How To Stop Getting Hit On While Networking
If you’re getting hit on while networking for your business, you’re certainly not alone.
Business mixers and networking events are often full of flirtatious singles who apparently have boundary issues.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to meet other interested singles with similar interests – the problem occurs when people misrepresent their intentions and continue to make advances that are clearly unwelcome.
This is not an exclusively female problem, either.
Both women and men end up in uncomfortable situations when they exchange cards, but soon realize that the other person was interested in another kind of “business.”
Here’s the problem:
We can’t change the way other people behave.
As much as we’d love to force everyone to respect one another all the time, it’s just not possible.
But even though we have no control over other people’s behavior, there are a few things we can do to get hit on less.
Stop Getting Hit On While Networking
Before we get into the list, there are a few things I want to make very, very clear:
I’m not at all trying to imply that other people’s bad behavior is in any way your fault.
Sometimes people are a-holes, and that’s the way it’s always going to be.
What I’m saying is this:
Since we don’t have any way to change the way other people think and act, the only thing we can do to stop getting hit on while networking is to change the way WE think and act.
When problems do arise, we may even do some good by being direct and bringing it to the other person’s attention.
After all, it’s possible that they don’t realize how they’re coming across.
And if you feel like you’re getting hit on while networking or building your business…
Don’t Apologize For Your Boundaries
Some people lash out when you call them on their bad behavior.
This is a common situation:
When in an environment where flirting is not necessarily appropriate, and when your body language is less than welcoming, people who want to make a pass at you will often try to ‘test the water’ with vague or ambiguous statements.
That way, if you shut them down, they can claim they were never interested to begin with.
Some of these jerkfaces – excuse me, but they’re acting like jerks – will even try to make you feel bad for calling them out.
Either they want you to feel embarrassed because they’re feeling rejected, or they’re trying to arouse your sympathies to get you to keep paying attention to them.
Both tactics are manipulative and childish, and you don’t have to put up with it.
Go with your gut feeling.
If someone is acting even a little bit inappropriately and you feel uncomfortable, the mature and reasonable thing to do is to put a stop to it.
If they act like a spoiled toddler, that’s no reason for you to feel embarrassed or sympathetic. Recognize that they’re trying to manipulate you, and maintain your boundaries.
Remember – if you allow people to treat you disrespectfully, you’re broadcasting to the world that you have low confidence and aren’t worthy of respect.
Step up, and don’t apologize for your standards.
What You Can Do To Discourage Creeps
There’s a saying:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Making little, simple tweaks to the way you conduct yourself will make a huge difference, especially if you’re regularly getting hit on while networking.
Your appearance, attitude, and body language can do a lot to deflect inappropriate attention.
Your body language won’t stop creeps from being creepy, but it WILL deter them from creeping at YOU.
Here’s what you can do:
Watch body language.
Pay attention to body language – both yours and theirs.
Girls: twirling your hair, tilting your head to one side, giggling, and touching guys on their arm are all very flirtatious gestures.
Guys: leaning towards a girl, intense eye contact, guiding a girl by touching her lower back, and letting your gaze…erm, wander…are all indicators of interest.
Dress professionally, not provocatively.
Ladies, there’s a big difference between attractive and sexy.
You should definitely dress attractively, since dressing in flattering, good looking clothing conveys confidence.
You don’t have to dress like a grandma to fend off the men. However, form fitting, revealing, or overly suggestive clothing will send a mixed message.
Your words might say “I’m here for business.”
But a sexy outfit says “I’m here for sexual attention.”
Short skirts, tight dresses, and super high heels are basically catnip for creeps, so if you choose to wear them, be ready to fend off a lot of advances.
When in doubt, follow this rule:
If you wouldn’t wear it to an interview with the CEO of your dream company, you probably shouldn’t wear it to a networking event.
Get clear about your intentions.
Do you really have a clear idea about why you’re going to this networking event?
If you’re getting hit on while networking and you’re positive you’re not giving off any overt mixed signals from your clothes or body language, think of this:
Are you maybe looking for flirtation?
Hear me out:
If you’re single, you might be going to a networking event sort of hoping for romance. With the dual intentions of business networking and hunting for a significant other, you might be sending subtle signals.
Before you go to a networking event, try this:
Spend 5 or 10 minutes determining your goals for this event, and get your focus right.
It’s not just a creeper defensive strategy – it’s also a good business habit.
Use business cards without your phone number.
Depending on your business, you might not want people calling you anyway.
If you’re working to drive traffic to your website or attract clients for your business, you can use business cards without your personal contact information on them at all.
If you need to have direct contact, you can provide an email or a separate business number that goes to voicemail.
Here’s why I recommend this:
Some people are very convincing liars.
They know they’re being inappropriate, or they’re too shy to state their intentions to your face, so they pretend an interest in your business.
Once they have your number, though, they’re free to blatantly hit on you.
The extra layer of anonymity gives them more courage, so they’ll send ridiculously inappropriate texts at 2 AM…
And if you ignore them or shut them down, they’ll bring up your business again to try to hook you that way.
Just avoid all that crap.
Only give out your personal contact information when it’s absolutely vital – especially your cell number.
Sometimes, things will get awkward anyway.
There are a few people who simply won’t take a hint.
Some people I know made it a habit to mention that their spouse is their business partner to discourage flirtatious banter.
Singles can use the same principle by simply mentioning a business associate of the opposite sex.
When that’s not enough, though, try this:
Politely excuse yourself from the conversation.
When you start to feel a flirtatious vibe coming from someone, but they haven’t been overt, do this:
Stick out your hand for them to shake.
Say, “Well, it was very nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy the rest of this event.”
They’ll probably take the hint and move off to mingle elsewhere, but if they don’t, you can always add:
“I’m going to go meet some other people now.”
After all, it is a networking event, and you’re supposed to mix and mingle with lots of people.
For situations that are a little more forward – for example, if a guy you ditched earlier finds you and asks for your number, or a girl is being overtly inappropriate, do this:
Tactfully, but directly, tell them that you’re not interested.
This is where the ‘sandwich approach’ comes in.
Begin with something positive, deliver your criticism, and then end on a high note.
In this case:
“Wow, I’m flattered. I’m not interested in dating you, but I’m sure you’ll have better luck with someone else.”
Don’t follow a compliment with a “but” – it negates the nice thing you said. There’s a big difference between:
“I’m flattered, BUT I’m not interested.”
“I’m flattered. I’m not interested, but…”
A little tact to temper your direct, non-ambiguous statement will usually result in as little discomfort as possible.
Still, there’s a chance you’ll get someone trying to play it off and make you feel guilty. Some people will deny that they were flirting. That’s normal. Stand your ground, be polite, but end the conversation.
You might have to say something like:
“I’m sure it wasn’t your intention, but I’m feeling uncomfortable with these kinds of comments.”
In very few cases, you might have to tell someone in no uncertain terms to get lost…but I’m sure you can figure out that wording for yourself.
Ditching the ones that found you on Facebook is easier.
What do you do about the floaters?
Some people will resurface after an event, popping up on your Facebook page, texting, or commenting on all your Instagram selfies.
These are usually easy to flush.
When someone “Facebook stalks” you, which is an accurate term in this case, there are 2 main options:
If you’re not likely to see them in person again, just ignore, unfriend, or block them. You don’t owe them an explanation.
If you’re part of the same social circle and you’re going to see them in person, send them a private message asking them to stop. Just use the same tactful, but direct, principle we discussed in the last section.
The same goes for the texters, the Tweeters, and the blog stalkers.
Sometimes, if you ignore them, they’ll realize you’re not interested and stop.
For the more oblivious specimens, blocking their means of contacting you or sending a private message might be necessary.
Whatever you do, DON’T pull the “let’s be friends” card.
To most people who go around hitting on others at networking events, let’s be friends is code for I’m kind of a little bit interested so keep passive-aggressively hitting on me until I cave.
Your assignment this week is to check out your wardrobe.
Go put on your favorite outfit to wear to networking events. Seriously. Guys, you too.
Once you’ve changed, take a look in the mirror and answer these questions:
- Does this outfit fit correctly – it’s not too big or too small?
- If I lean forward or look down from above, does my chest remain completely covered?
- Is my butt completely covered – no crack, and no cheek cleavage?
- Are all of my undergarments actually under my garments?
- Would I wear this outfit if I was going to meet the Pope?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, it’s probably time to rethink your wardrobe.