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Gently Cluing In Those Who Can't Take a Hint

March 09, 1990|EVAN CUMMINGS | Evan Cummings is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

We all have one in our life: The man or woman who cannot take a hint.

You know how it goes: "Get together sometime? Sure. Oh . . . Wednesday night? Darn. I can't--I have to, er, uh, pick up a friend from the airport. Yeah, that's it, the airport. That's the ticket."

Whew.

You got out of it this time, but what will you do the next time he or she asks? "See 'The Phantom of the Opera' next month? Oh, darn. I'd really love to, but er, uh, I think I'm going to be in Florida. Yeah, Florida. That's the ticket."

Is it possible to reject someone diplomatically? Or if you're the interested party, how do you know when to give up?

"There is a fine line between tenacious and obnoxious," says Lynne Logan, Ph.D., an Anaheim Hills-based licensed psychotherapist who regularly appears on KABC's "A.M. Los Angeles" and national talk shows such as "Oprah Winfrey."

"Many relationships begin with one person being more attracted than the other. What usually happens is that the person who is attracted will put out feelers to see if there is mutual interest."

If a potential relationship is there, she says, both people will know it and act upon it. Most people, she maintains, if disinterested or otherwise involved, will send out a clear message. "They will say, 'I'm flattered, but I am married' or 'I'm in a serious relationship.' "

Logan admits that for some it's hard to just say no.

Perhaps you have gone out with the person a couple of times and you don't feel the same sparks he or she does. As a single, available person it can be difficult to tell the person that the attraction is not mutual, especially when it's known that you're not seeing someone else.

Logan believes total honesty is not always the best policy and suggests that "if you think you could be interested in him or her in the future, you may want to leave the friendship open." And even if you know you will never be interested, "you can still be kind and say, 'Right now isn't a good time for me to have a relationship with you. But I do appreciate your interest.' "

White lies, Logan insists, are permissible--and often more effective--than the truth. "This person may really turn you off but telling someone that you are not attracted to them is hurtful. When you open a door and then you aren't there to help them walk through it--help them process those feelings and then deal with them--you can really hurt someone."

Most people, she says, do not have the ego strength to hang around after they have been turned down. "On the other hand, there are some who enjoy the challenge," she adds. "I have seen people--men and women--who refused to accept 'no' for an answer and ended up marrying the person. They hung in until the other person realized how wonderful they were. But that is really the exception and not the rule."

If a person becomes a pest, Logan says, there is no easy way out, but there is a way to leave his or her ego intact. "Tell (him or her) you are seeing someone else or that you have reconciled with someone. Healthy people don't feel comfortable being an interloper."

People should learn to take cues, Logan explains. "If you are interested in the other person, or if (he or she seems) to be encouraging you but the relationship isn't going anywhere, try disclosing something about yourself. Talk about what you are looking for in another person. Let him or her know that you are ready to meet someone special."

Such disclosures allow the other person to reveal the same kind of information. "They'll either let you know they are interested in you or they will offer to fix you up with someone else," she said with a laugh.

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