How do I tell a girl I’m not into her without hurting her?

I may be over-thinking this, but a girl who’s a kind-of friend said something to me recently that threw me off: “Would you ever wanna hang out?” This kinda sounds like a declaration of interest, but the thing is that I don’t really like her in that way. And the really annoying thing is that there’s this other girl who I really like and am getting to know well and I don’t want the first one to feel bad. I’ve been faced with rejection before but never really had to dole it out. And what if she’s just asking as a friend and I say something that’s not to that effect, and it becomes awkward? All in all, just don’t want to screw this up. – Anonymous, age 18

Let’s start with the preliminaries: First, good work for trying to think about how she’ll feel in this whole situation. Yes, you may be over-thinking it and she may truly just want to hang out as friends, but it’s good that you’re trying to take her perspective here. That said, sometimes “thinking for someone else” goes too far, and we weirdly end up giving the other person too little credit for being able to handle their own emotional responses to us. That’s pretty condescending, if you think about it. So you have to, as always, find a middle way between being considerate and letting her fend for herself.

Sitting on the fence is such an energy suck. It’s way worse than deciding to do something and then dealing with the consequences.

Second, “screwing things up” is kind of impossible here. Yes, you can say something that she might take the wrong way, but if you speak honorably, you’ll be able to walk away knowing you did all you could to avoid harming her. If she still feels harmed by your words, in a lot of ways, it may just be her responsibility from that point to recognize it.

Also, thinking of our potential decisions in terms of whether we’re going to screw them up also makes us fall into a paralysis of indecision as a result, which is bad, bad, bad. Sitting on the fence is such an energy suck. It’s way worse than deciding to do something and then dealing with the consequences.

In fact, fearing that we’re going to screw something up really just points to a lack of confidence in our own ability to handle the consequences of our actions, whatever they may be. Trust that you’ll be able to pivot and respond accordingly no matter what ends up happening! Easier said than done, but that’s the ideal to work toward.

Which brings me to my main point: no matter what you choose to do here, something’s gonna suck about it. Every choice we make in life means we lose something else, however small. This is really hard for a lot of people to understand. But this is Life with a Capital “L”, man. It’s a fundamental aspect of maturity, to truly understand that every day we miss out on some alternative option as a result of choosing what we choose to do.

Now to the situation at hand. I think you need to go back to some principles we’ve discussed before about speaking honorably:

1) If you’re not sure, don’t speak.
2) If you are, be clear with your intentions and express them upfront.
3) Questions are usually better than statements, especially at the beginning.
4) No matter what, be honest, even if it causes discomfort to you or others in the short-term.

Seems you’re sure you gotta speak, so that takes care of #1. Otherwise, what’s your alternative? Stay in decision paralysis mode and just avoid both of these girls ad infinitum? #2 gets you thinking about your purpose in speaking. The way I’m reading it, you like another girl, so this girl who asked about hanging out needs to know your intentions clearly so that she can then think about what she wants out of her relationship with you. Maybe she actually does just want to hang out as friends, man! You don’t know. But she also might want more. If you don’t want more with her, then she needs to know that directly so that she can sit with it and then decide whether a friendship is enough for her. This gets at principle #4 above. It might be awkies, but it’s essential to be honest. Once again, what’s your alternative? Skirt the truth and then lead her on or confuse her?

But how do you actually do this? Say it in a way that leaves open the possibility for being wrong while still being honest with what you’re requesting from her.

But how do you actually say what you need to say? Do it in a way that leaves open the possibility for being wrong while still being honest with what you’re requesting from her. Something like:

“Hey, you asked to hang out a couple days ago, but I’m not sure what that meant, and it kinda matters right now because I’m interested in someone. This may be kind of awkward, but I need to know so that I can be able to be myself around you, but were you asking to hang out as friends or did you ask because you may want more later on?”

Yes, this means, on some level, that she could call you out for being all egotistical and thinking you’re hot shit before you even get anywhere with her, but that’ll be her problem, not yours. You’ve clearly stated your needs and intentions and done it in a way that’s kind and humble.

In the end, just do what will minimize harm to others. When in doubt, be harder on yourself than on others.

About Dino Ironbody

Dino Ironbody is not his real name, but he is a real person... who's also a Cardinals fan from Boston. Don't ask, don't tell. His motto: Subtlety only gets you in the door. Truthstick!

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