Your co-worker just asked you out on a date. You like him…but only as a friend. Confused about how to turn down this great guy friend of yours without burning bridges? While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to declining a date, here are some pointers to help you navigate as gracefully as possible through the awkwardness:

Don’t make it about him. Try a neutral, no-frills approach. Wendy Newman, author of the forthcoming “101 First Dates” suggests: “My favorite line in a dating scenario is the simple ‘We are not quite a match.’ It’s respectful, not about him and quick.” Newman adds that this generally resolves the issue, since most men would back off immediately and not try to delve into the ‘why’ of things.

Strike a balance. When turning someone down, the challenge is to not hurt his feelings, but still be clear about your decision—in other words, don’t waver since it can look like you’re not sure. “Whether it’s a date or a friend, being polite but firm is the way to say no,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of “The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again.It’s important for your body language to convey that you mean what you say, too. “To show you’re serious, stand or sit up straight, look directly at the person and say what you want to say,” Tessina says. “If your body is slumped, it shows lack of confidence.”

Don’t offer false hope. Some women leave a little wiggle room while rejecting a man, by saying something like, “I’m too busy right now with work” or “I’m just out of a relationship and need time to get over my ex.” “Sure, to a woman, all of these sound like reasonable rejections,” says Yue Xu, who offers dating advice to men on “However, to a man, they translate to, ‘Ask me out again in a few weeks.’” Don’t lead him on if you are truly not interested.

End with grace. A conversation involving a rejection can be seriously awkward, so it’s important to end on a positive, light note. You can try a bit of humor: “Aim to pick something light that isn’t personal to him or too close to the situation of your rejecting him,” says Alicia Clark, an assistant professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. For example, if this person is a friend, you might crack an inside joke the two of you share. “The trick is to pick a style of humor that will bring comfort to you both,” says Clark.

Make a quick exit. But what if it’s an unwelcome stranger asking you out rather than a friend you want to keep? Cut to the chase and keep it short and polite. Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., author of “Love in 90 Days,” suggests: “Give him a smile. Tell him you are very flattered, but otherwise engaged right now. Then say ‘Thanks for the drink,’ turn around and leave.” Kirschner cautions that you shouldn’t indulge him with too many compliments or stay around for long. Her point: You don’t want to engage or appear to entice someone you’re just not that into, which only wastes both his time and yours.