What to Say When You Get Unwanted Attention

walking-312087_960_720We recently received a question from Victoria living here in the U.S., in New Jersey, who wants to know how to tell a man to stop bothering (annoying; troubling) her. She wants to know what she can say to him to make him stop or go away.

I’m not sure what kind of unwanted attention Victoria is getting, so I’ll try to cover (address; discuss) a few different scenarios (situations).

A common type of unwanted attention that people get, especially women, is verbal (spoken). For example, sometimes women are shouted at or called out to (spoken to in order to get one’s attention) by groups of men, something called a catcall. Several websites giving women advice on how to deal with this situation give common sense (general understanding that most people have) suggestions: avoid eye contact (looking into another person’s eyes); walk with purpose (quickly and with a clear destination (place to go)); and ignore (don’t show awareness of) these shouted comments. One site suggested shutting down (ending an interaction or conversation) someone by not laughing at his jokes, responding in any way, or showing annoyance or anger. So in these cases, not saying anything in any language is probably the best move (action).

Another type of unwanted attention women get is physical (involving the body). For example, if you’re on a crowded (with many people close together) train or bus, you may have someone stand too close to you or touch a part of your body. If that person is actually holding on to you, the most common thing to say to make them stop is, “Let go (of me).” If that person is simply too close to you, but not actually touching you, use the phrase, “Back off,” which means “Move away so you’re not so close.”

We use “back off” in other circumstances, too, that don’t involve physical closeness. For example, if you think a coworker is involving himself or herself in your work in a way that is not acceptable, you might tell them to “back off“:  “I told James to back off when he tried to talk to my clients.”  Or, “Anna’s father tries to make her decisions for her and she is trying to find a way to tell him to back off without hurting their relationship.”

Finally, if the unwanted attention is someone hitting on you (showing you in a obvious or direct way that he or she is attracted to you romantically or sexually), you can be very direct (clear and frank) by saying, “I’m not interested.” But more commonly, women simply say, “I have a boyfriend” or “I’m in a relationship,” although not everyone agrees that this is the best strategy (plan). However, this usually gets the message across (communicates) that you are not available (not single).

Well, Victoria, I hope I’ve given you a few ways to deal with the unwanted attention you’ve been getting. If any of you reading this have more suggestions that don’t involve causing physical injury (hurting someone), please add them in the comments below.

~ Lucy

P.S. My sincere thanks to those who sent me birthday wishes here and on email. I appreciate the kind thoughts!

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12 Responses to What to Say When You Get Unwanted Attention

  1. emiliano says:

    A difficult question for a man or boy to talk about as we are not females but it is really something very interesting
    to think what could we, men, do if we were in those situations.

    Being in a dislike situation I use to have bad temper and use to cut it inmediately so what may I do being a girl or
    a woman?.
    First, if he was too close to me and touch me, I could say aloud in the way that everybody round the man and me
    could listen to my voice saying him let go of me, back off or even bee off here nasty man, that saying has to be
    strongly said in the way averyone look to him and he has to be ashamed of what he was doing.
    Second, if he doesn´t touch and he is only too close I could see the form or make are movement and put distance
    from him or if it is not possible say back off firmly to be understood quite well by him and other.

    The first situation you told us Lucy, the best I think is doing what you have said that I think could be a right form
    of act just walk with purpose and ignoring all of them.

    Last situation I do think it is somehow most easy of acting just saying not I am not interested in you directly or if
    you don´t want to hurt the person just say “thank you dear but I am engaged or become engaged already” it
    is too late for you, just a pity my dear friend, but thank you again.

    Well I am engaged already and sometime I had have to say that being a man not a woman.

    No only girls or woman have been through that difficult situations dear Lucy.


  2. Dan says:

    Hello everyone.

    I would say that if the guy doesn’t respond to common reasoning she could use a very powerful ally that anyone nowadays has in their pocket and that is our phone of course.

    She can secretly record video or audio of what’s going on and then use those wisely.

    I am going to confess that sometimes I do the headlights to certain women walking on the streets.

    Is that bad?

    Thanks Lucy.

  3. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    I think it is so embarassing for a woman having a male trying to touch her body parts. My advice to men is that they can be nice with the women by saying” hello, sweet girl, I would be the happiest man in the world if I could have your attention, but I don’t mean to bother you.” Sorry about that.
    From Brazil

  4. emiliano says:

    This subject reminds me the time I was young man and I was working in the Bank and lot of young women and men were
    working together in the Head Office.
    Twice at least it was necessary for me to say, sorry dear but I am engaged and I can´t do anything without my wife
    knowledge, funny but true.

    Of couse it was difficult as they were nice female fellows and we were together several hours with great confidence
    and camaraderie, how to say that without disturbing a good partner relation, difficult quite difficult I know that.
    Even I could remember another situation in wich I was doing extra hours, getting money for that, I have to stop doing
    extra work in the evening just for the same situation.
    My surprise was when I received a call to my bank´s branch of the girl I was trying to put a lot of distance just
    to evit any kind of tentations.

    Ja, ja, yes the girl was really beautiful and I was pleased with her large and suspicious affection, so the best
    for my own and Cuca respect was putting a lot of distance between the possible problem.

    So dear Lucy, not only girls or woman have to pass sometime for complicate situations working with fellows from the
    same or the opposite sex.
    Big offices gives lot of sexual oportunities that some men or women grasp without calculating the damages in
    their own life or family responsabilities.
    Along more than thirty four years working in a big Bank I have seen nearly everything about these kind of
    love/sex affairs.


  5. Tania says:

    Dear Emiliano, glad to see you again among us! I am waiting for new poems.
    You used to write us everyday.
    Living in a small town, I have no interesting news just if I read something special and I need to tell you all.

    I like to read about your habits from every country.

    Best wishes,


  6. Tania says:

    Thank you for the good advices regarding what to say when you get unwanted attention.
    I think that all pass through this kind of situations.
    We are lucky if we can solve them just with “Back off”, or “I’m not available”.
    Sometimes it’s about rape or crime.

    Best wishes,


  7. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hello, Emiliano. Good point. I know how it is to work beside gorgeous women, sensing their smell, looking at their eyes, listening to their voices. I had this experience when I worked at a big company with female co-workers. However, I had to keep in mind that it is desrepect to try something on them in workplace. The rough situation is when one of them try to get on you. Very embarassing to say no.
    From Brazil

  8. emiliano says:

    Tania, it is easy, you told me write again please
    and here I am.

    Even more, I do think it is good for my own old
    mind, just to write in English a nice and very
    good exercise for a tired mind like this one of

    Years ago I could read that learning a different
    language it is one of the best task a person
    could do to have our mind in good form.

    I think it is true, and being just a little lazy
    it sure I was not doing my tasks about
    mind health.

    So, yes Tania, I am in a good disposition
    to write again here my blog too, and
    it could be that your words touch me
    directly to do just what I am doing now.

    Some time I am a little afraid of writing
    something it could look sad, but I am
    not that way, not at all.
    But could remember Lily or other telling
    me don´t be sad or just don´t be a little
    depressed, but I am not and I don´t
    want to alarm my friends here in
    ESL blog.

    Again, thank you dear Tania, you has
    been always a let motive to write some
    of my words you call poems.
    Are they? I don´t know but there they
    are being sincere at least, just what I


  9. emiliano says:

    Aecio, you are right, but I need to tell you something that help me
    always to go through these situations.
    Cuca, my wife has been my best friend to tell her everything, even
    these kind of questions that usually could be really difficult.
    Doing that she has been always my great help and we have been
    walking together along the long way of life.
    Going ahead together and solving all the problems that have been
    over there in our life of good friends.
    Friends, partners, spouses, parents and lovers.
    That´s all.

  10. emiliano says:

    Where is the sun,
    where is the sky,
    where is my love.
    where she has gone.

    Far away from home
    you need to go
    what can I do
    when you be not.

    Too much to feel
    too much to think
    not now but soon
    she will be not home.

    Without you I must go
    extrange I will feel
    inside these extrange walls
    when you will be not.

    Sooner or later Cuca will be not here at home with me, I try not to think too much
    about it, but ahead it is the real fact.
    What will I do, not any idea but it is sure that the house will be not home any
    Multiple Sclerosis is making it´s bad work inside her and after resisting me for
    a long time at last it has been necessary to ask for a nursing where she could
    receive a good care.
    Doctor said me that once and again, so finally after talking with the social assistant
    and listening to her I gave my arm twisted and have done what they told me.

    May be a year of waiting, six months, I don´t really know but little my little my
    mind is accepting the idea of letting her going out home.
    In some way it is possible she could be better than here but not me that start
    to miss her before the fact happens.


  11. Peter says:

    Susannah Mushatt Jones, 116, passed away Thursday in New York.

    And she kept steady diet of eggs ,bacons fit break fast

    A learning guide member


  12. Peter says:

    The steak episode is a juicy episod indeed 🙂
    Guess what
    I m a New York steal from Metro which is a grocery emporium store.

    They must carry newt York steaks
    I like my steaks pink on the inside and brownish on the outside
    So when I m cutting through the meat blood runs out

    Man , my mouth is all watery just thinking about it.

    A learning guid member


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