How to Politely Decline a Date When You’re Not Interested

By Callie Beusman

When someone—a Bumble match, or anyone else—asks you out and you’re really, genuinely not interested, it can feel like a tricky and awkward situation. You may want to try and soften the blow as much as possible, but if you’re overly gentle, that can lead to ambiguity and confusion. Experts say the best way to politely decline a date is by being incredibly direct while remaining gracious and respectful. Here’s how. 

Be gracious but completely firm in your response

It’s possible to be polite and empathetic while still being firm in saying no to a date. Caitlin Harrison, a marriage and family therapist, suggests giving the person a clear “no” sandwiched between two other statements that make it a bit easier to digest. 

“First, acknowledge their request,” she advises: “‘That’s flattering; thank you for asking me out.’” Next, give an unequivocal “no”—Harrison recommends something like, “However, I am not interested in going out.” Finally, finish with a gracious send-off that provides a sense of closure. Harrison suggests: “I appreciate your boldness and gesture, and thank you for understanding!”  

The same is true if someone asks you out on a dating app

If one of your Bumble matches asks you out and you’re not interested, your response should be pretty much the same: brief, clear, and polite. Because there might be an unspoken expectation that your conversation could lead to a date, it’s important to make your response declining a date unambiguous and final. 

“If you’re wishy-washy with your answer, it may give mixed signals about your interest,” says psychotherapist Dr. Kristie Overstreet. Try something like: “I’ve enjoyed chatting with you, but I’m not interested in meeting in-person. Thanks for the invitation, though!” 

Don’t make excuses, and don’t feel like you need to apologize 

It might feel like you’re being nice by giving an excuse like “I’m too busy to date at the moment” or “I’m still getting over someone else,” but what you’re really doing is giving the person false hope that if the situation changes, your mind might change as well. If you’re not interested, you don’t need to offer an explanation beyond that.

“In general, honesty is always the best policy,” says marriage and family therapist Dr. Suzanne Wallach. “I always think: Wouldn’t you rather be told the truth than misled? So why do that to anyone else?” She emphasizes that it’s important to stick to your values, and definitely don’t feel like you should apologize. 

Remember that there’s no reason to feel guilty for not reciprocating another person’s feelings. You’re not doing anything wrong; you’re simply expressing how you feel. If you say something you don’t mean, you might end up having to reject them a second time, which isn’t really sparing their feelings at all.

Be assertive, especially if they’re not respecting your boundaries

If the person won’t take no for an answer, don’t be afraid to get assertive. Bring up the fact that you’ve already made it abundantly clear that you don’t want to go on a date with them; you can also express that their continued disregard for your boundaries is inappropriate. 

Harrison suggests saying, “I’ve already told you that I don’t want to go out with you. Please understand that I’m not interested in going out with you, and this experience has ensured that I will not be changing my mind.” Or, if you want to keep it simpler, you can just go with something like, “You’ve asked me already, and I’ve made it clear that I’m not interested. I’d ask that you please respect my decision.”

Saying no to a date is hard, but as long as you’re considerate and respectful of the other person’s feelings, they should understand where you’re coming from. Though you may worry about hurting them, keep in mind that it’s much kinder in the long run to be clear, direct, and honest; this will allow them to process their feelings and move on.