Dealing with unreciprocated feelings can be awkward. And when youre the person on the receiving end of those feelings, you might be wondering how to handle the situation delicately. If someone likes you and you dont like them back, is there a way to address this without making them feel bad? You obviously dont want to lie about how you feel, but you also dont want to hurt anyone by rejecting them. Whats the proper course of action here?
First of all, it depends on how much this person has already told you. Relationship expert Dr. Darcy Sterling notes that it can be difficult to ascertain with certainty whether someone is into you that is, unless theyve said it to you directly. Youre relying on a vibe or on subtle behavioral changes that youve noticed, or that you think youve noticed, she tells Elite Daily. In cases like this, youre unlikely to want to tell them straight up, Hey, Im not interested in you romantically. Because then if they deny it, youre stuck in an extremely awkward assumption.
Sterling says that if youre trying to go for indirect communication, you can try one of several strategies. Just casually talk with this person about how youre loving single life, or bring up someone you are interested in dating to see if they get the hint. Additionally, Sterling recommends that you try to avoid spending time with this person alone, just to make it very clear that theres no romantic interest.
That said, the best and clearest way to communicate your feelings is by stating them outright. I always suggest direct communication, Sterling says. And I dont think you have to put yourself in a position where you verbalize an assumption. Instead, wait for a moment when they do something that clearly signals their interest. Maybe they make a flirty comment or text you at an odd hour of the night. Then, Sterling says, you can ask about that moment directly. The next time the person does it, pause, and ask for clarification: What was that?, she suggests. Youre opening the door to the conversation. And regardless of whether the person walks through it or not, you can clarify your feelings.
If they fess up to their real intentions, you can make your own feelings clear. Heres how Sterling recommends responding: Thank you for clarifying that. I wasnt sure if I was imagining it. I really appreciate having you as a [friend, co-worker, insert role here] and I dont want that to change.
If they act like nothing happened, or say something like, What are you talking about?, you can still use this as an opportunity to clear the air. Sterling suggests using this formula: No worries. Im just not used to [friends, co-workers, insert persons role here] texting me in the middle of the night. But Im glad to hear that theres nothing deeper happening because I like our relationship. or All good. Im glad were on the same page.
Dating coach Erika Ettin echoes this up-front communication strategy. “The best and only thing to do is to be honest and tactful,” she says. “We can’t control whether someone’s feelings are hurt. All we can control is what we put out there.” This person will likely be bummed that you dont feel the same way about them, but that shouldnt stop you from speaking up honestly. Sterling warns that its all too easy to paralyze yourself over fear of what someone else will think. As long as youre not insensitive (remember, you will be seeing this person again), youre not responsible for how the other person feels, she says. And if youre worried about losing the friendship, just remember that you werent the one who prompted this rift. If your friends ego cant maintain the friendship after being rejected, thats on them not you, she says. Whats the alternative? To hook up with someone youre not into, just to keep the friendship?
Unfortunately, situations like this cant always be resolved without a bit of discomfort. But as long as you state your feelings with sincerity, youre doing the best you can. Its better to have an honest conversation now, so theres no confusion later about whether you led this person on. You cant change the way someone reacts to a situation but you can control your own response.
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