A reader writes:
My partner and I are in the identical area and normally attend conferences collectively. Usually we don’t spend that a lot time collectively at conferences, touching base a few occasions all through the day (typically largely through textual content) after which having dinner and going to the room collectively, however folks 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 involved in, nor did I anticipate to know very many individuals there. I used to be fortunately mistaken on the primary half, however proper on the second — I solely knew a few dozen folks there (and consequently, few of the attendees knew my partner). Which, fantastic, I’m an extrovert, I’ll get to know new folks and it’ll be fantastic. In an trade filled with introverts, being the extrovert at a convention is usually an excellent factor and I get complimented on a regular basis for my talent in assembly folks after which connecting them to different folks they need to meet. I’ve helped a number of folks 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 looking out like he was feeling omitted. 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 speak about it. We talked some extra, he complimented an article of clothes, and I stated, “Oh, my partner purchased that for me.” Then his mates got here and so they went for lunch and I moved on to attempt to discover a buddy.
Slightly later, I noticed him and now I used to be the one standing round trying omitted, so he invited me to sit down with him within the session. So we sit and speak somewhat concerning the session, and so on. 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 occasions at this level so I used to be actually stunned 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 admire, however I didn’t know reply.
I feel he was out of line. My feminine mates assume he was out of line. My male mates (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 gaggle? And the way ought to I’ve responded to his apology? Ought to I’ve educated him about seeing girls as colleagues as a substitute of potential sexual companions?
Aggggh, I’m sorry. You not solely bought 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 someway triggered it by being a pleasant individual.
I can assure you that this man will not be 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 girls. 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 concern you’re in charge — harms girls professionally. It is best to have the ability to be heat and pleasant and meet new folks at conferences with out worrying that your completely regular demeanor (which could possibly 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 would restrict you professionally. You didn’t do something mistaken, 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 had been involved in one thing sexual. You engaged within the fully regular and anticipated motion of networking at a convention; that’s it. You talked about even your partner a number of occasions! 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 normal rule, folks shouldn’t hit on colleagues (at work or at skilled occasions) except they’re receiving Very Clear Indicators of curiosity — not simply “she is speaking to me” (as a result of that may be a regular and anticipated habits; in reality it’s the precise habits the convention is designed to facilitate) — and if unsure, ought to err on the aspect 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 girls want to have the ability to exist in skilled areas with out worrying that heat or friendliness can be taken as sexual curiosity … and, importantly, without having to fret that rejecting a dude’s overtures might have skilled penalties for them. I think that your male mates who noticed nothing mistaken 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 try to maneuver the connection towards the social realm, in knowledgeable context it’s important to do it respectfully. Meaning “I’d like to seize dinner when you’re free” or “we’ve got so many pursuits in frequent, I’d love to hang around socially after immediately’s final occasion when you’d prefer to” … not “wanna exit for drinks and see what occurs” (WTF).
To reply your final query, you’re not chargeable for educating this man about acceptable habits. You’ll be able to if you wish to! If you happen to 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 when you’d relatively not. And as for the correct means to answer his apology, something you had been comfy with was fantastic. If you happen to felt like ignoring it, that’s fantastic. If you happen to wished to only go along with “thanks, I admire it,” that’s fantastic. And when you wished to say, “Yeah, you had been actually out of line — girls are right here to community, not be hit on” or every other variation of that, that will be fantastic too.