I grew up thinking that being a nice person meant not hurting other people’s feelings. This probably sounds obvious, but lately I’ve been thinking about whether trying to protect other people from being hurt actually hurts them more, especially when it comes to dating.
Here’s an example. I went out with someone and while we had some fun, I just wasn’t feeling him. The next day, he texted that he had a good time, and I said I had a good time too. Then he asked me out again, and I wanted to be honest, so I told him I had a great time, but I didn’t think the chemistry was there. Then, because I didn’t want him to feel bad, I said I was totally into being friends and hanging out. He seemed cool with that, and that was that.
Except it wasn’t, because then he wanted to see a movie together—”just friends,” he said, making sure I knew this wasn’t a date and he respected my boundary. But I didn’t actually want to be friends, not because I didn’t like him, but because I didn’t have a lot of time and could barely find time to see the friends I already had. So I ghosted him, which probably felt bad to him, even though the whole point of saying, “Let’s be friends,” was to avoid hurting him.
Do you see the irony here?
I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t really understand what I’d done until this happened to me. I went out with someone and this time, there was a romantic connection—at least for me. Unfortunately, not so much for him. But that was okay with me, because he seemed like someone I’d want to have in my life as a friend. We had so much in common that I wanted to spend more time with him, even if it would never be in a dating situation. So when he told me he had a good time, but didn’t feel like we had a romantic connection, I said, “That’s okay, let’s just be friends.”
But then he said something that completely shocked me. He said, “I don’t want to hurt you, but I also want to be honest. You’re a great person, so it has nothing to do with you, but I don’t have the energy to invest in a new friendship right now. I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you, because that’s what would happen. I hope you understand, and I wish you the best.”
This might sound harsh, but it felt like a huge relief! Finally, someone was honest, and I didn’t have to wonder what “Let’s be friends” meant. There was no confusion, no obsessing about what I did wrong. Just a direct communication about how he felt. Amazing. By telling me the truth, he was being much nicer than I was when I told the other guy I wanted to be friends but didn’t mean it.
So here’s my advice that I hope people will listen to: Instead of saying something nice that you don’t mean, just be honest. Being honest, even if it’s not what the other person hopes to hear, is being nice.
Now, you might wonder, how do you say you don’t want to see someone again in a nice way? You can say, “Thanks for coming out tonight. Have a great weekend!” Period. You don’t have to add, “I’ll text you,” or “let’s be friends” if you have no intention of doing that.
The more you practice this, the easier it gets, and the fewer people’s feelings you’ll hurt.