What’s The Best Way To Reject Someone?
I have so enjoyed reading your perspective on dating and relationships. I am recently starting to online date again after a breakup and trying to work on many of the anxieties that come along with that. One thing I have worked on is taking rejection when someone I like does not want a second date. While I have learned to not internalize it or take it as an insult on who I am, I would be lying if I said it didn't sting and makes me even more nervous when another first date approaches.
Now when *I* am in that position of not thinking a first date will go further, the idea of letting somebody know is very difficult for me. I don't think I am so special that my rejection will devastate them and they'll spend the rest of their lives pining over me or anything. In fact, I'm sure many people take it in stride and forget I ever existed a few weeks later. But I know how disheartening it can be to think a first date went really well only for someone to politely say otherwise. In my personal life, I am the type of person who can't stand letting people down or disappointing them, and will go out of my way to make sure that doesn't happen. Do you have any advice with making peace with the inevitability that we will eventually reject others and the guilt that comes with potentially hurting someone's feelings?
- A people pleaser
Dear A People Pleaser,
First of all, thank you for giving yourself an adorable and descriptive nom de plume! Not only does it give me old school advice column vibes, but it also gets to the heart of the problem. So before I dive into the issue at hand, I want to dissect some assumptions about people pleasing in general. For a long time, I thought people pleasers were driven by a need to be liked by everyone. I believed that they were solely motivated by the need for approval and (potentially) praise. And I do think that in some/many cases this is true. But I also think there is a contingency of people pleasers who are just truly afraid of hurting other people’s feelings. That the need to please isn’t driven by their ego but by their fear of causing harm to another person. It sounds to me like you might fall into the latter category.
Hurting other people, whether we want to or not, is a deeply uncomfortable feeling. It can make us question if we are systemically “bad” or a stain on humanity. I am someone who is horrified at the idea of hurting another person—unless there is some deep reason for me not to care about their well-being due to their past actions or offensive political beliefs. But I have also let people down while dating and managed to not beat myself up over it. The main reason I can operate a bit differently in this area of my life has to do with the notion of consent.