Am I repelling guys by being shy?
November 25, 2018 6:37 PM   Subscribe

I’ve had guys literally run away from me, but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong! Please help! Snowflakes inside…

I’m pretty shy and while I don’t look like a model, I don’t think I’m hideous either. I’ve been called “cute” by guys before. When it comes to guys, I get nervous and clam up. The advice they give on how to act: smile, make eye contact, act confident, etc. I do the opposite, so the guy probably either thinks that I hate him or am not interested.

Some examples:

“Jim”: Jim worked at my first job with me. He was in another department. Jim started to make friendly conversation and I don’t know if people started to talk or what, but Jim then started to avoid me. I overheard him talking to someone else about how he had an “image” and “reputation” to uphold.

“Fred”: Fred was at another job, also in another department. Other coworkers mentioned him being quiet, but Fred once literally ran away from me. I saw him in a meeting and when he noticed me, he ran into the hallway and up the stairs.

“Joe”: Joe is in a class of mine. He seems to only approach me at my desk, when my back is turned, but literally avoids me if he sees me face-to-face. He once ran down a different hallway to avoid me- it was embarrassing because my classmates saw this and then looked at me.

Occasionally I catch him glancing at me when I’m not looking, but he won’t talk to me or seems hesitant to do so. He talks to others around me, except me.

We had a short conversation where I think he was trying to be funny, and another time I was worried about something and he said that everything would be fine. I’m not sure if he was just being nice or if there is something there. He stares at me and observes from a distance, but seems nervous when he has to be close to me.

What’s going on? It's quite frustrating because it makes me feel like there's something wrong with me- like I’m some hideous monster or something. I definitely don't smell or dress funny. There are other guys that I talk to/they talk to me (most are married/are in serious relationships) and we get along fine. The ones that I like are the ones that I’m having problems with, but I’m not sure what to do.

I’ve been on dates before- most were setups/blind dates from family and friends, but nothing that lead to a relationship.

Any thoughts or insight? Is there something that I’m doing wrong or should be doing differently?
posted by lawgirl to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's a lot of guys out there who were never taught how to behave. I think that's all there is to it.
posted by bleep at 6:53 PM on November 25, 2018 [16 favorites]

Yeah, this all seems about them. There are guys out there who will say, "I was so intimidated by you!" and, well, that may be true but their behavior isn't great. I would guess that they like you a bit, you are pretty, and they hold some esteem for you and don't know how to deal with it. But, hey, if they want to run and hide to deal with their feelings then... let them. It's not really a great idea to look for love at work anyway. It's so complicated. I think you are better off pursuing hobbies and interests or trying online dating (where everyone who shows up is at least interested in being on a date!) and see about honing your conversational skills and feeling okay with whatever amount of shyness you have. You could look for stuff online about how to be conversational. Even today, and people think I'm a real extrovert (I am not), I sometimes "prep" ahead of time for conversation openers or starters. I think about some things I did recently that I'd like to talk about and I think about some things that they did recently that I could bring up or things happening locally. Most often, I never use these but somehow it seems to sort of get my conversational gears rolling and helps a lot.
posted by amanda at 7:00 PM on November 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

There are a few things going on here.

First, it sounds like you may be shutting people out when interacting with them. That is something to work on.

But for these guys, you might be reading too much into their actions AND especially in the cases where it was a coworker, workplace flirting is so heavily looked down upon nowadays, they might have been intentionally distancing themselves.
posted by k8t at 7:03 PM on November 25, 2018 [10 favorites]

It seems exactly the opposite to me of what you describe. They seem interested but too shy to do anything about it? If you think this could be the case, just invite them somewhere to coffee on some pretext. If they're interested, they'll say yes.
posted by xammerboy at 7:03 PM on November 25, 2018

Also this may come as a surprise, but looks don't matter that much. Personality goes way further than I think that you think.
posted by k8t at 7:04 PM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

The thing I'd do differently is go find the dating apps/sites that other people in your general age bracket are using in your city, and look there. It's not 100% impossible to meet the right one in class or whatever, but these days it's very improbable. The kind of guys who are trying to pick up classmates are not actually the kind of guys you want to date. Knowing that everybody's on the same page as far as being romantically interested will at least make things a different and more mutual kind of awkward. And, lord--by today's dating standards, what do you even know about these guys? Don't go trying to do the psychic "but what does it mean" thing on near-total strangers. It could mean anything.
posted by Sequence at 7:13 PM on November 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

It is going to be very, very difficult to move from being classmates to dating, unless you're an undergrad who lives on campus and has lots of other opportunities to interact. It's unwise to date at work. (I infer from the length of time that you've been on metafilter that you're in your mid-twenties or older.)

You don't know these guys - they're virtual strangers, randos. They're not friends. You have no idea why they say what they say and you're not ever likely to find out. You have extremely fragile and tenuous connections with them and you're putting a lot of weight and interpretive force on these connections, which is why you feel so bad about them.

As an adult who has lived in the world for many years, I will say that it's vanishingly unlikely that someone stopped talking to you at work because of his "reputation", and fairly unlikely that a normal young adult in a work situation literally ran away from you. It's far, far more likely that in your anxiety you're connecting unrelated events. Like, I've had a lot of jobs, and I cannot imagine someone running away from a colleague in a professional setting. That is frankly bizarre. In fact, if either of these men actually, literally ran away from you as you stood in the hall at work or in your professional program, they need help. I cannot overstress how strange this kind of behavior would be in a work setting - it's not an adorable quirk, or a sign that something is wrong with you or a sign that they are just so, so shy. It's a sign that they can't understand and follow basic rules of work behavior.

I would suggest finding some other way to meet people - volunteering, film society, meet-ups, sports, going to every party to which you're invited, etc - so that you have a wider range of non-work and non-school relationships and so that you can build more friendships and get practice with low-stakes interactions with others. A big part of your problem here is that you're putting so much weight on very subjective things like people's body language, why you think they talk to you in class, etc. Probably another problem is that you're meeting people in settings where normal friend-building conversations often don't happen.
posted by Frowner at 7:14 PM on November 25, 2018 [33 favorites]

@k8t "it sounds like you may be shutting people out when interacting with them." Can you explain more about this? (Not quite sure what you mean...)
posted by lawgirl at 7:21 PM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Men aren't born with social skills either; you just happened to run into a couple of some severely lacking in that department, but that might just be bad luck.

So based on the understanding that the much liklier explanation for these occurences is sheer coincidence, if I had to look for a pattern, I'd go with xammerboy's theory: Your own shyness might make you especially attractive to socially awkward men, who hope they can bond over your shared lack of ease in social situations - unfortunately, they are apparently too awkward to handle the attraction gracefully.

Unlike xammerboy however I wouldn't necessarily recommend taking more of an iniative yourself in these cases, because I also think that this behaviour is very unprofessional and immature and should be read as a sign that these people are just not ready for a romantic relationship. That's, of course, assuming that your description of these events is somewhat accurate, and not clouded by, say, social anxiety on your part.

Also always important to consider: people showing ambivalence about their attractions is not always due to shyness - someone might catch themselves flirting with you somewhat inadvertently (sometimes the heart is faster than the brain) and frantically backpedal/pull the brakes, because attraction alone is not a sufficient reason to pursue a relationship (especially in a work context), and their brain does catch up to them at some point. None of that reflects badly on you; it's all about them.
posted by sohalt at 11:49 PM on November 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

Just want to point out that the weird reactions you are noticing are the reactions of awkward, kinda rude people and don‘t tell you anything about the reactions of socially versed, respectful men.

If it‘s true that you‘re not looking people in the eye, answering in monosyllables etc. you are sending „leave me alone“ signals. A mature man who is respectful and kind would react by politely giving you space and not talking at you anymore, probably not approaching you again in future. Those are subtle things you wouldn‘t notice.

You‘re only noticing the outliers!
posted by Omnomnom at 4:25 AM on November 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

More on shutting people down, or at least a couple of ways it can happen. I'm rather introverted myself, with a little social anxiety and I suspect a few missing social skills, and I've missed out on a lot of opportunities for friendship and romance because of this.

People want to talk to someone who seems to want to talk to them. If people try to talk to you and you don't look them in the eye, don't ask follow-up questions, don't show interest in continuing the conversation - they will assume that you don't want to talk to them and will leave you alone (most people. Someone who thinks you want to be left alone and persists in talking to you is likely an asshole).

I wouldn't worry too much about these guys or read too much into their behavior. If anxiety or depression is at the root of your shyness, work on getting it treated. Work on friendly social interaction outside of dating contexts.

On preview, what Omnomnom says.
posted by bunderful at 5:06 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with Sequence and Frowner - you want to find a way to make friends and get dates that doesn't involve your workplace. In the #metoo era, a lot of people are conscious of sexual harassment at work and want to keep workplace encounters strictly professional. And with blogs like Alison Green's Ask A Manager widely read, there is more awareness of the pitfalls of workplace cliques. So, people are keeping a professional distance at work.

Make friends and potential dates by volunteering and socializing, not at work. Most cities have tons of volunteer opportunities. Get involved in a community garden or with your local political party. If you like a sport or activity, find other people who like hiking or running or softball and form a team.

For dates, I've heard Tinder is the most widely used among younger people and isn't just for hookups. You can also try Bumble, or speed-dating if it exists where you are. But it is really, really the best thing to find people who are also looking to date. You don't know if a coworker or classmate or that cute guy on the bus is single, available, and/or interested.

As for the guys who acted weird - they could have poor social skills, or didn't want to get involved with a coworker (probably this is what Jim meant about his image and reputation), or were just rude, or any number of things. But that doesn't matter - work is for work, not finding friends or dates.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:59 AM on November 26, 2018

so the guy probably either thinks that I hate him or am not interested.
There's a pretty straightforward way to demonstrate that you're interested in a guy: ask him out. No man worth talking too will be offended by the invitation. The worst possible outcome is flattery and a gracious change of topic. (Which might very well be because the guy is gay, or monogamous and married, or otherwise uninterested for reasons that have have nothing to do with you.) That's not a bad outcome. You can still be friends.

Looking coy and waiting for guys to hit on you was a viable strategy in the 1890s. Unless you're into historical cosplay, it's completely absurd and self-defeating anachronistic nonsense today.
posted by eotvos at 9:28 AM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Take up biking... mountain or road. Find a meetup or a local club. Tons of guys there who will gladly help a newb, and who knows where that might lead. Chances are there will be a women's chapter too.

I suggested biking, because it's dude-heavy. You don't have to :-) If you pick an activity, though, there'll be some ready-made conversational opportunities, which is much easier than trying to make random chitchat in chilly territory like work.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:52 PM on November 26, 2018

Joe ran away that day because he had a big zit.
posted by at at 7:46 PM on November 26, 2018

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