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I’ve been told—on more than one occasion—that I’m somewhat oblivious to knowing when a woman is into me. This, however, is a defect I can live with because it sure beats the alternative. You know what I'm talking about: the unique awkwardness of thinking someone has the hots for you when she actually doesn’t. 

As most men can attest, this sort of misunderstanding is rather common in the dating world. Both men and women deal with the fact that a lot of times being flirty and being friendly look and sound pretty similar. This is regretful, of course, because that means we men will mistake your intention and pursue women who actually aren’t interested in us. And that’s a lose-lose situation, if you ask me.

Communicating that you're not interested in romance without being rude or feeling awkward can be tricky, I know. This is going to necessitate some insight into the male mind and a good deal of finesse. So without any further ado, here’s one man’s perspective on how women everywhere can be a little more clear with their admirers, while remaining as pleasant as possible.

01. Be honest with yourself.

Sometimes, the only difference between flirting and friendliness is intention. That’s why it’s important to understand why your actions might be interpreted in ways you didn’t exactly intend. For instance, perhaps you don’t like a guy, but you do like the attention he gives you. Maybe you don’t want to date him, but any positive reinforcement you’re giving to his flirting, and especially any flirty responses, is giving him more fuel for his interested fire. 

Do the man who is wooing you the favor of being honest with your own feelings and desires. If you’re giving him extra attention and affection solely because you like his attention, then you’re probably leading him on. And you need to stop that immediately.

02. Communicate intentionally.

The first thing to know about communicating with men is that all positive indicators will be over-interpreted by us. We literally have no idea what to look for when it comes to interpreting a woman’s interest level, so we go very basic. Does she seem happy to see me? Does she remember my name? Does she not immediately disappear whenever I’m around? 

I know it sounds a bit over-the-top, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that any sort of positive reinforcement from an attractive, single woman is going to make a guy think that he has at least a one-in-a-million chance—and that's usually good enough odds for us to make a go of it.

Imagine then how we’ll interpret anything more than basic decency. If a woman shows any interest in a conversation with a man, makes any indication that she’d like to see him again (especially if it means making plans), laughs at his jokes, smiles in conversation, or otherwise spends more than the bare-minimum amount of time in conversation, he’s going to take all of that and run with it. So be nice, but know that for a man who is smitten, clear communication is your friend.

03. Be careful with nonverbals (especially touching).

Think about it: what separates the romantic from the merely friendly, at it’s most basic level? Physical intimacy. This is not to say that even the most innocuous contact can or should be interpreted as interest, by any means. But nothing will get a man thinking that a woman is interested in him more than physical touch, especially when it lingers a little longer than usual or otherwise seems to have some intention behind it. Even a tug on the arm or a spontaneous high-five can have this effect, but especially things that couples do: hand-holding, impromptu hugs, etc, will definitely get his wheels turning.

So what do you do, then, when you realize a guy is interested in you and you’re just not? Be intentional about how you choose to interact with him verbally and physically. You needn’t abandon subtlety or opt for rudeness to get your point across. Tell him that he should go on a date with one of your single girlfriends, and even offer to introduce him. If he initiated a conversation with you and you’re worried it’s never going to end, tell him, “Nice talking with you. I had better go catch up with my friends.”

04. Direct doesn’t mean rude.

Of course sometimes subtleties just don’t do the job, and you have to be direct. Take it from a guy: we actually love it when women are direct, even if it’s not with the news we wanted to get. Besides, most men are probably going to be very ready for rejection. Trust me, you’re not going to destroy him by telling him, “no thanks.”

In my experience, any pursuit of a woman that ends in a simple, positive, and straight-forward way and not by evasion tactics or cryptic explanations is a net gain. I would recommend what was explained to me as the “Oreo” method: start with something positive, mention the rejection part, and then end with something positive. Like this: “Thanks so much for drinks the other day, you really were gentlemanly. I don’t think I’m interested in anything further, but I sure hope we can remain friends and don’t you dare act weird around me from now on.” Your dignity is intact because you acted with integrity and compassion, and my manhood is intact because I put himself out there and treated a woman well and didn’t totally crash and burn.

So whether it’s a random guy at the bar who struck up a conversation, an old friend who wants to be more than friends, or a guy you’ve been out with once or twice, but you’re just not interested in anything more, feel free to tell us you’re not interested. Believe me, we can take it.

Photo Credit: Britt Rene