What to Do When Someone Tells You They Like You: Navigating Matters of the Heart

Get tips on how to respond from the head and the heart when someone speaks from theirs.

Updated January 12, 2024
two people talking over coffee

Someone said that they like you. What now? Maybe the thing to happen is a panic swirl of butterflies inside of you. Or maybe you only like that person as a friend. Do you know how to respond to someone saying they like you?

Intimacy can be a little scary, but having a few strategies for what to do if someone likes you can help. Sometimes you need to buy yourself a little time, other times you're ready to jump in! Here's how. 

When Someone Says They Like You: Getting Your Bearings 

There are short-term and long-term actions that start to unfold when someone likes you as more than a friend. The mistakes people make in these situations are the subject of many comedies and tragedies alike, from Greek mythology to Sex and the City and beyond — hello, Jake's awkward confession on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

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 for dealing with affection that may help reduce the drama and jitters involved and may lead to a happy romance.

Short-Term Strategies

When a girl or guy says he likes you, it puts you on the spot, and you will probably feel like you need to respond immediately, whether you like them back or not. However, when you're in the moment, you may feel frozen to the spot and not know what to do. We've all been there a time or two. Here are a few ideas.

two people talking

Say Thank You

Regardless of whether you return the sentiment, acknowledge the person has just paid you a compliment. They were probably nervous about doing so, and that makes it all the more meaningful. The 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 diffuse some of the tension. It also gives you a chance to deal with the other short-term strategies.

Related: 12 Subtle Signs Someone Has a Crush on You

Recognize Your Gut Feelings 

You will likely have an initial reaction to hearing that someone likes you. It's usually 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 don't 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. 

Quick Tip

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.

Getting the Notification by Text

When someone reveals their feelings via text, it may be that they are too nervous to reveal it in person, or it may be that text is simply their preferred method of communication and they are most comfortable with texting. Either way, a text can be great because you can take your time responding and consider your words.

It's important not to be offended or disappointed by the method of delivery. It's true, however, that the conversation could be lacking some context clues that would otherwise have happened in person; there are important non-verbal cues that would be missed in a text conversation, such as seeing sincerity in their eyes or reaching out for an embrace.

So, how to respond? Consider one of these, based on your feelings, keeping it short and simple since it's a text:

  • "I like you too!"
  • "Thank you, but I don't think of you that way."
  • "I need some time to think about this."
  • "I'd rather have this conversation with you in person."
Quick Tip

If someone tells you while you're talking over the phone, feel free to take a natural pause before jumping in with your answer. Telling them thank you followed by needing a little bit to process is totally okay! 

Choose A, B, or C Responses 

Don't let yourself get shocked into returning the sentiment because you're surprised and don't want to hurt their feelings. You have options when someone confesses their feelings.

  • 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 this event because you can tell they like you, and you know the feeling isn't mutual. In that case, you may need to tell them in the traditional way: "I like you, but not in that way." It's better to be polite but honest if you are sure of this.
  • C is when you 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?" Because surprises can flood the brain with dopamine, it can be difficult to think clearly. If you're not sure how you feel, taking some time to think about it will be your best bet.

Long-Term Strategies

The strategy for choice "A" above is pretty simple: Live happily ever after. Or just date a while. Take things as they come and enjoy each other's company in this new light.

two people talking on a roof

Be Honest

If you have to refuse their affections, remember honesty is far less cruel than leading someone on. One of the biggest fears of telling someone you like them is you may lose them as a friend. The only way to 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 likely only lead to more confused feelings and mixed signals.

Consideration and Time

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 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 do feel.

Moving Forward — Together or Apart

In the end, no one can tell you exactly what to do when someone says they like you. When it happens, you are taking part in one of the most integral and beautiful parts of the human experience. It's easy to handle if you return their affections!

If you're less enthusiastic about dating or entering a relationship, do make sure you're gentle with their feelings whether you're taking a few days to think about how you feel or letting them down on the spot. If you're good friends, you may find you have to work a little harder to make the friendship seem natural again because the person who confessed they like you might be feeling awkward and unsure of how to proceed.

No matter how you respond, if you do it with kindness and are true to your own feelings, you'll be doing the best thing for both of you. 

Trending on LoveToKnow
What to Do When Someone Tells You They Like You: Navigating Matters of the Heart