When was the last time a man-made you uncomfortable? Maybe it was just a twinge – or launched a chain reaction in you?
As a dating coach who works with successful women, I hear a lot about men who make them feel uncomfortable – at work as well as in dating.
The cause for discomfort tends to fall into three different buckets.
The first is being disrespectful to the woman he’s talking with.
It may be that the man ignores what women are saying, treats them like they are a fool, or doesn’t make eye contact during conversation.
The man may also make a woman feel uncomfortable when he is disrespecting other women, such as making jokes about women or trash-talking the mother of his children.
The second bucket amps up the discomfort and focuses on more physical aspects.
For example, when a man gives a “compliment” about a woman’s body, such as, “I love how your body moves under your dress when you walk.”
It might be the not-so-innocent touching without permission. A hand on the small of the back. An accidental brush against breasts when he reaches for something.
The casual touch may escalate to physically intimidating, such as when a man boxes a woman against a wall to make a point. Or slides a hand down her hip while alluding to making a deal.
The third bucket of ways men make women uncomfortable are straight out sexually focused.
The jokes he shares shift to sexual in nature with graphic innuendos. A man might call a woman he works with or doesn’t know well “Baby” as if she was his.
He may push for her to go on a date with him. Or skip the date to go straight to sex because he’s the “King of the Bedroom,” and it’s her lucky day!
A man may send naked photos to a woman who does not know him well. He may push for sex even though he’s married – or she’s married.
Actions from all three buckets can make women feel uncomfortable in a variety of ways.
Feeling uncomfortable can cause a range of reactions from awkwardness to anger.
While the examples above are overt, sometimes a man may be more subtle. The uncomfortableness builds and eats away at a woman. She may not feel good when she has to interact with a certain man.
A woman may feel like she has to suck it up and ignore the uncomfortableness if she wants to keep her job. She may feel like it’s the price of working in her industry.
Even worse, she may know what’s causing her anger, but it triggered to shame and is shutting her down. She has been trained all her life to be a “Good Girl.” To not draw attention to herself. To not make others feel bad.
I’ve seen women keep going out with men they don’t feel great with because they don’t want to make the men feel bad or hurt their feelings. How the woman feels is not the top priority for them in these scenarios.
Some of the uncomfortableness generated by physical and sexual actions can make a woman simply feel not safe.
What is a woman to do? How does she take her power back?
Please note, if you do not feel safe, get help immediately. You do not deserve to be treated that way – nor do you have to put yourself at risk.
Beyond that, most women need to strengthen their boundaries.
The Good Girl training teaches women to ignore how they are feeling or what their gut is saying. No more.
The first step to strengthen boundaries is to figure out what is okay for you – and what is not.
You can identify specific behaviors and reactions you will not tolerate. For example, you do not want to hear sexy jokes or be touched in certain ways.
Take time to really explore this. For some, you may need to truly give yourself permission to not be so accommodating. Identify what doesn’t feel good to you when it happens.
Take your time with the list. It doesn’t have to happen overnight and can be grown as you go.
Once you have identified what behaviors you will tolerate and what you will not, it’s time to enforce your boundaries.
The easiest way is to nip bad behavior in the bud – at the first uncomfortable comment or action.
You may say something simple like, “Hey! Hands off!” or “Seriously?” to stop a man’s actions immediately.
You can use some humor to push back and let a man know he’s crossed your boundary.
One of my dating clients asked a man who started right away with innuendos, “How did you get there when I have not deemed you worthy of a simple kiss yet?”
Honoring your boundaries is a skill. It will take practice to feel comfortable. Start with the easy stuff. Work your way up.
Boundary work will take care of a lot of the behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable.
You deserve to feel comfortable in your life, at work – and even when on a date. When you stop uncomfortable behavior, you are taking better care of yourself.
Honoring your boundaries is a beautiful form of self-love.