Communication Skills/hand touch
I have a question about nonverbal behavior (I've studied it in the past) mostly pertaining to female-female romantic and/or sexual signals (I'm bisexual) which seem quite subtle - I have even missed such obvious (in hindsight) signals as a female coworker handing me something but stroking my hand with both of her hands before walking quickly out of the room lol. It just left me confused at the time. I don't know how men navigate this confusing minefield of flirtation :)
Right now, I have a coworker who seems to like me at least on a platonic level. She has strong eye contact - I am usually the one to break it even when I'm listening. She's considerate, friendly and seems to respond well to my teasing verbal flirtations (smiling while turning her head away and down, exposing her neck but keeping her body squarely facing me).
About 2 months ago I tried 2 hand touches. The first time seemed positive/neutral, the second time seemed negative. I think the second time she increased distance so as to ensure it couldn't happen again. Both times I waited until it felt natural/accidental.
Yesterday, I tried it again after having backed off for the last 2 months (backed off from flirting not from regular interactions). I waited until her distance increased (slowly over the last month) so that she was inches from me when handing items to me or retrieving items. Her eye contact has also grown stronger, and she becomes clumsy around me dropping things, etc. She has started touching her hair or tucking it behind her ears (though not very frequently).
When holding eye contact she won't look away but she'll rub the palms of her hands together in a circling motion while turning them over with one hand being on top then switching so the other is on top (what the heck is that I've never seen it before?)
So I FINALLY got up the courage to try another hand touch. She was handing me something while we were discussing something work-related when I gently brushed her hand to retrieve the paper. As I looked down at the paper (we were discussing what to do about some calculations on it) I could see in my peripheral vision that she stepped back one or two steps and took a chair and placed it between her and I. :(
I felt totally rejected so I felt unable to look her in the eyes again or even say goodbye when I left work.
When I got the positive signal from her about a week ago (smiling and looking down and away) she was behind a low wall directly in front of me about 2 feet away from me. Can a person prefer to flirt behind a physical barrier? Woman are confusing!
My male coworker and I accidentally touch hands all the time and it's no big deal (we either do a neutral or very slightly positive reaction). He is married and it's understood, obviously, that it's not deliberate and neither of us want anything to happen.
I've never had someone step back and move a chair as a barrier though :(
Hello bi female,
I was impressed with your observation skills, and no doubt you are adept at picking up on the subliminal clues that occur in communication.
It could be however, that your problem (and I say your problem in the sense you are moved enough to ask about it) is in your interpretation, which must take into consideration who YOU are when you observing.
I note how you said: "I felt totally rejected..." . You made her reactions about you, and responded to your interpretation of her actions, rather than her actions. (we, of course, all do this).
What makes you think that she was rejecting you and not her own feelings?
There are two scenarios here. Either you are reading more into her actions because of your attraction, or you are correct in her response to you. This means that she either is attracted or she isn't. That being the case, she is either backing off because she likes you platonically and she is nervous about your subtle yet open intentions, or she is grappling with her own feelings which may go against upbringing, religion, or education. If the latter is the case, then she would not be rejecting you, but wrestling with her own feelings.
You may have been hoping for an easy formula, (state the observations and come up with an obvious conclusion), but my experience is that most people don't even know their own feelings half the time. As much as I think we can learn so much from observing body language, sometimes there is no substitute for talking.
I would suggest that you ask her if she would like to go for a coffee, lunch or some other innocuous event, and during your get-together, tell her how you feel. Now if she turns down your offer to meet, you still can't conclude her reasons; you would simply have to respect them. If you do get to meet, assure her that this information doesn't come with a price; that you can be a friend whatever her response, and let her talk.
Always realize that she may be telling things to herself for the first time too, and it may be real hard. In any event, this is the sort of situation that must always come down to speaking the conscious truth, and not relying on the unconscious communication that goes with it.
I hope this was helpful, and please rate the response honestly.
Phil L. Methot