How to say no

The following post is a selection from my book Courtship in Crisis. If we can get this right as a community, it will make Traditional Dating a lot easier for everyone.


I want on a date with J and while we had a good time, I don’t think we’re a good fit. Don’t get me wrong I think J is a great guy. I just don’t think he is a great guy for me. He has asked me out for a second date and I don’t really want to go. I know that guys can take rejection really hard and I don’t want to break his heart.

What should I do?


Dear C,

One of the reasons Modern Courtship appeals to some women is that they don’t have to say “no” to young men who ask them out. In Traditional Dating, however, saying “no” is important both for you and the guy who wants a second date.

If saying “no” is generally difficult for you, I recommend you read The Power of a Positive No by William Ury. That book is packed with useful advice that will help you in many areas of your life.

Here are five tips on how to say “no” in a way that is firm but kind.

Tip #1: Be Honest

Some women will keep going out with a man in an attempt to keep from hurting his feelings. This is self-defeating because they’re avoiding a smaller pain now for what will be a bigger pain later. Don’t deceive someone into thinking you’re more interested than you are. Staying in a futureless relationship delays you from finding a husband and him from finding a wife.

Tip #2: Affirm

Just because you aren’t a good match doesn’t mean that he’s a bad person. Tell him what you admire about him. Consider something like, “John, I admire your heart for the Lord and what a hard worker you are. I just don’t think we are a good match.”

Tip #3: Be Clear

This is not the time to send mixed signals. Don’t say that you’re busy that night. That’s code for “ask me again some other time.” Being clear doesn’t mean you need to tell him everything that’s wrong with him. He just needs to know not to ask you out again.

Tip #4: Don’t Blame God

Some Christian young women say things like, “God told me not to go out with you.” This seems easy because you’re not rejecting him, God is.

Imagine the effect on a young man’s psyche as woman after woman blames God for why he can’t ask them out on a date. He’ll start to get the impression that God is angry with him when in reality the young women are just afraid to tell him “no.”

This kind of rejection is unclear. He’s wondering if you actually like him, but it’s God who is saying “no.” That leads to questions of whether God will change His mind later on. Better to be direct and take ownership of your decision so there’s no ongoing confusion for either of you.

Tip #5: Have a Bigger “yes” in mind

In The Power of a Positive No, William Ury points out that the key to giving a positive no is to have a bigger “yes” that you’re affirming in your mind. The best rejection I ever received followed this principle.

The young woman said, “Thomas, there is a woman out there who is a better match for you than I am.” That was honest (I hope!), affirmed me as a man that I wasn’t worthless and unworthy of anyone, clear in that it left no doubt as to whether I had a chance with her, and responsible in that she didn’t blame God. Perhaps God had told her not to go out with me, but she didn’t use that as her reason for saying “no.” Feel free to adopt her line as your own. I don’t think she would mind.

Bonus Tip: Recommend a Friend

If he’s a great guy in general and just a bad match for you, consider connecting him with a friend of yours who might be a better match. This sort of referring to a friend used to happen all the time in old-school Traditional Dating, and it’s how a lot of folks met their match. This will also help you shift your mindset away from Modern Courtship and Modern Dating, both of which result in lingering claims on someone you don’t intend to marry.

Recommending a friend also takes the bite out of the rejection. It’s one thing to say he’s a great guy. It’s another thing to introduce him to a friend.  



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