If you’ve ever given a guy your phone number or agreed to go out on a date simply because you didn’t want to hurt his feelings, you are a woman in need of a game plan… and a reality check. Sure, you might have saved him a moment of embarrassment by pretending initially to be interested, but now you’ve set him up for worse rejection when you blow him off later on. A better approach? Use one of these polite ways to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” — they’re gathered from relationship experts, dating gurus and savvy single people like you.

1. Be honest about your feelings
Telling a guy directly that you’re just not that into him can make even the most straight-talking woman squirm. Would it help if we assured you it’s actually more kind than callous? And it’ll spare both you and your suitor from future anxiety. Use “I” statements so he won’t think he’s done something wrong, says Susan RoAne, communication expert and author of What Do I Say Next? Talking Your Way to Business and Social Success. “For example, ‘I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, but I don’t feel a connection’ or ‘I think you’re obviously great, but I’m looking for something else right now and I want to be honest up front about our chances.’ It may be an uncomfortable moment, but he’ll walk away and get over it. In fact, he’ll probably appreciate your candor. “Honesty is like a breath of fresh air,” says dating coach David Wygant. “Guys will thank you for it.”
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2. Reverse the typical gender roles
Let’s say someone has just asked for your number. When you ask for his information instead rather than giving out yours, you’re putting the ball in your court — which means you call the shots. Won’t he know it’s a ruse? Most guys say no: “All it says to me is that she likes to be in control,” says Jeff Wesson of Los Angeles. “That’s fine by me. Then, I’m no longer responsible for where things go. If she calls, great. If she doesn’t, oh well. I won’t lose sleep over it.”

3. Reset his sights
If you’ve genuinely enjoyed talking with him (but not enough that you can envision turning into a twosome together), don’t send him away empty-handed. Run through a mental checklist of your single pals and coworkers. If one of them seems to fit his bill better than you do, tell him you think he’d get along well with a single friend of yours, take his number or email address and offer to set him up, recommends E. Jean Carroll, Elle magazine advice guru and author of Mr. Right, Right Now. “If you flatter him, you can’t hurt his feelings,” she says. “And he can’t not be complimented if you’re suggesting setting him up with someone else.”

4. Apologize for your unavailability
Rather than a blunt rejection, Wygant advocates saying: “I’m sorry, I’m actually not dating right now” instead. “What it really means, of course, is ‘I’m not dating you,’ but at least he can focus on being bummed that he simply met you at the wrong time in your life.”

5. Play the numbers game
When you and your admirer have mutual acquaintances, you can rebuff his advances by making it clear that you only want to spend time with him in that group setting — not as a couple. New York single Jaime Costa explains how one woman used the tactic on him: “A really cute girl joined our staff temporarily, and on her last day, I said I’d like to take her out. She responded, ‘Sure, it would be great if we all went out — the whole team — to celebrate.’ I immediately got the picture that she wasn’t interested in anything more, but it was still fun going out like that.” So if someone you like (but not in that way) from your circle of friends asks you out, you can just respond by saying, “That sounds fun — I’ll ask the others if they can join us!”

Freelance writer Maria Fontoura has written for such publications as Maxim, Cargo, Sync and online at vh1.com.