You’re in a bar, at a party, or walking down the street, and a man approaches you and starts up a conversation. The only thing is, you have a nagging feeling that he’s flirting with you, and while you might be flattered, you’re already in a relationship. Here’s how to tell a guy you’re taken firmly but kindly. After all, you don’t want to waste his time or yours.
- Continue the conversation in a friendly manner. Keep the conversation light, but completely in the friend zone. Make a conscious effort not to flirt back, but simply carry the conversation on as you would with anyone you’re simply friendly with.
- Make sure that he really is flirting. What about the way he’s talking to you is flirty? Read the body language and listen to what he’s saying. When you have enough signals that he’s flirting with you, it’ll be easier to rationalize how you came to that conclusion when you’re explaining yourself to him later on and eventually tell the guy that you’re taken.
- Bring up your boyfriend/girlfriend in casual conversation. If you can, bring up your partner in the conversation. A simple, “Oh, my boyfriend loves soccer too!” can make all the difference to dissipate any awkwardness that might have been developing. This sends a message while being totally natural and comfortable.
- If you’ve got a ring on it, flaunt it. If you have a ring on your finger, make sure that you use your left hand more. Most of us are right-handed, so this usually has to be a conscious effort. Pick up your glass with your left hand, lean your head on your left hand, push your hair back with your left hand. He may very well pick up on the hint without you ever having to say a word.
- Call your boyfriend/girlfriend over to meet this guy. If you’ve managed to keep the conversation friendly up until now but haven’t had the opportunity to do any of the above, you may be able to call your boyfriend/girlfriend over to you if they’re in close proximity. Introduce the flirtatious friend to your boyfriend, and he’s bound to get the hint. (Giving your partner a kiss or two on the cheek helps too!)
- Don’t prolong the inevitable. You might feel awkward having to tell a guy that you’re already in a relationship and therefore not interested in being hit on by him, but don’t delay this. Things will only get more awkward if you drag it out. “If you know that someone has feelings for you, but you have different plans, dragging out the breakup is cruel,” Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. While you’re not in a relationship with this person, the statement still stands — it’s cruel to let him make a fool of himself by hitting on you when you already know it’s never going to happen.
- Clear the air and explain to him how you feel. There are bound to be times when you’re in this kind of social situation where there was no casual time to mention your significant other, no ring on your finger to flash, and your boyfriend is nowhere to be seen. In this case, you want to clear the air with the person you’re talking with before it gets too far and you feel really uncomfortable. Tell the guy straight up that you’re already in a relationship and therefore flattered but not interested.
- Let them know that your interpretation of the conversation is only an opinion. When you’re telling your flirtatious companion that you’re uncomfortable with the way things are headed, make sure to let them know that it’s just how you interpreted things and that you might be wrong. This gives them room to back out of it, deny that that was their intention, or apologize without feeling offended or embarrassed. A simple, “Excuse me, I know that we’re just chatting, but you’ve done XYZ and I’m starting to think you might be flirting with me. I just wanted to let you know I actually have a boyfriend/girlfriend already!” can go a long way!
- Soften the blow by taking the compliment. If you’ve had a great time talking with him and if things were different, you might be interested in him, be honest about that. Sometimes being hit on is a huge confidence boost, so tell him that you were super complimented, anyway!
- Get a wingman/woman. If you’ve tried everything else, or if nothing else is appropriate, calling your best wingman/woman over will help ease the tension. And, if you’re lucky, your wing woman and the guy might hit it off! Talk about a win-win situation! You might even ask your friend to tell him that you’re in a relationship when you’re not around to ease the stress and pressure on yourself.
- Pull him aside and put your foot down. If the above hasn’t worked yet and he’s still being persistent, pull them aside and respectfully tell him to stop. “I thought I made myself clear, but maybe I haven’t. I really don’t feel comfortable with you touching me/hugging me, etc.” This kind of intervention is still polite and respectful, but it’s more direct and leaves the other person with no excuse for continuing the behavior.
- If all else fails, make a scene. If everything has failed, and they’re still being persistent with you, it’s time to drop the polite act and call him out. This can be nerve-wracking, but at this point, if he’s still flirting with you, he’s being a creep and deserve what he gets. Simply call out his behavior loud enough for others to hear. Make a scene and make them embarrassed by their actions. Then, if you can, get some space between the two of you and try to stay with friends for the rest of the night.
What to remember about telling a guy you’re not interested
Taken or not, it’s not your responsibility to coddle a guy who doesn’t take it well when you tell him that you’re not interested. You’re being honest and upfront with him and you’re trying to do so nicely, so if he doesn’t like it or even lashes out in response, you don’t need to put up with that. Be polite if you can, of course, but always be safe and alert others if you feel uncomfortable.