Rejection: A How-To Guide

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There comes a point in every adult’s life when they realize rejection is more than just a hardship—it’s a daily reality.  At work, ideas are tweaked just a little too much, online, our friendship requests are denied, and, frustrating as it is, ATMs can’t always manage to read cards. Because of these daily mishaps, adults understand they cannot always get their way, and therefore even the subtlest of snubs is considered the norm. And yet, when it comes to dating, rejection is a reality we can’t quite get our heads (hearts) around.

I don’t mean the rejection of a significant other. I’m talking about those people we meet for coffee, grab a drink with, or maybe even join for a whole meal. These are people we barely know, and yet it’s their rejection of us that can hurt the most.  How dare he reject me, you might think. He doesn’t even know me! Oddly enough, these almost strangers can also be the hardest for us to reject. Why? For the same reason it’s hard to accept their rejection: we don’t even know them.

The world of dating is a heady mix of ego, chemistry, near-hits and instant-misses, and rejection is the trickiest part of all. But, since rejection in dating is inevitable, it’s good to have a clear set of directions in your back-pocket at all times. Thanks to my bevy of experts, after reading this article, that is exactly what you will have.

How To Accept Rejection

Keep Your Options Open

How much does it suck to wait by the phone for that cute guy to text you back? Wouldn’t it be more fun if you were waiting for, say, five cute guys to return your text? Dating multiple people at once has more benefits than just amusement—it can also boost confidence, help clarify what kind of person you’re looking for, and perhaps best of all, lessen the blow of rejection. “Dating is a contraction for data-gathering,” proclaims professional relationship coach Ronnie Ryan. “All you’re doing on a date is collecting information.” After going almost eighteen years as a single lady, Ryan woke up on her 40th birthday and decided she no longer wanted to be alone. After fifteen months of dating, Ryan landed both a husband and a new career. She now runs the website and teaches classes on how to get the relationship of your dreams. She recommends dating as many men as possible in order to stay neutral, which in turn will make rejection easier to bear, should the date not turn out well.

It’s Not You—It’s Them

See what a little creative flipping can do? The queen of all bad break-up lines becomes instantly less cliché with the subject and object reserved, in fact, that tiny change even makes the line true. Just ask Nicole Leclerc, professional matchmaker and the owner of Compatibles, a Vermont dating service for middle-aged professionals: “It feels personal when someone rejects you, but it’s not. 9 times out of 10, you didn’t do anything wrong. He just didn’t feel the connection. It’s that simple.” Leclerc tells this mantra to all her clients, along with the reminder to stay confident. Rather than obsessing over why you’ve been rejected, try to remember that the majority of the time people reject others because of things going on in their life, or their preferences, their “baggage” so to speak.  Staying confident means accepting that you are who you are, and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent their rejection.

Take A Break

Dating isn’t always easy, but it should never just be hard work—it’s supposed to be fun! If you start to feel weary of the entire meeting, mulling over, and moving on process, try taking a break. Ryan’s eighteen-year dating hiatus may have gotten her a husband of now eleven years, but don’t feel you need to go to that extreme. Lecterc was once advised to take a whole year off of dating but was only able to make it to six months; as a professional, she recommends a mere thirty days. After a month alone, your energy and commitment to finding a relationship will be at an all time high, and your dates will respond to such a positive attitude. If a month goes by and you’re still not ready, though, don’t push yourself. When the time is right, you’ll know exactly what to do!

How to Reject

Timing Is Everything

After a bad date, all you probably want to do is go hide in your bed, call your best friend, and scream. I fully support this reaction, but before you start re-capping all the awfulness, do your friend (and yourself!) a favor and shut it down. If a date is bad, or if you simply aren’t interested, you should say it sooner than later. “Leading someone on and pretending they had a chance just isn’t nice,” says Lucia, a dating expert who has dispensed advice everywhere from the E! Television Network to Cosmo Radio to her own website “And,” she says, quite wisely, “You don’t want to waste your own time either.” Yes, my friends, it all comes back to one thing—confidence.

Tell It Like It Is

The ability to rip off the proverbial band-aid is useless, however, unless you know the right way to go about it. Leading someone on is bad form, but ignoring someone or making up elaborate lies to get out of ever seeing that person again is just as bad. Since you barely know each other (see #2 of “How To Accept Rejection”), there’s no need to get into specifics. Lucia suggests adding in a compliment to soften the blow, while Lectrec advises her clients to stick to the same emotionless script every time: “Here’s what you say: ‘I really enjoyed meeting you, but I don’t feel enough of a romantic connection. I wish you the best.’ Then you shake hands and leave. Rejection isn’t fun, but I don’t want my clients telling people they’re interested just because it’s easier that way.” Ryan agrees that keeping the rejection vague is the best way to avoid an argument. “You have to use an “I” statement,” says Ryan. “Say the chemistry wasn’t there for you. How can he argue with that?”

Trust Your Gut

The most important part of rejecting someone is using your intuition. Even when you can’t quite put your finger on what feels wrong about the date, you should still listen to the part of you saying it just doesn’t feel right. According to Leclerc, an obvious difference in morals or values and a complete absence of attraction are two red flags not to be ignored. On the other hand, she also feels that daters can put too much of an emphasis on instant chemistry. “People put too much stock in the spark. You can have lots in common, but not feel chemistry, and end up rejecting too quickly. But if you give it time, chemistry can bloom,” she says. The flip side of this idea, of course, is that although chemistry can bloom, it also cannot be forced. If you’re the type of person who tries to make a romantic connection work no matter what, perhaps for fear that there’s no one else out there, intuition is especially important to pay attention to. Remember: there are always more fish in the sea. Let this one go, and keep on reeling ‘em in!