This saying has been attributed to George Herbert.
What does it mean? I think most people can intuitively understand that coughing, no matter how quiet, is still noticed. Unrequited love is romanticized.
What I think is more interesting than the saying itself is that we try to hide these things at all. Coughing is a natural body function. Yes it can be damned irritating in an office environment, but the cough is usually trying to clean your body of bad stuff. Instead of letting the coughing happen, we try to suppress it, which may actually make the cough stick around longer. Sometimes a cough does need to be tamed slightly though as it can lead to hurting other areas of the body if it’s particularly vicious.
What about love? Why do spend so much time hiding our feelings for another person? What if, instead of thinking things like that the person may not feel the same way or inventing reasons why we aren’t good enough, we just said something like ‘I like you’ or ‘I want to do this thing with you’ or ‘You’re cute’ or really anything? Sure, they might not feel the same way. You envision things will be this magical fairytale-like event and s/he rejects you. Your happily-ever-after doesn’t happen… yet. This is far from the end of the world! It might feel like it is, but it actually frees you to find someone that truly gets you and all your quirks! Or they might feel the same and all kinds of good stuff can happen, but you get scared about what’s supposed to happen next. If that’s the case, stop thinking so far ahead and live in the moment. Nothing specific is supposed to happen at any point in a relationship, in my opinion, and life experience has taught me that it’s horrible to live life like that. There’s enough of life that is dictated for us, so why force other things? Stop doing stuff because everyone else is (especially life-altering things like deciding to have a baby). Do things when the time feels right. But also, stop hiding everything about yourself because that person that digs you needs to see you to find you.
I think I got off on a tangent. You can’t really hide how you feel about someone. Even if you aren’t doing anything about it they can tell you’re into them, but you’re coming off as unconfident. Confidence can be really sexy, and the opposite isn’t. You want them to want you, so be you and own it. Besides, you probably blather on about how amazing they are to everyone you know except them, so it’s obvious to everyone you’re into them. You act extra nice or maybe try to speak more intelligently around them and you probably come off as fake or cold. Or worse, they might think you have some dastardly ulterior motive. Just breathe and be your normal self around them.
But I know if you tell them how you feel things may get so awkward you’ll lose them as a friend. Ask yourself why you want a friend in your life that is so easy to lose?