Am I friendly or am I flirting?

women

Am I friendly or am I flirting?

Do you know that when you are actually just nice and friendly and have a good conversation and then that is interpreted as flirting either by the other person or by the outside world? As a woman, this is of course super uncomfortable and it is even worse in a professional context. A few weeks ago I conducted an interview in which I was exposed to exactly this situation. My interviewee was a similar age and the photos looked like we were on a date, even though we only had a very technical conversation. I felt terrible, although it wasn’t even he who misinterpreted the conversation, but the outside world. But how could I put that right?

Had I been unprofessional?
Why am I telling you this story? The reason I’m writing a text about it is because I was shocked by what immediately happened in my head. I was ashamed. Because immediately I questioned whether I had flirted with him. Had I sent him the wrong signals? What would my colleagues think when they see the pictures? Would you find me unprofessional? Had I been unprofessional?

I listened to the recording of the conversation, but no. I had asked my questions, I had been kind, I had agreed, I had encouraged to elaborate. I knew when to probe, when to tease or provoke. I did my job. And I did it well. I would have done all the same if he had been a woman.

Successful women are dogged
But that spiral of thoughts, that panic, made me think: Why was I so afraid of someone thinking I’d been flirting with them? After all, it wouldn’t have changed the bottom line, a good interview. Why did I expect to be judged for it and most importantly why did I immediately judge myself?

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The more I thought about it, the more I realized it had to do with my socialization. With the idea I had of successful women. These were badass. dogged. Ambitious. These didn’t smile their way up. And if they did, then maybe they didn’t deserve their promotion. Then maybe they had slept their way upstairs.

Being kind goes too far
It shocks me that as a feminist woman I haven’t discarded these thoughts yet. Worse still, I immediately dumped them on myself, going so far as to embarrass myself. I knew what the situation was like. After all, I was there. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. What was he thinking about me, I thought. I realized that as a woman I had been taught that any smile could be misconstrued. That every kindness could be a request, that being kind is the new questioning.

Good with people
This text is an appeal to us women, including me, to be less ashamed of ourselves. Some situations, some jobs require kindness. A waitress won’t be popular if she only treats women kindly, and a clerk will lose sales if she only smiles at more women. I would definitely get fewer good answers and my interviewees would be less open if I automatically cross-examined every man.

This is not about men getting special treatment. Or you should flirt in a professional environment to get what you want. Not at all! Instead, it’s about the fact that men are people to be kind to, too. Sometimes a smile is just a smile. Sometimes the fact that you laugh at a joke just means the joke was funny.

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It should be irrelevant whether the person on the other side is male or female. Many women are more emphatic, more compassionate than men and easier to confide in. These are our strengths. Why do we feel ashamed about it and not just accept that we are good with people? Not with men. But with people.

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