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Are they really interested or just being friendly? How Should I Respond?

Wave Art
12 Oct 2022
3 minutes read
The Able Mind
Mental Health Assistance and AdvocacyBuilding ResilienceLifestyle & Mental HealthSelf-Care and Coping
Are they really interested or just being friendly? How Should I Respond?

Have you wondered how to know when someone likes you?

Do your friends often say that someone likes you, but you are never sure about it yourself?

Has someone said they had a crush on you, and you wondered how come you never knew?

Meeting someone for the first time is very exciting. There are a lot of possibilities, and we find ourselves preparing how to present ourselves, and what to say to them. There’s a mix of enthusiasm and tension. Even after a positive first impression, we may find ourselves pondering about the things we said and did and wondering whether they want to build a connection with us or not!

1.    Beware of the ‘Liking Bias’: As humans, we have inherent biases that impact everything we do. Research from the West indicates that we tend to underestimate how much other people like us - a ‘liking gap’. There are several reasons why this happens:

  1. Cognitively Demanding - Even when apparent to everyone else that another person is interested in us, it is difficult for us to notice this as we tend to be more focused on ourselves and what we say.
  2. Internal Monologues - We are our own greatest critics! We tend to be self-critical and negative, especially when we meet someone for the first time.
  3. Fear of Rejection - Since we run the risk of being rejected in any conversation, we can be reluctant to show our interest out of a valid fear of our feelings not being reciprocated.
  4. Politeness- We tend to use politeness to not reveal our true feelings.

 Just knowing that such biases exist can help us go easier on ourselves. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and reflect on whether there were any observable behaviours or obvious goof-ups that they may have noticed about you. It is likely that you will judge yourself more kindly next time!

2.    Observe the Signs: While it’s not easy to interpret what is not said, there are some small things we can observe to gauge how someone feels about us and what their intentions may be. It’s important for us to get better at doing this so that we can minimize misunderstandings, avoid misleading a person and not damage the relationship. Here are some signs to look out for:

  1. Body Language - When someone is interested in us, they tend to be more open in their gestures and make more eye contact. They often lean in towards us and actively listen & attend to us. Some people may also have emotional reactions when they see someone they like- such as blushing, visible signs of nervousness, including wiping of perspiration from their faces, butterfingers, slight non-intrusive, more than usual touching of the hand/shoulders etc of their person of interest and so on.
  2. Efforts - A person who is interested in us will want the conversation to go deeper to get to know us more. They try to search for new conversation topics and find things in common. They will act more composed & attentive to our needs and try to match our energy at that moment so that we notice them more easily.
  3. Investment - They will find ways and means to invest time and effort into building a meaningful relationship with us. They express interest by reciprocating our actions or initiating new ones, that would make us stand apart from the other people in their life. For example, not going for a friend’s party to be with us because we are not well, knowing fully well that there could be teasing and other consequences of this choice
  4. Discussing Relationships - They will also be more open to share  those aspects of their lives that are private to them… for example their relationship with their family, other friends, past disappointments in romantic relationships etc and tend to elicit the same information from us. They may be okay to talk about their past romantic escapades and ask leading questions about similar experiences from us. They may also indicate indirectly that they are single and available.

3. Respond Appropriately: Okay… now that we have discussed the indirect ways in which affection/ romantic interest is often expressed subtly… what should we do/ say when someone tells us directly that they like us? Finding out that someone likes us can elicit a wide range of emotions within us - like feeling delighted, confused, uncomfortable, curious, or even sometimes, disappointed.

Here are some ways in which we can respond to their interest appropriately:

If you like them back: “I like you too. I’ve been feeling this for a few weeks now, so I’m glad you had the courage to say something. How long have you felt this way?

If you don't reciprocate their feelings: “Thank you so much for being honest with me. I respect your feelings; however, I like you as a friend, but I do not see or feel anything romantic between us”.

If you need time to process: “I know you just told me you liked me, but I’m not sure how I feel. I might need some time. I don’t want to rush into something so important…

There will be a day when somebody is going to find you and when that happens, you’ll be ready to find them too. Until then…. work on getting to know yourself better!

 If you would like more customised tips on how to help you navigate relationships further, then do connect with our counsellors at The Able Mind who will guide you on how to be in healthy, fulfilling relationships.

- Article by Counselling Team of The Able Mind (Manoj T., Harsh S. Sood, Sakshi Hiremath & Sheryll Rayan)

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