How do you gently let someone know that they're being too friendly and affectionate with you?
March 24, 2012 1:29 PM   Subscribe

How do you gently let someone know that they're being too friendly and affectionate with you?

My two closest friends live with a guy named "James" who has gradually become one of my friends too. James is a really sweet person but he qualifies as one of those nice guys that wants to everything for you and take care of you whenever possible. I don't talk to him a whole lot, but I enjoy his company when I'm in the area, but I don't really pursue one-on-one time with him because lately he's become really, really affectionate over text and Facebook and it's making me uncomfortable.

For example, if I've left my friends' house and I'm driving back to my own place a few hours away, James will text me at least a few times to tell me that he wants to make sure that I've gotten home okay and that he really enjoyed seeing me and just loves me so much. He frequently tells me he loves me or that he's in love with me, and this really puts me in a weird position because I don't find him attractive and don't want to date him. He's also overly complimentary ("you're so beautiful/amazing/etc"). I usually say, "That's really sweet of you to say." and leave the conversation at that. He typically only does this in private or over text; when we're around our mutual friends he dials the compliments down, but not the mothering.

Is there a gracious and kind way to let a nice guy like this know that his nice level is now overboard? We just aren't "that" kind of friends and probably never will be.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Block him from Facebook, respond to his next text with, "I'm not interested, please stop texting me," and then don't respond anymore to his texts.

When you're with your friends, do things without this guy.
posted by kinetic at 1:50 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

"[Your] nice level is now overboard. We just aren't "that" kind of friends and probably never will be."
posted by cmoj at 1:50 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Dude, you're freaking me out here. I am not at all comfortable with this kind of flirty stuff from my male friends and acquaintances."
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:51 PM on March 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You have two options:
1. Keep doing what you are doing. Don't return the affection, act ambivalent and/or disinterested and hopefully he will eventually get the idea. It may take some time, so be ready to wait,

I did this a lot when I was younger (high school/college) and didn't know how to deal. It works, but get ready for more awkward, cringe-worthy situations for awhile. Usually people lose interest eventually.

Perhaps you'll get into a relationship or he will. This usually helps, a lot.

2. Be straight-forward, in a polite way, when he provides an opener:
The texting asking that you got home okay is not so outright, but telling you that you're beautiful and amazing is a pretty direct "line", if you ask me. Next time he says something like this, take the opportunity to confront it head on.

Say something in the vein of, "I appreciate your compliments and think you're a great person, but I'd like to put the breaks on here. I'm not interested in being more than your friend and I believe it's most fair to let you know that. I hope we can move on from here to have a great friendship without any awkwardness." If he persists from there, it's time to get more stubborn with your approach: "I am not interested/Your comments/attention and texts make me uncomfortable."

I know that a lot of people wouldn't recommend being as straight forward as this, but as I've gotten older (and more mature), I've found that it benefits both parties and saves you from months of awkward (if not creepy) situations. If you confront with care and consideration, it will always work out. He may be hurt, initially, but remember that you are not responsible for his feelings and you do not owe him anything if it means putting yourself in an awkward situation.

Now, if he's the crazy stalker type, he may persist in either scenario, but wouldn't you prefer to know now rather than later?
posted by sixteencandles at 1:52 PM on March 24, 2012 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Can't you just say "haha James, you're too much!" and then if he continues say (in serious tone) "no, James, seriously, it's too much. Let's not make things awkward here. You need to stop with all this". And just get harsher and even more straight-forward if he continues.

Tell him it's making you uncomfortable and it's not okay. He's not being 'nice' if it's making you uncomfortable and stressing you out. What's nice about that?
posted by bquarters at 1:57 PM on March 24, 2012 [21 favorites]

In my opinion, the behavior you describe from him is not "nice." It's manipulative and inappropriate. He may not know that consciously, he may be socially underdeveloped and trying to manufacture intimacy because he craves it and doesn't know how to forge it organically, but he's trying to make you behave in a specific way and that is manipulation. He's taking advantage of your reluctance to defend your boundaries, too, so he "wins" or is reinforced every time he does it and you don't stop him.

Do not pussyfoot, because he'll grasp at any leeway you leave him. You don't have to be mean or aggressive, you need to communicate that he's making you uncomfortable and it isn't appropriate. Don't negotiate what is and isn't okay, either, or you'll never extricate yourself. And leave out the "probably" - "We aren't that kind of friends," is adequate.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:03 PM on March 24, 2012 [11 favorites]

Jeez, you people are cruel. You're not interested and he's totally ga-ga for you, but you respond more or less positively, probably to be 'nice,' which is nice, but also leads him on. Be an adult and cut to the chase. "Hey, I think we should talk," or even "I hope you know I don't like you that way," but be clear, however you deal with it. No kevlar vest necessary.
posted by rhizome at 2:07 PM on March 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

The thing is he's gaga for all girls. It's not just me. It's very clear that he considers himself a nice guy and is looking for the right girl, but he goes about it in the wrong way despite knowing I am not available. That's where this gets tricky -- I like him as a friend, do enjoy spending time with him, but have yet to figure out a gentle way to be like, "Dude, the affection, no bueno for me."
posted by iLoveTheRain at 2:13 PM on March 24, 2012

Would saying, "Too much, dude, too much! You're making me blush." be an appropriate response if he over-compliments or says he loves me? Some of the other comments I can probably work on just ignoring.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 2:16 PM on March 24, 2012

I think telling him quite directly you find this shit makes you uncomfortable is better than saying something that can be shrugged off like "you're making me blush."
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:23 PM on March 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

"You're making me blush" is a phrase I interpret the opposite way from how you intend it. "I'm embarrassed but appreciative." If you want to stop this dead. You need to be WAY more firm. I know this from experience as a former James.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 2:23 PM on March 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

"your making me blush" will egg him on further. Just be a friend, pull him aside and let him know that saying stuff like this is too much. Tell him he comes on too strong and it is going to hinder his efforts to find the right girl. Let him know that if he needs advice, you would be happy to give him some input. That way you change your position in the relationship by becoming a helpful friend/advisor, not someone who gets complimented as he has been doing. You will also be doing him and the other women a favor by leading him in a more constructive, less annoying direction.
posted by Vaike at 2:23 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

No, the "you're making me blush" line just makes some guys think its awesome to get what they see as a positive reaction from you.

I would go with "Too much, Dude! You're making me really uncomfortable."

I still don't think it will work. If he's like other guys I know, he'll back off for a few days and then ramp back up again. It IS manipulative, even if he doesn't know it.

I used to do your kinder gentler technique and all I ended up with was guilt on my side and pouty on their side. These days I just straight up tell them they're being disrespectful and they had better cut it out. If they don't, we aren't friends any more, at which point I feel bad for about 12 hours and then relieved that I don't have to walk the minefield that is fending off inappropriate behavior.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:25 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "You're making me blush" can itself be interpreted as flirty or ambiguous. No.

Straightforward, friendly, but crystal clear is what's called for here. "James, we're friends, but [specific behavior here] makes me uncomfortable and I need you to stop. Thanks."
posted by scody at 2:28 PM on March 24, 2012 [16 favorites]

You tell him like you (would) tell someone you think they're drinking too much.
posted by rhizome at 2:31 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: God no, "you're making me blush" will encourage this guy. Solution:

Him: "I'm in love with you."
You: "That's sweet, but I'm not interested in being more than friends with you."
posted by J. Wilson at 2:50 PM on March 24, 2012

Best answer: Him: [overdone compliment and/or declaration of love]
You: "OK, I know your intentions are probably good, but that's too intense for people who are just friends. Which is what we are."
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:00 PM on March 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

As a former guy-who-could-never-figure-out-girls, James is confused on what women really wan. He may have read/heard somewhere that girls needed constant compliments and is a necessary "foreplay" for courtship. He may also not know how to properly read the subtle body language to distinguish between "just friends" and a romantic interest.

Whatever you say, it is going to be hard on him, but there is no other way. One of the safest routes I have seen a girl take in a similar situation is to talk about a fake guy you met at work you are not interested in romantically, but misinterprets your friendliness for romance. do this with mutual friends and when James is around. If he doesn't get the message [as your friends obviously will chime in with their experiences], a more direct approach may be needed.
posted by theobserver at 4:33 PM on March 24, 2012

He's also overly complimentary ("you're so beautiful/amazing/etc"). I usually say, "That's really sweet of you to say."

Your knee jerk reaction, although courteous, is contrary to your goals of getting him to stop. I once dealt with a guy like this. Next time, say "Bitch, please!" and walk away. He'll stop doing it if you make your point and stop responding to his texts. Its not the most politically correct statement, but it will save you a lot of future creepiness.

Just practice in a mirror: "Bitch, please!". Say it fast, give him a weird eye like you smell something noxious and walk away.
posted by karathrace at 4:40 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He doesn't know that it bothers you. If he's a decent person then he doesn't want to make you feel that way. You should tell him clearly, so that he can stop.

Just, next time you're hanging out and he's all 'aw i love you!' you just drop the smile for a sec and calmly (even kindly is OK!) tell him "you know, it kind of bugs me when you say that sort of thing - I don't want to be anything more than friends, and I know you treat everyone that way but it just sends me a really weird message and I'd appreciate if you could try to be less flirtatious with me."

Then you can go back to being your friendly charming self. Just make sure you come across as sincere and serious when you're telling him not to flirt with you.
posted by Lady Li at 5:20 PM on March 24, 2012

If you don't think he's aware that he's crossing a line or making things weird, I would have a conversation to explain specifically that his interactions with you have taken on a very boyfriend/girlfriend vibe which makes things weird because that's not what you're looking for.
This will make it easier to, in the future when he crosses the line, to say, ” oh. That's weird.” ” did it just get weird again?” ” I'm sorry, that makes me feel weird” ” dude, don't be weird.” And so on.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:26 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing not to give any mention that you are flattered by this.

I made that mistake several years ago when someone followed me onto public transport after a gathering(I thought at the time he was going the same way, but I later found out that it was nowhere near where he lived) and then emailed me claiming he was "fascinated"; though it had been made clear that we had nothing in common. I let him know this and he indicated that he would back off, but several months later he made a shoutout claiming that I had "stolen his heart". When I told him that I thought it had been established that I wasn' t interested, his response was "it was a joke", but several months later he sent me a Christmas card marked with kisses (our group had a card exchange, but we were not on the same list). When I emailed him and told him that I wanted the declarations of love to stop, he went on an overreactive drinking binge.

He is technically no longer a member of the group, but has shown up at recent gatherings and I am very reluctant to go to them given this behavior.
posted by brujita at 10:48 AM on March 25, 2012

Thanks all. I realize now that my previous responses to his behavior were not doing me any favors. He's a nice guy, but I think he assumes that if he's there enough for a girl, one of them will finally cave and realize he's just right for them. It's misguided, but knowing him as I do, I don't believe he'd venture into super creep territory. I'll try, "Dude, that's overboard for me. We're friends -- and as much as I enjoy your company, saying that you love me is too much. We cool?"
posted by iLoveTheRain at 12:11 PM on March 25, 2012

Best answer: It's a common pattern.
posted by rhizome at 12:22 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

He might end up being an ok friend in the end, but he's not being an especially nice guy and I'd urge you to stop treating him like he's merely awkward or misguided, for his own good. This is fairly common passive-aggressive objectification, and he's not going to come very close to being a nice guy until he quits it. Nice people don't hinge their romantic hopes on other people "caving" or otherwise getting worn down. You're under absolutely no obligation to straighten him out, but if he's lucky he'll get straightened out sometime, and that might be less painful coming from a friend.
posted by Errant at 3:53 AM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ugh. I don't have a great answer. I have cut people off for exactly this, but it doesn't sound like it's an option. Do you think it would make a difference if you told him that ignoring your discomfort is exactly the antithesis of respect?
posted by small_ruminant at 2:25 PM on April 16, 2012

Hmm yeah, him telling you outright that he won't respect your wishes is a troubling. I'd call him on it. Tell him that him that by telling you point blank that he won't respect your wishes and in the same message continuing to do what you've asked him not to do crosses the line from being unwelcome to making him sound dangerous. Tell him in no uncertain terms that he needs to stop now and forever if he wants things to continue amicably.

Also, talk to your friends and make sure they have your back. He really does sound potentially dangerous from this end. Even if they don't think the compliments, etc. are a big deal continuing to do something he knows makes you uncomfortable definitely should be.
posted by cmoj at 2:25 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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