She’s confused by his mixed signals

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am confused about this seemingly shy coworker who seems to have a crush on me. On the job he is a loner, seems shy and rather passive, but excels in math and computer knowledge. His grooming is rather unkempt, but he did try to improve his appearance after I approached him after months of him watching me from a distance and not making a move. When he does hold a conversation, it is usually with much older coworkers then anyone around is age.

One of the things that confused me is that when I finally spoke to him he was stuttering, could not make eye contact, and did not know what to do. he was so uncomfortable, I felt uncomfortable and did not speak to him again until months later.

This time I spoke to him right outside the building. He seemed pleasantly surprised and happy that I was talking to him. He seemed like a completely different person. His voice was strong, confident, and deeper than the one he uses with everyone at work. He maintained eye contact, was confident, articulate, and seemed very intelligent. He did not seem the least timid or withdrawn.

However, the next time, I saw again, a day later, he seemed uncomfortable looking at me and returning my hello and I heard him speaking to others in that same weaker voice and acting very shy.

After our conversation, he walks near or passes me, glances over at me out of the corner of eyes, but still does not approach me. In these instances, I did not go over and speak to him, but I continued to greet him in the morning, as I do everyone, but now he gives me silent treatment. He looks past me in my direction and won’t say anything.

I wonder if you could give me your thoughts as to what you think is going on with him. Are these signs as to problems I can expect from him if I continue to try to keep communicating with him? So far it seems he will not ever come up and talk to me and that I will have to do the pursuing. Something I am not keen on and will not do.

But right now he seems rude and rather self-centered. He is not thinking at all about hurting my feelings when he snubs me. He is not taking the initiative to get to know me better after I broke the ice between us. He is about in his 40s.

I do not understand his “shyness” with me now inside the building that was not there outside the building when he seem so confident with that different sounding voice. Though I like him, I can move on. Thanks

A: Why don’t you just ask him? It looks to me like he’s not the only one who is uncertain and “shy.” The two of you are in your 40s but you are acting like uncertain teenagers. I suggest you stop guessing about him and his motives and take a more direct approach. You could gently say something like, “I’m confused. You seem interested in me but you don’t talk to me much. I’m interested in you. How about we go out for coffee and get to know each other?”

As for my guesses about him: He may be hesitant to approach you when other people are around. He may have social phobia. He may have Aspergers or high-functioning autism. He may have a huge crush on you that makes it hard for him to respond to you when he is thinking about it. When surprised, he didn’t have time to get scared. Maybe you are making too much of all this and he doesn’t know how to tell you to stop without hurting you. I don’t know. Neither do you. Go for that coffee and find out.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jun 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). She’s confused by his mixed signals. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/06/04/shes-confused-by-his-mixed-signals/

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