How to deal with unwanted attention

Ariel studied psychology in Boston as an undergraduate. She now works in Chicago as a research assistant and freelance writer.

There’s tons of advice out there on how to attract men, how to get phone numbers, how to act on dates, and so on. It is a bit more difficult to find advice on what to do when you are being pursued by someone who you have no interest in. What’s more, girlfriends tend to be less sympathetic in these scenarios, as unwanted attention is usually conceptualized as too much of a good thing rather than as a bad thing. When I was an undergraduate, I came up with a few of my own ways to deal with this issue.

The best way to deal with unwanted attention will vary depending on the situation. The most common venues for receiving unwanted attention are parties, bars, and other informal social settings (often involving alcohol). A guy might follow you around, trying to talk to you, make suggestive comments, or directly proposition you. My go-to reaction in this sort of situation is usually to look at the guy for a few seconds and then say, sincerely and enthusiastically, “You look just like my brother!” You may not always be believed, but the man will usually stop bothering you.  In some cases, it may be easier to evade your pursuer by engaging in one-on-one conversations with other people in the venue. You don’t have to necessarily exclude your unsolicited admirer from the conversation, but you make it clear to him that you are looking to enjoy socializing and not looking to spend your whole evening paying attention to him. It is also always an option to tell the man upfront that you are not interested or that he is making you uncomfortable. Your safety is more important than whether or not you come across as stuck up or standoffish.

In some cases, the man pursuing you will be someone you have already gone on a date with or hooked up with or even someone you are friends with. The guy may claim that you “led him on” or think that he can change your mind about him if he keeps trying. While it is an option to just ignore advances, maybe even avoiding the person altogether, I have found it more effective to respond honestly and directly. It may be best to tell him plainly, “I am not interested in having a relationship (or hooking up) with you.” The “with you” part is important, because if a guy thinks that you are just in general not looking for a relationship, he may think that if he waits around long enough, he will be the first in line when you decide that you are ready. Your goal is to not misrepresent your intentions – don’t make it sound like he has a chance if he doesn’t.

Whatever course of action you choose, don’t be mean about it, and don’t take any angry responses too personally. It is not uncommon for a person to react to rejection by insulting or trying to otherwise devalue the rejecter. Be respectful. Being as fabulous as you are, you can’t really blame men if they are interested in you, but you do have the right to let them know whether or not that attention is wanted. You are going to meet a lot of people while you’re in college, and you don’t want to waste your time hanging out with guys you don’t actually like. What’s more, they shouldn’t waste their time on pursuing women who aren’t interested. Turning people down can be hard, but it is a skill that will continue to be useful to you throughout your life.

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