him. If you do this - you are leading him on, and the friendship now has almost ZERO percent of surviving. Don't dig the hole deeper for yourself, and it's also not fair to the guy.

So, what do you say in the second half of this sentence?

NOTHING. There is no second half to this sentence.

"I don't feel that way about you." Period. The ball is now in his court.

Don't apologize, because in this situation there's nothing to apologize for. You know what you want to do, and that's fine. Apologizing in this situation gives the guy (who is looking for any angle for success here) the hope/idea that you regret your decision. "I'm sorry, but..." Don't be sorry. No need to be. Not here. (In a different set of circumstances - remember our conditions above - you can apologize.)

You make it clear that is not how you want the relationship to go - with no wiggle room - and you give the guy the option to continue to go forward with you as a friend or not at all.

That's it. That may be a little bit painful, but it's best just to pull this band-aid off in one quick tug.

Yes, you are probably hurting someone's feelings. But it's better to do it then than to lead a guy on into a situation where he could get into you while you're wishing you had never gone out with him in the first place. That's where it can get ugly, and people's feelings can really get hurt. Like I said above, if you take him here, the chances of being friends going forward go WAY down.

So, wrapping this up - remember those conditions. Relationships are extremely complicated because people are complicated, and there are different sets of situations.

In this set of circumstances, this is the best thing to do. Quick and (slightly) painful, but you avoid a whole lot of headache and heartache down the road.

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