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My Work Crush: Cautious or Uninterested?

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There is a guy who works in my professional circle I initially met at a conference. I was aware of him by name but never actually met him. After sitting in on the same session and hearing him introduce himself and ask a question during the session, I realized who he was. I walked up to introduce myself and he didn’t respond right away. He just stared into my eyes for what felt like forever.


My heart started to race, and I panicked inside because I didn’t have anything to follow up my introduction with. He finally shook his head and apologized saying he hadn’t had his first cup of coffee yet then handed me his card.


I went for my card only to realize I didn’t bring any. I apologized and said I’d email him. He responded enthusiastically and we kind of awkwardly stumbled through nice to meet you and goodbyes. I walked away with my heart fluttering in a way that only happens when a crush has revealed their hand. I hoped I would see him again.


Lucky me: it turns out we sat at the same table for dinner during the conference. The two of us chatted over our shared interests and people we happened to know for probably close to an hour. I honestly forgot our coworkers were at the table. He seemed intrigued in what I had to say. Eventually, my coworkers wanted to go mingle elsewhere and I followed them while still having him on my mind. Later that night my coworker pointed out the fact that he and I had chemistry as she was observing our conversation during dinner. I was surprised to hear it because I didn’t think anyone noticed our conversation. I honestly didn’t even realize the beauty of the conversation in the moment.


The conference came to an end. I emailed him that week to say thanks for chatting with me and expressed that I enjoyed myself. He responded and told me how he was looking forward to getting more involved and attending a future industry event. Months passed without either of us contacting one another. As memorable as he was, I simply had other concerns top of mind.


Another industry event came around and he was there. When I see someone I’m interested in, I immediately try and look or walk the opposite direction. I saw him talking to someone and my heart started to race. He saw me, and I knew he saw me, but I tried to pretend I didn’t see him. I continued preparing a cup of tea and sweetening it with honey. The honey started to spread all over my hands and in the midst of trying to remove it I heard him cheerfully call my name. He dashed over to me and extended his hand. I greeted him with, “I have honey on my hands. Sorry!”

He replied, “Oh. Okay.” I walked away to find a napkin and then came back to shake his hand. I think my hand was still sticky, so things were obviously going swimmingly. After I recovered from that sticky situation (hehe), he asked me how things were going and I responded by rambling on about work. He liked what I was saying and said he’d have to borrow a couple ideas. I invited my coworker over to join in on the conversation. When she started talking, I stopped to take a few breaths and realized my heart was pounding and my breathing was rapid. What was this guy doing to me?


Coworker walked away and other peers walked up to catch up with me. I pivoted back towards him and we proceeded to talk for the rest of the networking portion of our event. I felt like I was rambling, but he kept his eyes on me. Nodding head, parted lips. He gives me the floor to speak and doesn’t come across as a know-it-all or feel he needs to impress me with accomplishments. That’s incredibly attractive to me. I was so nervous but so happy to have his attention. The meeting portion of the event started and we parted ways. Coworker and I sat together and whispered about a few topics before she slipped me his card and told me I should “take care of that.”


More months passed before I emailed him with a work-related question. He gave me a very thoughtful response and we had a dialogue over the course of a few days. He remains very professional in our emails. I offered to have a video call with him to talk about our creative processes for work but left it up to him to choose a time and date whenever he was free. He told me he wanted to talk the following week. We chatted for just under an hour. We kept it professional. We talked about our work with small hints of personal details. He asked me questions and left room for me to talk in the same way he had before. There were a handful of quiet pauses. Those silent moments happened when he’d finish talking and look at me or I’d respond softly and look at him. It made me feel like my body was buzzing. Like although we weren’t in the same room, there was some sort of chemistry there. Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was all in my head. I had included my number in a previous email explaining he could reach me if he needed it. So, I tried to subtly mention that fact. “You have my number if you need to contact me.”


He replied, “Do I?” and grabbed his phone. I felt like shrinking on the inside. Did he not read the entire email? Did he not want my number? I got flustered and started to get quiet. He ended the conversation shortly after that.


I followed up our call with an email that included details of a project I offered him the chance to be a part of. In all my internal panicking, I forgot to mention it during our video call. He said it was an absolute pleasure talking to me and suggested a follow-up call if I was interested. He also confirmed that he did indeed receive the email that included my number and he gave me his in case I needed it…success. At least I thought. Weeks passed where I’d randomly wonder if I’d hear from him. I didn’t. We emailed one another for the purpose of work, but he hadn’t utilized my number. I noticed something interesting he shared online related to his work and decided to text him complimenting him on it. It was a Friday evening. I didn’t get a response from him until Monday morning just after 8 a.m. It’s almost as if he was only willing to text me back during work hours?


I thought there was mutual attraction. My coworker recognized chemistry. We talked multiple times. But he deliberately waited to respond to me until after the weekend was over. This is my first time initiating a text to a guy, so I’ve never had this happen before. I have initiated emails and now that text message.


So, it comes across as someone who isn’t interested because he isn’t taking advantage of opportunities to initiate contact with me.

What makes sense to me logically is that if a man is interested, he would respond right away. If he’s not, he’ll wait it out or not respond at all. I guess what gets me is the obviously intentional act of waiting until the beginning of the work week. Is that him communicating that he is only interested in talking about professional matters? Could it be the case he is unsure of how I feel and so he’s being cautious?

I don’t know if he’s interested but shy and cautious or if he’s just not into me. Help?

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He may not date people he works with, he may be married/involved with someone, etc. Even though you seem like a starstruck teen who just met a heartthrob and put him on a pedestal, it's not mutual. Your coworker is meddling and playing rom-com to amuse herself. Remain professional, perhaps connect on LinkedIn. Keep in mind this is not Hollywood and you are not dating or meeting on a dating apps.

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I didn’t mean to come off like I’m worshipping at the feet of this guy.

Its pretty rare that I am interested in someone. On those rare occasions, I am generally nervous & flustered. All the internal panic etc. is me getting in my head about saying/doing the right thing. I know it’s not great. I’m working on it.


I don’t think coworker meant any harm. Most times I’m oblivious when someone is interested. It has to be spelled out for me, so I tend to listen to other parties.


I wouldn’t want to mess up our professional dynamic because of my own misstep. Your advice is sound.


I appreciate your honesty and I appreciate you taking time to respond. Thank you.

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I understand where you are coming from as generally interest from someone has to be spelled out for me, too. It seems to me that you're over-analysing your interactions with him. I'd know, because I've been like that. Take those interactions as for what they are and nothing more. You might consider reading "Women who think too Much" by Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema. It's been recommended to me. It's an easy book to digest.


The issue is that he's an important part of your professional circle. Does he work for your company or in your company?

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I do tend to overthink things. I’ll have to check out that book. I’ve never heard of it.


He doesn’t work for my company. I’m avoiding going into detail because I don’t want to say too much. We are in similar roles for the same industry and because we have a shared interest, we have connected increasingly over the last few months and decided to collaborate.

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Ah ok. That changes things a bit. However, you are still collaborating together so I'd keep it professional. Get to know him first. Is he single? If he's interested in you he'll be keen to get to know you beyond a professional capacity. Bare in mind that some men are just simply polite which doesn't translate to being interested.


I'm hoping more posters will assist you. Members here have a wealth of knowledge / experience. I've learned a lot by paying attention to what they say. :D

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You share an industry, and with that comes a rep. Regardless of whether this guy would be otherwise personally interested in you or not, that rep is paramount and a priority for anyone who's worked the ranks to build it.


So, regardless of whether he'd consider you dating material outside of a professional context, your interactions with him fall within a professional scope. And he's not going to mess with that. Demonstrably.


That's why I'd skip my preoccupation with him and move my focus forward. You have your own career rep to protect, and that's a good enough reason to void him from your focus.


If the guy ever wishes to stand out to you personally, he's perfectly capable of doing so.


That's really all you need to know.


Head high, and consider dating outside of your industry pool.

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I don't think this is what you think it is.


Some individuals have naturally magnetic personalities. They are charismatic and enjoyable to be around with or speak with. It's also a skill focusing and learning to give someone your undivided attention when speaking with them.


The possibilities may seem endless with magnetic personalities but that is why they are so magnetic and charismatic.


It's part of their natural charm.


I think your friend is trying to be supportive because she knows you appear to like him but she may have also misinterpreted his charm.


Some of the behaviours you noticed like staring at you for an eternity also seem very innocent. Take what he says at face value. He's overtired.


Treat him with professionalism and mutual respect but nothing more. Don't jeopardize your career interpreting this as anything more than a professional contact and avoid evening or weekend emails. He's demonstrating that he respects his work-life balance by not responding to work emails outside of work hours. I'm sure he has access to work emails on his phone and saw your email much earlier than Monday. I tend to check emails and sometimes will draft one or two over the weekend, leave them as drafts but I don't send them until Monday.


Is it a regular occurrence for professionals in your industry to reply to work emails on weekends or outside of office work hours?


I don't think there's anything wrong with the way you handled the situation and you've remained professional at all times outside of that Friday evening email and that isn't a big deal as it happened once.


Professionally speaking, I have to ask - do you see any merit in keeping him as a contact?

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Yes, I agree about keeping it professional. He’s not married. I’m pretty sure he’s single.


I think his character and things were have in common is what made me even consider anything outside of our initial reason for connecting in the first place.


I will spend some time clearing my head and refocusing so I’m not occupied with the idea. Thank you for your advice!

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I appreciate your response. You’re right about the importance of reputation and the work we’ve both put in to be respected in our areas.

I wouldn’t want to compromise that.


I think what you said helps place my priorities at the forefront and consider what’s most important to me at the moment.

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I very well could have been overthinking his actions, and with that came a desire to kind of decode it all.


I definitely don’t want to ruin my reputation or make our working relationship a weird one.


I texted him outside of the typical 9-5 hours because of when I came across the item I saw online. We sometimes work outside of typical hours because of the nature of our jobs, but I admit I could use some improvement in the work/life balance area.


He may be a bit more balanced there and it could point to the reason he didn’t respond until the following week. I don’t want to make him uncomfortable, I don’t want to embarrass myself and I don’t want to jeopardize my job, so I’ll stop overthinking.


He is talented at communicating ideas in ways that make you care or drive you to take action. Collaborating with him has already proven to elevate my work and I’ve been able to contribute content to him that is of value and beneficial to us both.

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He is talented at communicating ideas in ways that make you care or drive you to take action.


This is great. It means you can relax and quit trying to decode him. If he wants to get more personal with you, he'll have no trouble letting you know--clearly.


Head high.

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Contribute content to him? Is he a client or a partner?


It is ok to have crushes. Just keep things in perspective like what you're doing. I'm sure your enthusiasm comes through. If he's a client or partner (you both work as a partnership), I'd err on the side of caution. I don't think you've done anything wrong at all. It sounds like he's a valuable aspect of your work and somewhat of a muse and inspiration. Individuals like that have vision and have a knack for anticipating the needs of a group or an individual before the group or the individual is even aware of what they need. If he is as intuitive and perceptive as you say, it's doubtful that he doesn't see your efforts. He's just not responding as eagerly as he may have his own reasons.


Leave out any flirting or personal questions of emails from now onwards or any text-based formats. I don't recall you mentioning anything of that sort anyway but even if he pops up one day and sends a flirty text or email, don't respond. Call him instead. If you see each other in person, you can get to know each other a little better. He may be with someone else or in a relationship. Keep the personal conversations to in-person only or phone calls if you feel more comfortable with each other later.

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He is interested in you as a work connection, not a romantic one. He doesn't contact you for months at a time. That should be an important factor. And he never has asked you anything personal - its always industry related.

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Partner would be the best description. We’re not obligated to work together, but we identified opportunities to do so and have been taking advantage of it.


That makes a lot of sense. We have been professional because we are both genuinely interested in the work we do.


I don’t get flirty with someone or feel interested in them without some sort of prompting on their part. This is different in that I thought I sensed something before the other person ever verbally expressed anything. If I’m wrong about it then I’ve saved us both the trouble of flirting with an uninterested person by avoiding any flirty actions.

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