Men kept mistaking her kindness for flirting, so she asked the internet for advice. It delivered.
You’ve got to “own your own ‘no.’ ”
There's a dilemma women face that most men will never understand.
When a woman is nice to a man she has just met, they often misconstrue her kindness for a sign of sexual attraction.
A study published in Psychological Science found that men who are shown pictures of women misidentify their body language and facial expressions as sexually suggestive 12% of the time.
This poses a huge problem for women in customer service.
Reddit user XochiquetzalRose is having such a problem with men misinterpreting hr kindness for flirting, she asked the online forum for help:
"I work at a grocery store. I have excellent customer service and im really empathetic. Im kind and i try to make every 30 second - 5 minute interaction with a person a good experience for them…
I'm starting to feel a little upset though because some of my regular men... older, sick, sad... have become too comfortable with me. They needed a kind ear but now they seem to feel it means more. They make comments about going out, or do i have a boyfriend or “nothing sexual" but…"can we be friends, can i have your number?" When i know the “nothing sexual" isn't their true intention.
It hurts my feelings because, can't i just be kind? Can't we just be humans in this together? Why must it turn down that path...
Do any of you experience these sort of interactions? I don't want to close myself off from being an empathetic person, but the way the tides have been turning... it's becoming exhausting."
The post was a huge hit on Reddit attracting nearly 2,000 responses in the first 16 hours. More importantly, it provides some great advice for women who want to be kind to men but don't want them to think they're are being flirtatious.
Here are the 11 best responses:
"I’m very much like you, but I don’t work in retail anymore (thank god). My optimistic take on it, is to be honest and gentle. 'I’m flattered but I don’t give out my number. Thank you for the compliment though!'
If you want, you can hide behind imaginary boyfriends, or store policy, or not owning a phone, etc. But for me, owning my right to say no, without needing an excuse or an apology was very liberating.
You don’t owe them anything. You don’t even owe them a thank you for hitting on you. ( I only say thanks when the person is really polite and it genuinely flatters me) . And if it seems daunting at first, practice what you’d say in front of a mirror, say the words aloud and listen how it sounds. Find phrases you like and repeat them until you own them.
There’s no need to compromise.
Edit: spacing + when I say gentle, I mean at first, and for those polite and genuine. If someone insists, you can tell them you’ve already answered, and they should respect that, and don’t hesitate to call them out on their harassment. Being nice and being meek are two very different things."
"God, this is so real. I never realized how important this was until recently. I had a stalkery guy who would NOT leave after a party, even though my friends insisted he leave ahead of them. He lurked outside my apartment and called and texted asking if he could come back up. I told him all manner of "No." Said I wasn't interested. Told him to go home. Until eventually I gave up and texted, in response to his repeated calls
'I can't pick up the phone because I'm on the phone with my BOYFRIEND.'
At the time, it was a lie (although I currently am dating the guy I was on the phone with lol). But he went away. I was SO PISSED that that's what it took. And that he unquestioningly accepted another man's dominion over me, when he wouldn't accept a simple, "I'm not interested." Guh, it still chaps me.”
"I worked in retail for most of my years in college. I started as a cashier and eventually moved into a stocking position. I worked in a resort community where there were many older people who were usually rude, acting like taking to you was a waste of their time.
Well while working there I was touched and awkwardly hit on almost weekly. I helped someone out to their car and they called me cute the entire time and asked me to get in their car. I had someone offer me a tip try to put in my pocket and then played with me while their hand was in my pocket. I was probably 17 for this one. My ass has been slapped, chest rubbed, and crotch grabbed multiple times. So I understand where everyone is coming from. The only difference is, I’m a man and had older women do all of this to me. I told my management about it and they usually laughed saying 'your a guy get over it’.”
"And it's funny, even when you decline politely they'll try to turn it around on you and make you the bad guy. I was having a drink and reading alone recently when a man came up to me and asked me if I smoked/offered a cigarette.
Me: "No, I do not, but thanks"
Him: "Oh, well can I can sit down with you and talk?"
Me: "I'm really focused on my reading right now, and don't feel like talking. I appreciate the offer though, you can even sit here to smoke if you want."
Him: "...Well fine. I figured you'd want the company"
Guy was flustered walked away for a bit, but made to sure to get my attention as he left, "I'm going to enjoy that cigarette now!"
Obviously not the worst interaction in the world, but definitely made me chuckle how entitled this guy felt to talk to me."
"I have 'The Look' I give guys who can’t or won’t take a polite no. I can’t always control it, but I try to use it as a last resort. Years ago I was working retail and a customer was being an arse, and I looked away from him and The Look slipped out while I was looking in the direction of a friend. She saw The Look and ducked!! After the arse left she came over and asked why I was so mad at her."
"Goodness, you could have been writing this for me. I work with the public and have a lot of regular customers too (banking) and I always try to get to know people a little bit. I'm in my mid 30's and have a lot of older men start to become inappropriate after I've been kind to them. I have learned to curb their unwanted behavior to a degree and still be able to keep them smiling. I started replying with some semi-sarcastic come backs and they usually don't know what to say. Example
Old man : you sure look nice today
Me : thank you
Old man : and you're always so sweet to me! (this is where I can sense it's gonna shift to being inappropriate)
Me : well, being helpful and happy is why (Bank name) pays me!
I know it's kind of stupid, but it changes the conversation and makes it harder for them to continue down their path. Just remain firm in saying no to their requests for 'friendship' and phone number requests. (when I get asked for my phone number I write down the bank number and say, you can reach me here!) Good luck, OP. Don't let the pervs get you down.”
"I worked in retail and feel your pain OP. It got to the point where I had to be walked to my car after shifts as male customers would wait outside for me. It was horrible.
It's retail. My job involved being nice. You want a block of cheese, here it is + a smile and "hope you enjoy it, thanks for shopping with us". You want a lottery ticket? Here it is + "hope it's a lucky one for you, have a great evening". You want to tell me your dog died? "I'm so sorry to hear that. He had such a wonderful time with you, and I do believe in the Rainbow Bridge".
I give the same service, and same chat, to all customers. Yet the amount of men that latched onto it as "she smiled and said have a nice day, she must want to fuck me".
Approaches went from nervous "I really like you, will go out with me?" and phone numbers scribbled on receipts, right through to stalkers waiting after my shifts.
There were the ones that would hold back until no other customers were around so they "could have you all to myself" and the ones that waited for the queues so they could announce ownership of me.
I loved my job, but too many male customers treated me like a whore. Like their purchase of a packet of fags bought them the right to have no boundaries with me. Really unhappy memories."
"I worked at a grocery store and I’d get so pissed if men did this. There is absolutely NOTHING appropriate about a 50+ year old dude hitting on someone in their 20s. It’s disgusting, entitled, and beyond creepy.
As soon as they’d do it, I would become extremely cold to them. They want to make me uncomfortable? I’ll make them feel every bit as awkward as I do.
And then they would hit on the fucking underage baggers who were usually 16. That would really send me into a rage, I always wanted to call them out for pedophillia. Disgusting.”
"Hotel industry. This post has sparked a rant here, and I'm sorry. The gist is I relate so very much to this.
Helping a man in his late 40s? find a steak house for him and his friend has lead to a confession of love (I'm an idiot for giving out my number; he kinda tricked me and I fell for it). A shuttle drive to the airport lead to a guy constantly asking for dates (he gave his business card, I thought for a job opportunity).
I actually just gave my PSN after chatting video games and mentioning I cant find a competitive group for R6 Siege and am now realizing that this is probably a bad idea. Shit. I also just got a business card for what I thought is another job opp but this may also be a bad idea. Shit.
I think I'm I guess nieve? Because I try to be nice to everyone since most my life many werent nice to me... and I keep thinking that folks arent shitty just to be proved wrong time and time again. Yet I keep hoping for good in this world. I really need to not give out my information regardless of circumstances. I'm just desperate for actual friendship. And because I'm relatable, mildly attractive, a nerd and a fitness freak, it always always turns into this weird fucking affinity for me where I'm now "theirs" somehow? As if checking them in and handing them roomkey cards makes me somehow their future wife.
But it's also my job to be nice to folks. I'm not flirting, I'm moderately terrified of the idea of being alone with a man again, I'm just tryin to make their hotel stay start off with a smile. And yet, chatting about work woes or making a laugh or two or helping find stuff to do in the city (read: starting that smile) makes someone think I'm out to date them even when I explicitly say I'm not, I dont, I dont want to.
The worst is if I explain that I'm transgender. It either gets worse as I am no longer woman but now a fuck object that they have to have physically or it gets worse because I am now disgusting and they werent actually interested in me and I'm a piece of garbage that needs to kill myself. Like, look I've tried. Believe me, I want to. It didnt work, and now I feel like shit for being nice to a psychopath that didnt take a hint that's gonna ruin my life for a while.
... sorry. I relate to this post on the deepest of levels."
"I think you can give good customer service and then immediately detach to continue doing whatever other work you can find so that they don't have as much of a chance to monopolize your attention and create a narrative of friendship (or more) in their heads. I work as a barista and can see the potential for this issue in some of my customers, especially because my coffee bar isn't usually super busy so there's often time to talk to individual customers for several minutes if I feel like it. The second things start to feel overly familiar or sketchy in any way, it's "well hey, have a good one, gotta get back to work!" or whatever and without giving them an opportunity to answer, I start cleaning something, answering the phone, stocking supplies, etc. It sucks that people take basic human kindness the wrong way sometimes, but that's the unfortunate reality we're living in, so it makes sense to protect yourself where you can by withdrawing from the people you can see becoming problematic.”
Although I’m a stripper. But every single night I work without a doubt, a customer asks for my number or for me to go home with them. I too am incredibly kind and love to talk and flirt and listen to people’s problems. But you’d think that men would realize I’m working when I’m interacting with them. NOPE! They want to take me home, they say “we have a special connection”.. it doesn’t matter how old too. I’ve gotten this reaction from men in their mid 30’s to old ass dudes too, and I’m only 25! It’s really kinda sad to me when this happens because even though I’m a nice and personable stripper, they don’t seem to realize I’m doing this for their money."
This article originally appeared on 09.21.18