How to Handle Rejection (Like a Nice Person)
I’ve got some strong ideas about the friend zone, and a date I went on recently had me thinking about it again.
My gut was uneasy about this date before it even started. The self-proclaimed “nice guy” I was meeting up with was a less than stellar communicator; he would take days to respond to my messages and did very little to learn about me in our limited texting exchanges. The little voice on my head urged me not to agree to a date, but the irrational side of me came up with tons of excuses. Maybe he’s just bad at texting. Maybe he’s better at face-to-face communication. At least he is respectful and somewhat interesting when he does manage to text back. Unfortunately, I should have listened to my gut. I found myself carrying the conversation, feeling like I was pulling teeth to get him to say anything. The guy was nice enough, but didn’t seem interested at all. I considered it a bullet dodged and went home and texted him “hey, thanks for coming out tonight” hoping it would somehow convey that I was not interested. Imagine my surprise when he texted back immediately asking for a second date. I’m not one to ghost, so after a lot of input from my girl friends, I sent back what I thought was a very respectful decline. His response was angry and accusatory, but the line that stood out to me was “I can’t believe you would do this when I was so nice to you.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure what’s so nice about subpar texting, showing up late to the date, stiff conversation, and trying to guilt me into saying yes because he was “nice”. Being nice should be the bare minimum when you’re trying to get a significant other, and to expect something because of it is ridiculous. But even if he had been exceptional, I didn’t owe him anything.
I’ve been rejected a few times, and I like to think I handled the situations with grace and maturity. I understand that rejection hurts; it’s basically being told that you aren’t meeting someone else’s standards or expectations. However, the wrong way to react to that hurt is with anger and resentment. That’ll just leave a bad taste in that person’s mouth, and you’ll always be the “bad guy” in that case. There’s definitely a way to come out of rejection with your dignity and pride intact. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation in the future, try these tips out and see if they help.
Show some gratitude. Saying “thank you” may be the last thing on your mind when the person you like says “sorry, but…” but I promise that you’ll feel better once you say it. Or at the very least you’ll look better. Tell the other person you appreciate their honesty and that you wish them all the best. (If you were friends before, let them know you don’t want to lose that friendship.) Not only does this suggest that you aren’t devastated by the rejection, you come off mature and it reinforces them being honest instead of being vague about how they really feel. If more of us were honest and showed an appreciation for receiving honesty, I can say with certainty that people would not play as many games in dating.
RESPECT. Respect yourself and the person you have feelings for. The immediate and natural responses to being rejected are usually defense and dejection. You might find yourself refusing to believe this person truly doesn’t return your feelings, you might start acting like a little b*tch as a form of retaliation, or you might fall into a pit of self-pity and self-loathing. The person doesn’t have to give you a reason why they don’t like you that way, but you should respect their feelings and trust that they are being honest about their lack of romantic emotions for you - remember, rejecting someone isn’t easy either. Likewise, being mean or rude towards them further cements their lack of feelings for you and villainizes you in their eyes. The best revenge is living well, so find the courage to put your best face forward and continue treating them with respect. Similarly, don’t take their “no” to mean that you aren’t enough. Most of the time, it just means the chemistry isn’t there, not that there’s something wrong with you. You deserve to be with someone who cares for you. Take their “no” as a positive - it means you won’t be dating someone who doesn’t actually have feelings for you. So learn to take that “no” as motivation to find reasons to love yourself (cheesy, I know) and to find someone who will reciprocate.
Be honest. If you don’t think that you can handle being “just friends” with them anymore, tell them. This doesn’t mean that your friendship prior to the revelation of your feelings had ulterior motives. Let them know that continuing to hang out as friends (for the time being) would be a constant reminder of your rebuffed feelings and that you need space to resolve said feelings. If they’re a good person, they’ll understand and appreciate your maturity. There’s no obligation to continue the relationship as it was before. Everyone understands how hard rejection is, and forcing a friendship when either person is uncomfortable isn’t going to be a great foundation for a relationship, platonic or otherwise.