How To Tell Someone You’re Not Interested After Leading Them On (11 Ways To Break The News)

Last updated on June 4, 2022 by April Maccario

Some people have the privilege of knowing what they want right away, while for some of us, it takes some time. We’ve all been in a casual situation with an admirer where “let’s see how it goes” seemed like an appropriate response, until… well, it wasn’t.

For example, let’s say you see this decent-looking person hitting on you, and even though you don’t exactly know how you feel about that, you respond by being friendly. From there, you entertain their needs, sometimes even reaching out first when you are bored.

There’s also been a bit of flirting here and there, just because it makes you feel good. To top it all off, you agree to go on a few dates because the attention feels nice, and making excuses is starting to feel like work.

Now that you’ve spent some time with this person, it’s pretty clear to you that you are not interested in them. You feel bad for having led them on for this long, but you don’t think you can keep acting for much longer. 

If this scenario even roughly describes your situation, here are 11 ways you can go about letting them down.

11 Ways To Break The News

1. Be sure you’re really not interested

I understand that looking for ways to reject someone on the internet suggests a degree of conviction, but are you sure that’s what you want to do? Not to make you doubt yourself or anything, but could there be a hidden reason you chose to lead this person on?

If you’re quite sure it was just for attention and are trying to do better by them, do you think it’s all out of your system now? I ask this because one time can still be ruled as a mistake, but it becomes a habit if it happens again with the same person. 

If there is even a tiny part of you that says you’re not ready to let this individual go yet, don’t let them down only to start stringing them along again. They might be understanding at first, but there’s only so much one person can take.

2. Don’t ghost


Whether you are sure or still trying to decide if you’re interested, it can be tempting to cut off communication with them without warning. Don’t do it. If you gave this person hope when you had no intention of starting a relationship, well, ghosting them is worse.

In case you haven’t experienced it yourself, I can tell you right now that those who have described it as traumatic, especially after you’ve gone on multiple dates. It hurts a lot more than flat-out rejection ever could, and much worse is the fact they will be dejected longer than they should because ghosting offers no closure.

Ghosting may seem like an easy way out now, but not only does it not offer a clean exit, it also weighs on your conscience and remains with you for a long time.

3. Take time to prepare your points

Now that we’ve got the caveats out of the way, it’s time to get down to the business of doing it right. The first step to making a clean break-away is to know exactly what you want to say and how best to put it.

You want the driving force to be both of you getting closure, without giving them any hope about a future together. You don’t want to come across as cold or mean, and at the same time, you don’t want to get tongue-tied when the time comes.

Preparing your points beforehand helps you prevent a potentially awkward conversation from going even worse. You don’t have to go there with a note or anything, just some practice to boost your eloquence.

4. Think of the best way to break the news

Attempting to tell someone that things have changed since you supposedly liked them a couple of days ago, is unarguably hard. This person is obviously not a stranger to you anymore, so you should be able to tell which method would be best for both parties. 

Personally, I would suggest that you use the usual means of communicating. That is, if you text a lot, pour it in all in a message and send it to them. You could also give them a phone call, as that gives you the chance to hear each other’s tone.

Doing it over the phone is an easier option than having to deal with their feelings in person. Nevertheless, if you feel like hiding behind a phone when you end things would be disrespectful, you can decide to have the conversation in person.

5. Start by saying nice things about them

The truth is, rejection is a tough pill to swallow, but anything can be better with kind words. So, if you’re wondering how to start your message or open the conversation, start with a compliment. Nothing too over the top that it seems obvious you’re trying to balm their pain, but words that are good enough to cushion the hurt.

You can point out one of their qualities you like the most, e.g., their ability to carry conversations or make you laugh. Tell them you respect that about them, and then go on to the crux of the matter.

Say or text something like, “I apologize for stringing you along, it wasn’t right, and there’s no nice way to say this, but I can’t keep entertaining those feelings because I’m not on the same page with you.”

6. Acknowledge it was fun while it lasted, but you’re done

The highlight for you could be the rush of being liked and treated right by someone again, possibly after a bad breakup. Or maybe you were just being nice all along, but there still has to be a feeling there. 

It’s not easy to tell someone you got off the attention you gave them, but the person might feel better knowing they added something positive to your life.

So, list the things they did right, how they made you laugh, and how going out with them made you feel cared about after a long while. 

Then go on to the bit where you let them know that despite that, things have to change because you don’t want to lead someone on when you are not interested in them that way. This ensures your message gets passed along without them necessarily feeling like they wasted their time.

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7. Explain your reason briefly

You may not be able to predict much when it comes to conversations like this, but they will certainly ask why. This is another reason I suggested preparing your points earlier before talking to someone like this.

Give them a brief explanation why you’re no longer interested in them. If all your reasons are specific traits of theirs that can potentially take a jab at their self-esteem, keep it general. Something along the lines of “look, you’re a nice guy, but I don’t want to force things with you.” 

Otherwise, you can just go ahead and be honest if your reasons are not exactly particular to them. For example “I’m not looking to commit to anyone right now, and I don’t want to string you along anymore.” Whatever your reason, the idea is to get it across to them as briefly as possible.

8. Don’t drag it out

don't drag it out

The whole point of keeping it brief and precise is so that the rejection doesn’t get dragged out more than it should be. Whether you use a few words or a thousand, the message that’s going to stand out to them is that you are not interested.

And this is why it is imperative that you don’t go into too many details when explaining your reason. You may also feel the need to apologize for having led them on, but it won’t only not help, it may also make them feel as though you’re patronizing them.

All they need to know is that even though there was a time when you weren’t quite sure of your interest in them, you are now, and thought they should know. So, resist the urge to explain everything that drove you to that decision.

9. Entertain that last conversation

Depending on this individual’s personality, they might want nothing but to get out of there if the conversation takes place face-to-face. And if it’s over the phone, they might want to end it, delete your contact, pictures, and never want to see you again.

On the other hand, they might want to take advantage of that conversation to get as much time as they can with you. Someone in this category might try to convince you to change your mind, or if they’re desperate enough, tell you they’re willing to wait.

If it goes this way, listen to what they have to say, so they don’t feel too bad. However, stand your ground, so they don’t talk you into inadvertently starting a relationship. If this is someone you’re not even interested in staying friends with, there’s no need to have another conversation with them after this.

10. Extend a hand of friendship, but don’t force it

Once you’ve had the chance to get to know this person, you may be drawn to how fun they are or how intelligent they can be. While you may have your reasons for being unable to reciprocate their romantic interest, something about this person might make you want to keep them around as a friend. 

In fact, this might be the whole reason you’ve strung them along despite knowing that you don’t like them like that. Now that you’ve opted to do the right thing, there is no need to take friendship off the table, unless they are not interested.

After your conversation, let them know you genuinely enjoyed spending time with them and hope you can remain friends. It may be too soon for them to consider you as anything but a romantic partner, so they may need a minute to decide.

11. Give the person space

Whatever their response to the friendship gesture is, understand they will need space to process. If they flat out tell you they can’t be just friends with you, respect their decision and let them go. And if they say they need some time, let them know that’s alright too.

Let them know it’s okay to reach out in the future and maybe hang out again on a strictly platonic level. In the meantime, distance yourself enough to not send a mixed signal that might be mistaken for interest.

It might help to cut off communications with them for the time being until you are satisfied they are over you and won’t push anything romantic with you anymore.


How do you reject someone after leading them on?

The best way is to let them know their feelings aren’t mutual. Once you are sure of your disinterest in them, articulate your points, then think about how best to get the message across. You want to be honest and straight to the point, but also try to be kind.

How do you reject someone nicely?

Start by saying something nice that you like about them. Then tell them that while you acknowledge their effort and how fun it’s been, you simply don’t think you’re a good fit for each other. Give them a brief reason for closure, but try not to drag the conversation out longer than it has to be.

How do you let a friend know you’re not interested?

The best way to reject a friend is to be as precise as possible without being unkind. Using the medium of communication you are both most comfortable with, let them know that while you value your friendship, you don’t see you two as anything more. You can add that you hope you can stay friends if that’s something you both want.

How do you apologize for leading a guy on?

If you did something specific to lead this guy on, like asking him out then leaving him hanging, you should apologize for that. Unless he misinterpreted a friendly gesture from you, say something like you’re sorry for giving him the wrong idea, and that you hope someone else can give him what you can’t.

How do you know if he’s leading you on?

One of the ways to tell if someone is only messing with you is when they intermittently switch from being warm or flirty to acting cold and distant. Someone who wants to lead you on will give you just enough to make you stay, but not so much that you’re sure of his commitment.

To Conclude

No matter how long it’s been since you’ve been giving someone the wrong idea, it’s good to know you can always call it off. It’s better late than never. Whether you only needed that last push or all that’s been keeping you is the process, I hope this list helps. I’d like your feedback as usual, so kindly leave a comment, and share this article with someone else out there.

Do you hate it how everything seems to always revolve round him while you just seem to be an afterthought sometimes?
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It almost makes you wonder whether he actually likes you or whether he's just stringing you along.

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April Maccario
I'm a huge nerd when it comes to understanding how relationships between men and women work, and what drives a certain behavior. I spend much of my time getting into the nitty-gritty and try to share my findings on this site with the hope of making life a little easier for women that are struggling in their relationships or love life.

2 comments on “How To Tell Someone You’re Not Interested After Leading Them On (11 Ways To Break The News)”

  1. First get to know her. Take her to lunch. A few nice text and a phone call. Tell her how nice she looks. Remember never take her anywhere you can't afford to pay for her meal. If u ask it's on you. A gentlemen should always pay for their meal or coffee. If she invited you to her home for pizza and a movie. Please accepts, it's on get and she wants to spend time with you. Go for a nice walk and then stop a for am ice cream cone on you but it is rude to expect the lady to pay when trying to date and show real interest. Then the rest will be history. A smile, hand holding and a nice putting you arm around her goes a long way if she doesn't reject after the first date. Treat her special it I assure u it will be over! Real ladies expect this! Good luck.

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