The woman who reached out to you for a meeting is just as much a professional as you are, no matter what she does, what she looks like, or what her marital status is…
You’re a busy, successful professional guy, right? When you set a meeting with some new business contact—a potential referral source, a potential vendor, a potential contractor, etc.—you want that time to matter. Maybe you bill by the hour, maybe you have deadlines looming, and maybe you have current clients expecting you to return their calls.
Whether you reached out to this new contact or they reached out to you, you expect that each of you will approach this meeting with the utmost respect and professionalism.
Be on time. Listen to hear. Know your shit.
Then you arrive and sit down next to your latest LinkedIn find. Wow. You obviously knew this person was a female. You knew her picture looked pretty good. But you feel a little skip that she is that much more of whatever it is that excites you about women than you were expecting.
You give your business schpiel and then she launches into hers. She is a seasoned divorce professional and it quickly becomes clear to you that she knows her stuff. Impressive. You ask some of the typical questions divorce professionals get asked, like “do people really just give up too quickly?” and “what do you think is the most prevalent cause of divorce?”
Before you know it, this already intriguing creature is now talking about sex. Sex! Like, in pretty damn vivid detail. How porn affects marriages. How threesomes affect marriages. How kink affects marriages. How women love being wooed and men love being admired.
So wait, what was the purpose of this meeting again? And how many more of these “business meetings” do you think you need to schedule with before you can ask her out?
You thank her for the fantastic lunch/coffee/chit-chat session and text to thank her again before you even put the car into drive.
How much business do you end up referring to her down the line? None.
As a woman whose work directly involves issues affecting romantic relationships, I cannot speak of what I do without the topics of sex and male/female relationship dynamics coming into play. I could dumb it down with alternate terms like “intimacy,” but I would be doing at least two things I have a major problem with: 1) promoting an idea I don’t believe, and 2) perpetuating acceptance of a concept I don’t agree with.
I must state for the record that I am a big fan of men, both personally and professionally. I have a father who has always been actively involved and loving, an awesome big brother I have always admired and two young sons I adore. I have tons of male friends and always felt that guys were easier to hang with then other females were. When I worked in non-profit development for more than 15 years I never once encountered a male colleague who treated me a less-than. And yes, I am also a divorced heterosexual woman with a hopeless romantic streak that just won’t seem to die.
When I meet a man for business, we are meeting for business. I simply cannot accept that the distinction is one that is terribly difficult to understand.
It has shocked and disappointed me that over the course of my now 6 years working in for-profit industry, the same has not held true.
Time after time I meet with an established professional in the spirit of collaboration, only to find that by the second meeting he will shift the conversation, asking whether or not I am currently involved with anyone. What typically follows is some profession of how we “obviously” have a special connection that we should explore further.
“But you confused them!,” you say to me.
Highly unlikely, folks.
Here’s how I see it. Sometimes I meet with a professional and find that they actually offer a service I might be interested in for myself. When that happens, I ask for a list of services or schedule an appointment.
If you meet with a professional who deals with divorce, marriage or any other forms of relationships, and you find that what they are saying resonates with you, by all means, ask for a meeting! Or if you want to maintain a professional boundary, ask for a referral for yourself.
Please, please understand that the fact that this person seems to understand your personal dilemma in a way no one else has before is an indication that they are good at what they do. Not an indication that they that they want to do you.
Lest you try telling yourself I am just being too uptight, or perhaps assuming I am being too salacious in my conversational banter, I turn to a piece featured in The Wall Street Journal back in December of 2014 entitled “Women at Work: A Guide for Men,” which stated the following:
“For most men in a room, respect is a given. But women in the corporate world will tell you they often feel the opposite: that they are treated as if they don’t know what they are talking about until they prove otherwise… This is a huge issue for women— one that few men can understand because they haven’t experienced it. ‘It’s not that women want respect more than men. It’s that men start out with more,’ says Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of the Energy Project, a consulting firm. As a man, ‘you’re the privileged one. You just don’t realize you’re privileged.’”
If a woman wants respect at the boardroom table, she’d better remind herself to never flirt across it, right? But could you imagine coaching a man to suppress his charisma at work? I asked LMFT Jay Blevins that question, to which he replied, “When a man uses wit, charm and banter to close deals and win favor with clients, it is seen as a success, not as his having extended an invitation to become sexual with him. Yet, exactly the opposite often applies to women who use these same skills.”
There is plenty of work women must do to assert positions and ideas more confidently, ask for and expect deserved compensation, and set clearly delineated boundaries. But you are here reading this on The Good Men Project and we are having a conversation about the changing roles of men. So let’s focus on talking about what you guys could do differently.
I am going to fall back on that 1980s anti-drug mantra we all know so well. Just say no. To any of these following questions that may jump into your mind:
• Did she agree to this meeting because she thought you were hot? No.
• Is she telling you these details because she really just wants to excite you? No.
• Am I feeling this crazy connection because we have some kind of cosmic chemistry? No.
• Should I text her a risqué joke just to feel her out? No.
• Does she want me more than she wants my business? No.
Sorry. But no.
The woman who reached out to you for a meeting is just as much a professional as you are, no matter what she does, what she looks like, or what her marital status is. She wants you to value her time. She wants you to value her insight. She wants you to value her network and her accomplishments and her expertise. And she wants to treat you with these same courtesies.
Just like the dude you had coffee with yesterday.
Photo Credit: Flickr/rj4uZL