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#521: Awkward vs. Not Really Into You – how to tell?

Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice

“”Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far from doing you any disservice, rather adds to your other perfections. You would have been less amiable in my eyes had there not been this little unwillingness…” STOP RIGHT THERE, MR. COLLINS

Hi Captain,

I’m hoping you can help me with this because you and your army of Awkwardeers are – like my crush – awkward.

He is a gorgeous gorgeous man that I work with. I’ve only been there a few months but I noticed him instantly. I did my usual thing of kind of showing off a bit around him, but he never looked at me or joined in. He hardly ever speaks at work, and he doesn’t look people in the face – he’s a really shy, geeky type and rarely comes out with us when we go for drinks.

One time he did come and talked about how he hadn’t had a girlfriend for so long, he couldn’t remember. So I thought I had a chance.

We have a shared interest and I sent him a message along the lines of “Hey, want to go for drinks and talk about Shared Interest sometime?”

His response was pretty cold – “we can talk about it at work”. I just said OK and left it.

Some of my friends think he didn’t get that I was asking him out, but I think that plays to my vanity. Is he just really, really uninterested? I know he wants to be with someone because he’s mentioned it – but should I take him at his word and leave it, or do I need to take the sledgehammer approach because he doesn’t realize I’m interested?

Thank you, Captain!

Love from,

Not That Awkward Actually

Dear Not That Awkward:

“Would you like to go out sometime?” ==>”We can talk about it at work” is a pretty blunt redirect, especially since I’m guessing that your coworker did not subsequently bring it up at work and you have not since gone out. Going forward, I would interpret all communications extremely conservatively. He knows you are interested in hanging out outside of work. He knows you have a shared interest. He has all the information he needs to follow up, or not, as he wishes. Possibly it was a face value statement – Let’s talk about this later, at work! – and possibly it was a message of disinterest. Redirecting personal conversations so that they are work conversations is what we advise people to do when they are not interested in personal interactions with coworkers. I realize this is maddening, but you’ve done what you can. The upside is that if he brings it up, you’ll know for sure that he wants to hang out. Until then, drop the subject.

Also, it bears saying that reserved people aren’t necessarily deep or even all that shy; sometimes the surface just hides more surface. Assumptions + Wishful Thinking + A Reserved Affect can be dangerously addictive crush fodder. We sometimes assume that quieter people aren’t good at communicating and need our help socially when really they are just not fitting the narrative we’d like them to. As in, maybe he doesn’t hang out with y’all at work functions because he’s shy, or maybe it’s because he runs home every night to play in a death metal band or cover his apartment ceiling with frescoes or hang out with his not-work friends.

You’ve been brave and cool and made your interest known in a clear, direct way. You haven’t been creepy….yet. So stop pushing before it gets to Firthing, or worse, COLLINS-ing. Be a normal, reassuring, non-fixated level of collegial and friendly. You’ll run into this dude all the time at work and at work functions, and if you’re meant to get to know each other it will happen naturally and organically and with equal effort from him. Stop trying to read him like tea leaves. Put the sledgehammer away.

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About JenniferP

Chicago filmmaker, teacher, and blogger.

87 comments on “#521: Awkward vs. Not Really Into You – how to tell?

  1. This is just what I needed to hear. Thank you, Captain – sledgehammer is firmly away.

    • Glad to hear it.

    • I’ve been toughing out a situation like this and the sledgehammer keeps peeking out of the storage bin, like, Are you sure you don’t want me? Really? I’m right here if you need me . . . How about now? So it was great for me to hear this validation also. CAPTAIN, we love you.

    • I’m glad the sledgehammer’s away, LW.

      Also thank you for writing UNinterested instead of DISinterested, too few people seem to know the difference! :P

  2. How about walking up to him and saying, “Hey, so I’m not sure if you realised this but I sent you that message because I’m interested in getting to know you. Seemed like a blow-off but wanted to be completely clear.”
    I like how it works for me.

    • I think that kind of thing is okay in a friend circle but not with a coworker. If someone is already feeling “ack no go away”, this is going to be worse, and you can’t do the slow fade and never see each other again at work.

    • They’re at work, so, I would not do this.

    • I can see how that would work at turning a no into a yes. Unfortunately, do you want to transform a no into a yes? It seems phrased to me as kind of, “I just wanted this reasonable thing that was flattering to you! And it seems to me that you’re being mean and unreasonable. Let me make you feel awkward about this so that you’ll say yes and spend more time with me!” At least, where I am, there’s a lot of social pressure not to say bluntly, “Yes, I am blowing you off.”

      So it’s the kind of question that might trap someone who’s not actually enthusiastic about getting to know you, but will comply because they’re afraid of making drama. Which means you’ve just wedged yourself into a relationship with a mostly-unwilling participant. Which doesn’t make for happy funtimes.

      • Ah, yes, and that leads to the “Give me a chaaaaaaaaaance!” speech that I’ve gotten from so many dudes I had zero interest in. Which makes you a total asshole for not giving them the chance, and then it prolongs the ugly rejection situation even longer.

        • “How did you two get to know each other?” “Well I don’t really like him but he pleaded for half an hour to go on a date.” Yeah, that sounds really fun for everyone. m(

    • Seconding everyone else who is against JUST MAKING SURE followup–probably even in life outside of work. You might get a yes, but you might put someone you like in the position of saying no harder.

    • Ergh, even just reading that makes me squirm. Dude gave a pretty direct shutdown of getting-to-know-you stuff; saying something like this would be a bit awkward in a social circle. At work this seems like 9th circle of Uncomfortable Conversations hell.

    • If it were an entirely social situation, I’d say sure, ask directly and explicitly, once and only once. But it’s work, so the asker should be far more conservative.

    • That’s straight into “What part of the word NO do you not understand?” territory; the people who wilfully misunderstand are being creepy at best and predatory at worst. That’s a skin-crawlingly awful thing to say to someone, especially at work, where they have to see you all the time.

    • I actually don’t dislike this idea in theory as much as everyone else seems to, but I don’t think it really works in this situation, both because they’re coworkers and because there really haven’t been any mixed signals.

      In a situation where there have been some mixed signals – they seem into you, but they’re also not around much, or they flirt with you a lot but won’t make the first move, or are always really happy to go out when you ask them but tend not to initiate, etc – I think that approach is totally fair and actually works really well.

      But here… she asked him out, he wasn’t interested. If he *was* interested in her, he’d have jumped at the chance to get drinks with her even if he didn’t realize she was asking him out on a date. He didn’t. Therefore, it’s probably safe to assume that he’s just not interested.

      • Yeah, there are situations where Ronak’s script is really helpful and useful, like you say! This doesn’t appear to be one of them, though.

  3. “Stop trying to read him like tea leaves” = best summary of this kind of situation ever. We’ve all been in a situation like this where we try to fit the signals to what we want to be true. I’m stealing this phrase to apply whenever it happens to me/mine in the future!

  4. Stop trying to read this gentleman like tea leaves, Letter Writer (which, it sounds like we’re cool), and please, Gentle Internet Commenters, stop trying to internet-diagnose him with Asperger’s. Could that be present? Sure. Is it actually relevant to the question of whether the LW should keep pushing to ask out someone who has not made any indication that her attentions are welcome ones? Nope.

    I’ve deleted several comments of this ilk already. If any make it through the net while I am out and about, please ignore them and I’ll dispatch them as soon as I can.

    • Thanks, Cap’n.

      SURPRISE PLOT TWIST: People with Aspergers are allowed to enforce boundaries too! Deciding that someone has a disability and should therefore be pressured to consent to some kind of relationship because obviously they can’t figure this stuff out for themselves and need halpful NT folks to make the decision for them is really really gross.

      • 1,000 times this. Also, “sounds like Asperger’s!” doesn’t tell you anything about this actual human being and what his likes/dislikes and desires are.

    • People are “diagnosing” this guy on the basis of not wanting a date/coffee/whatever with the LW?

      WTF, people? What the hell is wrong with him not being interested? Why is he not allowed to make his own choices? The number of letters this blog gets about people – usually women – trying to get away from creepers and NiceGuys(TM) and worse, and suddenly because an LW is a woman and a guy’s not interested, it’s okay to want to nibble away at his boundaries?

      ::headdesk::

      • +1 a million times. Seriously. Sometimes people just want to be left alone. Or don’t like other people. Or just aren’t that talkative. People can want/be all that stuff without there being anything complicated going on.

        • Exactly. Just this past week I was commenting on how annoyed I feel that as a woman, I cannot go anywhere and feel assured that no one will bother me, try to hit on me, etc. It especially annoys me when it’s obvious that I am not seeking conversation e.g. I’m working on my laptop with my headphones in at a cafe, surrounded by documents.

          The fact that he is a coworker puts him in a particularly awkward place because the LW cannot be avoided and pursuing any relationship in the workplace, friendship included, has extra risks. I generally try to avoid befriending coworkers myself, to an extent (less so with my current position), so I can imagine the awkwardness when romantic feelings are involved. I mean, just look at #519: “When your work friend becomes your work Nice Guy”

    • I am So. Very. Tired. of people assuming socially quiet = Aspergers/Autism and vice versa.

      My boys are both on the spectrum. They might not read social cues all that well but they sure as hell know when they do or don’t like somebody, and they know which subjects they enjoy talking about/obsessing over with others. I would even argue that if a person were on the spectrum, a response like that would be a Very Strong Indicator that they are not interested – not that they are “clueless”.

      Also – ASD doesn’t mean you can’t be social. It’s a complicated disorder and every individual on the spectrum is different.

      Also – apologies for the off-topic comment.

      • No apologies necessary, I had to clean out a shitstorm of this stuff as soon as I posted the question.

      • Gah. My mom once diagnosed be as being autistic because I’m usually quiet around my family. That’s because they’re all very loud people who love being the center of attention, and will stomp on any competition. It’s exhausting. I am always happy to talk to people, but I’m not a steamroller like she is.

      • I am on the spectrum, and so is one of my sons. We are both capable of deciding who we do and don’t like, and letting them know. The only way that I can see that diagnostics are in ANY way relevant would be this – a sufferer could well be hyper-reactive and need more not less personal space. So anyone who sees a soft no as grounds to go in harder might actually cause genuine distress.

        LW, please just keep things professional for now, and maybe in the future things might change. It’s his call. :)

    • I feel like mental disorders fall in the same category as intent. If you don’t know the person particularly well, then you can’t judge what may or may not be a disorder/intent. Either way, it doesn’t excuse behavior.

      One of the things I love about this blog is how clear it is. Use your words. Judge based on people’s behavior toward you, and be clear in your behavior. Protect yourself.

      I know that mental disorders can complicate matters, and they are certainly important things to take into account when making plans with loved ones or taking care of your own mental health or checking in with your therapist/psychiatrist. But I feel like it serves little purpose to try to prognosticate the intersection of mental disorders and behavior.

      Basically: I wish people would stop trying to internet diagnose other people or keep bringing it up when it doesn’t add anything to the discussion. (You’ve said it perfectly well, Cap, but this has been rumbling in my head all day and so I think I needed to put it out on the internet.)

    • Yeah. No. Remember Letter #519, in which one of the most unacceptable things the Work Nice Guy did was to pronounce the LW “crazy” for not returning his attentions? WELP!

  5. As an Awkward Guy, thank you, Captain, and thank you LW backing off. I have spent ten years in the workforce learning to be less awkward and basically being Social Enough that coworkers don’t freak out about me being unfriendly and it often means that I feel like I can’t get pushy people to go away.

    • As an Awkward Woman, I’ve spent over 20 years in the workforce learning, as you say, to be social enough that coworkers don’t think I’m uptight, or elitist, or even a chronic misanthrope. I’m finally at a place where I can feel comfortable eating lunch with my coworkers, chatting with them, and even being in social situations with them (it helps that I currently have awesome coworkers)…but I still need lots of time at my desk not communicating with anyone (and hey, I have work that needs to be done).

      And still the pushy people push and push and push, and I eventually can’t take anymore, so that I’ve acquired a reputation for acting “crazy” on occasion. Intriguingly, I’ve noticed that the pushy people aren’t as pushy with the social people as they are with me.

      Hugs to you, Jack – or fistbump, whatever you’re comfortable with – of solidarity.

      • The pushy people thing could be a case of “you are retreating so I’m going to chase you harder, don’t goooo”, which is still really inappropriate and obnoxious. It doesn’t matter whether they are anxious or just plain pushy assholes: not okay behavior. Hope you get your alone time.

  6. I think it is really, really important that we start tackling this issue of wishful thinking + burdening ourselves with someone else’s feelings, and I think this article is a great example of how to correctly deal with that.

    What I mean by this is that, especially on the Internet and in nerdy circles, there is a big push for women to initiate, to take the aggressive role in pursuing. A big part of this seems to be because geeky guys are stereotypical terrified of females and have approach anxiety, and so push their fellow female nerds to initiate more, thus alleviating themselves of the need.

    Which is all fine and good (well, okay, I have a problem personally with it when it starts leading into “girls should initiate because of equality!” territory), but as the dating trends do start to shift in the direction of girls approaching, I think it’s important that we have discussions about female “approach entitlement”: in that, just because he is a seemingly shy nerdy guy and you are a girl, does not mean he’s into you.

    In the narrative of pushing girls to approach, I think Internet guys often give off the vibe that any time a girl approaches, it is going to be successful, because of the assumption that the guy (being a nerd) must automatically WANT to be approached, and because, hey, dating is easy for girls, cause guys just want sex amirite?

    I think being able to recognize when you have made a direct approach (asking to get together), you have your part…. and if he doesn’t follow up, *that is on him.* The ball is in his court, you have been as up front as you can while still being respectful. Maybe he isn’t responding because he’s shy, or nervous, or “geeky”, or whatever. The point is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what his reason is, his reason is not your responsibility. It is not your responsibility to work around his issue. If his issue is he can’t recognize a direct approach, that is on him-and you risk twisting yourself into knots and coming across as far too aggressive/creepy if you try to make his lack of response your problem (“Well if I had only approached like THIS, he would have recognized it!”)

    In short, I think it’s good to recognize that even if it is the case that he didn’t recognize the approach and is too shy-that’s on him, and thus it’s his job to recognize and correct that. In the meantime, it’s best to follow the Captain’s advice, and be friendly without being intrusive, and drop any hope for future romantic pining unless he slings the ball back into your court.

    • Oh yeah, I’ve seen the “You’re quiet? LET ME HALP YOU” dynamic play out way too much, and it is excruciating for everyone.

    • I really like this angle on the situation and the larger dynamic.

    • “In the narrative of pushing girls to approach, I think Internet guys often give off the vibe that any time a girl approaches, it is going to be successful, because of the assumption that the guy (being a nerd) must automatically WANT to be approached, and because, hey, dating is easy for girls, cause guys just want sex amirite?”

      I’d say this stereotype extends beyond nerdy guys – there’s such a strong cultural message that guys just want sex, and will take practically any sex offered. I just ran into this myself this weekend after getting slow-faded. Even though I know better, a vague thought of “man, what’s wrong with me if this guy isn’t interested in sleeping with me?” still popped up.

      • This was something that really gave me trouble during a long spell of not-dating. The message from all sides (particularly guys my own age) was: “Having breasts means you could automatically get sex/relationships/dates/love if you wanted to, therefore your loneliness and frustration is clearly imaginary!” It can be a really painful narrative. My sympathies on your slow-fade.

        • That drives me bats. I was single for a few years, and everyone kept telling me I wasn’t finding love because I was “too picky.” I really wasn’t — I just kept striking out. And that fear of being too picky almost landed me in an abusive relationship.

          • Oh goodness yes!
            I had lack of success for a few years, which did include some time when I wasn’t trying.
            But yeah, feeling like there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t “successful” when I was looking was icky.
            I can also see how it feeds in to rape culture – its a whole “well, if you are looking, you should get” means guys interperet “she is out clubbing” as, “she must be looking, therefore I should try”

          • There is nothing wrong with Too Picky. It is also called High Standards, i.e. I Deserve Better Than This Crap.

    • This is really smart, especially recognizing the insidious way it plays into the stereotype that men just want sex so of course he’ll be amenable to you approaching! As a lady who regularly approaches and is rejected, that is not true and it’s not fair to either party in the situation.

    • You’re so spot on that I’m actually shaking my head at my own behaviour. You’re so right about “approach entitlement”. Whether consciously or not, I was thinking “he’s an awkward geeky dude and I’m a confident fun girl who some people think is attractive, of course he’ll be into me! How could he not be?!” and I didn’t even realise I was doing it.

      I wasn’t giving him enough respect to have his own opinions and feelings, I was just expecting him to fall in line with what I thought should happen. Whoever said shy guys are a blank slate that we project our own hopes onto – yeah, that. I’m a doofus.

      And thank you, everyone who’s said good on me for approaching him. This hasn’t put me off asking someone out again – but it has taught me a LOT about taking no for an answer and leaving people alone. I never want to be the office “nice guy” (well girl, but y’know).

      • Been there! Done it! Crashed, burned, blushed, know that feel! You have my admiration for the attempt, but moreso for the self-recognition here. It’s usually so hard to admit when we’ve done wrong, wince, and say “WELP. Lesson learned!” So, I want to say, good on you!

      • I’ve absolutely done it too, and made someone’s life probably pretty miserable for a while. It was excruciating to realize I’d done something very wrong, because all of my conditioning is around men always wanting sex (and a lot about my self worth being contingent on being wanted by the people I found attractive). I’m still unpacking a lot of it, but have tried to amend my behavior in the mean time.

      • I’m so glad this is helping, LW.

        I’d add one thing, as a person who’s not that keen on new people: the showing off bit can be really off-putting. Granted I’m a woman, so there’s a different dynamic if a man’s showing off (plus I’m not looking for anyone), but it’s worth remembering that sort of approach can come across as aggressive or immature.

    • THIS. So much. I have seen a lot of people saying “oh, he is just shy/confused/oblivious to your intentions, but KEEP TRYING and you will be able to put him at ease, because you guys have SO MUCH chemistry” when advising friends to either deal with clear redirects or people doing confusing things/sending weird mixed signals, and I can’t think of a time when it has ended well. In one case I am thinking of that ended particularly painfully, I spent all this time listening to my friends say stuff like “Wear him down” (wtf), which took away from what I think now I should have been doing, which is either: 1) asking him what he actually meant when he said or did [confusing thing] or 2) better yet, realizing that being confused all the time made me feel really shitty and gross and probably also meant we weren’t actually compatible enough to be together, crowd-pleasing chemistry and all.

    • Ah yes, where quirky confident geeky girls can only identify themselves in narratives as Manic Pixie Dream Girls, and that they must Talk Weird To Uncomfortable People on Trains and Aggressively Seduce Shy Menfolk with Sodapop Kittens and Knitted Rainbow Weasel Warmers in order to be Fulfilled. (The discomfort of the object of your attentions comes from their REPRESSION! Which you can unlock with UNICORNS!)

      I have checked a few squares on this bingo card.

      • …I don’t know what a Knitted Rainbow Weasel Warmer is, but I suddenly wish I had a weasel to buy one for.

  7. I have difficulty rhyming “gorgeous” with “doesn’t look people in the face” & “hardly makes contact with anyone”. People are at their most attractive when interacting with others – in a positive way, that is. My confusion probably stems from me equating “gorgeous” with “engaging”, which this man is certainly not.

    • Hey, that’s your opinion of what you think “gorgeous” is. The LW admiring this dude from afar isn’t a license for us to critique his entire personality and find it wanting. Lots of people are super-engaging around people they want to engage with, and withdraw at other times.

    • Second what Jennifer says. I consider myself pretty engaging, but my coworkers would tell you I am an antisocial bitch because I go eat in my car every day at lunch instead of in the cafeteria with them (I read and do my homework during lunch; plus it’s warmer there.) Being disengaged with people in a specific environment should not be an automatic judgment of someone’s personality.

      • And thirding Jennifer. Attraction is very subjective, despite media pressure to make one standard or set of standards define ‘attractive’ for everyone. And as a friendly, funny introvert with boundary issues? I can and have come off as aloof and unengaging–to people that I feel are being overly-familiar (ie, assuming a relationship with me that they do not have). But I understand the desire to chase, LW. I totally get it. But I’ve adopted a lovely British-ism that may help you, too? “Begin as you mean to go on”–so ask yourself, do you want to spend a potential relationship constantly chasing someone’s affection? You deserve way better than that, I think.

      • Zomg I wish people would leave me alone at lunch. Maybe I will try eating in my car……

        • I have had GREAT success with “This is my only chance to [thing], can we chat later?” and then actually chatting later. (The follow-up helps keep people you actually do like from feeling rejected.) Even when [thing] is as nonspecific as [unwind my poor overstimulated brain], they still tend to go find someone else to talk to, and if they don’t, well, I stop being concerned about their feelings at that point.

        • Ugh, I’m not looking forward to moving to an open office plan because of this. I might need to budget for eating lunch out so I can get away from my co-workers.

    • Fourthing Jennifer. First, what everyone else said. Going by that criteria, nobody’s ever looked at a photograph or painting and thought the subject was gorgeous. Wrong!

      Second, whether you think this man’s gorgeous or not is irrelevant.

      • It’s interesting that you should bring this up, because pictures are what I was thinking of in the first place. People that I find gorgeous in photographs tend to be either smiling or looking directly at the viewer. To me, both are signs of interaction. But let’s agree that this is apparently not a universally shared preference.

  8. LW, that is awesome that you had the courage to put yourself out there! My most successful relationships (including my husband) happened because I did the asking out. But there were also times when the answer was no, and it seems that’s the case here. That sucks, but it’s better than wasting months of your life secretly crushing on him and wondering if he notices you.

    Captain, I wish I’d had your sage advice when I was out there dating! Your “Firthing” post sounds so much like me (the part which occurred before you became the Amazing Dater that you are now.)

  9. Ha, this is so true about crushing on quiet people. They become a blank slate onto which you can project literally anything you’ve ever wanted in a partner. Quiet can equal “brooding lone wolf” or ” awkward and shy and needs to be taken care of” or “artistic and sensitive and deep” or any combination of the above.

    When I was at the younger end of my teenage years, I was at a summer camp and I had a crush on this super-gorgeous super-quiet guy who mainly kept to himself. I thought we had a connection because he always smiled and nodded at me when we ran into each other. At the party on the last night, I eventually was in a position to have a conversation with him and I realised the reason he was so damn quiet is that he had maybe five words of English at his disposal. Not that there’s anything wrong with not speaking English, obviously, but all my fantasies about intense conversations we were going have evaporated within two seconds. Looking back, I can’t believe how hard I crushed on this dude without ever hearing a single word out of his mouth!

    • Hah! I had a similar thing senior year in high school. I was a very late bloomer emotionally, still in the turn tomato red and run away rather than interact with a cute guy stage. Combine that with sitting next to a guy who looked like a tall Tom Cruise, who was on the football team, shake and stir. I don’t think I said an entire word in the entire year! But it was rather popped when I overheard him talking to another person about having a scare with the condom breaking. Wasn’t ready for anything approaching that, knew it, and the crush crashed and burned without ever saying a word to him.

  10. Oh LW — I feel ya. It’s hard to put yourself out there. But this guy definitely sounds like he is not into this. I’ve been on both sides. The time I was the uninterested party, it was a young coworker I was senior to (though not a direct supervisor). The authority thing would have been challenging had I been interested, but I wasn’t.
    One day, he asked me to lunch via e-mail. I was so surprised I just said, no, got deadlines today, sorry. Then he wrote again, offering up three different dates, and I realized he actually wanted a date date, not a work thing. Awkward. I handled it sort of the way your dude did. I wrote back and said sorry, I have a lot of deadlines (which was absolutely true) but that if he had ideas for the project I was supervising, he could always come to me on a break and talk about it. I already had a track record of being open to work contributions from different people. I could see him sulking for a while, but it was an out that saved face for both of us. I heard later from another coworker that this young man kept nursing a bit of a crush on me for a while, but got the message that it wasn’t happening. Thank goodness.

  11. Hi LW!

    You’re obviously a courageous person and I want to commend you for taking a chance. That’ll serve you well in the future. It was good that you contacted Guy pretty early on rather than build this whole dream-Guy up and I hope that will make it easier to say a mental goodbye to him and move on. It sounds like you have good instincts. Good luck in the future!

    The next part isn’t meant for you as much as the discussion. We want our friends to be happy and I think that sometimes takes precedence over facts. It’s more Katherine Heigl-movie to tell your friend that Dude is totally crushing on hir even when you’re not really sure. Just maybe not the most helpful or true. I wish it was more accepted to be boring and factual in these situations.

  12. I don’t have anything to add here except kudos to the LW, first for using your words and getting right out there (you go, Glenn Coco!), and second for being self aware enough to leave it alone once you got the answer, even though you would really be into making it happen. You’ve done great in the face of temptation to do the opposite of great.

  13. “We sometimes assume that quieter people aren’t good at communicating and need our help socially when really they are just not fitting the narrative we’d like them to.” Thanks for pointing this out. Not only is it a good thing for people to keep in mind, particularly in an extrovert-focused society, it got me thinking about my own assumptions about myself.

    • I’m a naturally quiet person who has occasionally Firthed at people–”I will look aloof and broody until you come and pay attention to me!” Then I went through a period of a lot of people going HI HELLO I AM AN EXTROVERT LET ME ATTEMPT TO SOCIALIZE WITH YOU when I found it really unpleasant and wished people would just back off. That taught me that really, I don’t want a societal norm of pushing past peoples’ boundaries; I just have to work harder at being brave and making the first move if I want to socialize more.

  14. I needed this! I was forced to reach a similar conclusion about a guy at work (why are they always coworkers) recently. Nope, it’s not that he’s awkward, it’s that he just isn’t interested. It’s too easy to get the response I don’t want and assume I just haven’t been OBVIOUS enough yet, but that way lies madness and much distraction from the things I’m getting paid for. :(

    Sigh. He’s so CUTE, too.

  15. So back in my youth, I sledgehammered my way into a relationship with a dude who was unwilling to be blunt with me. Oh, he was closeted, by the way, so he didn’t mind having a gf to prove to the world he was straight, but he totally didn’t want anything to do with actual me. And my refusal to listen to both things he actually said and to my own gaydar has caused me more regret than anything he ever did (or more to the point didn’t) to me.

  16. I’m socially clueless and have at various points had to have someone say to me, “That person was hitting on you,” and gone “Well dang”. With that being said, if my response is to shut someone down completely (rather than continue to interact with them obliviously), it’s either because I’m not into them even in a friendly fashion or I’m too stressed/flustered to cope. Neither one is good for pantsfeelings.

  17. I think it’s great that LW took the direct approach. Asking someone to go for coffee and talk about non-work related stuff is a pretty clear indication of being interested in getting to know someone better (not an expression of romantic interest necessarily, of course, but of wanting to interact in more ways than just as work colleagues). Not being up for that is also a pretty clear indication of not being interested in any interactions outside the work context. I feel that even people who might not react to more subtle behavior would understand that being asked to go for coffee expresses interest in hanging out with them and getting to know them better. That’s not a sign that’s hard to read.

  18. I could’ve used this so much like . . . seven? . . . years ago. Thank you for this post. It is good to have this all spelled out to read.

  19. I find it amusing that Captain chose Mr Collins up there, because it sounds like LW is engaging in a bit of Darcy-wishing. You know, where brooding and taciturn = shy and secretly awesome.
    And as Captain sort of indicated in the title, He’s Just Not That Into You is a valid state for someone to be. It doesn’t make them bad, it just means they’re for you.

  20. There are some guys who will tell you years later that they were into you and didn’t get your signals and that is frustrating, especially when you think you made yourself pretty clear. But the take home lesson is not always that you have to spell it out in letters the size of the Hollywood sign.

    Among your social group it can be worth double-checking that the message was heard and received. But at work, however the gorgeous the guy or girl, you don’t want to put yourself out there. I personally think that although work romances can work, in an ideal work you separate your personal and professional life.

    And sometimes it can help to reverse the (cis)gender of the participants. Imagine someone saying there’s a gorgeous new girl at work and they’ve invited her out for drinks and she said ‘let’s just talk at work’ or words to that effect. The Captain didn’t need that mental exercise but I think it can be useful when cross checking your conduct.

  21. Here’s my feeling:

    If you ask someone out, and you have never done anything socially before, and they are interested in dating you, they will usually say yes. If they don’t, they will almost certainly suggest a different time or activity.

    Even if they don’t realize that you’re asking them out on a date.

    If they don’t do either of those things but truly are into you, they will follow up at some other point.

    However awkward someone is, I have a hard time seeing them saying no to starting to spend time with someone they’d like to date outside of school/work.

    Just my $.02.

  22. This comment thread has helped me realize (once more?) that very often, a “No” will be expressed more softly than a “Yes”. Since saying “no” directly and openly is often considered rude, you usually won’t hear it and people will instead use redirects, maybes etc. As opposed to a “yes”, which will often be expressed quite enthusiastically. So we should in general err on the side of caution and consider that absence of an explicit “yes” might very well be a “no”. We shouldn’t push until we get a very clear “no” because at that point the other person might already feel uncomfortable.

    • Truth! Not to mention, if you work with someone and know you will have to interact with them after turning them down, of course you will try to couch the no in the least offensive terms possible in the hopes of it not becoming weird and horrible.
      There were some other things about this letter that made me uncomfortable upon rereading it a couple times – like, the LW mentioning that she’s new, she’s “showing off” around this guy, she took a fairly innocuous comment that didn’t have anything to do with her as evidence that he might be interested, etc. Frankly it sounds rather like she’s making a nuisance of herself with this guy.

  23. I’m gonna tell a personal story because it seems relevant.

    I’m pretty extroverted, spouse is on the extreme end of introversion.

    Spouse was introduced to me by a mutual friend at a party. I saw him regularly at social occasions hosted by that same friend. He would join conversions I was in, but mostly just listened as others talked.
    After a year he approached me by myself and started a conversation about mutual interests, we ended up talking for several hours and making out. I asked him for his number, and called him for a date a couple days later.

    Introverted people aren’t lost, lonely, souls in need of rescue. They’re just very conservative about investing in a new person.
    And when they do decide to invest in someone, they are perfectly capable of communicating that. With words and long, slow, gentle, kisses that make you feel like the center of the universe.

  24. Just like the LW’s awkward, yet cute coworker I also haven’t dated in some time and am anxious to meet someone. A guy I become friends with kept on insisting I go to his home but I refused. He was also too touchy and I eventually had to ask him to stop. I knew he liked me but I was just not interested. Anyway, I got the sense because he knew I was always single that that he saw it as a bigger affront I wasn’t interested than say if I dated regularly. That’s where his pushiness came into play, a sense of entitlement as though he were doing me some kind of a favor by being interested when other men weren’t. Needless to say he has stopped contacting me. I’m a bit resentful are friendship was predicated on my getting with him.

    I get the same sense of entitlement from the LW. Well, if he’s perpetually single and I’m cute and we have stuff in comment then he should date me-that mindset. I’m doing him some kind of favor saving him from his loneliness-that mindset. Except attraction and interest don’t quiet work that way. Regardless if some of us don’t date often, we still want to date someone we really like, not just someone who likes us. For others they’ll take whatever they can get even if there is a lack of chemistry.

  25. Yep, take it at face value and go with “Yes, yes it is.” He knows you’re single and interested in spending time with him, but he’s not responding in kind.

    (Perhaps I’m terrible, but I think if he is genuinely that awkward that a weird cryptic message on a dating site is, in fact, his version of hitting on you then…I would suggest backing away slowly. Either way, you should be looking elsewhere.)

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