Few years ago I was super friendly to people (in office setting), and got unwanted attention. So much so that not only I cut off that person (directly said "I am not interested"), but cut off everyone else. I was miserable.

My coworker (recently joined us) always smiles and says hello to people (even strangers she sees in the hallways), dresses up beautifully, wears makeup yet she doesn't get unwanted attention. By the way she's in her 50s, married with children (if that's relevant).

Now I wish to smile and say hello to people without someone thinking I am leading them on. And of course I wish to dress up beautifully, wear makeup, etc.

What is her secret? The last thing I want is RBF (Resting B***h Face)


  • I am female in USA
  • Easily mistaken for Beautiful Clothes in early 20s
  • Beautiful clothes meaning a colorful maxi skirt, plaids in winter and florals in summer (otherwise it's either black, blue or khaki maxi skirt).
  • The most skin I show is neck (not collarbone) and forearms (for 3/4 sleeve shirt)
  • A couple of things that could help you get a better answer: I assume you are female but can that be clarified? Where is this located? The response to an Italian would be different than the response to someone in Finland or India. Also.. your approximate age. A 20-year-old would need to take a different approach than a 50-year old would. Nov 24, 2018 at 15:09

3 Answers 3


Let's start with the most obvious question: what is her secret? It's biology.

Men and women are wired differently biologically to find different things attractive. To wit: at dating sites, women most fear that the guy will be a killer. What do men most fear? That she'll be fat. (reference) Why do I start with that? Because it's important to understand that the things women find attractive and unattractive are very different from the things that men find attractive and unattractive.

Look also at what's considered "normal" societally when it comes to dating. Older man dating a younger woman? Kinda creepy, but it happens - especially if he's wealthy. Older woman dating a younger man? There are a couple of examples, but for the most part, men don't gravitate toward older women - rather it's the opposite.

So her secret is that she's out of interesting range for most men, except those older than her. And in that case, the pool of what they consider possible is very large. Additionally, most men aren't interested in someone else's kids, until those kids are close to grown up. So that's another factor.

In short, you've got about 30 years to duplicate that.

So, to answer the second question of: how do I dress how I like, be friendly to everyone, yet not attract all that attention?

First of all, keep in mind that visual cues mean a lot to men. So... dressing like going out clubbing will signal one thing; dressing professionally will signal something different. It's easy to blame men for this, but let's stay away from blame and talk about information and facts. And a fact is: if you're showing off a lot of skin, you're going to attract attention - whether that's right or not. That said, it's still very possible to dress beautifully yet professionally. The successful women I work with do so on a regular basis.

Yet we also want to ensure that attention is circumvented and quickly. You know that you're there to work and not flirt - now it's time to send that message. It's possible to be attractive and professional - I've seen that for close to 40 years. And the clue here is in your response.

The women that I've seen to this successfully give off a vibe of "not interested". If someone is there to talk about something other than work, they quickly steer the conversation back to work. They're friendly and gregarious, yet discourage needless conversation. "Is there something I can help you with?" "Is there something you need?" "[X] knows more about this; please check with him/her" "If you'll excuse me, I have a LOT to do and limited time." "If you're going to ask me for help, I'll want to see what you've tried first" "Thank you for offering; I don't recall asking for help with this" Those aren't cruel or mean yet they send the message of "I have more important things to do than engage in conversation with you right now." I've seen that be very successful with some very attractive women (who happened to be cube neighbors) that were pleasant yet had to regularly fend off visitors.

  • "yet discourage needless conversation". I like that! I usually make lot of small talk with my two cube mates, who I work closely with. one recenly married 50 year old who says lot of things about management, politics, Asian culture and upbringing (our ancestral countries are neighbors) and another 50 year old married with 6 kids (4 human, 2 dogs). Now I am thinking because thick skull people hear me chat with them on utility companies, family health issues, confections, etc, that somehow I will chat with them, and take it beyond....
    – Marium
    Nov 25, 2018 at 12:50

First and foremost, an office is never a place for "unwanted attention" and if you receive some, it is a failure on the part of the provider of the attention, not you. You are not obliged to stop dressing the way you like, stop wearing make-up, or stop being polite as ways to prevent unwanted attention. (What's more, such techniques don't always work.)

Try dressing as you like. This may cause some people to comment on the change: "Wow, you look dressed up today!" sort of thing. You can happily acknowledge that they've noticed. "Thanks, I am trying something a little new." Go ahead and smile, greet people, and be polite. Do it to everyone, not just one particular coworker who might think that this is something aimed at them specifically. Enjoy your new more relaxed approach to the office.

If someone gets the wrong idea and thinks you're interested in them, make it clear you're not. Not by ceasing all politeness and happiness to everyone, but as you did before, by directly saying you're not interested. There are questions aplenty here on what to do if that doesn't work, so I won't go further down that road.

If dressing up beautifully, wearing makeup, and smiling and saying hello to everyone makes you happier, go ahead and do it. It is most certainly normal office behavior, and holding back from it is only hurting yourself. I don't do those things at work because I don't like doing them, not as a way to keep people from mistreating me. Like I said, it doesn't even particularly work for that. Be yourself and enjoy it. If someone misinterprets it, correct their assumptions. Carry on.

  • I like this advice.
    – Marium
    Nov 24, 2018 at 17:45

Unfortunately, a lot of people give unwanted attention despite obvious signs and even direct rejective behavior. I recommend starting with dealing with any possible advances in subtle, yet readable ways. You don't have to say "I'm not interested" but maybe if you're approached in a close manner, back away. If you have a boyfriend, mention him. If the person says something you don't like or disagree with, express it. Personally as a man, I wouldn't assume a woman is interested if she is disagreeing with me.

As for your attire, I assume you're not, and for lack of a better word, dressing provocative? It's of course your right to wear what you want, but that doesn't stop people from misinterpreting what you're wearing. But that always depends on what other people's preferences are. It also depends on what your definition of "dressing beautifully". I'd strongly argue that someone that can make you feel "beautiful" might also serve a purpose to attract attention, say a flowy shirt with midriff or generally minimal coverage (I know this is an office but just an example), a dress with a low collar, something that highlights your breasts, etc. Being an office setting, make sure you're not possibly fulfilling the 'hot office secretary' trope. Even if if a guy isn't serious about a relationship, he may still feed into something like that.

Now I wish to smile and say hello to people without someone thinking I am leading them on. And of course I wish to dress up beautifully, wear makeup, etc.

For this, I'd perhaps act a bit more generic. If you suspect someone has the wrong idea, stop giving him attention. Simply smile, say "Hi, how are you?" and move along.

By the way she's in her 50s, married with children (if that's relevant).

I think this is because unless the guys are into infidelity, mothers, and 50ish years old women, she wouldn't be a 'target'. This assumes the guys looking at you are all peers.

I assume you're acting genuinely and you shouldn't have to change your behavior to avoid unwanted attention. Unfortunately, if all else fails, you might have to modify your behavior. Be more generic in greetings (e.g. "Hi, how are you?" move along), divert your attention, don't laugh at people's stories or pay too much attention to them, etc. Keep in mind, some people have REALLY thick skulls and don't get subtle hints.

  • I think you are right. to clarify, I wear maxi skirts with regular button down, cardigan, or shirt (at most 3/4 sleeve). The unwanted attention came when the maxi skirts were more colorful, i.e. plaids and florals. You are right when you say I need to modify my behavior because people have thick skulls. one person who doesn't work with me, who recently got married wanted to be more than friendly with me. Now inignore when he says hi, and if he is one place, I purposely move far away ... now he stopped saying anything :-)
    – Marium
    Nov 25, 2018 at 12:45

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