How to turn someone down

Couple Hugging
This is definitely not the way to turn someone down!

OK, now for the second part of this post:  this is the matching part to the first post, how to ask someone out.

I’ve covered many of these issues in the first post, so hopefully this post should be a little shorter than the first one!

So the main point of this post is to communicate that no matter what, you should act with sensitivity towards the feelings of the person who asked you out.  I guess I could also talk about the times I have failed to be sufficiently sensitive when being asked out!  Sensitivity and gentleness are absolutely key because someone might have had to grab their courage in both hands to actually ask you out (no matter how casual they might make it look). They have risked rejection or had to face their deepest insecurities head on.  For all you know they may have tried to summon up the courage to speak to you for every day for a month, practising being tough and strong in front of their mirrors – only to then lose their courage when actually facing you, and to eventually resort to sending an email. Only for you then to be contemptuous of these feelings and the effort involved.  As I wrote on my previous post, I have personally asked out three guys. Naturally extremely shy with men – this surprises people, apparently  – for at least two of those situations I had to push myself through the psychological pain barrier.  In each of these three situations, after clicking the fateful send button, I had to go and hide and simply cower under my duvet for a considerable length of time – because that is where I go to hide!  Even though I personally wrote and typed out the emails concerned, they represent so much emotional vulnerability for me that I just cannot bring myself to reread them (although I have not tried recently!)  And then when these men have failed to respond with appropriate gentleness or sensitivity, I would think to myself:  “Do you not appreciate how difficult this has been for me, and how much effort I have invested into this?!” 

So on the whole, mindful of the effort and the feelings involved I would personally bend over backwards to nurture and protect someone’s feelings if they ask me out (and I am not interested), no matter how implausible the idea of a relationship with them seems to me. It has happened a few times that men have asked me out, and these men were the last people I would consider romantically.  So in these situations, I would make it clear that I was not rejecting them altogether, I highly regarded them, but I just did not see myself in a relationship with them;  I just could not think of them in that way.
I am so happy to say that on the whole I remain friends or friendly with most guys who have asked me out.

For some crazy reason, I am more interested in talking about the times I got it wrong, praying that the men in question are not reading this blog. We are talking about years ago, but…still!  So on the whole, I would bend over backwards to be uber-gracious and sensitive, emphasising how lovely I think these guys are but that they just are not for me romantically. But there have been a number of times when I have gotten things quite wrong.  Chief among these, of course, was the university guy.  Now the issue is that he did not actually ask me out! The interest was actually more from me to him. Despite this, my behaviour towards him was horrendous.  Ironically, that was largely because I was so deeply attracted to him! So I hope that he can forgive me on that basis. That was a stupendous display of insecurity on my part.  So you would hope that because of that I would be more gracious to other people’s expressions of insecurity…right?!  I’m afraid not!

So these following are the other situations I have gotten it wrong.  Interestingly, as with that case, it has rarely been a direct clear cut case where the man asks me out…  Amusingly, one particular case features on both lists: of men I asked out, and men I insensitively turned down romantically. Once again, I’d best not talk about that!  Actually, now I think about it, it is possibly even two cases!

In one particular situation, the guy involved was so gentle in his approach that I actually did not initially realise he was asking me out.  So I happily went along with him to…[that place where we went together]…just thinking of it as a friend thing without any romantic connotations at all. (How naive was I?!)  Afterwards, I got a little cross because he was a little persistent, and I was a little rude and mean to him. He did not explicitly come out and express romantic interest in me though. Apart from uni guy, this has been the only situation where I have been deliberately or knowingly rude to a guy in this context.  Miraculously though, because he truly has a gentle nature, we continue to be friends.  But to be honest I was mean, and looking back I am not proud of my behaviour at all.

In another situation, this guy tried to invite himself around to my house and I opened my mouth and laughed at him.  Unfortunately I was not sufficiently experienced at the time to realise how this would come across, that he would think I was laughing at the idea of a romantic relationship with him.  I would not have done that.  I was merely laughing at how presumptuous it was that he would casually invite himself around, apparently being unaware of my stringent guy rules.  And I barely knew him.  This is another reason why I think it is so important to have developed true care and understanding for one another.  If we truly knew one another before he started expressing amorous interest in me, then I would simply have explained that it was not the idea of a romantic relationship with him that I was laughing at, rather at the fact that no guy casually comes to my house like that.  And definitely no-one casually invites himself around. If I remember clearly this did not actually put him off, but it may have hurt him, which I would not have wanted at all. Now I hope it is fair to say that I never laugh at any guy in any context – man, I hope this is true.

And then there was that awful time when I suggested to a guy that I was not sure of the wisdom of dating between ethnicities.  In some ways this had some truth because it is not the first thing I would choose (he was White).  In other bigger ways it was such a lie because I was  still cultivating the biggest romantic hopes for Mr Uni Guy – who is also White!  I should just have said no. Interestingly of the three guys I myself asked out, not a single one has had the same Black complexion as  me – let alone been Nigerian,  which makes that lie doubly hypocritical.*

So these then have been four key times when I have gotten it quite badly wrong.  In addition to these times there have indeed been times when my response has been more positive and sensitive and gracious. 

But then I guess that this is the real difficulty  – when sometimes guys do not actually come out and ask you, or explicitly express romantic interest in you.  And yet the interest is so clearly there. And then to make things worse they do silly things out of insecurity. 

I guess if I were to be truly gracious and gentle I would recognise the insecurity at work, acknowledge to myself where it comes from and tread carefully to be gentle about their feelings, whether those feelings are expressed or not.  Unfortunately, that has not been how I have behaved in practice. I would just get annoyed at the things that these men would do, and I would unceremoniously and unrepentantly ditch them from my life.

I guess that what I need to tell myself is this: “Tosin you know that this man likes you…you know why he is behaving like this.  You need to cut him some slack.” Even if that will still result in a “no” from me to a question that remains unspoken. 

But then this is where a further difficulty comes.  If a guy explicitly asks you out, then you can explicitly turn him down and express all the gentleness possible etc.  However, if he does not explicitly ask you out, but just “vibes” you, how do you address feelings that have not been explicitly expressed? Perhaps by politely keeping your distance.

Man, this can be so tricky and awkward. There have been situations where we were not real friends, so there was no real trust, care etc, and I was more than happy to end the entire interaction between us.  However,  there have also been situations where we were real friends and I desperately wanted to hold on to our friendship even without any romantic overtones. Perhaps what it boils down to is this: if he cannot bring himself to admit his feelings for you, but continues to act crazily, you kinda have to gently communicate to him: “I really want to be gracious to you.  However, you also have to take responsibility for how you are acting towards me, and how it is inappropriate. I think that it is wise and prudent for me to remove myself from you while you are struggling with knowing how to behave towards me.” Sadly this can sometimes mean losing a real friendship, despite all your efforts ;(

*The ethnicity question is important because I am all for marriage between different cultures. To be honest, I have “secretly” been cultivating hopes about marrying into a certain non-Black, non-African culture for many, many years.  On the other hand, I think that you also do have to be aware of the extra challenges that are posed by “marrying out”, and not naively think that “love will (automatically) conquer all”.

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