How do you give clear signals that it's just not gonna happen?
June 30, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

How do you send clear signals when someone is flirty with you, but you are not interested, yet still like them as a person?

I have no idea how to do this and generally just get uncomfortable and 'act normally' which I'm often comes across as interest since I am a friendly and smiley sort of person.

This issue has been arising with coworkers and acquaintances, not people I consider friends really, but people I am friendly with and want to feel comfortable around.

I know how to deal with creeps and I know how to deal with mutual attraction, but I feel that I never seem to get this unrequited attraction right and often unnecessarily confuse people. It's both because I'm slow to pick up on that they are flirting with me, because I don't see them 'in that way,' and because I just don't know how to navigate it without behaving as though they are a stranger that approached me in a bar or something along those lines.

So any tips? Once you start seeing clear communicated signals of attraction from someone you associate with, how do you show clear signs that it's just not gonna happen?
posted by abirdinthehand to Human Relations (13 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Tell them.
posted by txmon at 8:15 AM on June 30, 2012

I told someone that I was getting the feeling he wanted to be more than friends.....that I was sorry, but my interest in him was just platonic.

When I asked someone else (who I knew had a crush on me) if he'd like to join me at an event, I told him point blank I was asking platonically.
posted by brujita at 8:17 AM on June 30, 2012

Note that some people just like to flirt, and aren't neccesarily interested in anything more than that. Try to guage whether they're flirting with you because they want you, or because it feels good to flirt with a nice likeable person- especially at work; it takes the stress off. I wouldn't go making any declarations of non-interest unless you're quite sure that they're actively trying to get with you. It could create a lot of unnessecary awkwardness. Just don't take it any further, if you don't want it to go any further. A brief mention in passing of a significant other can gently indicate that you're unavailable.
posted by windykites at 8:30 AM on June 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

I agree with windykites. There's no need to tell them to stop flirting with you unless they actually make an overt attempt at taking it beyond that, e.g. touching, asking you out on what seems like a date, or just really coming on strong with you specifically and getting in your face with it. Especially with coworkers - it could make for some extreme awkwardness if you come out and say you don't like them like that, when they may have already been thinking that they have no interest in actually dating you but find you fun to flirt with.

What's always worked for me is just being polite and unenthusiastic until people like that get the idea that I'm not feeling the flirtatiousness. If you have a significant other, by all means find a way to work that person into the conversation. But if not, the polite/cool method tends to get the point across.
posted by wondermouse at 9:12 AM on June 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

In my experience windykites is correct: explicitly and unsolicitedly declaring your non-interest can make things worse, or even tip the other party's mild interest into an obsession (at least, so one such other party once alleged to me).

Briefly mentioning significant others, gay/straightness, or similar obstacles is great, if you have such material to work with; but what may be most useful is a declaration, to yourself, that you are not responsible for remedying this situation.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:16 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some people are REALLY REALLY good at this, and I have tried to learn from them, so this is a bit second-hand:

don't touch them
don't sit next to them
keep the eye contact minimal (instead of face-to-face try to have conversations side-by-side or while doing stuff with your hands/walking)
no innuendo or dirty jokes
don't look at them and make eye contact and then smile (hard to describe but if you've ever successfully made a romantic connection you probably know what I'm talking about here)

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:30 AM on June 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Once you start seeing clear communicated signals of attraction
What are these signals? If they make you uncomfortable, you can certainly communicate this through your manner. Whenever they come out, drop the smiles, drop your vocal pitch, drop the temperature in the room. If you are female, drop any of the elements of femininity that also happen to be signals of appeasement. Your desire to 'feel comfortable' is natural, but the emotional labor that creates interpersonal comfort should be shared, not performed exclusively by you at the expense of your own internal comfort. This applies even if the other party's signals are perfectly innocent.

As wondermouse said, just be unenthusiastic. You needn't think of this as a list of prohibitions -- just channel your own genuine less-than-cheery feelings.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:42 AM on June 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's a time-honoured technique that most reasonable people should pick up on.

The next time you're talking to someone you think may have a crush on you, casually mention someone that you have a crush on/are thinking of asking out on a date/just went out on a date with. If this person is real then great, but a little lie wouldn't hurt.

Don't fabricate that you're in a relationship, but say something like "oh, I just met this guy at a party and asked him out. Yeah, I usually ask someone out right away if I like them". Message sent, and hopefully received.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:52 AM on June 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

"Yeah, I usually ask someone out right away if I like them".

That statement is too transparent and would create the same type of awkwardness that a direct declaration would create. I agree with windykites' answer instead.
posted by unannihilated at 2:02 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give up the hope that you'll be friends. They want one sort of relationship. You want another. Your desire to have it your way is no different than their desire to have a romantic realationship. Assume that it won't work out as a friendship.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:19 PM on June 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is just part of life, in terms of navigating social situations. If someone is making you uncomfortable, let some of that show; back away a bit, stop smilling, cut the interaction short. If they really want your friendship, they'll change the behavior; if they were just trying to hit on you, they'll either try harder and get obnoxious (and then you cut them off) or they will see it's a no go and move on. They may or may not be assholes about it, but that is not your responsibility to worry about. You can't do anything about assholes except not let them blame you for their behavior.

If someone really wants to go out with you, they need to ask you (and vice versa). Hanging around and interpreting your friendly conversation as permission to act unprofessional and get into your space/make suggestive remarks or whatever is immature and frankly creepy. You don't have to accomodate or feel responsible for that sort of behavior.
posted by emjaybee at 9:54 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've recently experienced something of this sort with my significant other. It's harder for some people to create boundaries and it does't come naturally to just know how to deal with this social situation when it also feels nice and you just want to be polite.

Here is my list of how to deal with this situation:

1. Mention your significant other upfront and often. Don't be ambiguous or say you're not really serious or don't know where things are going.
2. Don't be overly enthusiastic about their invitations and if it is something interesting, suggest brining your significant other and or another female friend.
3. Don't offer to pay for dinner, drinks.
4. Don't offer to pick them up. If you've agreed to go out with them for any reason meet them at the location.
4. Don't give them special gifts or do special thoughtful things that could be misinterpreted as a gesture of affection or interest.
5. Don't be their source of emotional support.
6. Do tell your significant other about this person.
7. Don't lead them on just because it feels good to know they have a crush on you.
8. Ask yourself if the relationship is *really* worth cultivating.
posted by i_wear_boots at 9:37 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

opps. pardon the off numbers and 10. Don't touch them. If you hug at a hello, do the pat on the back. :)
posted by i_wear_boots at 9:39 PM on July 3, 2012

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