One of the best aspects of dating is the butterflies tickling your stomach and the anticipation of the next phone call. These are feelings that only someone who has ever been in love can fully appreciate. However, when the butterflies have died and the anticipation turns to dread, you have now stumbled onto one of the worst aspects of dating: breaking up.
Letting a guy down gently is an excellent alternative to a nasty breakup. In order to accomplish this, honesty is almost always the best policy. There are, of course, exceptions.
Arrange to meet in a coffee shop or other public place where seating is provided. Terminating a relationship in public reduces the chance of merciless begging or name calling on his part, and provides you with a much smoother exit than meeting at a home or apartment.
Once face-to-face, it's best to cut right to the chase. He doesn't need to know everything that he did wrong. Instead, keep the explanation brief as to avoid blurting out more than you intended to say. Simply put, let him know that while you enjoyed his company, you don't feel that the two of you are a good romantic match. If he is not receptive or wants a more detailed explanation, just let him know that you believe he is a good person who will find someone more suitable. It is imperative that you not linger or be overly apologetic; this could be misinterpreted as a sign of uncertainty.
There's also the scenario of letting someone down whom you've never even dated. What if a man at work keeps dropping hints about going out for dinner or drinks and you have absolutely no interest in him? You'll need to let him down gently so he can retain his dignity, however, honesty may need to be fudged a little in this situation. Telling him that his breath repulses you will surely make for an uncomfortable work environment. In a case like this, it's best to give an excuse that leaves no openings. Thank him for the offer, but explain that you are already involved in a relationship or that you have a strict policy against dating co-workers. The sooner you nip this in the bud, the easier it will be.
Obviously, no one likes to be rejected or feel unwanted. Be gentle with your words but firm in your decision. Refrain at all costs from any name calling or finger pointing. If the discussion escalates to an uncomfortable level, you should leave immediately. Do not return phone calls or emails as that will only give a false sense of hope. He WILL get over it and when he looks back, he'll be grateful for the class you displayed.