How To Let Him Down Easy: 8 Ways To Say “No” (Mostly) Gracefully

Disclaimer: Please do not read this and then incorrectly label me a "man-hater." I have brothers whom I love from the deepest part of my heart. I have many friends that are male. I have the cutest little nephew in the world and solid relationships with both my father and step-father. I love many men, including my boyfriend. However, I do not love some of the things many men do.



I used to do this thing where I’d (not-so) willingly give my numbers to guys even though I was in a relationship and even though I had every intention of hitting the ol’ “block caller” button the moment they dared to dial. My boyfriend, bless him, will never understand this mentality. But any girl who has walked down the street and been purred at, or relentlessly talked at in a coffee shop despite minding her own business and doing her work, been groped, pinched or otherwise while waiting for a drink at the bar, or best of all, been offered “walking around money” in exchange for her company, knows that sometimes it’s just easier that way.

Sometimes, like when a guy approaches you after a plane ride to tell you he took pictures of you while you were sleeping and can he have your number please, it’s just easier to give in (after saying “no” several times proves to be ineffective) to get him off your back.

Sometimes, like when a guy is holding you by the wrist with one hand, and holding your phone in his other to call himself, it’s just easier not to fight it, because quite frankly, you’re tired and ready to go home now.

And sometimes, even if you do manage to say “no” effectively, men will find other ways to track you down, like through the contact form on your blog, and in a way, that’s even worse.

I was raised by good parents to be a good woman. A kind woman. A friendly, smile at strangers, be pleasant to waiters, hold the door open, always say thank you kind of woman. Publically, I don’t like to ruffle feathers or stir the pot. To my own chagrin, I’m an obsessive people pleaser. So much so, that when it comes to men, I’ve had a hard time being firm about my boundaries.

I had learned from experience that...

To say “no” to the unwelcomed advances by men meant being called a b*tch in public; meant leaving early on my only night off; meant watching my back with my keys between my fingers as I walked home at night.

To say “no” to the unwelcomed advances by men meant preparing myself for several more rounds of saying “no” because we live in a world where male celebrities preach that “When a lady says no, she means maybe.

To say “no” to the unwelcomed advances by men meant being labeled a tease, or a prude, or a whore, or a square, or ungrateful, or unworthy — depending, of course, on the suitors own self-esteem.

Yep. Sometimes, it’s just been easier to give in.

However, on the other side of 25 and after what feels like a whole lot of personal growth in my journey here, I’ve realized that my fear of saying “no” — though certainly precedented — was, for a lack of a better word...kind of f*d up. And beyond that, it was also beginning to affect my relationship with not only my BF but with myself.

Pro Tip: Self-love means recognizing when old habits are holding you back.

In this case, my desire to keep everyone happy, and not disrupt the status quo of millennial dating culture, was actually disrupting the status quo of my own self-worth. Like, instead of telling the guy from the plane that taking photos of me while I slept was straight-up creepy and to please delete them immediately — a response that would have satisfied my own self-esteem and well-being — I gave him the response he desired. Sure, it was just to get him off my back. But my “yes” to him was an unequivocal “no” to me, myself, and I.

And the inverse of that — something you’ve heard me say a million times before — is that sometimes saying “no” to someone else, is actually saying “yes” to yourself.

So, in an effort to let him down easy while staying true to you, here are 8 ways to say “No” (mostly) gracefully...

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The Sure-Fires

Common sure-fire ways to say “no” and let him down easy. Most of them obvious, some of them polite, all tried-and-tested with success.


1. Say “no” and walk away or leave.

While certainly the most obvious, this one’s not always the easiest. Like, what if it’s your BFF’s birthday and you can’t/don’t want to leave? Then you’re stuck dodging all night. No fun.

This method works best when you’re in a public space, say walking down the street, or in a coffee shop or something.

A simple, “No, sorry, I’d prefer to keep my number to myself,” should be enough. You’re not required to defend your response or give an excuse or explanation. You can simply say “no” and leave it at that. You are also not required to wait for a response. You are welcome to leave the conversation at any time you please.


Bonus method for the shy girl (me!!!): just straight up turn around and walk away. While I always recommend being a decent and polite human being, if the situation warrants it you are under no obligation to “humor” unwanted advances.


2. “You seem really great, but I’m in a relationship and don’t feel comfortable giving my number out.”

The ultimate “let him down easy” response. This method should be reserved for the nice guys, who do actually seem great — not for the aggressive macho guy who keeps “accidentally” bumping into your backside at the bar. Spot the difference, respond accordingly.

The nice guy may be a little disappointed (can you blame him?) but will likely respect your answer. Case closed.


3. “You know what, I’ll take yours.”

For the guy who just won’t quit. I used this line recently while working in a coffee shop. It was pretty obvious that I was dialed in — blue-blocking glasses on, headphones in, fingers ferociously typing — but still he proceeded to ask me questions about my work, my bracelet, and did I come here often?

Every non-engaging, one-word-response I gave him only seemed to intrigue him more. He wasn’t taking the hint. The coffee shop was tiny and a local favorite of mine. I preferred not to make a scene. When he asked me for my number the second time (the first time, I pretended not to hear due to the headphones), I said, “You know what, I’ll take yours.”

How could he respond outside of writing his digits down on a napkin that I later tossed in the trash on my way out, crumpled in a brown paper bag full of crumbs from the lemon blueberry muffin I had eaten for breakfast? Checkmate.


4. “No, sorry, I’m not interested.”

You know what they say. Honesty is the best policy.

While this method can be on the more difficult side to carry out, it can also be the most effective.

If your suitor is a perfect stranger, you can leave it at that. What more is there to say?

If you know the guy, this answer might not be enough, and you may be obliged to offer a little more insight. Like, maybe you’re just not interested in dating right now, or maybe you’re in a relationship, or maybe you simply don’t feel a connection. Whatever the reason, you’ve come this far — keeping up the honesty will serve both you and him in the long run.

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The Wild Cards

For when a simple “no” just won’t do and you need something creative to really get him off your back.


5. “Sorry, you look way too much like my brother and this isn’t The Game of Thrones”

Any sane man should respect your reasoning, here.


6. “My palm reader warned me about you.”

An easy way to say “no,” while also maybe scaring him off a little? I don’t know.


7. “Sorry, I don’t date men named [INSERT NAME HERE]. It’s just a rule.”

And if he tries to question your rules, tell him that’s exactly why you don’t date men named [INSERT NAME HERE].


8. “You remind me of my ex.”

You don’t even need to say “no” in this case. No man wants you to be reminded of your ex every time you look at them.


Your turn. How have you let him down easy in the past? Do you have a go-to method for saying “no”? Do tell in the comments below :)

*Feature image via Instagram.