“You’re a great catch but we’re not a good match”: How to let people down easy

You went out with a guy for a couple of dates. He’s a nice fellow, but you’re not feeling the spark. You want to inform him that he’s no longer a romantic prospect, but you’d like to do it gracefully. How do you let a guy down easy? Or anyone, for that matter?

This topic came up a couple of times in the last week alone (one of them at my live talk), so apparently it’s on people’s minds. What I recommend is to use two principles: the praise sandwich and the idea of fit.

The praise sandwich has three components:

  • Start with praise and appreciation, e.g. “Hey, I’m really glad we met, and I think you’re a really great guy.”
  • Express your intention clearly and positively. Emphasize what you want (“I’d like to keep you in my life and stay friends”) as opposed to what you don’t want (“You are so not a romantic prospect”).
  • End with praise and appreciation, e.g. “I just know you’re going to be a great catch for some lucky girl.”
  • Of course, you’ll want to tailor this to the situation at hand. The whole idea that he’s a great catch but not a good match (thanks to M. for this rhyming formulation) is what I mean by fit. It’s not that he’s a bad kisser, or has poor hygiene, or socially awkward, or just not your type: you guys just aren’t a good fit for one another. This makes it less personal, so even if the unsavory things about him are true, he can hold his head up high and legitimately count you as a friend.

The praise sandwich works particularly well because people tend to remember the first and last things you tell them (the primacy and recency effects, respectively); the meat of the sandwich tends to get forgotten.

In the end, it’s important to remember that regardless of how large a population center we inhabit, we’re still members of communities. So you want to treat people as if they’re a friend of a friend — someone you’re liable to bump into in the near future. As I explain in the audio from the Q&A session last week, nastiness tends to redound on itself. Gentle let-downs help expand your circle of allies and reduce the amount of incidental rancor in your community and the world at large.

Also, it occurred to me that you would be even more interested in the Q&A part of last week’s live event than the lecture. Some of the questions we covered:

  • What do you do when most of the guys you meet are younger than you?
  • How about an emotionally unavailable guy? How do you make him open up?
  • Why is it that you always read about women having to change, but not men?
  • And what’s a good way to let a guy down easy?

Click on the player icon below to listen, or click here if you prefer to download the file (29min, 20mb). To get the full Understanding Men 1 lecture preceding the Q&A for a name-it-yourself price, click here.

Understanding Men 1 – Q&A Session

To get the full Understanding Men 1 lecture preceding the Q&A for a name-it-yourself price, click here. I’ve got a bunch of other speaking engagements coming up, so be sure to put these on the calendar:

Tue Dec 13, How to Meet Good Men Over the Holidays
Tomorrow Tue 13 December at 6pm PT/9pm ET, even though I object to the word “webinar”, I’ll be holding the free webinar “How to Meet Good Men Over the Holidays”, just ’cause I like you guys so much. Also, over the 15 years I’ve been teaching this stuff, one thing I’ve learned: most women could be better at meeting men. A lot better. “Nice girls don’t do that”, “It’s the guy’s job”, “What do I even say?” — it’s time to jettison those excuses and expand your repertoire of skills beyond just standing there and looking pretty. We’ve already got 200 signups, so register here so you get the reminders, esp since I’ll be doing live Q&A at the end.

The Extraordinary Love Series: Find Your Right Man and Make Love Last
My colleague Orchid Tao has put on this series of video lectures with a whole bunch of speakers (50 of them!) that’s happening Dec 19-Jan 16. Some of the speakers are really, really good. And I’ll be talking for 45min on how to set yourself up for love that lasts. It starts next week; more info for you in the near future. In the meantime, you can sign up for the whole thing for no charge here.

San Francisco Bay Area, Tue Dec 20: Understanding Men, Empowering Women 2
The response to the first Understanding Men event was enthusiastic, with everyone and their grandma saying they wanted to show up but just couldn’t. Well, I’m doing it again, so call up grandma, like, right away, so she can book her flight from Florida. This time I’ll be talking about some deep insider secrets about men’s sexuality, as well as some subtle and unsubtle forms of female self-sabotage (e.g. fixation on tall men and insisting on wearing high heels at the same time).

That’s all for now, since I have to hit the road in a minute to see the extraordinary Jack Kornfield speak at Spirit Rock. Next time, I’ll talk about how to rewire your brain for greater happiness.

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