We’ve already discussed how a date could be misconstrued between the two people involved, but we were left with the question of what to do if you’d rather not accept a date in the first place. “It’s easy when you’re online, because you can simply not respond, or hide your online status if you must,” Says Lynne.* “But in person, you’re trapped.” In a sense, Lynne is right. There’s no surefire way to decline someone’s company without someone’s feelings being hurt. Perfect strangers often approach one another at bars, clubs, parks, and even the grocery store, and they put a lot of stock into these fateful moments. We've all been on the receiving end of awkward, unwanted advances. Hopefully, these four things will get you out of them.
Just Say No, Thank You
Just last night, when I was out at a bar doing research, I witnessed an interaction between two people that I couldn’t help but pay peripheral attention to. A young man approached a woman as she passed, walking alongside her, asking her name and where she was headed. “To get a glass of water,” was her answer. The man offered to accompany her, and she politely declined. Still a bit hopeful, he asked if they would be able to talk again, to which she replied that it was nice to meet him, and then continued on her way. A short while after this, I ran into her and admitted my eavesdropping. I also told her I was impressed with the way she handled the interaction. Some might wonder, what’s the problem with getting a glass of water with him? “I wasn’t interested. He was a little drunk and unattractive to me, and I wanted to cut him off right there.”
Make the Message Clear
“Nothing is worse than mixed signals,” Says Adam. “And I get them all the time. I hope I don’t give them that much.” First, what constitutes a positive signal? Prolonged eye contact and light touching, both during conversation, were the most popular amongst the people I polled. “I once met a girl at a coffee shop who grabbed my knee every time she got excited about the point she was making. I thought it was a little more than talking,” Adam shrugs. “So I asked her out.” Oh really, where’s the mixed message there? “We made plans to see a movie. She sat two seats away with her arms crossed the whole time. After that, she disappeared.” Adam would rather be turned down than waste the time of his reluctant date. He also spent quite a while wondering what he did wrong. Body language is often misconstrued, and boundaries of intimacy are subtle and vary greatly from person to person. It’s best to keep your limits clear (and your hands to yourself) until you get to know someone better.
If Weirdness Strikes, Be Firm
Sharon relates to being perceived in a manner other than she wished, and one particular instance stands out. During chit-chat with a fellow train passenger, “I whined about hoping that my errands wouldn’t take more than an hour.” Sure enough they didn’t, and when she exited the train station after her return trip, there was her fellow passenger, waiting to ask her out. “It was like the movies, and not in a good way.” When she explained that she found his efforts to be over the top and creepy, he started to plead, which only further proved her point. “I just said no, loudly and repeatedly. And I took the stairs two at a time.” Flee if you feel you need to, but certainly don't be afraid of being mean or on the defense as you go.
Get a Lie
If it feels like a lot of pressure to turn someone down, remember that it’s not the end of the world for either of you. Still, it’s often easier to have a reason to decline a date, if only to make it seem like it’s nothing personal, even though being uninterested in someone is pretty much just that. According to the people I spoke with, the two most popular fudges are the general “I have a lot going on right now,” and “I’m in a relationship.” Jason is particularly fond of faking a foreign language based on high school French when strangers approach, no matter the reason. “But, you can’t all of a sudden become some unintelligible foreign person once you decide you’re not interested,” he shrugs, “That’s the only downside. But I’m working on it.”
I received such a great response when I asked around. There was plenty of focus on initial interactions, but even more involving how to turn down a second date. More on that next time!
*Names have been changed.