Melissa and I have been working in the same office for about six years now. As her best friend (I’d like to think that’s true) , I’m often the guy she comes to for advice about things she feels will unnecessarily bother her husband. So, the other day when she asked me “How do I make our coworker stop flirting with me?”, I was taken aback because that was something I did not expect.
But, as her best friend at work, I wanted her to feel like she was in a safe space. Moreover, I knew her husband all too well and did not want the beautiful couple to go through something like this. But, one fine day, she told me “My male friend keeps hitting on me!” and, when I asked her who, it was somebody from our office.
One Day She Told Me – “My Male Friend Keeps Hitting On Me!”
I remember their wedding day like it was yesterday. She was wearing an A-line peach wedding gown that complemented her style really well. The wedding was a simple gathering of only close friends and family. She was trying to curtail the flow of her tears when for the first time I noticed her ring. It was a perfect ring for the perfect day. A large black solitaire dazzling through her delicate long fingers. For a week, we heard stories of the ring and how happy it made her.
“It reminds me of him every time I look at the ring. It’s a metaphor of our true love which I wear as a jewel. But it’s clearly more than a piece of jewelry for me. It defines our marriage, which started with the simple wedding”, she said to me while looking down at it.
It’s been three years since their wedding day. She still carries that ring in her heart and on her finger. Today, when I met her, for the past ten minutes she was tossing the ring on and off her finger. I knew there was something disturbing her. After a few minutes, I couldn’t resist asking her if everything was fine in her married life. “I know something is bothering you. Aren’t you guys happy? Is your marriage in trouble?”
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She replied that everything was going smoothly in her marriage, and there was no problem there. But I knew that something else was going on and was frantic to know.
I pressed her to tell me what was wrong
I insisted and finally, she spoke, “My husband is a kind and humble man and I am in a happy marriage. He loves me as he did on the first day we decided to be together. I wonder if all men can be the same.” She told me that there’s a colleague who works in a different department of our institute. They became instant friends after their first introduction at a workshop. I knew who she was talking about. I’ve often seen her with him in the cafeteria.
“What about him?” She replied, “It’s been more than a year now since we became acquainted. He knows me inside out. Initially, I thought it was just his jolly nature but now it’s getting overwhelming these days. I need him to stop flirting with me.”
I interjected, “What is getting overwhelming? He’s flirting with you?”
“Yes, he is! His flirting and the constant approach is getting really annoying,” she answered. “He knows how much I love my husband and how I feel uncomfortable with other men flirting and passing comments on me. Yet he never retreats from his approach. How do I make him stop flirting with me?”
I advised her to be direct
I asked, “Why haven’t you ever told him bluntly?”
She said, “He is a senior fellow and the most reputed one in the institute. You know that too. I genuinely respect him for his work and capabilities. I dare not say anything to hurt his reputation or use any rude comebacks for unwanted flirting. I once tried to hint that I have utter dislike for flirting, even if it is healthy or otherwise. I’ve told him several times how I love my husband and the ring which is a constant reminder of his adulation. But he never ceases to follow me.”
“Did you ever enjoy it? Maybe it’s just healthy flirting?” I asked.
She looked aghast when I said that to her. “I’m asking you how to get a guy to stop flirting with you and you are here telling me that it could be harmless? I know the difference between what is harmless and what is not”, she said in an annoyed tone.
She continued, “Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of attention? But I never knew that a little attention would turn into lethal attraction. Initially, I did not take it too seriously. Until once when I invited him home for dinner.”
She did not know how to deal with a flirt and invited him to dinner
“You invited, what!” I reacted. “You just don’t know how to deal with a flirt, Melissa. Why did you do that? But go on.”
“Yeah, I regret it now. I wish he could just see that there is no mutual attraction here. But listen carefully now. I invited him over for dinner one night. He was very cordial and formal that night. He talked with my husband as if he is just a friendly coworker. I’d never seen him so sophisticated before. The entire time, he stood at least a few feet away from me. He chose a chair on the opposite end of the dining table instead of snuggling beside me as he always has done in the cafeteria.
“My husband was very impressed with his behavior and respect toward the boss and women colleagues. That night, I realized that he behaves way differently with me when we are at work. He cracks silly jokes which sometimes are vulgar and borderline mean. I knew then that it’s not healthy flirtation anymore.”
“Should we report him to human resources?” I asked out of concern.
She refused to report him and had another idea
“No! That would sabotage my image and maybe even married life,” she replied.
“So what do you have in mind? Are you going to avoid him? Even if he wasn’t flirting with you, I’d say that he’s the type of man you should avoid.” I suggested.
“I’ve changed the screensaver of my cell phone to a picture of my husband. I will keep the screensaver mode on whenever we sit down to talk. Maybe that will restrain him,” she said.
“A screensaver? How do you think that would be helpful when your flashy ring could not even the trick?” I frowned.
“You never know. Sometimes men are just men. They neglect the importance of the ring and think it’s just a piece of jewelry. Maybe a stupid gadget screensaver can save my peace,” she shrugged.
Being direct is not rude or impolite. If you want to say, ‘Please stop flirting with me’, then do it without a second thought. But if you think that is too blatant, then perhaps try to hint that you are not interested in looking for anybody at the moment. Consider slipping something like, ‘Oh, I’m just not available to date as of now’ in your conversation.
Try not to lead them on. It will only lead to a series of flirty text messages and then ghosting on your part which can all get a bit too messy. Instead, when it starts happening, recognize their advances and put an end to it then and there.