When you finally muster the courage to ask a friend out on a date, and they say no, it can hurt in more ways than one. Here is how you can not only deal with the pain of being rejected, but also keep your cool so you don’t damage your relationship for the future.
Take the Initial Rejection In Stride
How you act in the moment of rejection is important, and as much as you may want to get upset, you need to remain calm and collected so your friendship — or potential friendship — isn’t marred by your actions. The key to keeping your dignity is taking the rejection in stride.
Don’t get angry or lash out in the moment or afterwards. Remember, they don’t owe you anything in any way. If they’re not interested in you, that’s just how it is. However, you’re still allowed to feel what you need to feel. You’re just better off doing it out of their sight. Take a deep breath, let them know that it’s all good, and when you have some time to yourself, address any leftover emotions. At Psychology Today, psychologist Jeremy Nicholson suggests you also avoid placing blame on anyone, especially yourself:
Rejection is not your fault. Try not to personalise and take the blame. There are many reasons why someone can be disinterested and very few of them relate to you at all.
It’s not their fault they don’t feel the same way as you, but it’s also not your fault for having those feelings to begin with. It sucks that it didn’t work out, but you don’t have to feel ashamed for going for it.
Give yourself some space and occupy your time with some healthy coping mechanisms like exercising, spending time with friends and family, reading a good book, or even playing some video games. Make sure it’s something you enjoy or something you’re good at, so you can take your mind off the situation and start to feel good again. Once you address everything, you can fully accept the situation and move on.
Address the Awkwardness Head On
Being around somebody that’s rejected you can be incredibly awkward. You both know how you truly feel about each other, and that will make you both uncomfortable. That awkward vibe won’t go away, so the internet’s Dr Nerdlove suggests you take charge:
Awkwardness is in all about how you act. Most people are going to take their cues from you; if you don’t act awkward around them, they are less likely to be awkward around you.
When you’re around them, try not to be too emotional. Don’t stare at them longingly, and make sure you actually talk. Speak to them the same way you would to any other friend, because after all, they are your friend — or at least they were before you asked them out. Remember that and try to focus on it. If it gets too quiet and weird, Nerdlove recommends calling it like it is.
You don’t necessarily have to straight-up say “this is awkward“, but acknowledging that things are still a little weird is OK. They will probably agree, and you’ll both have a good laugh, hopefully easing some of the tension. Of course, be sure you sense the tone first. It might be better to just excuse yourself from the situation if things get too weird. There’s no need to apologise to them for the awkwardness, just address it and try to move on to a new subject.
Stay Friends by Actually Being Their Friend
The initial phases of post-rejection friendship is like navigating a minefield. You feel uneasy, you have to take things slowly, and you have to watch every step you make to keep things from getting messy. If you want try to keep your friendship alive, it’s something that you have to take seriously. Nerdlove explains that the key to remaining friends with someone after asking them out is focusing on just being a friend:
…if you spend the time afterwards moping and moaning about how unfair it is that they stubbornly refuse to develop feelings for you, you’re going to kill the friendship afterwards. Similarly, you don’t want to make your friendship a referendum on why they won’t date you. If you’re constantly making your feelings for them a part of your friendship, you won’t HAVE that friendship for much longer. You got your answer, now you have to move on.
That means no hidden agendas to get them to fall in love with you, no holding out hope that they will change their mind, no creepy conspiracies to change their mind or “get them to fall for you”, and no acting snotty when they start to show interest in someone else. As dating expert Christie Hartman explains, friendship is a two-way street and it may not be what’s best for either of you right now:
Friendship needs a reason. People become friends for the same reason they get into relationships — that person fulfils a need. Even though you could imagine being friends with this person you just went out with, you probably don’t need that person as a friend. And you can’t base a friendship on guilt or trying to make someone feel less rejected. Friendship only works when both people agree. If one person wants more than friendship, it’s not friendship, even if there’s nothing physical happening.
You have to treat them — and think about them — the exact same way as any of your other friends or it will fall apart. If you don’t think you can do that, it might be time to say goodbye.
Take a Break from Them If You Need It
Sometimes healing just requires a little time. Maybe you can’t be a friend to them right now, but you can in the future. Nerdlove says that it’s OK to take a break if you need it:
You may need to take some time away from them in order to get over them. If that’s the case, then you need to let them know “hey, just so you know, I need a little time to get my head on straight . This is about me, not you and I will be back when I’m doing better.”
When you talk to them, keep things in a positive light, and make sure it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to make them feel guilty. Giving yourself some time can be good for both of you. You get to put the pieces of your heart back together, and they get a little time to forget how weird it might have been before. With those issues resolved, you’ll be able to be around them without getting all mopey, and focus on being a true friend.
Don’t Project Your Disinterest In Them
After a rejection, your friendship can become a brittle thing. You don’t want to make it seem like you’re still into them, but you also don’t want to try and make them feel bad. You can kill the chances of any kind of friendship fast by, as Nerdlove calls it, parading around how “over” it you are.
It’s rude to your friend and it can be rude to the person you use to try and show off with. Alternatively, you might mean well, but still end up coming across the wrong way. It might seem like a good idea to show them how much you’ve moved on in order to make them feel more comfortable, but they could take it in a different way. You might feel like you’re saying “hey, look, I don’t like you anymore so it’s cool”, but they could be seeing and hearing “look at what I’m doing, are you jealous?”
If you’ve found someone new that you truly care about, there’s nothing wrong with sharing that person with your friends. Just don’t make overt demonstrations of how better off you are now. It’s childish and best to avoid it whether you mean well or not. If you feel like that’s something you can’t handle, see the previous section (e.g. take a break).
Go In with the Right Mindset Next Time
Everyone has misread signals at some point in their love life. It’s important to remember that getting rejected once doesn’t mean that you’ll always get rejected. The next time it feels like a friendship could turn into something more, don’t be afraid to test the water. As Dr Fredric Neuman at Psychology Today explains, there’s no point in dwelling on your past rejections:
…a rejection is not necessarily — probably not even usually — a reflection on who you are, what you have written, or the way you present yourself. People get turned down for every sort of thing for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with merit. Some people will really be taken with you just as others will immediately turn away, for reasons that are not even clear to that other person, let alone to you.
Just make sure you take some time to manage your expectations beforehand so you can keep your hopes and emotions under control. The more you build something up in your mind, the harder the blow can be when it comes. It’s important to go in with confidence in yourself, but there is never a guarantee that things will go your way. Set yourself up to take rejection better in the future and cherish the friendship you still have.