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tl;dr: I want to talk with a female coworker for clarification of recent interactions.


About me:

I'm male, 27's, obese (not morbid) and with a grim-serious face expression. I'm introverted. In my previous work positions I didn't really have any romantic or friendship interests with anyone. If someone looked at me in the street, they usually avoided eye-contact, so as I.

After quitting my last job, I read a self-help book where it basically instructs to smile, be happy and be grateful with God and life. With this new approach, I not only tend to smile more, but be more open to salutations, ask about how day is going and basically go to work with a smile - an honest, not-fake smile. This job is good in the economic sense and I literally prayed for it as I was unemployed for two months and I was getting worried about the near future.

Backstory:

Now I've been working in a company for 6 months. Sometimes during lunch, I notice a female coworker who works in another department (on a different floor of the same building).

At first, there was eye contact (usually because I just tend to look towards where there is movement) and I never thought it was a problem - the company's culture asks its workers to be professional and friendlier. My new outlook on life falls in line with the company culture.

Only during lunch times and when I pass in front of her department's floor, I tend to look to see if she's there and make eye-contact with her while I'm entering of leaving the building.

I think that she keeps the eye-contact with me but in a more subtle way; however, when she ends her lunch and leaves and despite my efforts to not look at her for avoid making her awkward, sometimes we have a short eye contact or not at all.

When we would make eye contact in a serious but nonthreatening manner. Originally I didn't smile at her, but I decided that I probably should. After a few days of trying, I noticed that she now avoids eye contact with me and I think this is due to a few days of smiling at her while walking to my desk.

The Halloween day, her department dressed in costumes while some other floors didn't or few other personnel made the same thing. That day, I was eating my lunch and when I saw that she was leaving, I looked and smiled at her - in my way, it was for demonstrate I'm a good person and I just want to smile at her -, but when she kept walking, not only did she avoid eye contact she also stepped back and hid behind another female coworker of hers so that we couldn't see each other. I stopped looking at her and continued my lunch.

I'm trying to think of a way to approach her and to apologize for making her uncomfortable.

Situation:

Given her negative reaction, I perceive that I have acted with poor manners. Along with an apology, I would like to explain my side - how I am just trying to be friendly:

  • I don't know her name or her coworkers' - we work in different departments.
  • I really don't know if this is the right step to make.

After reading some related posts here on IPS and thinking for days about this matter, I would like to know your thoughts/answers about how I should be handle/approach this situation.

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    Welcome to IPS.SE! I made a pretty extensive edit to your post to improve the readability. Feel free to edit if my rewording changed the tone of what you were trying to ask. – Lux Claridge Nov 4 '19 at 14:42
  • @LuxClaridge thank you for your welcome and for improve my question - it looks better, but, - I would leave the following parts: "This post is kind of large in content [...]", "I'm introvert (*and not much has changed so far*).", the third paragraph of "backstory" section, but I don't know how to do this. This is not a complain and I hope I was clear and polite enough - it's just how I express. Thank you and I think this is better for future readers so, maybe I'll try to re-add the quoted text :) – user-858870-1 Nov 5 '19 at 1:05
  • No worries. It's your question so it's not rude to ask for it to be worded how you want it. :) You can follow this link to edit your question. I deleted the disclaimer on your length because your question is pretty average in terms of length for questions on this site. – Lux Claridge Nov 5 '19 at 14:17
  • OP, what outcome are you hoping for? if your desire is simply for her not to feel uncomfortable, you could simply stop looking at her. I think there is something else going on here, but you haven’t stated it. Are you hoping to open the door to something more? – John Wu Nov 7 '19 at 22:25
  • @JohnWu you're right about I think there is something else going on here - it is not easy for me to stop looking at her - only short eye contact, I must to say. I can't say I have a crush on her, but, not everyday you can have these "feelings" in your heart. - for the scope of this question, I only hope that "if given the change" we can talk for know her name and listen what she thinks about the current situation and let the talk flows; otherwise, I'll just keep as is nothing happened. Honestly, how knows? - I'll keep these feelings inside though. – user-858870-1 Nov 9 '19 at 3:36
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Update to reflect where I am comming from, based on the comments: I am a girl and I base my advice partially on how I would feel if someone persistently looks at me in a way I find worrysome and how I would feel if that person came and talked to me out of nowhere to apologize.

Also I base my answer in times I have known people to be paranoid about someone else and how after a while they realized they just were being paranoid because they realized that other person wasn't doing anything weird and they were just like that with everyone and it was them that took the other person actions in the wrong way.

As a general rule don't hold eye contact for long periods of times with a person unless you are trying to be menacing or flirting, or some other specific reason like that; being friendly doesn't count, unless, I don't know, she is trying to cross a bridge over a very deep canyon and she is afraid of heights.

You thought she was keeping the eye contact back because she was being friendly, but it could also be interpreted as "keeping an eye on this weird guy that keeps staring at me".

Don't go and apologize, you don't know her, never talked to her, even if you think you are trying to clarify the situation, it will feel more like another unwarranted approach from you towards her. There is a chance she will understand you, but there is also a huge chance she will think you are stalking her.

I know this is not exactly what you asked, but this will most likely render the results you want in a more certain way and with less chances of negative impact.

Remember also, many women, actually a huge percentage of women, have been approached in a not appropiate way by a guy or more guys during our lives, so this can make us have our guard up more than what you would expect.

This clearly was a misunderstading, you were trying to be nice, she thought you were creepy or something like that. The way to solve this is to show her she was wrong. In order to do these you continue your life like nothing ever happened, because you are not aware you were creepy, because you are not creepy, because you are not keeping close tabs on what she does or does not do.

Also, you need to change how you act friendly towards others.

Eye contact and smile is nice, but maintaining eye contact for too long a period of time is actually consired creepy by most people. So the best way to go about this is:

You look at someone, you smile, nod, and look away! And you continue doing whatever task you were doing, like nothing ever happened.

This means you are not being specially nice to that person, you are nice to everyone.

Next time you see her, you smile nod and look away. Do this anytime you happen to see her. Don't try to make eye contact. If you move your head towards moving objects, it is alright, it means you will do that with other people too. Don't need to be paranoid or awkward about it. Try to do this same thing with other people when she is around.

Eventually she will realize she was being paranoid. However, If she comes and asks you for an explanation of why you were staring at her: just tell her that you were trying to be nice, like you do with everyone, but that you are a bit clumsy at times. And that you are sorry if you made her feel unconfortable. That is enough, nothing else. Any hint that you were thinking about this for long, could make it sound like you were thinking about her for a long period time, which in turn can take away from the sincerity of your apology.

If you ever get alone with just her, in something like an elevator, you act like she is a total stranger, and you are just polite with her. You enter, you see her, smile nod, stand by the wall or whatever, look at your phone, read emails or articles. She does not exist, she is not specially important to you. Don't give her side glances.

Many times people feel someone else is being creepy and start to keep a watchful eye on that "creepy" person, and then they realize they were just being paranoid. This is what happened here, this is what you need to aim for.

You need to apologize because you feel you made her uncomfortable, however, she doesn't need more attention from you, she needs less of it. She doesn't need you to apologize, she needs to see you are not paying her more attention than normal.

Also maybe she feels you are romantically interested on her, and for whatever reason she doesn't want to lead you on, so she is acting this way so you take the hint. If you act in the way I described, she will realize you took the hint. No harm done.

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    Hey there! We require answers here to be backed up by personal experience or external sources. So, could you edit to tell us about a similar situation you were in the past? Who was involved, what did you say and how did the other person react? – Ael Nov 3 '19 at 18:36
  • Mykazuki. Thanks for your response (upvoted, but due to my low rep here, it wont show up), I'll clarify certain points in the next comments: you said: Next time you see her, you smile nod and look away - I forgot to look away, but I didn't keep eye contact once I saw her reaction. Also, the smile, nod and look away I do with other personnel in the company - security, cleaning and other coworkers. I don't think the "next time you see her" will be a good approach due her reaction - I'll get worse and I don't want more mental guilt. – user-858870-1 Nov 3 '19 at 19:59
  • The eye contact for too long a period - I'm aware of this rule - and I read a few more times my question and your answer and I want clarify: when we keep eye-contact was for short periods - 2-3 seconds (at maximun) and I also was subtle - I lunch with a male, older coworker - in his 50's, so, in lunch time I barely watch up his shoulders just for know if she's near and avoid be more awkward. I'm agree with Ælis's comment too. You gave me a clear and good answer. Thank you – user-858870-1 Nov 3 '19 at 20:09
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    @user-858870-1 well you didnt do anything wrong really, so it probably the problem is that she was giving more weight to your actions than they warranted. If you change your behaviour abruptaly, on her side it will feel like she was right and you were giving a different meaning to your actions. The important thing is to seem natural, if you are looking straight at her and you avoid akwardly her glance, it will be worse, because usually you just smile nod and look away. – Mykazuki Nov 5 '19 at 13:28
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    @Mykazuki thanks for your feedback. Well, we keep eye contact and not much has changed - she avoids longer eye contact and so I. Besides of what I say in my comment, I've had think in how react when a talk can happen, but I'm not thinking or making any attempt in approach her (for avoid making her feel even more awkward). – user-858870-1 Nov 9 '19 at 3:46
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after approach to her, present myself and explain her what I did think all these days, finally I know her name and we could talk. We ended well the conversation and (aside the eye contact) we sometimes say hi mutually. I didn't say it in my question, but I do have a crush on her. After we talk, she mention that she has a boyfriend, but, we could be friends. The crush I felt stills, but not as intense as before (I still like her, but, in order to get more confidence with her or another females, I need to improve myself in many, many ways). So, for now, I'm fine (in the sense that it wasn't the end of the world and her response to our conversation was good).

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