Advice Goddess: Nose To The Groin Stone | Advice & Fun | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Coverage for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians.

The Source Weekly has been here for you, keeping you in the know throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

We’ve delivered important updates and dispatches from a summer of racial unrest.

We’ve interviewed dozens of state and local political candidates to help you make an informed decision during election season.

And we’ve brought you 22 years of important news and feature reporting—along with all the events, happenings, food, drink and outdoors coverage you’ve come to know and love. We’re a newspaper for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians, and it is and always has been free for readers.

If you appreciate our coverage, we invite you to spread the love and to join our growing membership program, Source Insider.
Support Us Here

Culture » Advice & Fun

Advice Goddess: Nose To The Groin Stone

Making sure you're clear about that "friend zone."



Nose To The Groin Stone

I’m a woman, and I recently made a new professional connection — a man who’s excited about my work. We’re planning on doing a big important project together. I’m worried that he’s interested in me romantically (based on a few things he’s said). I’m not interested in him in that way. What’s the right thing to say to get that across?
—All Business

It’s tempting to get everything out in the open right away: “I’ve run the numbers on your chances of having sex with me, and they’re pretty close to the odds of your being crushed to death by a middle-aged dentist falling out of the sky.” Informing a guy pronto that you aren’t romantically interested in him — though in somewhat kinder language — would be the right thing to do if he were just some persistent Tinder date you wanted to unload forever. But you’re hoping to have a continuing business relationship with this guy.

So even if it were wildly obvious that he has the hots for you, the last thing you should do is mention that particular elephant in the room (not even while you’re pole-vaulting over steaming mountain ranges of elephant dung). Cognitive psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker points out that “most social interaction” involves some conflicting goals — for example, when only one of two people is interested in ending the evening in the tool shed/sex dungeon. (Yes, sometimes the nightcap is a rubber hood.)

Pinker explains that “indirect speech” — not saying exactly what you think or want — is a way two people can maintain their relationship as it is (even when both suspect or are pretty sure that their desired outcomes are in sharp conflict). The sometimes tiny measure of ambiguity — uncertainty about another person’s goals — that is fostered by indirect speech does a big job. It allows the person who wants something the other doesn’t to save face, enabling the two to preserve their common ground.

So, your refraining from telling the guy that you aren’t interested (in so many words) allows him to cling to the ego-preserving possibility that you might be. If he goes direct on you — tells you he wants to sex up your business relationship — that’s when you likewise get explicit: Tell him straight out that you want to keep things strictly professional. However, this may not be necessary if you act in ways that say “just business!”

Avoid going flirty in communicating with him, and schedule meetings for the utterly unsexiest times and places possible. Nobody ends up doing the walk of shame because they had seconds on biscotti and one too many double espressos.

Simper Fi

There’s always been an attraction between this guy and me. I’ve been thinking of testing the waters with him romantically, but he recently mentioned that he freaks out when women cry. He says he just has no idea what to do. Well, I’m an emotional person — generally happy but also a big crier. Are we a bad match, or could I teach him to soothe me?


Most men are comfortable dealing with any leaky item — as long as it can be fixed with an adjustable wrench and a Phillips screwdriver. If there’s a decoder ring for human emotion, it’s the female brain. Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen finds that men, generally speaking, just aren’t as good as women at what’s called “theory of mind” — the ability to “infer what other people might be thinking or intending.”

He explains that women, from childhood on, tend to be the “empathizers” of the species, driven to identify others’ “emotions and thoughts, and to respond with the appropriate emotions” (say, by hugging a teary-eyed person instead of treating them like a statue weeping blood). In contrast with female “empathizers,” Baron-Cohen describes men as the “systematizers” of the species. This is a fancy way of saying they’re engineering-focused — driven, from a young age, to identify how inanimate stuff works and “derive the underlying rules that govern the behavior of a system.”

However, these are “reliable” rules, like the law of gravity — “What goes up must come down“ — nothing helpful for fathoming what the girlfriend’s got swirling around in her head when she suddenly goes all funeral face. Typically, women believe “If he loved me, he’d figure it out.” Um, no. Not here in realityland. Assume most heterosexual men are sucky at emotional tea leaf reading.

When you’re in boohoo ville (or on your way), tell a man what you’re feeling and how he could help — for example, by just listening and rubbing your back. In time, this may help him avoid reacting to the welling of that very first tear by diving behind the couch and yelling, “Incoming! One o’clock! Alpha team, flank left!”

About The Author

Add a comment

More by Amy Alkon

  • At Debt's Door

    At Debt's Door

    The neural tentacles of your habit will weaken, as will the clutches of your compulsion
    • Oct 28, 2020
  • Heavy Mental

    Heavy Mental

    Love sometimes requires one to make sacrifices, but these shouldn't include avoiding any words with more than two syllables
    • Oct 21, 2020
  • Coddle Herder

    Coddle Herder

    Empathy is taken for granted as a beautiful thing, but it has a dark side
    • Oct 14, 2020
  • More »

Latest in Advice & Fun