Intimacy can be scary, and figuring out what to do when someone tells you they like you is just the tip of the new relationship iceberg. Emotions can make dealing with this difficult – but here are some strategies that may help.

Here’s What to Do When Someone Tells You They Like You

There are short-term and long-term processes that have to happen when someone likes you as more than a friend. The mistakes that people make in these situations are the subject of many comedies and tragedies alike from Greek mythology to s*x and the City.

There are no real hard and fast rules for human relationships, no matter how many books and TV talk show hosts may like to pretend otherwise. However, there are some guidelines to dealing with affection that may help reduce the drama involved and may potentially lead to a very happy romance.

Short Term Strategies

Say Thank You

Regardless of whether you return the sentiment, acknowledge that the person has just paid you a compliment. They were probably very nervous about doing so, and that makes it all the more meaningful. The very first thing to say is “Thank you for telling me!” It’s simple, it’s polite, and it sets a tone of conversation that can help defuse some of the tension. It also gives you a chance to deal with the other short term strategies.

Go With Your Gut

You will have an initial reaction to hearing that someone likes you. It will be very immediately positive or negative, and easy to tell. About five seconds later, though, the analytical mind will start to examine and tear apart this initial reaction. That’s fine, it’s there to protect you, but never forget that initial reaction. If you don’t like someone, but try to talk yourself into it (“He’s rich, he’s handsome, everybody else likes him!”) you are almost certainly going to end up miserable. Likewise, if you do feel attraction to someone but start criticizing the feeling (“What would my parents think?”) you are setting yourself up as your own antagonist. You don’t have to tell the person how you feel right away, but recognize your initial reaction as being one that is true. You’ll examine that later.

Choose A, B, or C

  • A is when you like the person, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to tell them. If you’ve been thinking about how much you like them then this is exactly the time to tell them: “I like you too!”
  • B is when you have been worried about exactly this event because you can tell they like you, and you know you don’t return the flirtation. In that case, you need to tell them in the traditional way: “I like you, but not in that way.” It’s better to be honest if you are sure of this.
  • C is when you really aren’t sure and when it comes as a surprise. There is nothing wrong with saying “Thank you for telling me! Wow, that’s a surprise. I need some time to process this. Can we talk more about it later?”

Long Term Strategies

The strategy for choice “A” above is pretty simple: Live happily ever after. How to do so is not always as easy to figure out, but luckily there are many articles with relationship advice.

If you have to refuse their affections, remember that honesty is far less cruel than leading someone on. One of the biggest fears of telling someone you like them is that you may lose them as a friend. The only way to possibly avoid this is to set and keep personal boundaries in how you spend time together, and how you show the ways you do like each other. To muddy the waters will only lead to more confused feelings and mixed signals.

If you are taking time to think about it, make sure you make it a priority. Try to find a place and time when you can focus on your actual feelings. Make sure that you differentiate between what are true feelings and what are outside voices trying to convince you of what you should feel, rather than what you actually do feel.

In the end, no one can tell you exactly what to do when someone tells you they like you. When it happens, you are simply taking part in one of the most integral and beautiful parts of the human experience.