did I offend my formerly friendly colleague?

A reader writes:

I’m a clerk at a large law firm, and I’m quite friendly with my colleagues, including those outside of the practice groups (business services, IT, etc.). Almost a month ago, I was in prolonged contact with someone on the IT helpdesk over a computer issue I was having. Through the many phone calls and emails, we started chatting about our hobbies and discovered we shared a taste in music as well as a similar sense of humor. We hit it off so much that I suggested, the following week, that we should do lunch, and he agreed. We never ended up going to lunch – first it was “great, Tuesday for sure!” then “I can’t do Tuesday, how about next week?” followed by “This week isn’t good for me, how about a rain check?” and finally, “I’m too busy, sorry!” so I dropped the subject, but as far as I could tell we were still friendly.

A week or so passes, and I see him on my floor. I grabbed him to ask him a quick question, and by the end of the conversation I made a joke about him inflating his importance. I was smiling and laughing as I said it, and from our previous exchanges I had no reason to believe he might be insulted by such a comment.

It’s been almost a week since I saw him and made that joke, and he’s definitely been avoiding me. In fact, just today, I had to call him about a continued IT issue and he was noticibly cold, to the point of rudeness. It bothers me that somebody might be so upset with me as to avoid me, and it bothers me even more that this is a person I have to work with.

Did I step over the line? Should I not become so friendly or ask colleagues to lunch in general, or could he just have been really insulted by my joke? If it helps the context, I’m a woman and he is a man, and we are both single.

It’s possible he was offended by the joke about his self-importance, but I’d bet that he thought you were pushing for more of a relationship than he wants and now is trying to signal that to you by keeping it strictly professional.

Here’s why I think that: You initiated the lunch suggestion, which he did agree to — but people often agree in the moment without being fully enthused, simply because they can’t think of a non-awkward way to say no. He then backed out three times, the last time with some finality. Of course, if he didn’t want to have lunch, he shouldn’t have suggested rescheduling, but this is pretty common among people who don’t want to say no directly.

So he gets himself out of lunch, but then the next time he sees you, you make a joke that implies that he’s a self-important blowhard for not having lunch with you. And I totally get that that’s not how you meant it, but if you look at what you really said, that’s basically what the joke was. If he’s already feeling awkward about having had to extract himself more than once from a lunch date that he didn’t really want, that joke has a high chance of signaling that you’re a little miffed about it and/or that you hadn’t picked up on his cues about not really wanting to have lunch.

Change the genders here and it gets easier to see why his next move might be to revert to chilly professionalism with you. Picture this letter from a woman: “I helped a colleague with an IT issue and had a polite, friendly conversation with him. He asked me out to lunch and I agreed, but later felt uncomfortable with it and canceled. He kept trying to reschedule and I kept saying I wasn’t available. I realize that I should have been more direct, but I have to work with him so I was hoping that he’d pick up on my hints. I finally told him I was too busy and I thought that was the end of it … but then I ran into him at work and he called me self-important for not making time for him.” Most people would tell that woman to put up some clear professional boundaries with the guy — be professional when having to deal with him, but otherwise make it clear that there would be no social relationship.

It sounds like that’s what this guy is doing. And just like the guy in my hypothetical example should respect the person’s boundaries and not be offended that my hypothetical woman isn’t still friendly with him, so should you. Show that you’re someone who will follow his cues, don’t get upset that he’s downgraded the friendliness in your work relationship, treat him professionally, and all will be fine.

I don’t think you were horribly inappropriate or anything like that — but I do think that this probably explains what happened. I do think you erred when you continued to try to make lunch work when you weren’t seeing that enthusiasm reciprocated from him. The lesson isn’t “don’t ask colleagues to lunch,” though; it’s just to give people room to return your overtures once you’ve made one or two … and don’t tease them about it if they don’t, no matter how good-naturedly you mean it.

And I do get that it seemed like he was reciprocating in the beginning. But once that changed, I think you missed that signal and didn’t adjust your thinking to include the new info he was sending you.

Or not — it’s possible that I’m totally off-base and this guy is weirdly hot and cold for no reason. But my money is on the scenario above. What do others think?

{ 212 comments… read them below }

  1. Kelly L.

    I agree, overall. I think that as he reflected on it later, he thought it was a date, and is backing away from that for whatever reason.

    The only caveat is that I can’t actually tell whether the “inflated importance” joke pertained to his being too busy to meet with OP, or to something else that was said. It doesn’t change my overall guess at the situation, but it’s the only spot where I’m not sure I agree with Alison, and that depends on how the convo actually went.

    1. Artemesia

      I assumed this was a female OP and a male colleague and even the description sounded like she was pushing for a date with this guy. Once he weaseled out once, I think it was pretty clear he was trying to throw cold water on what he considered a pushy woman who wanted to date him. The joke then really nailed it. She didn’t know him well enough for this joke; this joke made it seem even more like she was chasing him.

      Stuff happens. Nothing to do now but be friendly and not pushy until it blows over.

      1. OP

        It may have sounded that I was being pushy, but I really wasn’t. I couldn’t have written details of every exchange and each nuance into my question or it would have been too long. I provide lots of clarification on the situation downthread.

        I agree about being friendly until it blows over.

  2. OP

    Thanks, AAM, for answering my question. I’d just like to clarify that my joke about his self-importance had nothing to do with my lunch suggestion. It went something like this:

    Me: I was told to check with IT on that point.
    Him: Well, now you have checked with IT (points his finger at his chest)
    Me: I thought you were just [dude], but you’re *IT*! Looks like someone is inflating his importance!

    Granted, it sounds downright rude when typed out, but others around chuckled, and we’d made lots of sarcastic jabs at each other before that.

    As for asking him too many times, normally I would have dropped it the very first time he said he couldn’t go, but he asked me specifically to call him to follow-up and suggested specific dates. He even told another colleague whom I am also friendly with that he really liked me, which is where my confusion stemmed from.

    1. BadPlanning

      My guess is that some other event happened that changed his behavior (who knows what it was) towards you (maybe he was warned off, maybe he read some story about workplace romance gone wrong, maybe he thought you were going to make him fix all your home computers, whatever). It might eat at you, but I wouldn’t try and chase it down.

      I guess I’d keep with casual friendly and maybe try to thank him for doing his job well to reinforce the job boundaries — maybe something like, “Hey, thanks again for all that effort with my Computer Disaster of 2014 — it’s been working fine now thankfully.”

      1. OP

        Thanks – I like yours and AAM’s suggestions to keep it professional-friendly and all will be fine. If this were a purely personal scenario I don’t think I’d have gotten so down on myself about it. Having to work with the guy, thinking I’d done something really wrong, was what bugged me the most.

      2. LQ

        As someone who works in IT I have had SO many people be my “friend” to get me to answer all their home computing problems that if someone tries to be social outside work I’m really cautious. I could very well see this being the case, “Oh great another person who wants me to fix their ____.” You don’t do your job for free why should I do mine for free.

        1. OP

          Do people actually do that? I’d never dream of asking an IT staff member at work for help with anything non-work related. Besides which, I can fix my own computer, I’m savvier than the average person. This particular issue I was talking with this guy about involved administrator permissions, which I don’t have and therefore couldn’t fix the issue on my own.

          1. LQ

            All the time. (My personal ploy is that on my own time I only buy and support Macs, and in general they require less support, and have a pretty good service so I often end up sending people in to get it fixed by actual professionals.) But it is extremely common for people to come ask me questions, both at work, and the moment they have any personal contact info there.

            Really going though proper channels is best for IT things and that might be part of it.

              1. Jamie

                Although I know you didn’t mean this in a way to get anything for yourself – just straight up nice and considerate – it’s really smart anyway.

                If someone were to ask me I do know several independent consultants who do all kinds of computer repair. I’d send you to someone who wouldn’t rip you off, who knows their stuff, and may cut you a break on price because of the connection to me.

                IOW I’ll give you alternatives to big named store with ridiculously high prices despite underpaying their tech support staff which will save you money and time and you can have more confidence you’re not being taken for a ride.

                And if you’re reasonable and I know you won’t expect me to be the de facto parent of the computer until the end of time, and I have time I’m usually happy to do it as a favor and I’ll offer.

                I have family members for whom I’m occasional tech support and they are so scrupulous about not wanting to take advantage of me that back in the day when I was starting out and money was tight they refused to let me help unless I let them pay me. These days I’m still tech support, but I get paid by being taken out to fabulous lunches with a surprise gifts. (The last one was a new tiara – yay – and before that set of HK pez dispensers, an angel figurine that they said looked just like me when I was little…yes, appealing to my ego with gifts that celebrate me is the way to get my undivided techie attention.)

                1. Loose Seal

                  I love the way you said “new tiara” like you have a fabulous collection of them and wear a different one every day of the week. I have yet to get my first tiara.

              2. MaryMary

                I’ve asked IT friends for recommendations for good computer help and they offered to help me. Most refused payment outside of lunch or beer (well, one was excited to keep the elderly computer I needed help getting files off the hard drive. He was paid in circa 1998 computer components). But I never assumed my IT friends would do free work

            1. GrumpyBoss

              I’ve worked in IT and can confirm. One of the most common requests: “Hey, I’d really like to install Office on my home PC, but don’t want to spend the money……can you get me a copy?”

              1. April

                Give them two words: OpenOffice.
                It can do almost everything MS Office can do. They’re not happy with the “almost”? Well, they wanted free, what can they expect?
                Seriously, though, it’s a pretty small “almost”; most of the differences are superficial.

                1. Sandrine (France)

                  Ah, OpenOffice, how I love thee!

                  And then there’s the :

                  Friend : *sends .docx document*
                  Me : Dude, send me a .doc . I have OpenOffice.
                  Friend *grumble, sends .doc*

                  talks, that I’ve had quite a few times lately :P .

                2. Cat

                  If they ever work at home it’s not an unreasonable question and Microsoft has licenses for that. Open Office will mess with certain styles in Word documents and it’s a pain in the ass to get the formatting back together.

          2. NoPantsFridays

            I wouldn’t ask either. Like you, I can fix my own computer. I even enjoy the process. But mostly, I don’t want work IT people rifling through my personal files and software. There’s a reason I have a separate home/personal computer and don’t use my work laptop at home.

        2. Clerica

          I have this happen even though I’m not IT (but I work on a team with the two IT people and see it with them even worse). Due to cost concerns and the fact that a bunch of employees seem incapable of operating technology without breaking it down to the last microchip, my team are the only ones with access to certain machines, who have admin rights to certain programs, etc. There are so many employees who are just so sweet and friendly when they’re asking for something but seem to forget we’re such BFFs the rest of the time.

          Hell, right before I left work today I passed one in the hall, smiled and said hey…and she glanced at me and just kept walking, then turned and said, “Oh, I’m going to need to get something printed on the poster machine later…can I bring it up and leave it for you?”

          Sure, sweetie. You stay classy now.

      1. OP

        Oh, I did – I sent him an e-mail saying I hoped he wasn’t offended by my comment, that it was my way of joking around with people, and I certainly didn’t intend to be insulting. He replied saying no, he wasn’t offended, and everything was fine, but he’s still been cold (like looking past me if he walks by me). A bit perplexing. I’ve never caused anyone to avoid me this way before – I try to be very sensitive to social cues.

        1. 2 Cents

          Maybe he did have a crush on you, and someone made a comment like “are you guys dating?” or “you two should date!” and that made him turn a cold shoulder. (And who knows? Maybe he already has a girlfriend.)

          Whatever the reason, I think as long as you continue being friendly in a professional manner and let this one roll off your back, it’ll be fine.

        2. Camellia

          Your “apology” was to say you hoped he wasn’t offended, you were just joking and didn’t intend to be insulting. This sounds like a variation of someone saying something hurtful or offensive and then, when others get upset, saying they were just kidding, sheesh, can’t anyone take a joke?

          You may not have intended it this way but what you said was very different from saying, “I am so sorry, that comment did not sound very nice and I do apologize.”

          Either way, I think the other commentors are right, keep it professional from now on is the best you can do.

          1. OP

            I didn’t copy out my e-mail to him verbatim, but I started it by saying “I apologize”. I have the same opinion on qualified apologies and don’t make them.

    2. CTO

      Do you mean that he told another colleague he “liked” you in a romantic way? If he was interested in you, perhaps he was just really easily deflated by your small joke. Sometimes people take things more personally when they have high hopes for a relationship. He might have read too much into it and thought you were being hurtful, even though you weren’t trying to be.

      Or perhaps he realized that he didn’t want to get into relationship territory with someone at work, or perhaps he’s started seeing someone else, or has another reason to want some more distance.

      1. OP

        This colleague got the impression, in her words, that he has a crush on me, yes. I didn’t really think of him in a romantic way – he was just a funny colleague who also likes 50s music – but I was sort of flattered. If nothing romantic had developed, I would still have loved to be friendly with him.

        1. VintageLydia USA

          Maybe he’s trying to get over you, then? He can’t cut off contact completely because you work together, but if for whatever reason he decided he doesn’t want to have a crush on you than not engaging is exactly what he needs to do. Give it time. He may be more friendly in the future, or not, but pushing a friendship won’t help anyone (which I think you get, but I’m saying more in general.)

          1. Case of the Mondays

            This happened to me. I got fairly close w/ a male coworker and I was engaged at the time. To me it was completely platonic but unbeknownst to me he was smitten. When I married my husband and he realized we were never going to be an item he switched positions to one where he wouldn’t have to work closely with me and started being very cold to me. He was actually very rude and I was very hurt. I asked some of our mutual acquaintances if they knew why and no one did. Eventually someone told me that he had thought we had a thing going on and that maybe I’d be with him and not my to be husband. When I went through with the wedding he realized it was never going to be and his way of dealing with that was just to push me out of his life completely. It was awful.

            1. Jamie

              I get disappointed if you really liked someone and were hoping for more…totally. And needing a little distance is to be expected.

              But maybe it’s just me, I would only understand this kind of extreme reaction if it were a serious relationship that ended – a real one, not a one-sided crush. I’ve never been good at friends with the ex thing, so I totally get moving positions or even having to really watch tone if that were the case…but someone you just liked? As it was never more than friendship all he lost when you married was the potential future relationship that only existed in his head. The real friendship that existed, which was all he had of you and clearly liked, would have remained unchanged. So he lost something good because he couldn’t have something better?

              Probably me, I just don’t get being that emotionally invested in anyone where it’s not mutual. Infatuation – sure – but I’d have to be in love to have that extreme reaction and I can’t imagine being in love with anyone if there was never more than a friendship to begin with. You don’t even know the other person in a romantic sense so how do you know if they’re the one?

              That’s sad – and sucks for you that you lost a close work buddy. Those make the days go by a lot easier.

              1. Traveler

                I think sometimes the extreme reaction is more about embarrassment than anything else. If you have feelings for someone that extend beyond friendship, and that’s not returned, I think its pretty typical to pull back from all aspects. Also – to him it may not have been losing something good. If he had feelings, being friends with someone who is committed to someone else can be difficult.

              2. Case of the Mondays

                I also totally didn’t get it and that is why I can feel for the OP who is probably desperate for answers if she is in the same situation.

              3. Tywin

                He didn’t lose “something good” because he couldn’t have something better…a friendship where something more is desired is agony.

                1. Jennifer

                  Yeah, once you want to get groiny, friendship isn’t good enough. It really does have to be all or nothing then :(

                  Doesn’t help that scientifically speaking, apparently guys are more likely to “be led on” by a woman being friendly to them and they interpret it as sexual interest.

                2. Cari

                  Yeah, that’s more a social/cultural thing given the messages that get put out there about women, particularly in relation to men (entitlement etc.).

              4. Anon

                I think that you can have intense feelings for someone that warrant this reaction without being in a relationship with them. If you have a close friendship with someone for a long period of time, it is easy to legitimately be “in love” with them. I definitely know that feeling – the realization that this person’s presence in your life is going to bring you more pain than happiness. The person on the other side often doesn’t understand and thinks it’s an overreaction or that you’re being unfair to them when you’re just taking a necessary step for emotional self-preservation.

                If it’s just an acquaintance/crush then I agree that it seems like a major overreaction. However, people know their own emotions better than others – if it really seems like a step that you need to take, then maybe it is.

            2. Cath in Canada

              I think this happened to me too, although I can never be 100% sure of the reasons why my former work friend turned so cold. We always got on great and came really, really close to starting a romantic relationship, but it just didn’t quite work out. We stayed on friendly terms after that despite how terribly awkward it was st first, but then when I started dating someone (now my husband!) seriously a few months later it all just went horribly wrong – he completely cut me off and was occasionally quite actively rude to me. Very hurtful, like you say.

              This all happened at the same time that my research started going really well and generating some good publications, whereas he got scooped by a research group in France (meaning that years of work just got a lot more difficult to publish), so it’s hard to know whether it was a romantic thing, a professional jealousy thing, or a mix of both. Either way, it sucks. And I expected things to get easier when I left high school…

              1. Clever Name

                OMG! I’m pretty sure a very similar scenario (unrequited romantic feelings + professional jealousy) happened to me! I’m really glad to hear others have had similar experiences.

    3. MK

      I sometimes think society is plagued by the cult of ”nice”, which stipulates rejection, however polite, is rude. It leads to people trying to extricate themselves from invitations in such roundabout ways that the other person is left confused.

    4. some1

      I can totally see (and have been on) both sides of something like this.

      You thought you were making a harmless joke with someone you had a good rapport with.

      He thought you were publicly chiding him for turning you down.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, this is what it sounds like to me, too. Extra minus points for being in front of other people especially other men. It’s sad because OP did not mean anything larger by what she said. It was an in-the-moment joke.

    5. Cari

      If you consider how IT support workers are regarded culturally, it’s possible your joke got misinterpreted by him, especially if everyone else who laughed were your co-workers and not his. I know I’ve been talked down to enough to take a joke like that the wrong way.

      1. OP

        Oh, how awful… They were my colleagues, yes :(

        I sure didn’t mean to talk down to him. My father and my older brother are both in IT, so I don’t share that cultural perception – besides which, I believe its wrong, because in our super technologically advanced world, IT is sort of running it!!

        1. Cari

          It’s possible then, if it were the joke that upset him (and I think you said you apologised for that :)) rather than something else going on with him, the audience for it could have been the main factor. Have your interactions before then been 1-1?

          (there’s nothing you need to do there, just an idea for working people out :))

          1. OP

            You might be on to something, there – our interactions before were 1 on 1. It’s something to think about!

          2. Lana

            This could definitely be a factor. I know there are some people who can joke around with me in more of a teasing kind of way that I don’t like at all from most people. But it can still make me uncomfortable when it’s done in front of other people with whom I don’t have that kind of relationship, because there have been people who’ve heard someone else joking with me in that way, and then thought they could do the same thing, which was very much not okay.

        2. Aussiegirl

          Geez, how old are you and this guy? What’s the big deal cracking a harmless joke? Sounds like he needs to grow some nuts, mate. Men are so frickin’ sensitive. Boo hoo. You’ve got nothing to apologise for. Concentrate on your job, which is what you are there for and move on from this ‘relationship’. If he is going to sulk, let him. It’s SO not worth worrying about.

    6. Anon

      Assuming that OP definitely wasn’t too pushy or that the joke wasn’t rude, a couple of ideas to contribute to the “autopsy”:
      -He found out somehow that she doesn’t share the same feelings that he does or wasn’t asking him on a date and is now keeping the relationship super professional as he isn’t interested in a platonic friendship. (Which makes sense to me – I can’t get over my feelings for someone whilst being warm and flirty either.)
      -Between the public joking and the admission to his coworker that he likes her, he has started to receive attention that he is uncomfortable with and has realized will only increase (at least temporarily) as the relationship continues. He has decided to put a stop to things because he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself or spark gossip in the workplace.

      I think that he likely isn’t being intentionally cold, per se. He’s just trying to treat you like anyone else because he wants the relationship to go back to being 100% professional, and when you have great conversational chemistry with someone, taking out all of that banter and flirting can require you to deliberately hold back in a way that isn’t necessary to stay professional with other people.

  3. TotesMaGoats

    The OP reminds me of the main character in “He’s just not that into you”. I agree that you didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t. You maybe missed a signal that this guy didn’t want to have lunch and a joke went over badly. I wouldn’t beat myself up about it. Take your cues from his behavior and keep moving. It’s also entirely possible that he’s way over-reacting to the whole situation and you shouldn’t radically alter your behavior because of this one interaction.

    1. Celeste

      +100. I would just go low to the ground around him, not think about anything but work, and let it be. Some other time when he has to come fix a problem, be nice. A friendly work relationship is salvageable, but I think it will take a little bit of time.

    2. Traveler

      That book needs to be required reading for all of humanity so people stop beating themselves up over what’s a pretty simple “S/he just isn’t that into you”. I thought of that too when OP referenced the coworker who said “he had a crush”. Sometimes peoples instincts are dead on, but I’ve known a slew of would-be matchmakers that were clueless in reality.

  4. BethRA

    I agree with what AMM said, although since he has also been cold and curt when approached about a work-related tech issue, it might be worth apologizing for the joke and for possibly offending him. Don’t make a big deal of it, just tell him you realized he might have been offended by your joke and that you’re sorry – that you certainly appreciate the work he does, and how helpful he’s been to you. And leave it at that.

  5. Muriel Heslop

    Just like dating, we can only speculate. Alison, as usual your advice is spot-on!

    I would keep being personable and polite at work (no more jokes) and not make any additional plans. His reaction could be a personal issue that has nothing to do you with you; he might have starting seeing someone else or rekindled an old flame; he may just be really awkward.

    1. some1

      Yeah, someone who really wants to have lunch will make a point to find a date that works.

      Could be also that he had an unplanned expense come up and can’t afford to go out to lunch and is too embarrassed to say so.

  6. Jamie

    A week or so passes, and I see him on my floor. I grabbed him to ask him a quick question,

    We hate this even when it’s people we like. True work friends we socialize with outside of the office shouldn’t take advantage of that by hijacking us with “a quick question.” There is an old joke about the only reason IT goes to the bathroom, gets coffee, or walks in the hallway is to hear about problems from people who didn’t send an email.

    and by the end of the conversation I made a joke about him inflating his importance. I was smiling and laughing as I said it, and from our previous exchanges I had no reason to believe he might be insulted by such a comment.

    The rule of thumb isn’t having no reason to think he’d be insulted – it’s being 100% sure he’d find it funny. IT can be a pretty thankless profession at times* – I’ve never met one who didn’t have days where we wonder if people have any freaking idea what we do…because while everyone knows they need IT, a lot of people don’t understand it enough to have a real grasp of the value of the position. And not to feed into a stereotype (but I’m going to) we tend to have a fairly good grasp on exactly how valuable we are; and almost without exception have really healthy professional egos – even the bad ones. I don’t know why, it’s a thing.) So those who find minimizing us funny…we chalk that up to your lack of understanding and not our lack of awesomeness.

    (Like I’m the only IT out there who was thinking it.)

    *that doesn’t mean it’s not still the best department in any company anywhere (imo) – the most interesting, challenging, and has the best perks, coolest gear, and the most leeway…and many of us do it because we love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.

    1. OP

      Thanks for the inside insight, Jaime. I will keep this in mind for my dealings with IT in the future – people I do value very much! :)

    2. Adam

      I have a friend in IT. One of his favorite casual shirts is a T-Shirt with this message printed on it:

      “I’m in IT. No, I will not fix your computer.”

    3. A Cita

      I see parallels between this and graphic design. Once people learn I have a background in design, plus have a lot of technical knowledge for both print and web design, they ask me to do a LOT of work for them, thinking it’ll just take a second, expanding on something small I agreed to (for instance, right now I went from agreeing to simply resizing an image as a favor to now getting instructions on what kinds of background images I should be creating for them for their website…um, no. I didn’t agree to that), and constantly downplaying the actual amount of work and time it takes me to do it (downplaying how big of a favor they are actually asking).

  7. J. Random IT Guy

    Hey, just wanted to make a quick note on this from a different perspective.

    Working in IT, we unfortunately see a LOT of folks who like to develop “personal” relationships with us so that they feel as though they can jump ahead of the queue or bypass first level support and come directly to us with; “just a quick thing, you’ll probably solve it in a minute or two” which frequently turns into something a lot more time consuming, or acting as a gateway for other folks, “Hey, it’s OK, I know Bob in IT.. Just mention my name and he’ll put your request at the top of the list”, or often seeking our assistance with helping people out with problems on their personal computers at home.

    While we do very much appreciate a friendly work environment and we do often form lasting friendships with people in the office, we can get pretty annoyed, pretty quickly when that’s taken advantage of. It’s unfortunate and it happens more frequently than you might think.

    As a result, many of us get jaded and grow thick skin to protect ourselves from this. We also have a tendency to react somewhat quickly and negatively if we perceive this happening. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, there’s a good chance your IT guy began to get wind of something like this happening and said to himself, “Ah man, not again..” and tried to re-establish that professional boundary quickly.

    1. Jamie

      Yep! Not to mention the “let’s call Bob in IT” on a Saturday when out shopping for a non-work related PC, because nothing we love more than spending our off hours explaining the differences in processors to you while you repeat everything we say to the guy at Best Buy.

      Smart people know you can’t jump to the head of my queue with friendship. Line jumping of that magnitude requires brownies. Saturday personal tech support? Brownies and a Hello Kitty collectable.

      1. J. Random IT Guy

        Yep! Not to mention the implied infinite continued support once they’ve bought that PC or you’ve answered the phone..

        “But you were the one who told me what to buy? Aw come on, it’ll only take a few seconds..”

        “Hey, when you cleaned up my PC last time from all that malware those porn sites installed, you broke application _____! I need that up and running so I can submit my TPS reports on Monday! Come on, you owe me! Besides, your daughter will always have another birthday next year..”

        1. C Average

          Ugh, implied infinite continued support!

          I’m not IT, but I do have a tech support-related role for the products my team supports, and people who have one problem once and then decide you’re their tech support BFF forever and ever are the WORST.

        2. Jamie

          What IS that?! Dell doesn’t have lifetime warranties, try to get a tech support from MS indefinitely without a contract…but we run one Malwarebtyes scan one time and we’re responsible for everything that happens to it from porn to dropping it in Rover’s water dish, to the fact that it you bought software it doesn’t have the specs to run without checking and somehow that’s my problem.

          I swear I’ll be in a nursing home someday and someone will come in and bring me a Dell Precision from 1998 telling me they found it in grandpa’s attic along with a post-it that said I installed extra RAM in 2003…FIX IT.

          FTFY indeed.

          I think people take advantage of us because we’re so nice – warm and comforting…soothing as relaxing in a hammock on a beautiful summer day with dogs with silken coats frolicking with butterflies nearby, a cool glass of iced tea, and the wafting smell of fresh cut grass.

          We have to stop being so welcoming.

        3. NoPantsFridays

          Yeah, the infinite continued support thing is terrible. I’m not in IT but I used to play tech support for my family and friends. If I advised them what to buy and got the system set up initially, or did even the most minor thing like install an AV or run a backup, I’m apparently obligated to maintain their computer for the rest of its life. No thanks. Now I just say, “Last time you asked me to do this and you broke it again and now it’s my fault. I won’t help you again.” If they have to pay hundreds of dollars for tech support I’m sure they’ll value it and not continuously repeat the same mistakes.

        1. Jamie

          The latter was my husband’s solution until he realized I don’t give a crap about maintaining or repairing our personal computers. The shoemaker’s children? Those are some barefoot kids!

          1. Cari

            I suspect that was my ex’s plan too lol. He was complaining about me not having fixed something to a mutual friend and they said mechanics don’t like fixing their own cars, to kind of stick up for me :P

            1. the gold digger

              I had to force my husband away from my work computer. I told him he was not going to spend an evening trying to figure out how to fix it – that work has an IT department.

              He gets a little obsessive. And he doesn’t want to do his own work, which, at that moment, includes completing the financial disclosure form that the feds require if you are running for Congress. (Which my husband, alas, is doing. I started the form and realized why it’s only rich people in politics – they have People/Minions to do this crap. We have just us.)

          2. Jen RO

            My boyfriend said that the only way he will ever fix my computer is if he can give me a non-admin account… so I just fix it myself.

          3. MaryMary

            My BFF is a doctor, and it’s the same thing. When she graduated med school, I was careful not to try to get free BFF medical advice. After a while, I realized she asked me the same medical questions you’d ask a best friend “Do you think this bug bite is getting bigger?” or “I’ve had a sore throat for two weeks, do you think I should see a doctor?” Dude, you ARE a doctor. I stopped worrying about it. She is very good at her specialty (which is not general primary care), but otherwise, barefoot kids everywhere.

            1. Cath in Canada

              Specialists can be very dangerous! An MD/PhD colleague of mine who’s a hematologist once completely freaked out my poor undergrad student; she asked him if she should see a doctor for a lingering sore throat, and he managed to imply that she probably had leukemia or lymphoma. I guess general practitioners recognise that most sore throats aren’t serious, but he only sees the people whose primary care doctors have referred them to a hematologist because their particular sore throat looks like one of the very few that actually are indicative of something serious, so he has a very skewed perspective on sore throats. I gave him a bit of a telling off for that!

              Actually, all but two of the doctors I know are cancer specialists, so I never ask them anything medical at all.

              (My student did go running to her GP in a panic, and she was absolutely fine! She’s a doctor too, now, although I’m not sure of her speciality).

      2. Poe

        Every Christmas at OldJob I used to bake massive tins of cookies for the departments like cashiers, security, and IT. Everyone thought I did it to curry favour…nope, I did it because after I had to dump ugly, unavoidable stuff on them nearly daily, even though it was part of their job, I appreciated their help so, so much, no matter where I was in the queue.

        1. the gold digger

          Exactly! It is nice to be able to acknowledge how grateful we are for the people who make our work lives easier. I don’t expect to jump over anyone in the queue or to have IT help me with my personal stuff, but I am grateful for what they do. (And sometimes – if there is an emergency, like I accidentally and stupidly delete all of my files, it is nice to have a personal relationship with someone in IT.)

          1. Jamie

            See, here’s how that personal relationship with me (if I were your IT) would help you.

            I’d help anyone get their files back, I’d do it in the order of priority of other fires burning at the moment…but if I like you I’m going to go out of my way to make sure you know this kind of thing can happen to anyone, make sure you don’t feel stupid for fat fingering the delete key, tell you not to worry about it when you apologize for making more work for me…and then we hang out and talk while the restore is doing it’s thing.

            Although if you deleted them from a place you shouldn’t have had them stored, so there is no back-up and I have to do dark magic with 3rd party software I will chide you for not following my policy and joke that I won’t let you become one of “those” end users…but I’ll work a lot harder to get them back.

            According to policy, if you store improperly to a drive that’s not backed up that’s on you and I don’t have to do one thing to recover those files. I will always try…for how long depends on the importance of the data to the business (and if not important then depends on the importance of the files to you. But without rolling my eyes as soon as you leave the room and without adding you to my stupid user story database that’s wholly dependent on how much I personally like you.

            And if it’s personal files like your irreplaceable pics you inexplicably stored on your desktop before the crash and they exist no where else? That’s ALL about how much I like you!

            1. the gold digger

              Yes – I don’t expect to be taken out of order, but it is nice not to be mocked after I have done something totally stupid and mockable. I already feel stupid enough for having deleted all of my files because I was trying to do four things at once. All I want is to be put back to where I was with minimum external humiliation. :)

              1. Jamie

                I’d do that for you even without brownies. :)

                (Although if we ever work together I’m partial to chocolate frosting (not fudge) and no nuts – but not deal breakers. I’ve never met a brownie I didn’t love. If you don’t have time a chocolate glazed and frosted from Dunkin works, too.)

                As I was typing this I got buzzed that my very responsible and grown up salad for lunch is here…so apparently I eat better irl than online. If I can avoid the candy jar on the way back (it’s my nemesis right now because there is a Special Dark mini taunting me.)

                1. the gold digger

                  Thank you, Jamie. I would totally make brownies for you any way you want. My husband is a big no-nuts person as well and has explained at great length – even after I have told him, “I believe that you don’t want nuts so you can stop talking now” – why nuts and chocolate lead to a sub-optimal solution. He says nuts are not as good as chocolate so if you add them to chocolate, they drag the average down. He claims that the only thing that can improve chocolate is more chocolate.

                  I happen to like nuts in my chocolate, but I am very used to making split batches of everything chocolate. And I make great frosting.

                  Eat the Special Dark mini. What if you are hit by a bus on your way home? One of your dying thoughts might be, “I should have had the chocolate.”

              2. Cari

                I used to have a few password reset regulars that would often feel silly for having to come in so often, and I hope I was able to alleviate that feeling in my interactions with them. Like it’s no trouble for me to reset a password and it’s what i’m there for :). Not to mention the password security policy was ridiculous for a place where a good chunk of the staff are regularly going to be not accessing the system for weeks at a time, thus will miss the expiry warnings, and I would tell them that.

                1. Jamie

                  Absolutely – and I’ll take someone who needs their password reset after a time of not using it over someone who has it written on a post-it stuck to their monitor any day of the week.

        2. Wander

          It’s such a good idea to do this kind of thing. I’ve worked as support for multiple companies, and I’ve noticed my happiness at a job is directly dependent on how people react to that. At my current job, people routinely thank whoever’s doing the support and frequently say good things. I used to joke that some of the teams without an aide would throw parades for me when I picked up a shift on my off days for them. Sure, the hours are usually terrible, and the work is demanding, but I’m happy as a clam precisely because everyone appreciates that the work I do is valuable, and I work harder for it. The job where the people I provided support for treated me like dirt? Quit in 3 months. Granted, it’s my job to assist people, and I’m paid to do that, but thanks and recognition make it feel worthwhile.

          People notice when you appreciate them, especially if you’re not just favor currying.

      3. Koko

        I’m truly shocked to read this. Contacting a coworker on the weekend and asking them to freelance for you for free? Expecting special treatment at work because you’re friendly with a coworker? Those are both horrifying violations of professionalism and boundaries, I can’t understand why anyone thinks it’s different just for IT. I wouldn’t call a staff copywriter at home and ask him to write a speech for me, and I dated someone I worked alongside for over a year and the only special treatment I ever got was that he sometimes proofread my work even though that wasn’t in his job description.

    2. Cari

      My ex did this in work and at home all the time, even before we started seeing eachother. The worst thing about it for me was him promising my services to people, when I’d be in a depressive period with 0 motivation to do anything, then saying to me he’ll get Unqualified Male Friend to sort it out instead! Felt like he was deliberately undermining my confidence and my reputation in work.

      1. Pennalynn Lott

        I finally had to tell my mom that I refuse to be IT support for any more of her old-lady friends. (My mom is in her late 60’s). I help her because we’re closely related, but – no – I will not drive across town to once again show your friend Biddie how to save a Word document to a specific file folder. No, I cannot get on the phone with Gertrude and help her restore her computer after she just installed some software she shouldn’t have (and she doesn’t even know what software it is, just that, “I pressed ‘download’ and now nothing works.”). Stop volunteering me, Mom, or I will refuse to help you with your computer.

    3. Poe

      +1,000 I used to date a guy in IT at my work (massive company, he was responsible for another division) and people would constantly try to “drop” my name like they could jump the queue because I had an “in” with IT. Did I end up being friends with lots of them? Yup, absolutely. Did I use that to get help faster or get priority for my projects? H3ll no! You’re not really friends if you just want someone to fix your computer, and poor IT folk get a lot of non-friends who want help.

  8. TheOriginalVagabond

    Maybe he really is busy? Or maybe he was having a bad day or is going through some personal issues at home, which unwittingly reflects in his behavior to you? I know I’ve been in similar situations when an otherwise-friendly coworker suddenly goes cold, and my first reaction is always to blame myself or wonder how I offended them, without really taking the time to give them the benefit of the doubt and realize that it’s not always something about me.

    If you feel comfortable enough doing this, you could try saying “hey, you sound different today – is everything alright?”. I’ll leave it up to you to guage his reaction after that, but just know that things aren’t always as they seem. And if it does actually appear that he’s trying to avoid you, just accept it and move on.

    1. OP

      Could be. I know that IT has been slammed recently, and that’s saying a lot because they are usually slammed.

      I did apologize to him, and he responded that he wasn’t offended and everything was fine, to which I asked if he was sure because he seemed a bit subdued when we last spoke. He said everything with him was peachy and he was in a great mood, so I let it go.

      1. Jamie

        Tbh I don’t think your joke warranted an apology, but it’s nice you did it. It was more a quip than anything and I wouldn’t have found it offensive personally – and I can be pretty touchy, so that’s a low bar to clear.

        Being busy in IT can be like being busy in maintenance when the bathroom is flooded or the roof is leaking and you have to stop the damage yesterday before it gets worse. It’s not a low stress profession and we’re not typically hired for our sunny temperaments. Some of us are perky and delightful, some are not – but it’s rarely a major factor in hiring if they aren’t dealing with external customers.

        The busier I am the quieter and more business like I become. I have a work friends I like very much and we hang out outside of work, but when I’m swamped they will get the same non-chatty professional “what’s the issue” response as everyone else – because when I’m focused on something or there is a problem the part of my brain that does the whole small talk/banter thing isn’t even engaged…it’s like that disk is in hibernation until the crisis is over and the power settings kick it back to life.

        I’ve had these people start to ask me a quick question and in the time it takes me to focus on what they just said they are already telling me they’ll send it in email. I am lucky I have people who know how to read me – but I do make a point not to be overtly rude to anyone. Terse? On occasion. Direct and hyperfocused? Often. Warm and chatty? More than I used to be, but never when busy.

        So yeah – he’s probably just busy. Leave the ball in his court and just deal with him as you would any other IT – professionally and being respectful of their time – and if he wants to be friends he’ll let you know.

        1. Camellia

          I used to have a cartoon drawing of an operating theater, and the guy performing brain surgery says, “I used to be in IT but I couldn’t stand the stress.”

          1. J. Random IT Guy

            Funny.. I can relate. I’d rather be back in Iraq where at least you have a clear idea of who’s out to get you, because they’re shooting at you. :)

        2. krisl

          Does it seem to anyone else that “Quick questions” almost never have quick answers? I tend to cringe internally when someone says they have a quick question.

        3. Jennifer

          Oh god, I hate “quick questions.” NO QUESTIONS HERE ARE QUICK. EVER EVER EVER. It does not make it more okay to bug me because you think it’ll be quick. It will not be.

      2. Brigitte

        Just a quick comment here. It sounds like you’re taking everything AAM said to heart, but following up with “Are you sure?” is just more of the same behavior. You apologized, he replied everything was fine….and that wasn’t enough for you.

        I get it that you’re feeling awkward and want to be reassured, but asking this guy to do it for you is, at minimum, needy and, at worst, inappropriate for a work relationship.

        1. OP

          Oh, it wasn’t that I wanted to be reassured by him – I meant it out of concern, as in “are you sure everything is going okay for you?” expecting him to maybe reply that he was having a hard day or was hungover or something. But he said he was fine – and that, as they say, is that!

          1. A Cita

            I get that. But I agree with Brigitte. If a guy is signaling to you that he’s not interested (which I think he is here), following up with an apology (which I don’t think the joke really warranted) and then following up the follow up apology is just too much and can read as needy and not getting the hint. I get you don’t mean it that way, but from the perspective of one who is being pursued by someone they’re not interested in and who doesn’t seem to pick up on cues, it adds up. Seriously. Just drop it and move on and treat him professionally from now on.

            1. OP

              I had been friendly enough with him to be able to ask him, prior to this, how his day was and how he was doing – that was the first time he’s ever shut me down that way. I think most people put in that position would be taken aback and follow up with an “are you sure”.

              I most definitely was not pursuing him, and I wasn’t interested in him romantically. I figured if he had been offended and accepted my apology, things might have gone back to normal, but they didn’t. You’re right about dropping it, and that’s what I’ve done – the discussion on here is more like an autopsy.

              1. Brigitte

                Most people might follow up with an “Are you sure?” but this is an impulse that should nearly always be resisted.

                Tacking an “Are you sure?” when you don’t get the response you were hoping for from an apology is asking the other person to let you off the hook, and that’s not fair. You have to give the other person time to cool down and move on, but instead what you’re doing is asking them to tend to how you’re feeling.

                A better way to respond (if you could turn back time) would be to say something along the lines of, “Okay, good. I felt like our working relationship was strained a little, and I’m glad to hear that’s not the case!” and move on.

                1. Cari

                  Saying all that is still going to look like the OP is pushing to get an answer out of them though, because it’s leaves room for discussion of whether the relationship was strained or not, and why. “Okay, good” on its own does just fine :)

  9. Adam

    I don’t think you have anything to lose by offering an apology for the joke, even if it wasn’t that big of a deal. Even with that though it’s possible this man might think you have a more than friends type interest in him and he may not want to reciprocate. It’s kind of hard for us guys not to think so when a single woman gives us that much attention, even if that’s not really her intention. And our standard response is to go into chilly mode. So I’d let things cool off for a bit and see if you can get back to simple office friendliness without hammering it home. Maybe later he’ll be interested in doing more friendly things after your relationship is more defined?

    1. OP

      Well, here is the weird part – as I mentioned in a comment above, he apparently told a colleague we are both friendly with that he “really liked” me, in a romantic way!

        1. OP

          Well, I hadn’t thought of him like that initially. I was chiefly interested in being buddies because he also likes 50s music, and I don’t meet many other people who do. When I heard that he liked me I was a bit flattered, but I didn’t expect or really even want anything to happen. If we never became romantically involved, I’d have still liked to be friendly with him. Knowing he liked me “that way” only served to make his ensuing behaviour more confusing to me.

          1. PJ

            But you don’t know that he likes you “that way.” You only have someone else’s word for it, who could totally be misreading him, or just trying to stir up dust. Ignore that. It’s clear from his behavior that that’s not true, at least at this moment. You need to let that go, and move on as though you’d never heard it.

            1. Jamie

              That’s what I was thinking. It’s kind of weird to think of adults finding out someone “likes them likes them – you know like that” through other people. He could have made an innocuous comment and the other co-worker either misinterpreted it or ran with the more gossipy interpretation.

              Or maybe he did have an interest and it passed. When I was single it was rare for me to maintain a crush on anyone for a whole week…but I’m easily distracted. Or maybe he did have a crush and once he found out you knew it was over. I have found crushes usually didn’t survive long once they escaped my head and deployed into the real world.

              Seriously it could be a million things – absolutely the best way for the OP to proceed is as if she never heard any such thing – keep it professional. That way if there was any weirdness it will pass sooner.

                1. Kelly L.

                  I’ve had this experience. Flirting with (and genuinely interested in) 2 people, start actually dating one of them, feel awkward around the other one. The interest was real, there was no intentional leading on, but things just clicked with the one person first. I still feel a little bad about an incident like this that happened five years ago!

            2. OP

              This colleague told me he had mentioned to her that he thought I was witty, had good taste and was fun to talk to, besides which he thought I was absolutely gorgeous. She apparently then said “Oh, you have a crush on OP!!” to which he just grinned. But you make a good point that its not true at this moment – and I think I’d rather pretend I never heard it because it makes this less complicated, ha!

              1. Mints

                The person who told you might have reported back to him, and now he’s trying to play cool. And not in a manipulative way, but just like “Oh no, everyone is gossiping maybe I should be less friendly before this becomes A Thing.”
                That coworker sounds too gossipy or match maker for me, tbh

                1. Cari

                  Or, if that interaction with mutual co-worker occured before the joke interaction infront of OP’s co-workers it’s possible it was read by IT guy in a similar way such situations play out in high school with unrequited crushes and the crushees friends being around, and the apparent coldness could be coming from a place of embarassment and perceived public rejection. One of the classic geeky guy nightmares when dealing with crushes, i’m lead to believe :O

                  OP – you sound like a nice person and have done as much as you can from your posts here, so don’t be beating yourself up or over-analyse the situation. Maybe make sure your interactions with this guy in future are professional and friendly 1-on-1 *and* infront of your colleagues, if you feel it was that which changed the dynamic between you :)

                2. OP

                  To Cari: My exchange with the other colleague did occur first, actually! You know, you think you graduate from high school and it all gets easier…

                  Thanks a lot. I think keeping it professional and friendly at all times is the best thing to do. Maybe then if I run into him at a work party, or he answers the helpdesk phone, it will have helped smooth things over :)

                3. Cari

                  Haha yeah! In reality, you never really leave high school behind :)

                  Good luck by the way, I hope things feel less weird in work soon.

              2. Traveler

                I had a situation once where I thought a coworker was pretty fantastic, interesting and good looking and had mentioned as much in a conversation with friends who also happened to be coworkers in passing. It got blown up into this huge thing, that really never died, not even after I was in a long term relationship with someone else. Even though what I felt could have been classified as a “crush” – I had no interest in actually dating or pursuing the guy (for a multitude of other reasons), and the fact that it became the subject of gossip made him lose all luster. I started being very conscious about avoiding him because everything I did or said in his presence had friends/coworkers reading into it because they thought it was funny. It might be something as simple as that going on.

                1. OP

                  What you and Mints above point out makes sense. When she told me this, I simply felt a bit flattered (it can be nice to know people think so well of you), but I never had any intention of pursuing that angle. It just seemed to add to my confusion as to why he changed his behaviour. However, after hearing from commenters here, it now helps the whole thing make a bit more sense – if its even relevant!

                2. Traveler

                  He never did anything to make me feel uncomfortable, and never treated me any differently. It was literally no fault of his that I avoided him – and this may very well be no fault of yours (if it is relevant since of course this is all speculation :) That’s why I wanted to mention it.

                3. Cari

                  I had that happen in high school, Traveller. Only, I couldn’t avoid the guy (same classes, same social group), and the teasing and meddling from my friends resulted in me being rather unkind to the guy infront of them, i’m ashamed to say. He hadn’t done anything wrong at all, I just didn’t feel the same and my friends blew it all out of proportion :(

          2. Adam

            In light of that, I’m guessing his breaking off of lunch plans probably were for legit busy reasons. As for the joke I guess that if hadn’t been crushing on you it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal to him, but because of that it might have stung just a little. I would definitely take a step back and give the situation a chance to reset so it doesn’t look like you’re pursuing him.

          3. Gwen Soul

            Or it could explain it. Maybe after talking with someone about liking you they pointed out dating in the workplace is not a good idea a lot of the time so he is cooling off so as to not put himself in that type of situation.

          4. btdubbs

            Is it possible the coworker who told you IT guy liked you reported back your reaction and now he’s embarrassed? In general, I think you did what you could and you need to give him space to defrost a bit. Repeated “are you sure you’re not mad at me?” type requests could make him more uncomfortable, especially if the reason he pulled away is based in embarrassment.

            Keeping it light, professional and friendly is your best bet. It’s never fun to feel like someone doesn’t like you, but you need to remember you gave him the chance to tell you if you were the root of the issue and he said you weren’t, so you need to conclude it’s something about him (not you) that he’ll hopefully get over soon.

    2. SA

      “It’s kind of hard for us guys not to think so when a single woman gives us that much attention, even if that’s not really her intention.”

      I don’t want to be mean or rude here, but… try harder. For the sake of society as a whole. It’s incredibly annoying (as a woman) to have friendliness in the workplace constantly being interpreted as flirtation or as “permission” to start saying unprofessional things. Not to mention that you often don’t *know* if the woman is single or not. You don’t even know if she’s interested in your gender. Just cool it. Especially at work, but in your personal life too.

      (Sorry for the soapbox, and sorry that this is sort of off-topic. I felt it needed to be said though.)

      1. Adam

        You can’t stop automatic thoughts. That’s why you always think twice before you act on potentially landmine ridden situations such as this. The man in OP’s letter hasn’t done anything professionally untoward the OP. He just backed off from a more social relationship with her which barely existed to begin with, and as other commenters have pointed out there are myriad of reasons why that could be. Being treated respectfully and appropriately is what you deserve and should demand from other people. Being concerned about what goes on in their heads is a waste of energy.

      2. Traveler

        I absolutely support the sentiment behind this, and in general think its a great rule of thumb.

        But in the case we’re talking about I don’t even know that this is a “guy” thing – even though Adam framed it that way.

        If I had a coworker (lets say regardless of gender/I don’t know their orientation) having long chatty conversations with me, and then pursue me 4+ times for lunch, I’d be wondering if there was something beyond friendliness going on there too. That’s a bit aggressive for just “friendliness in the workplace”.

        1. Jamie

          What does it say about me that my first thought would to be wary they wanted to pitch an MLM to me rather than whisk me to Paris?

          I guess I’m finally at the stage where I assume people who suck up to me want me to do something for them and not with them!

          1. Traveler

            Haha. I was thinking the same thing – that’s why I said “something beyond friendliness”.

        2. OP

          I really wish I had written my question with more detail in that respect – It wasn’t a one sided pursuit. I made the initial suggestion, and he agreed, suggesting a specific date. Then he contacted me telling me he was too busy and suggested another date, asking me to confirm with him closer to the time. When I did, he cancelled again, asking for a rain check – finally he contacted me on his own saying that the next little while looked too busy and he was sorry. I, personally, think asking more than twice is being pushy – more than once, even, if the person indicates their disinterest from the outset.

          1. Traveler

            Yeah with that context it definitely changes it OP! It is a really strange situation. I hope it resolves and we get an update from you that you both could at least go back to a friendly working relationship!

              1. MisterPickle

                OP – over the years, I’ve noticed something odd about making lunch plans with people. If we agree on next Tuesday at noon – it often ends up not happening. So we reschedule for the next week – and it still doesn’t happen.

                BUT – what often works is just sitting there on a random day of the week, pondering lunch, and simply picking up the phone and calling the person and saying “hey – wanna go grab some lunch *right* *now*?” I can’t explain it, but this often works out really well. Maybe give it a try with this guy?

                (Good luck!)

      3. LBK

        I’m generally on board with this sentiment, but my one issue is that true flirting/romantic interest usually DOES start with being friendly and giving someone attention. If it were easy to tell if someone were just being friendly or if they were flirting with you, we wouldn’t have countless sitcom episodes, YA novels, chick flicks etc. that discuss the subject at length.

        I really don’t know the solution to this. Just assume no one is romantically interested in you until they ask you out on a date?

        1. Jamie

          At work? Yeah. Assume nothing romantic whatsoever until it’s unequivocally stated.

          Practical, probably not as people are human – but absolutely the safest way to go.

          1. Adam

            As far as work goes this is the safest policy. But if something were to actually happen, whether a relationship forms or interest is expressed and then rejected in the most mutually agreeable way possible, someone still has to bite the bullet and ‘go first’. There simply no way to entirely eliminate the awkwardness of the whole enterprise.

          2. LBK

            That makes sense – the topic seemed like it had wandered off into general discussion, but I totally agree that at work it makes sense to just assume nothing until explicitly told otherwise.

        2. SA

          Well, and then even if they *do* ask you out on a date, it can be very unclear – if a coworker asks you to lunch alone, is it a date? Is it just a friendly lunch? (I’ve been in a situation where even after a lunch was over, I wasn’t sure if it was friendly or a date!) That’s why I’m strongly in favor of phrasing it something like “Hey, would you like to go on a date with me sometime?” instead of a vague invitation that isn’t specific. I get that that’s a bit idealistic of me, but as Jamie below says, that’s why in a work context you should assume nothing romantic is going on unless it’s explicitly stated.

        3. Cari

          I’ve never been able to relate to media that makes out it’s hard to tell when someone is flirting or is attracted to you. There are some really obvious and common ways that we flirt or show attraction to others, and the recipient of such behaviours can usually tell (absent something that makes it genuinely hard for them to read others or social cues). The doubt and questioning tends to come in when folks start listening to social conditioning(?) that says it’s rude/big headed/presumptuous to think someone likes you that way unless they’re explicit about it, or the jerkbrain pipes up saying “why would they like you? You suck!” Or you get complete obliviousness if the attraction isn’t mutual – it’s easy to miss the signs if not expecting them (i.e. not receptive).

          A reasonable level of self confidence and trust in one’s intuition helps massively in navigating attraction situations, although that’s easier said than done :)

      4. Jennifer

        Oh god, yes, yes, yes. I’m so tired of my being just as nice to a guy as I am to a girl means that I want to fuck him instead of I’m just being polite.

  10. Oryx

    Just a guess, but based on additional information provided by the OP all I can say is that there is nothing worse than having someone you have a crush on make a joke at your expense in front of other people.

    I know you didn’t mean it that way, but like you said, the joke about inflating his importance sounds downright rude when typed it out and if it was said in front of *your* peers (instead of his) who also chuckled he probably felt talked down to or something. To have it come from someone he likes would just make it 100X worse

    1. OP

      You could be right. Sometimes I forget that my “friendly jabs” aren’t amusing to everyone, and the last thing I ever want to do is hurt somebody’s feelings. Either way, if indeed it was my joke that insulted him he wouldn’t admit it to me, so it’s a dead end!

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, jokes sometimes reveal familiarity… I mean in a sense that people who barely know each other vs people who have spent sometime talking to each other.

        He may have felt that your joke revealed too much familiarity too quickly. When you said you usually had one-t0-one conversations, I wondered if he was surprised by a joke in front of a group.

        It’s tough to joke in the workplace. And this can happen with any two people. Things are great, work is rolling along. All of the sudden there is that one joke that just hits wrong. Who knows why. A thousand reasons, probably.

        1. Jamie

          It’s funny that you mention this – but I saw the most brilliant response to inappropriate workplace joking.

          Great guy, long time employee…and has a great sense of humor and someone new, less great and definitely not familiar yet jokingly called him an ass**le. Went silent, guy said he was kidding and so and so called you that and you laughed…

          “You don’t know me well enough to do that.”

          Calm, polite, and walked away and left the guy standing there looking like what he just called someone else.

          I filed that one away for when I need it.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Yeah, this is some kind of near romance derail/pause of some sort.

        This isn’t hard even if it is awkward. Don’t apologize any more, don’t feel bad. Even if you made a joke that missed, it’s just a joke that missed. People make them all the time. You didn’t have any bad intent and I don’t think he thinks you did either.

        Whatever made him pull back, if you stay cordial, one of two things will happen next. One, he will stay pulled back or two, he will relax and be friendly again.

        The thing I have seen over and over and over in life, unlike the movies, is that in real life, people pretty much do what they want to do, especially in relationship matters. If he really does like you (either “that way” or another way), whatever weirded him out is going to pass and liking you is going to get past this face he is putting up.

        The movies always have dramatic love plots where he/she/the group trying to get them together have to go to extraordinary lengths for love to win out, narrowly narrowly escaping total defeat by nano seconds as the plane is about to leave.

        In real life, if two people like each other, it’s really not that hard and they fall together and nobody has to do much. I can’t say what’s up but I can say that if you stay cordial and he stays distant, he wants to be distant, nothing you did. If he’s mildly friendly, it’s professional. And if he wants to go out to lunch with you, he’ll say “let’s go out to lunch”

        You can’t go wrong with being friendly + professional to him and not letting it get in your head. See what happens next and then, if anything does, how you react to that is going to tell you what you want.

  11. Jessica

    One thing also to keep in mind is that for some people (maybe this is regional) “cold to the point of rudeness” isn’t a thing– just freezing you out is seen as neutral whereas rudeness would mean actively saying or doing something rude to you. They’ll describe it as “I was cold to her, but I never said/did anything rude”. So he might not feel that he is being rude at all even if you perceive it that way.

    1. OP

      Good point. The reason I thought he was rude was because I asked him, during a lull on the phone while waiting for something to load, how his day was today. He responded with “Hmm *cough* ……………. Is it loaded yet?” and there’s no way he couldn’t have heard me. He’s also been looking past me in the hallways and the lobby. It’s a little strange.

      1. Nicole

        One possibility that popped into my head is that someone who knows he likes you and perhaps does not like you said some things to him about you which has affected his view of you. It’s not fair by any means, but I’ve had this happen to me with a work colleague of the same sex. We were getting really chummy, even had lunch together, and all was fine until one day it just wasn’t. We went from friendly to her completely ignoring me as if I didn’t exist. And then I found out she was good friends with a guy who totally hated me and probably said things to her about me. I was hurt, but then I realized if she was going to snub me based on someone else’s opinion of me instead of her actual experience talking to me, then she wasn’t the type of friend I wanted anyway, so I let it go. It bothers me that people are like that, but what can you do? And that might not be it at all, nor might you ever know, but it just reminded me of my personal experience so I thought I’d share.

        1. OP

          Thanks for sharing this. It’s more food for thought. The more speculative reasons that I read here about what may be going on, the more I realize that whatever is going on with him most likely has nothing to do with me.

          I’m sorry someone expended the energy on speaking ill of you, BTW – Especially to meddle in a situation that really didn’t have much to do with her. That isn’t fair at all.

    2. Jamie

      This is true – for me rudeness needs to be deliberate and overt. Cold =/= rudeness to me unless it’s to the point where people don’t feel they can approach you for work related issues.

      That said – I’ve posted before that the whole smiling/small talk/welcoming thing has been HUGE in social lubrication (tm fposte) at work and has had many benefits – but I don’t think lack of it is rude.

      Think about it as a store transaction. I don’t think the cashier is rude to me if he doesn’t smile, ask me about my day, or chit chat as they ring me up. I would think it was rude if I asked them a legitimate (work related to the transaction) question and they ignored it, rolled their eyes, or muttered something snarky under their breath.

      For me rude takes effort – coldness can just be indifference. People are entitled to civility in the work place, they aren’t entitled to others fulfilling their social needs with friendliness.

      1. Jennifer

        I agree with you. But I do think it’s noticeable when someone goes from being super friendly to you to barely acknowledging you exist in public. (Which is how one ex-friend of mine decided to dump me, fun times.)

  12. SerfinUSA

    Perhaps he has a girlfriend, or is on the cusp of having one, and decided to chill.
    I had a strange back & forth experience with a coworker when I started my current job. We were both involved with people, but somehow there was this *undercurrent* that made things a little ambiguous. Add in the coworker’s extreme (justified) suspicion of making new work friends, and I found myself similarly baffled.
    We ended up not doing any socializing outside of work for a while, got to be good friends and had many talks about friendships both work and non-work, and years later are extremely close friends. I suppose if we had both been single we might have dated, and probably broken up and missed out on an irreplaceable friendship.
    /ramble
    OP, I think you have taken all the steps you can, and should just remain FWB (friends with boundaries) until it becomes normal, or until he decides to thaw and maybe even ‘splains the sudden chill.

  13. Last time again

    I think this is good advice overall, but I do want to say that I think the whole “switch the genders” exercise is generally not that helpful. It’s just not that good of a test–you can’t switch the genders and have all else remain equal, because that’s the whole point of sexism. Changing the genders changes the situation, because it changes the context of the larger system/social structure. A woman says she’s trying to be “nice” when she rejects a coworker’s advances, and we understand that it’s likely that she means “I’m afraid I’ll get called a bitch/told to smile/kept out of the boys’ club.” A man probably wouldn’t have as much baggage around being “nice,” because the stakes would likely be different for him.

    Again, doesn’t change the advice really. Just a general thought.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree that it’s not exactly the same for the reasons you mention, but I do think it can be a helpful test. We’re pretty familiar with the “woman receiving unwanted attention and trying to keep things professional” scenario, and somewhat less familiar when it’s reversed — and I think sometimes plugging in different players can jar someone’s perspective a bit, in a good way.

  14. C Average

    A little more anecdata for the burn pile.

    I tend to run hot and cold with people at work as well as in my social circle, and it’s 100% about me and usually very little about them. Maybe your guy is like that.

    It often feels like my life is a series of slices of a pie chart, with one slice allocated to “being friendly to other people.” When the other slices (“schlepping the stepkids to a million activities I didn’t sign them up for”, “finishing a project someone else started and that I’m still struggling to understand”, “completing required training for the new design template for the website”, “applying to grad school”, “training for a marathon”, “figuring out what to make for dinner that’s not cereal”, etc.) get too big, I get overwhelmed and something’s got to give, and my something seems to always be “being friendly to other people who are non-essential in my life.” Other people start to feel like obligations and I just want them to disappear. I know I’m being awful when I act like this, but I want fewer human obligations more than I want to be nice.

    Sometimes I think the solution is to not have friends ever, but when I have bandwidth I like friends and I’m a good friend. I just have too much ebb and flow in my various obligations to be a consistent friend.

    Maybe your dude has stuff going on and he just plain decided that a chummy workplace relationship was something he didn’t have time or energy for right now.

    1. Anonicorn

      This is an excellent point. Some people have to put a lot of effort into being that friendly with others because it doesn’t come naturally. Not to suggest they are bad or rude people, but it’s not always that easy for everyone. Or maybe I’m outlandishly introverted.

    2. Elizabeth West

      I’m not introverted, but I do the same thing when I get super busy. And it seems like that’s right when everybody wants to be social!

      If he has to put extra energy into most interactions, then the realization that this one might not be the way he thought (or hoped) could be enough to drain it completely.

    3. EG

      Exactly true for me too! I only have so much energy each day, and if most of it is taken up by dealing with other issues then I won’t be as sociable. Instead I find myself looking for ways to take some time by myself to recharge a bit.

    4. Carrie in Scotland

      I feel this way – I can be very regular with keeping people updated about my life etc but then sometimes I just get a bit exhausted of it all and stop for a while. Rinse and repeat.

    5. Zoe UK

      Thanks for this post C Average. I feel exactly the same (especially at work) and have never read it summed up so well! I’m also glad to hear that it’s not just me. I’m pretty sure that in the past I have confused many people by ‘blowing hot and cold’ but it’s not done intentionally. Like you say, if I’m under pressure it’s just the first thing to go.

      I have joked in the past that what I really need is a job where I have no obligation to speak to anyone, ever. It just seems easier sometimes! ;-)

  15. Cara

    I worked as an associate at several large law firms and saw firsthand (and through my friendships with staff, including a close friendship with an IT person) how horribly some some of the attorneys treat the support staff. It’s very political and hierarchical, and in that context I can understand why he might have bristled at the suggestion that he was “inflating his importance.” I’m applying a lot of my own experiences to this situation, but I can imagine him taking crap every day from people who think they are too important to be bothered with talking to the IT guy, when from his perspective he deserves appreciation for helping them. And then someone he respected and saw as a peer (and who he may have had a crush on) also tells him he’s not that important.

    I don’t think there’s anything more you can do about it now. You apologized for the remark, you’ve tried to be friendly, he’s averting his eyes. Just keep it professional. But in general just be aware of the divide between professionals and staff at a law firm and go out of your way not to bruise any egos.

    1. OP

      Oh yes, I have had very similar experiences – It’s pretty terrible. Do you think that applies to practice group staff as well, though? I’m just a clerk, I’m not one of the lawyers.

      1. Cara

        If he is getting taken for granted every day at work I think he would bristle at any comments about how he’s inflating his importance – whether from support staff at the same firm or from his brother or anyone, you know?

        1. Cautionary tail

          +1 on the IT staff being seen as plebian citizens who are only there to serve the needs of the patriachs of business.

          BTW, people wold bring me their computers after the Best Geeks out there screwed their computers up. I have a 72 hour process that fixes every computer problem. Only twice in 20 years did it not work and one was a previously crashed hard drive while the other was a rootkitted system that I still recovered all the data from. In those 20 years I have received one thank you card.

          1. Clerica

            Did anyone buy you dinner or do anything else in lieu of a card? The reason I ask is because some people just really suck at writing those cards and think they sound so stilted and fake when they try. I write all the time (like I have to make up reading passages for kids and then switch to legalese on the fly and with maybe half an hour’s notice sometimes) and I’ll still labor over the wording on a thank-you note liek whoa.

            1. Cautionary tail

              I’ve gotten people saying thank-you, people just grunting etc,. But nobody’s ever paid me and nobody took the tine to do anything more than a few seconds of vocalization when the job was done. That card means a lot to me and I keep it in a place of prominence.

      2. old capitol

        I know this is a little late in the day (just got back home to unfiltered internet!) but if you do see this, OP, please keep in mind there may be office politics at play that you’re not aware of. Among lawyers, socializing among non-lawyers in the office is sometimes frowned upon as unprofessional. (I am not defending this at all, just describing something I have seen.) Reading your concerns, especially after seeing your responses in this thread, I wanted to mention that it’s entirely possible that your IT person has been warned (possibly for no good reason at all other than pleasing tptb) to not joke around when meeting with other staff and it had nothing to do with you at all. Similarly, an unwelcome degree of social scrutiny might have put the kibosh on your friendship.

  16. Anon

    It doesn’t sound like you did anything outrageous here so I’d put money on there being some other context to his coldness that you aren’t privy to (and may be completely unconnected to you). Sounds like you’ve done what you can to repair any damage you *may* have done and he’s still being chilly. Perhaps it is time to accept that things have, for now, changed slightly between the two of you so carry on being friendly and professional and maybe he will thaw out in time.

  17. VictoriaHR

    Just an observation and I could be 100% off base. The OP has responded to darn near all of the threads on this post. There’s a *lot* of responses by the OP here. Could it be that she’s coming across as obsessive or one-track-mind with this IT colleague? Not suggesting that she is but suggesting that this could be how she’s coming across to him.

    1. OP

      Oh dear. Responding to this may hurt my image more – but I assure you it’s more that I’m having a very slow day at work. If it picks up you’ll see my presence drop. :)

        1. OP

          Not at all! I think the majority of people don’t want to offend anybody or hurt feelings – and barring really egregious behaviour, I’m almost always right :)

    2. Jamie

      It could just be the novelty of having it posted and a bunch of strangers chiming in. But your comment brought to mind a pretty funny scenario from my own work life.

      Several years ago someone mentioned that Y rarely said hello to anyone with the exception of people in subset B. Not just hello – no non work acknowledgement ever. No eye contact. But oddly enough NEVER spoke, looked at, or acknowledged anyone in subset A. Not ever unless she had to because tptb got on her for snubbing people…

      it was brought to my attention that I was in subset A and I started noticing, just out of curiosity, yep, not anything unless work related. Apparently this was something everyone noticed and talked about…everyone but me because I hadn’t noticed in over a year. Even after I noticed I still didn’t care.

      Which totally works, btw, this stuff never bothers you if you don’t care and don’t pay attention to who is and isn’t looking at you when you’re walking down the hallway. (FWIW I walk past work friends all the time without eye contact or saying hello, as do they, when busy. Some are helloers no matter what and others it’s just understood we’re still friends and don’t need to connect every time we’re in the same space. I learned life is easier when you hello the helloers – because it takes a lot less time to toss out a hi and half assed smile than answer an email about is anything wrong, are you okay, are you mad at me? :)

      I’ve find you can solve a lot of problems by not caring about them…if only I could aim that at my annoyances at will I’d be such a happy person!

      1. LQ

        I agree with Jamie about the novelty of having it posted. It feels like you have all these people who are being generous enough to offer you their thoughts on the matter. Basically you’re getting a whole bunch of (potentially) really good advice on something that is important to you so yeah, I’d be responding to everything too.

        1. Jen RO

          I would be replying all over the place too! (And I actually do, when I get many replies in open threads… I feel like if I answered one person and not another, the second one would be offended for being ignored!)

      2. SerfinUSA

        We have a similar situation in our rural neighborhood. If you are crunched for time and trying to get some critical task done, don’t make eye contact with the neighbors or you will lose an hour at minimum chatting over the fence.
        I used to think we were the only ones guilty of this until a neighbor confessed he was avoiding us too. A kind of body language has evolved over time, and if you want to let a neighbor know you are open for a back fence gossip session, you do something loudish but recreational, like throwing the ball for the dogs, or stacking firewood near the back gate while the other neighbor is throwing the ball for their dogs or running the kids around. If they have time to chat, they approach, otherwise all parties casually mosey to a different part of the yard.

        It’s really funny, but also a nice time and friendship saver when things are busy on the farm.

        1. Not So NewReader

          That describes rural areas very well. Grocery stores in rural areas are incredible. It can take me two hours to get through the store to pick up five things. There are times I have to get out of the store- that means head down, push the cart, grab the item, walk real fast to the next item, repeat. If you start looking around it’s over.

    3. Anon

      I see it as politeness – acknowledging and considering the responses that perfect strangers have spent time giving her in order to try and help her understand her situation. I’m more frustrated by the OPs who don’t chip in – e.g. What led that previous letter writer to think their boss had put toilet water in her water bottle??!!

      1. OP

        I assure you I do appreciate it! There’s always so many good opinions and perspectives here, and it’s very kind of people to direct them to me. These comments have really helped me feel better about this situation, which was bothering me.

        1. KJR

          Actually I’ve found this thread more interesting because of the OP’s input and clarifications.

      2. Joie de Vivre

        FYI – she did eventually chime in…. only late in the day after most of the discussion was done.
        :)

      3. Loose Seal

        My unscientific observation is that when the OP participates, commenters are less likely to make off-the-wall speculations and get side-tracked. So if I had a letter published, I’d make sure to respond frequently if my workday permitted it.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Or clue Alison what time I would be able to tune in! ha! “The boss leaves at 1:30, please don’t post before then!” lol.

          Yeah, it does make it better when the OP can fill in the gaps of the story.

          Frankly, I don’t know how OPs go without responding. If I had a pressing question, I would be pretty excited to see people mulling over my question.

    4. Cari

      It didn’t come across that way to me, i’m envious of the OP’s ability to respond so well! I get exhausted after a few posts usually, finding internet social interaction pretty similar to irl in how much energy it requires and all :)

  18. Ann O'Nemity

    My advice to the OP is to let it go and forget the whole thing. Hit the reset button. You and IT dude do not have a personal relationship, so you have no real expectations beyond professionalism. (And frankly, do you really want a “friend” that send mixed messages and is currently acting cold to the point of rudeness?)

    1. fposte

      This is kind of where I am on this. Ignore anything that’s happened previously–the guy you talked to today is the guy he is, and that’s the work relationship with him you’ve got. Which seems okay, really.

  19. hamster

    Hi, I only worked in technology and IT firms ( used to be a programmer, now a dba) , so i ‘m not exactly sure how an it in a law firm feels. Sometimes when there is an issue and a customer says something angry when my team pulls a superstar moment I think, well, i’m payed to do this so it doesn’t matter. But when a colleague from another team make a derogatory comment, i am very annoyed, because he or she should no better.
    I mean, in the states it might be different, but really, most it people i know are computer science engineers and smart and passionate about the work they do.
    If i was annoyed, then someone apologised, then i would be embarrassed, and perhaps this is what he is doing now. He’s not naturally as chummy and he’s trying to lay low to let the acwardness dissipate. Even in this position i’d let it slide. Whatever it is, his ego, his colleagues, your comment. It’s water under the bridge now.
    I’d ask just a question , not mean to be offensive: are you naturally the sweet kind of person , who everyone likes, and is generally a people pleaser? I say it because i see how much it affects you the fact that one person used to like you and now it doesn’t . I know it bugs me off when people don’t like me, and i’m not even that nice .

    1. OP

      I like your perspective. Sometimes there are aspects of ourselves that just aren’t open to being poked fun at.

      I’m not offended by that question at all – my answer is an affirmative yes. To wit, some of the comments here that slanted my behaviour as pushy or aggressive bothered me enough to respond with defensive clarification, and gee, that really ought not to affect me so much, since we all have different opinions and there is more to the story besides. It’s something I have to work on.

      1. hamster

        Pheew, i ‘m so glad i didn’t sound wrong. I have this issue too mostly with my friends, but also at work somehow. Less now, after 6 years since my first job but still. Being like can be an an asset ( if people like you, it’s good for the career) , so i say it’s good . Your skin will thicken a bit in time anyway.

  20. LBK

    My take: if he constantly had to cancel on you, maybe he legitimately has been insanely busy and therefore feeling a ton of pressure at work. Taking a jab at his self-image at a moment when maybe he feels like he’s the only one keeping the computers in the office running may have hit him a lot harder than you intended, or even harder than he would’ve taken it at any other time.

    I’ve had that happen before, where I was having a crappy day or feeling frustrated by work stuff and a joke I normally would’ve enjoyed from a coworker I liked set me off. Maybe that’s what happened here?

  21. OP

    I’d just like to thank everybody who wrote in with their thoughts – I’ve read and appreciated each one, even if I didn’t respond. The comments, along with AAM’s answer, have given me a ton of new perspective, and I’m really feeling much better about this situation. :)

    May we all go forth and have direct, unambiguous and pleasant social exchanges!

  22. A Cita

    All these speculations are highly entertaining! Quite enjoying the read. But, Occam’s razor, people. Occam’s razor. :)

  23. Kiwi

    OP, you ever heard of “negging”? It’s a flirting technique used by creepy fellas in which they run a woman down (with a friendly smile and a wink), the intention being to cause her to try to disprove whatever the “neg” was (e.g. “up herself”, “too good for me”, “don’t read intellectual books”) … by talking to him/being friendly with him.

    It probably wasn’t your intention, but your “self important” comment could come off a bit neggy, in context of the spurned lunch date. Perhaps that is how he perceived it and it made him bristle.

    I’d back off and give him the space he seems to want. Keep it completely professional and cordial from here on out.

    Learn from this, but don’t take it to heart. These misunderstandings happen to everyone at some point. Learn and move on.

    1. A Cita

      I doubt negging is going on here, but yeah, that’s such a creepy tactic. I had a guy do that to me at a bar with a group of acquaintances (he was a friend of someone I knew). It was so obvious. So I started “negging” him right back and he kept telling me I was cold and mean. Yes, I am. Then at the end of the night, he asked for my number. Um, no. Gross.

  24. Amanda

    My guess? He liked the OP but was dating other people and things just turned serious with one of his dates.

  25. Natalie Anne Lanoville

    Every single time I have made the first move on a guy who I knew had a crush on me, it has gone nowhere fast due to him flaking, bailing, turning chilly, etc, after at first seeming over the moon that I invited him out.

    I mean I’ve had guys who flirted with me shamelessly at work, whose co-workers said had a crush on me, call me and shout, “I’m phoning from a salmon trawler in the Atlantic Ocean. Sorry I couldn’t make our date, I decided to get back together with my ex.”

    I don’t know if it was that they liked having a crush but they never imagined anything come of it, or if it was confidence, or what.

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