How To (Nicely) Stop Someone From Flirting With You

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Picture this: You're alone at the bar, sipping a drink while you wait for a friend, when you see someone giving you flirty eyes. It's sweet, but they're not your type, so you look back down at your drink. But then they're walking over and you have to quickly think up an exit strategy.
Plenty of people have encountered that situation, whether at their own bar with a stranger or at their company holiday party with a flirty coworker. And it can be difficult to figure out how to let the flirt know that you're not interested without hurting their feelings. When the person who's flirting with you is creepy, it's easy to tell them to get lost. But when they're nice, getting out of the flirtation can be a little more difficult. But it's not impossible as Sadie Allison, PhD, sexologist, author of Tickle His Pickle and founder of sex toy boutique, knows from experience. "I remember being in those situations," she says, and she was able to get herself out using several different strategies.
Ahead, Dr. Allison suggests nine ways to avoid an unwanted flirtation. Hint: It's 100% okay to lie.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Start talking about someone you're dating.

This strategy works whether you're single, dating, or hooking up with someone. The point is to let the person who's trying to hit on you know that you're not available, Dr. Allison says. If they think you're with someone else or even interested in someone else (assuming you're both monogamous), then they should back off.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Treat them like a friend.

If you've just met this person and it's obvious that they're flirting with you, then this strategy might not work. But, if they're an acquaintance you know from work or school or your friend group, then treating them like just a friend can send the message that you're not interested without having to say the words, "I'm not attracted to you" (which can be pretty harsh). "Point at a guy across the bar and say, 'What do you think of that guy? I think he's kind of cute," Dr. Allison says. "He might be like, 'What am I, chopped liver?' But you want him to know that you're totally not even looking at him in that way."
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Try to set them up with a friend.

If you've been talking to the flirter for a while and have a grasp on their personality, then one way to divert their interest is to tell them that they're perfect for your friend. It sends a message that you're not interested in them, but in a nice way that still says you value them as a person, Dr. Allison says. But be careful if this is a stranger, because they might want you to follow through with the set up, and you don't want to stick your friend with someone you barely know.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Use your friends as an excuse.

Sometimes it's fine to let a stranger flirt for a while if you're enjoying the conversation, but if someone comes over and they're laying the flirting on thick and you want no part of it, it's okay to get yourself out quick. And your friends can be a big help, whether or not they're there, Dr. Allison says. You can say that it's been really nice meeting them, but you have to go meet up with a friend, and then politely excuse yourself.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Be honest, but not too honest.

Telling someone that you're not into them is rough, so save that for the creeps or anyone who's super persistent. If you feel bad lying, you can tell a version of the truth to get out of an unwanted flirting situation, Dr. Allison says. Tell the person that you're just getting out of a bad relationship and can't think of dating right now, or that you're trying to focus on yourself, or that you're really enjoying being single. One of those things might be true for you, and they all let the flirt know that you're not interested.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Tell them you're a lesbian.

Best case scenario, you use this line when you actually are a lesbian and it's a man who's trying to chat you up. "It's a quick, easy indicator for a lot of men that they should leave you alone," Dr. Allison says. But, it's totally understandable for straight women to use this lie to get out of uncomfortable situations, too. Just make sure you're not doing anything to harm LGBTQ+ people in the process (like pretending to be gay to turn men on). And remember that homophobia is still an issue, so there could be danger in claiming to be gay.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Have a secret hand signal with your best friend.

If you're out at a party or other social event with friends, consider coming up with a "save me" sign before the night begins, Dr. Allison says. Maybe it's grabbing your earlobe or touching your nose. Whatever the signal, it's a sign to tell your friend that you don't want to be talking with the person who's flirting with you and they should come over to pull you away. (If hand signals are too difficult, you can always send a "help me" text instead.)
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Have a friend pretend to be your boo.

As part of the "save me" plan with your friends, you can choose one of them to be your pretend partner for the night, to really drive home the point that you're not available, Dr. Allison says. When someone starts chatting you up, they can come over and put their arm around you or call you "baby."
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Intentionally turn them off.

"It wouldn't be the first advice I'd give, but you could try to turn him off by doing something gross like burping," Dr. Allison says. Just be warned, some people find burps sexy.

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