Emotional Intelligence


If you’re not clear about the line between a compliment and sexual harassment,

you might get in trouble.

“It wasn’t my intention!” he said, while putting his hands in the air to show me that his intention was non-sexual and that I was the one misunderstanding his gesture. Does this scenario look familiar to you?

Let me share with you a personal story.

I once met a woman called Amanda (name changed). We met because our daughters were the kind of friends who often had sleep-overs at each other’s place.

My daughter loved going to Amanda’s house; they had a big swimming pool and they threw pool parties.

Amanda often said that she was blessed being married to her husband; they had been together for over a decade.

I felt happy for Amanda and her family. Personally, I was going through a divorce at the time and longed to see a positive example of a loving primary relationship.

One day, Amanda’s husband placed his right hand firmly on my lower back and left it there! I was so shocked that I froze.

Have you ever felt confused by someone else’s gesture?

Not knowing what to do, I ran to the kitchen where Amanda was and I stayed by her side the rest of the evening.

Months went by before, Amanda and I saw each other again. This time, it was at her daughter’s birthday party at her place.

Upon ringing the doorbell to their house, Amanda’s husband opened the door. “Come in,” he said smiling.  “You look beautiful!” he added, while eyeing me up and down.

Back then (over ten years ago), I wasn’t the woman I am today, so I said nothing.

Amanda’s husband took a step towards me and I took a step away from him. He said, “I don’t bite, Anne. I just said you’re beautiful.”

Replaying his words in my mind, I started wondering,

“Am I the one crazy here?” 

Is this sexual harassment? 

Winter came, then it was replaced by another summer. Once again, my daughter was doing cannon balls in Amanda’s pool.

When I went to pick her up one late afternoon, I came face to face with Amanda’s husband. He was home early and Amanda wasn’t there.

“Eh! Where you going? Stay! Have a drink!!” he said to me when he saw me retreat my steps towards the front door.

I walked faster but he blocked my exit by putting his arm across the door.   “You’re beautiful, you know that? Can’t believe you’re single!”

Amanda’s husband then bent over and tried to kiss me, but I physically ducked and the kiss smacked empty over my head. “What the hell!” I said angrily. To which he replied, “It wasn’t my intention!”

Let me ask you,

Where is the line between a compliment and sexual harassment?


When someone places their hand onto someone else’s lower back, what does it mean?

Placing our hand on someone’s lower back usually indicates 

a deliberate show of affection or an implied want for possession

This is why some people view this gesture as a compliment while others see it as aggression.

When someone says, “You’re beautiful!” what does it mean?

Being told “You’re beautiful!” usually indicates a form of 

physical attraction in a sexual or non-sexual manner. 


When someone says, “It wasn’t my intention!” what does it mean?

We usually say “It wasn’t not my intention!” after being caught doing something wrong


Where is the line between a compliment and sexual harassment?

The line is simple:

Ask yourself,

‘Would I perform the same gestures onto people 

with the same sexual orientation as me?’

For example:

If you are a heterosexual man:

  • Are you okay with placing your hand onto another heterosexual man’s lower back and firmly leave it there? 

  • Would you look at a heterosexual man and say over and over again, “You’re beautiful!”?

  • Do you accept kissing a heterosexual man on the lips?

If you (a heterosexual man) have answered no to any or all of these questions, then what might be your intent if you are performing these gestures onto heterosexual women who are NOT in a committed romantic relationship with you? Could it be that your intent was sexual in nature?

As a heterosexual woman, I do put my hand onto another woman’s back as a sign of affection, I do tell my girlfriends they are beautiful and sexy. I also do kiss some women on the lips sometimes to show my closeness to them. Can I do the same thing with heterosexual men? Absolutely! I am clear on the line between a heartfelt compliment and sexual harassment because

No one wants to experience sexual harassment anywhere.

My name is Anne Beaulieu and I am an Emotional Intelligence Coach who assists clients in establishing and enforcing healthy emotional boundaries. You can connect with me at

Your EQ coach,
Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash