A potential client asked me to “Deepen” the Relationship

“I don’t know if I would have had the courage early in my career to say no, but now I know that no one needs to tolerate that type of behavior to be successful.” How should one respond to inappropriate behavior and requests from clients or customers?

What happened?

I work in a profession where I take one-on-one meetings with people all the time. While there were many times early in my career where the opposite sex crossed the line, after doing my job for 15 years, it had been a while since I ever felt uncomfortable. That said, I recently found myself in a situation where a person–who I had been trying to make a client for years–finally said they were ready to engage in the conversation.

The first meeting we had was at the Rosewood (where I host meetings regularly). We had a great conversation and it ended with him asking for me to put together some follow-up materials. Two weeks later, we scheduled time to review those materials and again agreed to meet at the Rosewood. This time it happened to be a hot day, and I received a text from him saying he was going to go for a swim and to meet him down at the pool. I honestly didn’t think anything of it since I am there so often for meetings. After reviewing the follow-up materials, he offered to walk me out and then explained that he had received a “hall pass” from his wife (and newborn) to stay overnight at the Rosewood since he had been so busy lately. As he walked me out, he took me in the direction of his room and asked for me to come in.

How did you respond?

When he asked me to go to his hotel room, my first reaction was pure shock. It had been so long since something like this had happened that I was caught off guard. My first thought was “that still happens?!” I quickly said “no, thank you, I must get home to my husband and kids” and quickly proceeded to my car. I received a text a few minutes later saying that it was a shame I didn’t come in as it would have “deepened our relationship”. I have since ignored all of his outreach and will continue to do so.

What were your takeaways in hindsight?

I’m glad that I quickly rebuffed his request and didn’t waiver in my resolve. Similarly, I’m grateful that I don’t feel any pressure to continue the dialogue with him. I don’t know if I would have had the courage early in my career to say no, but now I know that no one needs to tolerate that type of behavior to be successful.

Watercolor by Charlotte Goff http://www.charlottediane.com

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