Are you making your crush uncomfortable?

There's a fine line between being direct and intrusive with romantic interests, and knowing the difference is key!

18 June, 2024
Are you making your crush uncomfortable?

Ladies, this is a non-rhetorical question: How many times have you been hit on and felt uncomfortable? I get it, they’re just trying to have a conversation...and what if they’re genuinely interested in you, right? After all, you don’t want to come across as uptight.
But let’s be real, when a random person saunters towards you, it is more awkward than endearing. It then raises a question: Do we really know how to approach someone without making it weird? 

Just about two months ago, I was sitting in a hotel lobby, waiting for my ex-colleague to show up for an after-party. To kill time, I did what most of us do—started scrolling through shorts and reels on Instagram.

“Hello!” A voice pierced through, bringing me out of my digital reverie. I glanced up to see a girl in a sharp pantsuit. She couldn’t have been more than a couple years older than me. Before I had the chance to introduce myself, she beat me to it: “You look beautiful, by the way.” 

Now, normally, I wouldn’t feel weird about this. It was a compliment. I’ve got them from drunk girls in club washrooms (IFKYK—those compliments are the best) and from female colleagues—and they are totally fine. But this felt different. As we started chatting, she painted a vivid portrait of herself: her profession, pursuits, and hobbies. She wouldn’t stop until my colleague interrupted her...I had to leave. 

The next day our paths crossed again at the concierge desk. “I’ve to thank your colleague...” she said, siding up against me with the widest grin, “...if she wouldn’t have taken so long, then I wouldn’t have met you.” That’s when it hit me like a rogue wave slamming along the beach—she was flirting with me. 


For the first time in my life, I was caught in a same-sex attention situation...I’d never been hit on by a woman before, and I obviously was unaware how to handle it. What if I was leading her on? I needed to tell her I wasn’t into girls. 

When I mentioned my disinterest, she nodded and smiled. I thought she understood...until she didn’t. As soon as I reached home, she started texting me at odd hours, sending messages that felt inappropriate. Suddenly, it felt like I was starring in my own rom-com nightmare. I couldn’t understand...why was a woman acting like a random pushy guy? 

Let me be clear—I don’t paint all men and women with the same brush. However, this incident reminded me of a guy from my university who pulled a similar stunt, leaving me feeling like a deer caught in the headlights. 

These experiences were a reminder that romantic cluelessness knows no gender. To get some perspective (and to know if I wasn’t the only one), I reached out to a few friends. Nitya* tells me, “There is a stereotype that women never mean what they say, which is why people often disrespect boundaries.” Sheena*, who faced a similar issue, seconds this thought. “It is important to know what you’re feeling and get that across to the other person,” she adds. Hormaz* recalls an experience when he was hit on by another man. “If a person says no or if you can tell that they aren’t enjoying the attention, you should stop immediately! I get nightmares from this stuff; it’s not to be taken lightly.” 

Relationship therapist Kasturi Mahanta addresses the fine line between being direct and intrusive in romantic interests. “When we’re romantically interested in someone, it is crucial to know the difference,” she says. Mahanta suggests expressing your feelings clearly while respecting your crush’s boundaries. “Avoid bombarding them with messages or showing up uninvited—that can come off as intrusive.” She mentions that non-verbal signs such as eye contact, body posture, and proximity, etc., are key; if someone seems uncomfortable or unresponsive, take a step back. “Understand that they have the right to their own feelings. Being direct isn’t about pressuring them. Consent is key.”

Ekta Khurana, a psychotherapist, mentions that the depth of the person’s engagement in the interaction is a key indicator. “Genuine interest often involves sustained attention, active listening, and reciprocal communication.” She adds that one should “start with casual conversations to gauge mutual interest before expressing romantic intentions and should avoid manipulation or pressure.” Observing the other person’s body language and expression can also offer insights into their comfort level. Khurana adds: “Signs of comfort may include relaxed posture, open gestures, genuine smiles, and maintaining eye contact,” whereas discomfort could manifest “a tense body language, avoidance of eye contact, crossed arms, or attempts to create physical distance.” 

Image consultant, soft skills, and communications coach Dr Shivani Sharma highlights the importance of listening to verbal signals in communication. “Pay attention to the tone of voice,” she advises, adding, “A relaxed, calm, and steady tone indicates comfort while a monotone reflects discomfort.” Dr Sharma also notes that signs of discomfort can include stammering, speaking quickly, and using many fillers. She emphasises that being an attentive and effective listener is imperative.


Then, what should you do if someone with a different sexual orientation approaches you? Mahanta advises to start by acknowledging their interest rather than getting repulsed or overwhelmed. “Many straight individuals have limited exposure to queer and non-binary people, and what we don’t understand can scare us and lead to premature judgments. It is natural to feel a range of emotions when approached by someone whose sexual orientation differs from your own.” She suggests approaching the situation with an open mind and a willingness to understand. Be transparent with the individual and express any feelings of discomfort or confusion that may arise. Similarly, Dr Sharma suggests being polite and straight in stating your sexual orientation. “Never mislead,” she says, adding, “Express gratitude and make sure you set boundaries with kindness.” 

“It is an opportunity to understand ourselves better and become the best versions of ourselves,” shares Khurana, reflecting on moments when we unintentionally make others uncomfortable while showing our romantic interest. Mahanta echoes this sentiment, suggesting developing emotional intelligence. She believes that by understanding our own emotions and those of others, we can foster constructive interactions and build healthier relationships.

So now, if you find yourself sliding into DMs or having a heart-to-heart IRL conversation, you know what to do, right!?

*All names have been changed.

Illustrations by: Tanya Chaturvedi

This piece originally appeared in the May-June 2024 edition of Cosmopolitan India.

Also Read: Is stack dating your key to finding the one?

Also Read: Should you have a probation period when you start dating?