The shortest path between two places, as my GPS likes to tell me every time I get it out of the glovebox, is a straight line. In the case of telling somebody you’re not into them, the quickest path is using your words.
Ah, you say. But WHAT words do we use? That’s really the core of the question – we usually don’t know, which is why ghosting (and orbiting, and Caspering, too) is so damn popular. It’s so much easier to just hit the block button and be on your merry way.
No, actually. It’s not easier. Unless this is a very, very, VERY specific circumstance*, ghosting is never the easier option. It leaves too much room for ambiguity, hard feelings, and resentment.
*specific circumstance: domestic abuse. Although I wouldn’t call it ghosting per se – I’d call it running for your fucking life.
Anywho, I assumed you clicked on this title because you either find ghosting distasteful and/or you want to avoid living in an Adele song twenty years down the line:
Otherwise known as the blunt-and-to-the-point approach: “While I enjoyed [spending time with you/talking/having sex] with you, I’m not interested in having a relationship. I would like to stop doing [insert whatever activity] and I won’t be bothering you for the foreseeable future.”
Or, if you’re feeling less formal:
“Hey, you’re cool, but I’m not interested in dating you.”
Do you have a monogamous partner by any chance? Is there a way to subtly evoke them in the conversation? How about not-so-subtly.
“Yeah, cool movie, my girlfriend loves that.”
“My boyfriend just sent me flowers, isn’t he sweet?”
“Your weekend plans sound swell; as for me, my partner and I are gonna build a blanket fort and marathon the Big Bang Theory backward.”
See also: couple selfies as a Facebook picture, changing your statuses, and tagging your significant other in memes they will find funny. Is it fail-safe? No – but if the person you’re trying to let down gently is operating under the assumption you are single, there is only one way to correct that, and letting them save face.
Or, you don’t want to save face: “I have a boyfriend/girlfriend/genderqueer life partner”.
Or wear a ring.
Or a tiara.
“What would you recommend for a man who spent a morning doing heavy cardio and lifting?”
This is best used if the person you’re talking to is not someone you interact with a lot, and/or they are good about taking a hint graciously. (FYI: That was NOT me when I was younger.) Yes, some people are persistent, but generally speaking, when you refuse to engage in flirty or sexy discussions, there are only so many attempts they can make before it gets awkward.
“Extra concert ticket for my favorite band? Oh, aren’t you the sweetest, but I’ve already got plans** for that night.”
**plans that don’t involve you, obviously
Laying the sweet on thick works really well in some occasions.
How about going for earnestness: “Look, I really like you, and you’re an amazing girl, really, anybody would be lucky to have you, but I’m just not that guy.”
IMPORTANT: This only works if the other person is pretty casual/cavalier about relationships (the Leslie of your group, basically.) People who obviously like you more than you like them take niceness as a sign that you might change your mind. (Sadly, speaking from experience here.) People who are not… well, let’s just say that casual and earnest don’t mix too well.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that none of the above approaches will work all that well if you keep texting/emailing/talking to the other person after they have expressed an interest and you turned them down. Once you said your piece, turn on the compassionate silence, let them have whatever feelings they want, give them their space, and stay away from the Grasshoppers.
BONUS: THE MRS. COOPER
IMPORTANT: Only works for drunken fools at a club/bar.
“Aw, that’s a lovely offer, but can I ask you one thing first: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?”
Worst case scenario: You end up having a lovely discussion about theology.