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Gently saying no when a girl asks you out on a first date can be tricky. Although you might be tempted to keep it simple with a sweetly-uttered, “No,” you might end up with hurt feelings—and rage. Nobody wants to be the target of a woman scorned. A more effective approach is one of these 4 gentle ways to say no when a girl asks you out.

The compliment approach Cushion the blow of your saying no when a girl asks you out by sandwiching the “No” between several compliments. “I’m flattered,” is your first compliment, followed by, “and you seem like you would be a lot of fun on a date.” Finish it off with “But I sadly have to say no,” and a final compliment, such as, “although you are a really cool person.”

The in-a-relationship approach If you are actually in a relationship, you have an automatic way to gently say no when a girl asks you out. You can even start if off with a flourish by admitting you would love to go out with the girl who asks, but you are already in a relationship. This approach can still work if you don’t have a steady girlfriend, as long as the girl who asks you out doesn’t later see you flirting at the bar with every woman who walks by or scouring the dating websites.

The busy approach With work, school, football games and beer drinking, you really don’t have time for a relationship. Gently say no by blaming it on your super-busy life. “I wish I had time to date,” you say, “but there is too much stuff going on in my life right now.” Don’t include the football games and beer drinking, unless you still want to end up with a woman scorned when she finds out sports and brew are more important than she is.

The friend approach The friend approach is a gentle way to say no, but it only works if you know the girl at some level. It will not work with a stranger in a bar, although it will work on a neighbor, classmate or coworker. The friend approach is a gentle way to say no by combining the compliment approach along with your sincere desire to remain steadfast buddies. “You are such a great person and I love your company,” you say, “so I would never want to possibly mess up our friendship by dating.”