Beautiful Sun tells us about a guy at work who's been giving her some serious mixed signals, and she's not understanding his behavior.
Here's her story:
There is this guy who joined my floor at work.
From the onset he would make a point to make sure he would get my attention by stopping and looking directly at me, nod his head and smile at me. He would do this regularly, but never speak when I would return his nod with a "hello".
He eventually started saying hello, he even stopped me while I was passing by to ask something general.
His stares would become more intense and he kept his stare when I made eye contact with him, at which point he would smile. One time when I passed by his desk he said, " l am going to bother you every time you pass by." I responded, "I am okay with that."
He would just say hello when I passed by his desk, or he would suddenly drop his phone from his hands, move away from his desk and make eye contact to stop me to talk. He would even get up from his desk frantically when I would engage in a conversation with him.
He would be standing with his hands in his pockets, looking anxious.
I would do most of the talking. Eventually, he seemed to be getting comfortable and would stop to interact with me, he also started coming to my desk to talk to me. We had interesting chats so I decided to ask him to join me for my coffee break for which he responded, "I would, but I need to do something for my director, rain check?” I responded ok.
We continued with our usual banter, I never asked him to cash in on the rain check. He then moved to another floor.
I continued to communicate with him via work email messages. I invited him to come visit me which he eventually did after a week of having left the floor. He seemed anxious when he came up to me but then got comfortable after we got into a conversation.
The next day (Friday) I messaged him asking if he wanted to meet for coffee after work early the following week. His response was, "Next week is cool with me." On Monday I messaged him to confirm if Tuesday after work was good for him to meet for coffee.
His response was, "After work or during work?" with an emoji nodding the latter. I responded with, "During work is tight for me, I guess we will keep our coffee interactions virtual, lol." He responded , "Is there something you need to tell me? Did something happen? Is everything ok?" I responded, "I just wanted to hang out, I thought you may have been interested in getting to know each other better. I misunderstood our work interactions to be more than just friendly."
He responded after 30 minutes, "I am so sorry, did not realize I was sending mixed signals. I hope you do note hate me, wow, I must sound like such a jerk." l replied, "No worries, take care." He replied, "Ok, you too."
Two days later, I messaged him to ask if he got his new job, he replied, and conversation seem to flow well. Which is what I wanted as I did not want him to think I had any hard feelings and was ok with remaining just friendly.
That same day, I was on his floor talking to a colleague and he was coming in my direction, looking at me. Suddenly, he stops in his tracks while continuing to look at me. I looked at him with a smile from the moment he saw me.
He turned away from me and headed back the direction that he came from, completely ignoring me.
Not understanding why he did this, since I am the one who got rejected, and I am the one who reached out to him to ensure that I was ok with him not wanting to pursue more. Can you shed some light on his behaviour?
There was no misunderstanding on your part, Sun. That’s how someone behaves when he’s interested in you. He was outright flirting with you!
He was enjoying it, he was having fun, but for his own reasons, he only wanted those fun, enjoyable, playful interactions during work hours. This was so clearly flirting, but only on his terms. His lack of subtlety here is huge.
When he got caught, when you called him out by taking those signals to mean something more (and I want to add, as any of us might have done!) he clarified that he only wanted to have a work friendly relationship with you. As if you were so wrong to have read his signals to mean what he so clearly meant them to say!
Let’s leave that here for a moment though, because obviously I have a strong opinion about any one who does that, particularly his comment of “l am going to bother you every time you pass by." This isn’t someone to give a second thought of, Sun. I want to make sure you get that. But the question you asked is why he’s behaving this way now, so here’s my answer to that.
The problem now is that he has to face you. Literally. He works with you so he’s going to see you and seeing you is a reminder of what he did, of how he left those signals open to misinterpretation, and that obviously feels awkward to him, even if he doesn’t say anything but simply shows you by his actions.
That’s why he’s acting strange now.
Even though you’re the one who feels the rejection, he knows that he was the one initiating those signals – and make no mistake, I’m not calling them mixed because there was nothing mixed about them!
He can’t hide behind that explanation because that’s a lot of “just being friendly” behavior from someone who isn’t interested in anything more. And he knows it. And he feels awkward about it. As he should!
This happens far too often, Sun, and it’s not fair and it’s not right and I hope you’re holding your head up high here and continue to do so. I’ve heard from far too many women who have a coworker behave like this only to leave her holding all the guilt and shame and awkwardness for believing that it was all in her head and she must have been wrong for misinterpreting it.
This is clearly a game that some men live to play; it’s up to us to not take the responsibility for this type of behavior on ourselves!
My advice to you going forward, and it’s the same advice I give everyone reading this, is even though you CAN initiate something when you’ve got someone giving you signals like this, even though you have every RIGHT to do so because we’re not living in the dark ages anymore and women can and do initiate, the reality is that being the initiator means it’s harder for you to know if he’s genuinely interested in you or simply responding to how flattering it feels to have a woman initiate conversation, or coffee, or whatever it might be.
Yes, smile back, and sure, engage in small talk or whatever else you’re comfortable with, but always remember that a lot of men (and especially married men!) have been known to flirt and engage in behavior that there’s no way could be confused with giving mixed signals, only falling back on that defense when they’re caught in that behavior, simply because they’re getting something out of it, not because they have anything beyond that to give you in return.
As so many of our conversations go back to, Sun, this is always about you determining what you do and say and how you act and behave in the only light that matters; that’s the one you can live with.
With another guy who was actually available and interested and mature enough to know that when you act the way he did, yes, it’s likely to be interpreted as having some meaning, the outcome could have been very different and more along the lines of what you were expecting.
Bottom line, his reaction tells me he’s feeling sheepish, probably a little embarrassed about his role in what happened. And he has every reason to!
In fact, it’s this very reaction you’re getting from him that confirms for you that it wasn’t even so much you who misinterpreted his actions, but it was he who engaged in some pretty poor behavior of sending signals that any woman would have misinterpreted, not just you.
I hope this helps clarify his behavior for you. Next!
What do you think about Sun's situation? Share your words of advice and encouragment and if you've ever experienced something like this, share your own story with her below in the comments!