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I used to be hit on at a convention … was I too pleasant? — Ask a Supervisor

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A reader writes:

My partner and I are in the identical subject and normally attend conferences collectively. Usually we don’t spend that a lot time collectively at conferences, touching base a few instances all through the day (usually principally through textual content) after which having dinner and going to the room collectively, however individuals know we’re married.

I lately attended a convention with out him there. I used to be talking on the convention and in any other case would most likely not have attended, as a result of whereas it’s throughout the identical trade, it’s a special sector and I didn’t anticipate there to be a lot that I might be curious about, nor did I anticipate to know very many individuals there. I used to be fortunately incorrect on the primary half, however proper on the second — I solely knew a couple of dozen individuals there (and consequently, few of the attendees knew my partner). Which, nice, I’m an extrovert, I’ll get to know new individuals and it’ll be nice. In an trade stuffed with introverts, being the extrovert at a convention is usually a very good factor and I get complimented on a regular basis for my ability in assembly individuals after which connecting them to different individuals they need to meet. I’ve helped a number of individuals discover new jobs with a well-placed introduction.

So, I’m strolling round at break and I noticed a person sitting alone, trying round and searching like he was feeling ignored. So I paused to speak to him and ended up chatting a bit. He requested about part of my work I’m fairly enthusiastic about, so I sat down to actually discuss it. We talked some extra, he complimented an article of clothes, and I stated, “Oh, my partner purchased that for me.” Then his buddies got here they usually went for lunch and I moved on to attempt to discover a buddy.

A bit later, I noticed him and now I used to be the one standing round trying ignored, so he invited me to sit down with him within the session. So we sit and speak a little bit in regards to the session, and many others. He then says, “Hey, you actually chatted me up, wanna exit for drinks and see what occurs?” I had talked about my partner a number of instances at this level so I used to be actually shocked and principally simply stated, “That’s not what I’m right here for, and I’m actually specializing in talking later this week, so I’m simply going to be in my room within the evenings” and we left it like that. He later apologized for making it awkward, which I recognize, however I didn’t know the right way to reply.

I feel he was out of line. My feminine buddies assume he was out of line. My male buddies (together with my partner) assume it was completely okay as a result of he took the no with grace and didn’t push again and apologized afterward. However I discover myself second-guessing my actions — was I too pleasant? Was I too outgoing? Ought to I cease networking with males? Solely community with males in the event that they’re in a bunch? And the way ought to I’ve responded to his apology? Ought to I’ve educated him about seeing ladies as colleagues as an alternative of potential sexual companions?

Aggggh, I’m sorry. You not solely received hit on in a context the place you shouldn’t have, however now you’re caught in that terrible cycle of questioning whether or not you by some means brought about it by being a pleasant particular person.

I can assure you that this man is just not second-guessing himself and agonizing over whether or not he misinterpret you or offended you or whether or not he ought to cease networking with ladies. Which is a disgrace, as a result of frankly he ought to cease networking with everybody (women and men) till he’s capable of cease assessing colleagues as potential sexual companions. However that’s not going to occur.

The factor that particularly sucks is that the cycle you’re in proper now — the second-guessing and the fear you’re accountable — harms ladies professionally. You need to be capable to be heat and pleasant and meet new individuals at conferences with out worrying that your completely regular demeanor (which may very well be an identical to that of any man there) will invite undesirable advances. You shouldn’t must curtail the networking you do due to that fear — and giving in to that might restrict you professionally. You didn’t do something incorrect, and but you’re the one questioning whether or not to take probably career-harming actions in response.

To be clear: This was all on him, not you. It doesn’t sound such as you gave off any indicators you have been curious about one thing sexual. You engaged within the utterly regular and anticipated motion of networking at a convention; that’s it. You talked about even your partner a number of instances! This man wasn’t responding to indicators from you; on the contrary, he was responding to his personal pursuits, with complete disregard for yours.

As a basic rule, individuals shouldn’t hit on colleagues (at work or at skilled occasions) until they’re receiving Very Clear Indicators of curiosity — not simply “she is speaking to me” (as a result of that could be a regular and anticipated conduct; in actual fact it’s the precise conduct the convention is designed to facilitate) — and if unsure, ought to err on the facet of not making colleagues really feel they’ve been sized up sexually, as a result of that’s not what most individuals are there for, and since ladies want to have the ability to exist in skilled areas with out worrying that heat or friendliness will probably be taken as sexual curiosity … and, importantly, without having to fret that rejecting a dude’s overtures may have skilled penalties for them. I think that your male buddies who noticed nothing incorrect right here don’t get this as a result of it’s not one thing they’ve needed to fear about personally.

Furthermore, if somebody is assured they’ve seen indicators of mutual curiosity and is going to aim to maneuver the connection towards the social realm, in an expert context it’s important to do it respectfully. Which means “I’d like to seize dinner in case you’re free” or “we’ve got so many pursuits in widespread, I’d love to hang around socially after right this moment’s final occasion in case you’d prefer to” … not “wanna exit for drinks and see what occurs” (WTF).

To reply your final query, you’re not answerable for educating this man about applicable conduct. You’ll be able to if you wish to! In the event you really feel moved to set him straight, you’d be doing the world a favor. However you will have zero obligation to take that on in case you’d somewhat not. And as for the suitable method to reply to his apology, something you have been comfy with was nice. In the event you felt like ignoring it, that’s nice. In the event you needed to only go along with “thanks, I recognize it,” that’s nice. And in case you needed to say, “Yeah, you have been actually out of line — ladies are right here to community, not be hit on” or every other variation of that, that may be nice too.

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