One of the most interesting contradictions in the dating world is the balance between the desire to be approached by a guy we’re interested in, and the dread of being approached by a guy we aren’t interested in.
We’ve all sat with girlfriends, drinking wine and asking each other, “where are all the men? Why don’t I ever get approached by nice guys?” And yet, we’ve all been approached guys we’ve had to reject. Maybe the guy came off as awkward or aggressive, or the attraction just wasn’t there. Maybe we’re only approached while in a relationship, but when we’re single we wonder, “what happened?”
To understand this, we first have to put ourselves in a man’s shoes and think about the situation he’s facing if he does want to approach a woman. It takes a great deal of courage (or arrogance, or recklessness) to approach a stranger out of the blue, especially when you know the approach will most likely end in rejection.
Unfortunately, that rejection often isn’t kind or respectful. It’s all too easy to be harsh or dismissive when rejecting a man. Maybe we do it without thinking, or to discourage persistence and thereby minimize our own discomfort.
The problem is that this type of negative response is increasingly conditioning men not to approach women in person, lest they be scornfully and publicly rejected. These experiences create fear, defensiveness, and resentment in otherwise nice guys – they begin to think, why would I bother risking that when I can just open up Tinder and save myself the stress?
For this reason, I always advocate showing the greatest degree of kindness, empathy, and respect possible when declining an approach by someone you aren’t interested in. Assuming they approached you nicely and directly, with a line like “Excuse me, I just wanted to let you know I think you’re really beautiful,” there is absolutely no reason to roll your eyes and walk away, or to say acerbically “look buddy, I’m really not interested.”
It’s just as easy to flash a genuine smile and reply with “That’s so kind of you to say, thank you!” Sometimes men are so taken aback by this response that you can gracefully slip away before next line comes. In cases when they do have a next line ready, (“have time to go for a drink?”) simply look them in the eye and politely say, “it’s so nice of you to ask, but I don’t want to create the wrong impression. I’m really sorry, but [insert honest but minimal reply, like “I’m not dating right now.” Or “I’m not available right now.”] But it was nice meeting you!”
The key is to do three things:
1. Smile and respond directly
2. Acknowledge the compliment and say thank you
3. Politely decline, without over-explaining, and end on a positive note
I view it as preserving this guy for the next woman he wants to approach – a woman who might be more receptive than you were in that moment. Maybe that next woman is meant to be his future wife, and you’ve just ensured that he’ll have the confidence to approach her. She would thank you if she could.
Additionally, you’ll walk away feeling good. Instead of putting someone down, you created a positive interaction, while still being true to yourself. You’ve generated good karma for both of you.
The exception to this rule is when a guy approaches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, disrespected, or threatened. I don’t advise responding at all to cat-calls, negging, comments shouted on the street, or anybody who physically grabs you in attempt to start a conversation. In these cases, the best course of action is to either ignore them completely and walk on, or to tell them firmly to leave you alone.
In time, exercising a kind and genuine approach to rejection will empower you in other ways. You’ll feel less trepidation about the prospect of being approached by guys you aren’t interested in because you’ll know that you can decline in a constructive way. This will be reflected in the level of confidence and openness you project, which will encourage more men to want to approach you, increasing the likelihood that you will be approached by someone you are interested in.
The more often men are declined with kindness and respect rather than scorn and cruelty, the more inclined they’ll be to try again next time. And that is a win-win for everybody.