How do you say no to a second date? The answer can strengthen the relationship you later say yes to.

Be as careful with your dating resources as you are with your money. Just because "Person X" is nice doesn’t mean that you want to invest in them any more than you have. Money is one part of your package of dating resources. So is the precious little time you have for a social life. But the biggest resource in that package is your heart. That’s the critical component that makes or breaks the connection when you do fall in love.

Until you meet “the one”, dates are opportunities to refine your idea of a perfect match. They are also opportunities to try on having difficult discussions. If you can’t work with the minimal difficulty of saying “no thanks” to someone you barely know, how will you ever tell your significant other that you’ve changed your mind about having kids! Or whatever inevitable difficult discussion arises.

You may have concrete reasons for wanting to stop seeing Person X, or your gut instinct might be saying no. But in contemplating what doesn’t feel right about seeing them again, you might also notice your attention is focused on them, and not on yourself. When you put your focus on them, regardless of your own difficult feelings, you’re making yourself secondary to Person X. You can’t manage how they’ll feel about moving on from you or how they'll react. So you develop strategies for getting out of the situation, rather than resolving it, and you miss a chance to cultivate your heart as a dating resource.

The best known current strategies are the most brutal on your own heart. Ignoring their calls and texts, telling them you’re too busy, or continuing to date them against your better judgement are all great ways to make yourself feel resentful or even like a rotten person. But there’s a difference between being purposely cruel, and just not knowing how to skillfully approach a potentially painful topic. 

So here’s the trick. Compassion. Give yourself compassion for how difficult you're finding this. The fact that you’re reading this blog is evidence that you have compassion for others. You're looking for a way to be kind to Person X, even though you don’t want to date them. You can grease the path to kindness for others by being kind to yourself. When you recognize your own discomfort, and allow yourself to sit with that discomfort the same way you’d sit and listen to a friend in pain, you’re compassion for yourself is building the heart element of your dating resources. A recognized heart is a stronger heart. And hearts are easiest to see when they're having a hard time. So recognize the discomfort inside of you. Hang out with your disappointment that they didn’t turn out to be the one you wanted. Hear the thoughts you have about how it did turn out, and about needing to tell Person X that you know now that you aren’t right for each other. Are there unkind thoughts directed at yourself? Don’t push them away. Notice where those unkind thoughts come from. Compassion isn’t about cherry picking the feelings that seem like “compassionate feelings". It’s about recognizing whatever is right in front of you, and hanging out with it in friendship. 

A natural byproduct of having compassion for yourself is that you’ll have stronger and more stable compassion for others. If there were things you did enjoy about Person X, then as you contemplate your need to stop seeing them, those things you appreciate will rise to the top. Those thoughts aren't there to change your mind. Just to be noticed. And if they don’t rise up, then there may not be anything you enjoyed about Person X. That’s okay too! This is about staying with what’s true for you. You may feel sad that there’s nothing to appreciate about them. Voila! That’s compassion for Person X! Don’t worry that you're being self-absorbed. Showing up for yourself is the “how” behind showing up for others. A compassionate heart is a loving heart. And a loving heart makes your dating resources more valuable!

So now that you’ve sat with yourself, and listened to yourself, notice what parts of your thoughts you'd be willing to share with Person X. But keep in mind that just because it’s true, doesn’t mean that you have to say it. You hardly know this person, and you’re trying to NOT get any more involved with them. So be conservative with how much of yourself you want to share. Your reflections can ease and strengthen your own heart. So they’re only meant for you. 

Recognize that Person X has a package of dating resources too. And they were offering to spend their precious resources on you. Appreciate them for the implicit offer. And know that you don't owe them anything for it. Everyone who dates is taking chances with their dating resources.

You many choose to keep your words to a minimum. Say you're clear that the two of you are not a good fit for each other, thank them for the opportunity (to be offered their dating resources), and wish them best of luck in their search. That’s it! Did you appreciate their recommendation for a book or a website? How nice of you to remember and add a thanks for offering those suggestions. But don’t feel obliged to dig up something nice to say about them. Don’t make it harder by making up anything that isn’t true. Being untrue depletes your dating resources without having even had a date! If you don't waste money on useless stuff, then don’t waste your heart on lying. Lies are a useless drain on your precious heart resource.

If they ask why you’re saying "no" to a second date, it may be that they what to learn about themselves and grow from your feedback, or it may be a set-up to argue you into more dates. You've already considered what you're willing to share. So offering honest information without exposing more of your heart than you're comfortable with, is perfectly fine. And it may be received quite gracefully. It’s when the other person wants to argue against your reasons that you may feel frustrated. This was exactly what you didn’t want to deal with. Know that you don’t need to justify yourself. You can simply restate your truth. And if this person is pushing for justification, you get to push back.“I know what I’m looking for. And I need to move on.” If you've only had one or two dates, you’re not under any obligation to do anything other than name the boundary you’re setting. 

Your mode of communication is always a delicate choice for any planned discussion. While texts and emails have streamlined our communications, they’ve also cultivated a culture of less personal connection. It’s sad to hear of people in committed long-term relationships who get a text announcing a break-up. While that’s an entirely different situation from a one or two date relationship, it’s a symptom of how people have learned to lean on technology to avoid communication challenges.  With only one or two dates under your belt, it’s usually okay to say "thanks but no thanks" via technology. But it’s up to you to consider whether you want to lean into difficult discussions, and get good at them. If it makes sense, dhoose the phone or a live discussion over texting or email. It's also important to consider the particulars of your situation. Is she your sister’s best friend? It’s probably better to call her than to text her. The fact that she is likely still a part of your life means you’re already invested. Is he someone you met on-line, and you’ll never see him again? He probably won’t mind a text, and will appreciate knowing soon, that he’s free to move on. Do you live in a small town? Chances are you'll cross paths again. Choose wisely.

There are no hard and fast rules for choosing your mode of communication, any more than there’s any one best way to say no to a second date. Rules have nothing to do with human contact. Use your humanity by taking the time to direct some kindness toward yourself. When you take the time to know what does or doesn’t feel right or wrong, true or untrue, you’ll realize you have your own answers. Then you'll be able to bring a strong, communicative, unfettered heart into the loving relationship you really want.