Dealing With Unwanted Attention

The recent headlines and Saturday Night Live skit featuring former vice-president and potential 2020 candidate, Joe Biden have the Kelleher International matchmakers talking about the best ways of dealing with unwanted attention.

Many of us deal with some form of unsolicited touching, kissing, cuddling and hair-sniffing regularly. So it’s essential to explore the consent conversation.

If you receive unwanted attention, we want you to feel empowered to speak up for yourself. How you react in real time is your most powerful tool.

Unwanted attention comes in all forms – encroaching on personal space, smelling or stroking your hair, kissing your hand rather than shaking during a business introduction, using pet names, sexist commentary or innuendos.

“We all have the right to feel safe and secure in our environment,” says Kelleher International CEO, Amber Kelleher-Andrews. “If someone is leaning in and talking too close for your comfort, it’s okay to take a step back. If you want to hold your space, make a statement by extending your hand to move the close-talker away from you instead.”

Whether intentional or not, unwanted attention needs to be pointed out in real time.

Joe Biden has made statements that he’s never intentionally made anyone uncomfortable with his actions. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t stop. And the only way to change the behavior is to let the person know that it’s not okay.

Dealing with Unwanted Attention

How do you tell someone you’re uncomfortable with the attention you’re receiving?

It’s not necessary to take the unwanted attention with a strained smile while cringing on the inside. You don’t need to ghost the person or avoid them at all costs anymore. Instead, practice transparency and speak up in the moment.

Transparency is delicate in this situation and requires clarity, kindness, truth, and integrity.

Egos are fragile, and it’s best to respond to these situations intentionally. Perhaps you’re being hit on by an older man that’s uncomfortably beyond your age range. It’s possible to be transparent without bruising his ego or being rude.  

Maybe you smile and say, “You’re a lovely man and I’m flattered, but I also prefer to date younger.” If the flirtation has been jovial albeit uncomfortable, you might even throw in a side-hug with a playful, “You get it.”

Quite often in discussions, men use analogies to help make a point or create a comparable narrative the person they’re talking to can understand. So if there’s a way to use a sports comparison to get your point across, it’s worth a shot.

Ending unwanted attention means vocalizing your discomfort directly to the person violating your boundaries.

Speaking up takes courage in the moment, but it feels better than ghosting and avoidance.  The act of inaction can bring on a victim-mentality and most likely, more unwanted attention. Conversely, standing up for yourself and doing so with kindness and integrity is empowering.

Of course, no matter how clear, truthful, and kind you might be there’s always a chance the message won’t be received kindly. Be prepared for the rejection reaction.

How someone receives your message isn’t your responsibility. However, don’t get drawn into a battle of words. The calmest person in this situation has the most power. So remain calm, practice patience and remove yourself from the situation.

What if you’re on the receiving end of romantic rejection?

“I encourage you to tell a different story,” says Kelleher matchmaker Nahla Grafer. “You’re not being rejected. You’re being redirected. This person isn’t for you.”

Another piece of advice from matchmaker Lizzy Solomon, “How you show up in those difficult or awkward moments matters. If you handle rejection like a champ maybe the person will circle back to explore the connection. I’ve seen it happen many times.”

As matchmakers, one of our responsibilities is to advocate for our clients. That sometimes means we have the rejection conversation on their behalf. However, we believe it’s essential for everyone in our network to feel empowered to date confidently and speak up for themselves if they are ever dealing with unwanted attention.

If you have questions for our matchmakers or relevant insight to share with the community, please leave a message in the comments section below. Or you can always send us a private message.