I don’t like him like that

**I'm having trouble seeing comments. Apparently others are too. I've alerted Boston.com. - M (at 9:30)

Don't be harsh. She loves your opinions (see last line) ....

Dear Meredith,

I'm sure you hear this all the time but ... long-time reader, first-time writer. I could really use some unbiased advice. I have been at my job for a while now. I love and respect everyone I work with. There is one gentleman, we'll call him Alan, that I work with very closely, every day. I enjoy working with Alan and sometimes don't know what I'd do without him (at work). I always assumed that we had a very friendly, professional relationship.

Recently, Alan had started giving me small compliments here and there. I thought nothing of this at first, as we were always so comfortable with each other. I never reciprocated these compliments or lead him to believe that they were appropriate whatsoever. I kind of just ignored them and pretended they never happened. I have to say, we work well together and get compliments all the time on how we make a good team. But lately, it's become a little uncomfortable for me. He ended up buying me a gift, but again, I graciously accepted it, saying thank you, and that was it. I don't want it to sound naive, but I truly thought he was just being a nice friend.

As I said at first, I just brushed off the compliments, either pretending they never happened or assuming he's complimenting me at my job. But then it happened. He told me how he felt, basically telling me he wanted to be with me and asking how I felt about him. Since this wasn't directly in person, I've chosen to pretend that it never happened for now. But eventually I have to tell him my feelings. I do care for him as a colleague and friend, and I'm terrified of losing what we have. I don't want to lose our great working relationship, but need to tell him that I don't feel the same. But again, I do not feel the same way at all, and don't want to keep this weird question up in the air between us.
How do I respond politely, without hurting him, but letting him know that I'm only interested in a working relationship? Any help you could give would be very appreciative. I know your readers can be harsh after reading what they say every day, so please let them know that I love their opinions and would truly love some guidance on how to deal with this issue.

Thanks in advance!!

– Work Friend And Nothing Else, Boston

You have to tell Alan how you feel, WFANE. Like, now. The rejection is going to sting, but this waiting around has to be worse. I assume he sent you some sort of note about his feelings, which means you can respond in writing. (That also gives you a paper trail, just in case things gets worse at work.)

Tell him that you love your work relationship and want to keep things platonic. Apologize for not responding immediately, and explain that you've been anxious about the possibility that you might lose him as a friend. Tell him that you hope to have a relationship that's fun and supportive without being confusing.

Sometimes we can ignore problems (and people) and hope they go away. But you see this guy every day. This problem requires action. You have to be braver about confrontation and honesty because your silence is creating more problems. The longer you ignore this, the weirder it's going to get.
Put Alan out of his misery so he can start adjusting to reality.

Readers? Can she just ignore this problem and hope that Alan will get the point? What should she say? Is there any way to talk to him about this without ruining the work friendship? Should she do this in person? How long can she wait before having the talk? Help.

– Meredith