pisces man generous
Reader Questions

Would it be alright to initiate a conversation?

Claire Asks:

Hello Alan! =) I’ve been a follower of your site for a few months already and I like how warm you come across in all your posts. I’m sorry I hope you don’ t mind my msg as you probably read a lot of these sorts. Mine is however, pretty “pathetic” in comparison as we are strangers at this point.

To get to the point, I’m from Asia and work in a service-office and there’s a Pisces guy who has piqued my interest. He works for a different company next door. We’ve been neighbours since end-2015 but I’ve always not thought much of/noticed him, except that he might be an ungentlemanly sort. Based off 1 incident early in the year when I was trying to get off the lift but he entered it before I did. And another incident when I was in the lift with his group of colleagues and one of them whom he’s pretty close to kept turning right round to “stare” at me, which at that time I found pretty off-putting.

So I dismissed him and his colleagues as a weird bunch of ppl on my floor. Fast forward to one fine day in August this year when I happened to observe him stare at me each and every time he passed my office (I sit near the door) that day. I was like. Alright…what’s going on now?

Abit about me is that I’m pretty quiet/pokerfaced when I’m alone and quite oblivious to my surroundings. I can be quite chatty and laugh a lot when I’m with others. Also, I look pretty ethnically confusing (I’m mixed) and I know that invites quite abit of attention from random strangers probably wondering where I’m from.

So I continued observing over the next few weeks and until today I’m pretty sure of some things. First, while he’s more discreet, I still do see him look my way as he passes my office, particularly if I’m very near the door. He does “notice” me, and seems to be able to “sense” when I’m in the vicinity though I make no noise, and will definitely look my way. I find this really freaky actually. He used not to be able to look straight at me whenever we pass each other in the corridor, but ever since one random incident when we were both alone and he smiled at me, he’s been pretty good at holding eye contact. We also seem to bump into each other a fair bit. Another is, he seems to like to dothings to attract my attention. I know this sounds weird and childish. Butit’s anything from talking quite loudly with his colleague when I’m nearby to making some sort of noise when he passes my office. Another is, there’s a group of his colleagues who always seem to “check me out” longer than is necessary when we see each other.
I always felt abit unnerved by it and I found out recently that these same people are his project team members. It’s an interesting co-incidence. Bits that I know/observe about him. He’s from a very conservative, homogenous Asian culture but has worked in many countries over the past decade or so. It’s pretty rare for someone from his age-group to do so. He’s in his early 40s (I’m in my late 20s) so I have no idea if he’s married/attached/single. He strikes me as really driven/hardworking. He gets a lot with women really, really well andis very jokey/warm with his female colleagues. Doesn’t seem like the physically touchy sort in the sense that he keeps to his own personal space and doesn’t look like he has time for random strangers.

I recognise whatever he’s doing may sound weird given his age. But Ido sense a sort of tension in the air between us and I think it’d be nice to say hi and start a conversation but I’m abit hesitant. It’s uncommon to speak to strangers here and I’m not sure ifhe’d interpret it wrongly and it might become really awkward. I’m also thinking he’d have said something if he wanted to already, ha. We do very similar work and I’m actually pretty fluent inhis native language, so it would be nice to make a new friend. But I don’t know if I’m reading this whole thing/his signals (if any) right. Thanks so much for reading this really long wall of text!!


Based on what you wrote and assuming things like your comment about him doing things to get your attention is true then I would be inclined to say at the moment he wants to ask you stuff but doesn’t know how without it feeling awkward.

This isn’t exactly the case for you by the sounds of it, but just as an exaggerated example to hopefully shed a better light of the potential emotion imagine every day at work across from you there was a person who always needs to walk with the aid of like a prosthetic arm or leg. Because of that you can’t help but to wonder why the person has those and how they can function in everyday life. However, it’s super awkward to just ask someone things like that as it can be a sensitive topic as an example.

So instead like there most people who are just super curious would wait for an opportune time to ask. Or, they hope the person would go up to them for whatever reason to build the relationship for them to then feel semi comfortable to eventually ask. So in essence I feel for your situation this is kind of what is happening. It would make sense in many ways as you mentioned you are of a mixed race where you must stand out to many people I would assume in your area as an example.

At the same time we can factor in that you mentioned it’s very uncommon to talk to strangers which makes it even more complicated to be able for a person to just approach you as an example. Would it be alright to initiate conversation? From a personal standpoint I would say for sure. In many ways it sounds like that is what you need to do or find the best valid reason to do so such as something profession related. I would say the biggest question here is just the cultural factor on how people feel about certain actions in general. For example, in some places it’s not uncommon for strangers to greet each other by like “buddy punching” another on the shoulder whereas I am sure in other places that would be super awkward where you better just stick to the handshake.


  • Claire December 4, 2016

    Dear Alan, Thanks so much for your prompt response!! And I’m sorry you had to read the entire wall of text, it was so long =X

    I totally get what you are saying as I feel the same way; I would like to ask him some questions as well, about his background etc. I’m curious about that. And I can totally relate to your analogy as that’s how I feel. I have a feeling that’s how he feels too.

    It really does suck that the culture here is so averse to talking to strangers, as I personally LOVE doing it and do it all the time when I travel to Western countries. It’s just basic human interaction/socialization to me. Even smiling/acknowledging someone I see on an almost daily basis is normal to me, but isn’t socially accepted. People think you’re crazy or too have some ulterior motive if you do so *eyeroll* So I really have to rein in the urge and keep quiet (it’s very difficult). It’s a huge barrier imo to starting new friendships. So I’d have to wait for an “opportune moment” and I don’t know when that is! Even then, I have a feeling that if that ever happens, I might have to be the one to initiate. And I don’t know…I guess I have to see how I feel in the moment then!

  • Alan December 4, 2016

    If what you wrote is considered a wall of text then the stuff I write must be like drowning you all in a large sea or something…….

    I think with like say Eastern culture as an example, as your description of the situation actually sounds like that, the key difference are how things like group think and recognition plays a more prominent role in being able to socialize. So that should be the “natural” way to learn more about him where you need to find a way to get in that “group” I guess you can say. In many ways it is no different everywhere else but some places are just more diverse as an example where people don’t fear the unknown as much I guess you can say.

    Example, here today I was just doing some outdoor adventures to see some sights in nature and everyone that passed by said hello and such which is pretty normal as people are delighted to see a wide range of people doing various activities. I would imagine with a place where things like group think and recognition plays a larger role due to like tradition I would need to have things that are immediately identifiable which makes people feel that I am one of them. Like here since so many people were bringing their pet dogs I’d probably need to bring like a dog of some sort too as the easy icebreaker if everyone was paranoid to be social.

    So that’s an idea and something to think about if you are trying to jump start it I think. Basically, satisfy that traditional sense of “security” for them then after you can really just be yourself where hopefully they themselves re-think the way one perceives people.

  • Claire December 13, 2016

    Ha. Long walls of prose aren’t appreciated here sadly…I’m always asked to cut to the chase/get to the point etc.

    Yeah I live in a strange culture. Very modern/Western on the outside, but the population still has a very East Asian/conservative mindset. You’re totally spot on in your descriptions of the culture here. Also, there’s that whole piece around in-group/out-groups and people only talking to you if you have a relationship with them or with someone they know.

    I get what you mean, and am prepared to do what you suggest. But I guess at this moment I’m finding it difficult to even think what kind of situation that might entail – especially in a work situation. Guess I gotta just leave it to luck! That’s the downside to living here, sometimes I do wonder if I should move somewhere where people are more open and being social isn’t seen as a weird thing….

    Thanks once again, Alan 🙂

  • Claire December 16, 2016

    Hi Alan! There’s this one observation I’ve made, and I think I’ve seen it on too many occasions to conclude that there seems to be a pattern. I don’t know what to make of this though. I’ve noticed that if he thinks I’ve not seen him, he’s ok looking right at my face when he passes me. But if there’s a situation where we unexpectedly cross paths, come round the corner etc, he can’t seem to look at me or hold eye contact. =/ He would look at me but avoid my gaze or avoid looking at my eyes/face. I don’t know if you get what I mean.

    For example, we met each other at the lobby yesterday. He saw me exit the lift I suppose, but i hadn’t “spotted” him yet as I was chatting to a colleague, I almost literally collided into him and he gave me an “acknowledging” smile. It’s not like a bright grin or whatever but like in a very polite manner. Again he couldn’t really look me straight and was kinda trying to but repeatedly looking away too. I decided, heck, and gave him a nice smile. Today, however, we bumped into each other round the corner, no acknowledging smile from him and again that glance – he’s glancing at me but kinda avoiding looking at my eyes/face.

    I’m personally alright with eye contact and am actually hoping he returns it! Cause right now I’m abit hesitant to start a conversation with someone who can’t really look at my face. I’m not sure what to make of this and am abit hesitant to conclude that he’s shy. I’ve come across some of his photos and he seems like a very personable, smiley guy. And is known to be. And I think one thing to note is that I’m around 28 and he’s a couple of years older. So I’m not too sure what’s going on here. Would love to hear your insight on it.

  • Claire December 16, 2016

    Sorry, Alan, one more detail I neglected to mention. I’ve actually politely “smiled” at him a few times. Even if it meant just raising the corners of my lips. I don’t know – it comes naturally to me as I do this to people I see often and find out that they are open/receptive to it. It’s my way of acknowledging them. I will ignore them from then on if I did it once and didn’t see any response. However, I’ve did this probably a few times to him already, but have gotten no response; as he doesn’t return it mostly cause he’s so busy avoiding my gaze and side-eyeing me instead. I do this as a sign to him that I’m open to communication and that I’m willing to engage. But this whole thing is making me want to completely stop and ignore/avoid him altogether, as I don’t like trying and not getting any responses. Seems rude and makes me uncomfortable.

  • Alan December 16, 2016

    Fundamentally it sounds like he is nervous around you. Now why that is the case is the real question to uncover. Typically speaking the most common reason can be physical attraction where the person is extremely subconscious about allowing the person to know that they find them attractive as an example. There could be various reasons for that as well.

    Example, a person is in a relationship already and is not supposed to “stare” at anyone else. In that case it comes down to being “inappropriate” to let the other know. Another scenario can be that for many showing another that they adore them per se is a sign of weakness. So like socially speaking they want to be perceived as the stronger person.

    If you are telling me that you smile to him and he is actually going the extra distance to not acknowledge you then in a straight forward way it simply means spending time with you isn’t as important to whatever else he has going on. There are two trains of thought with this and it is kind of your choice to decide which one to go with. As I usually say too you shouldn’t ever have to try too hard if it’s right.

    For example, if I was in areas with more parks and such where there isn’t like a whack of people then someone ignoring a smile as a sign to initiate conversation or whatever is downright rude to most. In those cases I always acknowledge people. If I walked into the busy downtown sector where everyone is like a herd of animals then ignoring the acknowledgement is expected in many ways. Like there my mindset is everyone’s focus per se is to just get to their destination and you don’t want to disrupt that. So the tricky thing is you can perceive that as he is a rude person or that the environment simply isn’t the right time and place for like introductions. I am assuming based on what you wrote that this wasn’t like a chaotic scenario though?

    I think what is semi safe to assume though is that a person like myself often notices everything per se in terms of those types of reactions. So don’t worry too much if one notices it. If I don’t react to it then there simply isn’t a compelling reason to make the connection for whatever reason. I would be inclined to say you just have to literally say “hi” instead to make any real conclusion. After that first initial “hello” then if he ignores you still or looks away onwards it’s safe to assume this connection is just wrong I would say.

  • Claire December 17, 2016

    I agree with your assessment. He seems nervous and could be for all the reasons that you’ve listed. I was also speaking to some people about it and it seems like something innocuous as not being able to maintain eye contact is totally plausible too. Too many reasons to really know.

    I’ve re-enacted my “smile” to some of my friends and they all don’t think it’s a smile. Ha. Fine. But I totally agree that if the connection is right, one shouldn’t have to try so hard. And no it wasn’t a chaotic environment. We are in a service office, so the common corridors are relatively quiet – save for the odd few people walking around or talking on their phones etc.

    Which types of “reactions” are you referring to in the last paragraph? I guess I wouldn’t mind sayin hi someday, as per you suggested, that’s probably the clearest way to find out if anyone is ok with making a connection. Right now, I don’t think I’ve done anything “wrong”, so I’ll just carry on as per normal!

  • Alan December 17, 2016

    For the reaction part it would be like you are mentioning how he is purposely trying to look away from you where maybe as a result you feel he doesn’t notice you actually attempting to like engage in a conservation. Like let’s assume you walked by, smiled and he just kept walking where you assumed he didn’t see it. Like there when it comes to those subtle hints I would personally say assume that he notices it and is just not taking action if we are going by the notion that the guy is an intuitive thinker and all. Especially if you say you know he is staring at you and all during other times.

    I would say for a person that thinks like me too this happens a lot where we know what the person is doing but just don’t acknowledge it as there is no real reason or need to. In many ways you need to take initiative in the sense of putting a person like me in a position where I need to dedicate my attention to you for situations where we are just like walking past each other. That doesn’t mean like if I walk by then you should throw a ball at me or whatever. But even walking pass people and saying “good morning” is a perfectly acceptable example of putting me in that position. Then as the days go by you can further that or hope he then says good morning to you instead.

    Unless you are telling me socially people even hate having others telling them good morning, afternoon, etc.

  • Claire December 19, 2016

    Ah I get what you mean now. Haha, I totally get the knowing what the person is doing but not acknowledging to cause there’s no need to, or don’t feel like it. I interpret this as rather lazy/passive behaviour – at least when I do it. I just “can’t be bothered” to react in that moment though it might be a good chance to do something. It could be different for him of course.

    The situation does take on quite a weird turn especially when you consider that these are two people who notice the other and knows the other notices them too. But choosing not to do anything about it and letting it fester for months. I could be reading too much into this cause of prior similar experiences when I was younger – all of which were rather negative/ended badly – but after awhile it feels like a game. Let’s watch each other to see who does something first. If the other doesn’t do anything, then it’s ok, just continue watching. Cause that’s how I feel this situation is sometimes. It feels like a game – and not a very pleasant one actually, as it feels dishonest. So actually to prevent these sorts of potential situations where I might bump into him and have all these feelings – which make me quite uncomfortable – there are sections of the main corridor I do avoid.

    Saying good morning is great. But unfortunately it’s not done here as well. Of course you can take that risk and initiate it, but I’m willing to wager all you’d get are just surprised looks. The only people who do it here are the receptionists to people who are exiting the lifts and even then some of them pretend not to hear/don’t respond. I actually wish I were joking.

    Personally, it’s no harm done and a nice way to segue into getting to know one another. I give you an example. There’s a lady I see very often in the corridor/in the lobby downstairs. We frequently bump into each other. So we don’t “know” each other of course, but we aren’t unfamiliar to each other either. Just recently, we were in the pantry together and we were about to throw something into the bin so I lifted the lid to throw my stuff and held it up for her. She said thank you. I’m the sort that will perceive it as us having had some small interaction which means it’s fine to acknowledge each other if we see each other again. We don’t have to become BFFs overnight of course. Guess what – I see her a few days later, gave a polite smile, and all she did was just stare at me. That prompted me to then go back to ignoring her whenever I saw her again after that exchange, cause I interpret such behaviour as being unreceptive of me trying to acknowledge you. I just feel it’s a very confusing and quite unfriendly culture.

  • Alan December 19, 2016

    I can’t speak for him specifically, but to give a different perspective on a key reason why I wouldn’t respond if say it was pretty obvious that the girl was say throwing herself at me is because in my mind it doesn’t make sense for what I would want the person to be interested in me for to establish that deep meaningful relationship. Like saying we never spoke to each other and she knows nothing about me. Yet she is giving me all the signals to approach her.

    To me this means it’s mainly say a physical attraction as an example. While that can be important in its own way for a relationship for many that isn’t the foundation I would want ideally as I wouldn’t be using that as like a priority for the other myself either. So it’s like saying if looks are the main reason that the relationship is built on then odds are it will fall when that fades for whatever reason. Being and loving a person for who they are should mean that will only fade at the very end. You could say as an example that’s not even giving something a chance which means you’ll never know. But no screening technique is perfect of course. That goes into the topic I usually mention about on how just naturally being yourself should be good enough in many ways.

    If people don’t even like to say good morning I am almost inclined to say just initiate the quick greeting by pointing out that something is free in the building that day…..free food, free drinks, errr free money….etc. Assuming there is such a thing going on of course. I don’t know any culture in the world where stuff like that doesn’t usually get a reaction in an office environment where people see each other all the time.

    Your example of the lady just staring at you after is good though screening wise I feel. It’s good in the sense that this told you straight up she did not have any real interest or valued a connection with you at all. So now you don’t have to waste time with her. That’s all you really need to do here too with this guy I feel. A lifting up the bin moment and him saying “Thank You” would be all you need because if the person is remotely interested they will use that opportunity to in a sense learn more about you in the future. Like an ideal thing would be they remembered your deed and will hold it up for you next time.

    Unless he has like a memory of a fruit fly or something in my view the gesture should be reciprocated when the opportunity comes up.

  • Claire December 20, 2016

    Ah that’s another way of seeing it. I do fall in the camp of “no harm trying, no loss”. I like the term you used – screening. Well, like you said, no screening test is perfect. I’ve used many different ones over the years and there’s no one good one which determines whether the connection will be deep. Or whether that deep connection can even be sustained. Some started from friendship and that deep connection never started/lasted, others started from a “first sight” thing which lasted really long. One can’t really predict for sure I guess.

    That’s a good method and if there were an opportunity to try it on someone here, I will.

    Yeah I agree, the dustbin incident was a good screening. And I think what I’m looking for here is reciprocity. No reciprocity and I can then proceed to ignore that person forever. I’d probably never repeat the small, “kind” act to the same person either. If there were ever such an incident in the future, well, that would be ideal.

    Thanks a lot Alan! You’ve helped me a lot =) I just hope I didn’t take up too much of your time!

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