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How to Let Someone Down Easy

Every day, we have to say no to people. Yet turning folks down never seems to get any easier, even if all we’re declining is a simple movie invitation. Here, five experts share their best outs. 

By Ashley Tate and Amy Chen
Illustration of a woman holding a red balloon in front of a traffic lightShout



It’s OK to tell little white lies to soften the blow of a rejection, especially a romantic one. There’s no need to share the reasons why you’re dumping someone (for example, you’re interested in the guy in accounting), how easy this decision was for you (it should always be very, very hard), or what you really think of his personality. That said, you want to be clear that you’re not interested. The human heart has a remarkable capacity for convincing the brain that there is, in fact, a chance of a snowball in hell. So say that there’s a lack of chemistry. That line is truthful yet generic enough not to sting too badly.

Em & Lo are the New York area–based authors of several books, including, most recently, 150 Shades of Play ($13, They also blog daily about relationships at



Act Now

When writers pitch me a book idea that I’m not interested in, I respond at the first available opportunity. This gives them the option to reach out to someone else who might be a better fit. You should do the same when you say no to a client, a friend, or even a date. If you receive a casual invitation (like going to dinner) and you know that you don’t want to attend, reject it immediately. If you’re asked to do something that warrants longer consideration (like hosting a baby shower), tell the person that you need to think about it. But as soon as you decide to pass, say, “I’ve given your request a lot of thought and I’m honored that you asked, but I don’t think I’m the right person.”

Julie Barer is a New York City–based literary agent and the owner of Barer Literary.

Read More About:Inspiration & Motivation

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