Have you ever gone head to head with a friend because you both saw the same thing slightly differently? Maybe they interpreted a movie differently than you, or heard the other half of an argument going around and thus took that side. These clashes are all born of the same thing: two people seeing one thing differently.
These sorts of rifts can range in severity, with casual debates on one end and serious allegations at the other. The latter half is exactly what happened in a U.K. office when a boss unknowingly made his employee very uncomfortable.
If you're someone who fears meeting new people because you worry about others opinions of you, you already know that it's tough. Letting fear control your life is no real way to live, and at times it may feel impossible to overcome, but you're not alone in this fight, and there are tools that can help.
First Impressions Are Everything
When meeting someone new, you want to put your best foot forward. Most want to seem kind, respectable, competent, or whatever the goal is, depending on the context of the meeting.
And while you can spend hours and hours working over your appearance or preparing your opening line, you can never have total control over how that person reads you.
This goes for every interaction you'll ever have. Even long-time friends or trusted coworkers can misinterpret a conversation, an email, or a text. This type of everyday clash caused some tension in a U.K. office when an employee thought her boss was being far more forward than he ever intended.
Karina Gasparova was an IT project manager at a paperless document company called essDOCS. She became a member of the team in November 2019. She soon after came forward with troubling allegations that essDOCS' co-head (and former CEO) Alexander Goulandris had been sexually harassing her in the workplace.
She alleged that Goulandris was inappropriate toward her during both online and in-person interactions, filing a lawsuit in which she described a number of her encounters with him that made her uncomfortable.
A Few Examples
She first claimed that, within her first month of working for essDOCS, Goulandris touched her leg with his own under a shared table and "stared at her," leaving her feeling "anxious and uncomfortable."
She told this to a London employment tribunal, where it was found that the brushing of their legs was both accidental and "innocuous."
Gaspraova also said that Goulandris "constantly ran his hand through his hair" and gave her "leering looks" during a video call.
That call also dragged out rather long, which Gasparova interpreted as Goulandris "trying to chat her up."
One of her main points in this lawsuit (and the one that caused the most stir when the details were revealed online) was that Gasparova believed the way Goulandris wrote his emails also contained sexual innuendos aimed toward her.
The email in question involved Goulandris asking Gasparova for information regarding a project she was working on.
To signal the information he needed, Goulandris used 'XX', 'YY', and '????' within the message, all written in red font.
Gasparova believed these were some sort of code alluding to a sexual proposition from Goulandris, thinking the 'XX' in particular was symbolic for kissing.
Goulandris also included his initials in his emails, AJG, which Gasparova believed was an acronym for 'A Jumbo Genital' and was yet another method Goulandris was using to coerce her into a sexual act.
Not Quite Right
Employment Judge Emma Burns has dismissed the sexual harrassment claim entirely, saying that Gasparova has a 'skewed' perception of the events and often misinterpreted 'innocent' interactions, believing them to have 'sinister motive.'
"Our primary reasons for rejecting her account of events were that we considered her perception of everyday events was skewed," Burns explained.
"She demonstrated a tendency to make extraordinary allegations without evidence and she contradicted herself in a way that could not be attributable to a fallible memory."
On Her Way Out
"Ms. Gasparova interpreted entirely innocent work-related conduct, some of it accidental, by Mr. Goulandris as having a sinister intent."
It wasn't until April of 2021 that a detailed grievance was submitted, and Gasparova's allegations were officially dismissed. She appealed that decision in May 2021 but was rejected again.
Gasparova would later resign from the company entirely and was actually made to pay out £5,000 (roughly $6350 USD) to essDOCS in costs as she failed to comply with parts of their tribunal process.
So, while Gasparova's claims didn't get anywhere and were ultimately found to be either false or grossly misinterpreted, it doesn't change the fact that she and Goulandris had wildly different perceptions of the exact same events and, thus, wildly different perceptions of one another.
Even if we put our best intentions forward, there's no way to know how others will see us. Sure, it's unlikely that things will go quite so off the rails as they did for essDOCS, but it's still something to keep in mind when making first impressions.
You can't completely control how others see you, no matter how perfectly you train yourself to behave, so you're better off surrendering yourself at least partially to the chaos of others' opinions.
This chaos worries many people, those who fear what they can't control so they avoid situations where things can go wrong. This behavior is often born out of a lack of confidence, which can stifle many of life's wonderful opportunities.
If this sounds like you, there's still hope. You can learn to break through this cage and live fearlessly today thanks to this free audio. Take control of your brain today, click here and never let fear stop you again!