ASK (YES YES) MARSH: Networking and Flirting – Where’s The Line?


I bloody love reading advice columns.

When I worked in radio, I used to make all my interns tear out the “Dear Deidre”s from the back of the tabloids, so I could read them on the train home. The only German I know is from translating Teen Mag problem pages when I was a teenager (“Ich schwärme für ihn! Er ist sehr gutaussehend und frech!”*).

heart lady

And, as a coach, it’s in my nature to LOVE giving my suggestions for solving other people’s problems. As one ex- described me, I’m “violently helpful”.

So: I am THRILLED to announce a new sporadic feature:


And today: networking – and

Anonymous Gentleman writes:

I was wondering if you had any advice about networking with people you could be attracted to.

Since the purpose of networking is essentially making friends, what needs to be put in place to stop the relationships from developing into something more?

I mean, it seems simple to me at first, but then I realize that flirtation is a form of relationship building, and I slowly become worried that lines will be crossed…birds

What steps should specifically be taken to deter these touchy/ overly intimate relationships from building without harming the overall rapport? 


As a lifelong networker and flirt, I LOVE this question.

AG, one word for you:


Boundaries boundaries boundaries. These are your best friends when it comes to keeping networking and romantic relationships separate – and even business and friendships separate, because sometimes you LOVE hanging out with a particular person for work but you don’t necessarily want to go ice skating with them.

Two quick points: 

I’m not saying don’t ever turn work relationships into romantic ones. Those can – and often are – wonderful ways of beginning sweetheartery. 

I’m also not saying, “never be in any way flirtatious with people you have a work relationship with”. For some of us, flirting with acquaintances and strangers is like water, or maybe TV Box Sets, and we can’t imagine any joy in life without a bit of it.

Here’s what I suggest to keep it professional:

(1) Decide what your boundaries are, preferably in advance
boundary walk

DO you want to be outside-of-work friends, or even swoons, with this person?

If not, get that VERY clear in your own mind. Knowing this will affect your entire behaviour, conscious and subconscious, overt gestures and micro-expressions.

(2) Lay those boundaries down clearly, as soon as you get the chance


For instance:


When arranging a meeting with them, choose a daytime coffee – or, at a push, lunch in a busy, non-romantic restaurant – over dinner or a movie. And have somewhere to be (or to pretend to be) afterwards.

If they ask to see you on a non-work-related evening or weekend, warmly divert them to meet you during office hours.

If you have a partner, mention this fact casually UPFRONT, as soon as possible. 

On this last: I’d add that that also should be a permanent rule of thumb for those of us that enjoy the pleasure of meaningless flirting; if you mention the swoon pretty much straight away, the other person can decide whether or not to engage in the flirting, with all the information in their hands.

(Though never, EVER do that thing where you respond to anything they say by pulling an “…um…this is awkward…”, scrunched-mouth, squinting apology face and saying, “er, actually, I have a girlfriend”. That’s a dick move)
(and you might get THIS reaction)(<– NSFW link)

(3) Don’t do the kind of flirting you wouldn’t do in front of your partner or a group of your friends

For me, this means:

OK: mischievous jokes, solid eye-contact and a bit of arm touching*.

NOT OK: talking about sex a lot and/or stroking their inner thigh.

lizard tongues

*(to be fair, I behave like this with pretty much everyone I meet)

Follow these three rules, and you can flirt away (within reason) to your heart’s content, knowing that it’ll strengthen your Industry Friendship, without getting you into a pickle.


So, to review: 

(1) Decide what your boundaries are

(2) Be clear about them when making plans and answering questions

(3) Only do flirting you’d do in front of your partner and/or a group of friends.


Over to You

I’d love your thoughts (and any suplemental or alternative advice you have) in the comments below.

Thanks so much for reading! If you know someone who tends to cross flirty and networky lines, it would be rad if you could share this with them, using one of the round buttons below. Or if you need to keep it anonymous, you could always just print it out and pin it to the office wall…

And if YOU have a question you’d like me to answer on ASK (YES YES) MARSH, then I would properly LOVE to hear it. Just fire me an email over to When I answer your question on the blog, I’ll either keep you anonymous or plug your website (depending on your level of shyness), with pleasure.


xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

*“I want to go courting with him! He is very good looking and cheeky!”



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Photo credits: Helga Weber, malczyk, neil rickards, Joybot, marshmallowangel89 and jurvetson, all via Compfight cc


  • Karishma

    February 11, 2015

    Right. No more thigh-stroking then.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      February 11, 2015

      Oh, Karishma. I did try and warn you about this.