How to Let Them Down Gently

A guide to bar etiquette and saying “no” gracefully

PHOTO: ImageEvent.

PHOTO: ImageEvent.

The guy who comes up from behind and starts dancing without warning. The guy who thinks a sexist comment or an insult is a great conversation opener. The guy who thinks that making eye contact with you means he’s your boyfriend. We’ve all experienced our fair share of creeps at the bars. That said, during a passionate conversation with a friend of a friend, I found myself defending the general population of guys at bars. After all, my guy friends—most of whom are nice, respectable and respectful gentlemen—go to bars, and I would bet that yours do too. They’re not all creeps! Once you change your perception and open your eyes, you may surprise yourself at what’s right in front of you. Here is a guide to bar etiquette. Turning down a date does not have to be insulting; in fact, if you do it right you may even impress another eligible date nearby.

1. Be friendly.

If a guy has the balls to come up to you to say “hi” or ask a question, be gracious and respond. Who knows? You might be pleasantly surprised by his unapparent humor and personality. A two-minute exchange does not have to go beyond that, so use it as an opportunity to hone in on your conversational skills.


2. Exit gracefully.

If you aren’t interested in continuing the conversation, let him know it was nice meeting him and rejoin your friends. If he does ask for your number and you don’t want to give it to him, be honest: Thank him for the compliment, and leave it at that. Don’t go into an overcomplicated explanation. Don’t lie about having a boyfriend. Introducing yourself by name is a great way to humanize the situation… and a way to close without being rude.


3. Save the story for later.

Don’t immediately run to your friends and relay the story about how you turned down a guy you’re completely uninterested in. He could be watching you… or worse, a cutie you’re actually interested in could be watching you.


PHOTO: Pinterest.

How to Turn Down…

Men are hunters, and some hunters won’t quit until they hit. If that’s the case—or you find yourself in a more complicated situation—here are a few more techniques.

  • The Dancer Creep: Turn around, shake his hand, introduce yourself, and throw out a funny remark [i.e. “I stopped accepting anonymous dance partners after my cotillion partner threw up on me.”]
  • The Chatty Charlie: When you finally get your word in edgewise, tell him it was nice meeting him but you’re going to use the restroom then rejoin your friends.
  • The Overeager Beaver: Also known as the instant boyfriend. If all else fails, simply dance away.
  • The Gifter: You can never be too cautious. Don’t accept any drinks you weren’t around at the time of conception. If you are interested in said gifter, try “Thanks for the drink! I’m actually switching to beer [or any other beverage].”
  • The Friend of a Friend: This one is obviously tricky. My first instinct is to advise you to give it the ole college try: one date to see if a spark is in the cards. However, if your gut is adamantly saying “no,” honesty is the best policy. Too ballsy? Ask to invite friends on any proposed dates.
  • The Rude Boy: If he opens with a degrading/insulting remark, all bets are off. Keep your cool, feel free to rebut, then smile and walk away.


How have you handled an awkward or uncomfortable denial on a night out?


Catherine Abalos is founder and editor of The Single Diaries.

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