I fell for his blushes…

… But then he rejected me! Does this guy like me or not?

I don’t know, says our elder. But here’s how to navigate the flirtation game next time around.


Dear EWC

For a year many people told me that he (the boy) likes me but I had no feelings for him at that time. His continuous staring and blushing made me fall for him but today when I asked him on text whether he likes me or not, he refused and said I made the chat awkward! Now I think that I lost respect in his eyes and he might have started thinking that I am cheap and a spoiled girl but in reality I am really sweet and innocent. What do you think he is thinking and why did he reject me?

Purple-Finch replies

Let’s look at the title of your letter, okay? You say a boy really likes you, but if you think that through carefully, I think you have to agree that you don’t know that. You only know that people have told you he likes you. Okay, it seems plausible that he likes you, but still, people can say anything. You don’t really know what he thinks.

Secondly, I believe you did put him in an awkward position. He may like you; he may not. But regardless, I think we can decide that he is not ready to declare his feelings to you. And you asked him to. So yes, it very likely felt awkward to him.

But thirdly, before you jump to the conclusion that you are a horrible person; I would give this a big shrug and move on. It is true that right now you feel embarrassed because you made a mistake. But that does not make you “cheap” or “spoiled” or any other bad word you might think of. Right now, you may feel that everyone is laughing at you (because that is what embarrassment always feels like). But it doesn’t make it true that everyone is laughing. All of us human beings, if we are honest with ourselves, do occasionally blunder. It feels like the end of the world, but it is not. People may think about you in terms of “Whew! I’m glad that wasn’t me!!”  But they are only thinking this because all of us know we are capable of mistakes, especially in the teen years.

So, let’s let this incident drop but try to think of how we can avoid a similar event in the future. And so here comes a little lesson in flirting. The big fancy words for it are “plausible deniability.”  If you think about how people signal that they like each other and would like to know the other one better, most of us do it by giving hints (rather than declarations). The thing is: We know we like someone, but we also know that if we shout it to the world, we risk feeling embarrassed. What if the other does not feel the same? Your young man nailed it when he chose the word:  awkward.

And so instead of declarations, we drop hints that we can deny if we have to (hence the name plausible deniability). How do we give out those signals in a deniable way? Often, we avoid words. One can flirt very effectively just using one’s eyes, and eyes don’t write sentences. This helps us deny we were signaling positive feelings if we think we might need to. 

But even if we did use words, these next sentences will sound familiar to you as they are common ways of denying that we were flirting.

  •   Oh, I was just feeling friendly.
  •   I had a little too much alcohol in me.
  •   I am sure you misunderstood me.
  •   I was looking at someone else.
  •   I had something in my eye.

Do you see how this works? Flirting is risky; we don’t wish to embarrass ourselves. So we engage in behavior that only (maybe sort of) looks like it says: “I like you.”  But we don’t ever declare ourselves, nor do we ask the other to declare themselves. We want to avoid anything awkward for either side. We use techniques that let us deny we ever signaled anything.

If this explanation makes sense, then I think you will be better prepared the next time a situation like this comes up. And it will. And will the people around you stop looking like they are laughing at you? Yes. All it takes is for the next person to make a mistake. All their attention will go away from you and land on the next poor soul who has embarrassed her/himself most recently. In a way, we humans are lucky because:

  1. Most of us have very short memories.
  2. All of us make so many mistakes! 

It makes it so that no one person can be laughed at for very long. 

I know it does not seem funny right now. But in another 25 years or so, you will begin to see how funny these stories can be. You will share them with your friends. You will be so glad you are older (and a teeny bit wiser) than you were as a young person. And if you are lucky enough to have children, you can share these stories with them in order to help them through this difficult phase. Being a young adult is not easy! It is good that we can laugh, even if it takes a bit of time to learn to laugh at our own mistakes.

I hope these words have helped. You take care.

Article #: 490121

Category: Dating/Relationship

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