• Nancy Mendelson

Red Flag Redux

Good Lord! No sooner did my last column about red flags post than I found myself in a social situation so filled with red flags that if I didn’t walk away, I would have felt like a complete schmuck.

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Although I hung in as long as I could (why???) and did leave after the third flag waved itself right in my face, I found myself with a case of survivor’s guilt for having left my friends to face the shitstorm I saw coming a mile away. And, oh it did come I learned shortly thereafter.


This red flag thing is a slippery slope, which is why I turned to our hertelier readers to weigh in with their take on Why Smart Women Ignore Red Flags.


“I think we all miss red flags because we both want something or someone and we think we can change the situation/person,” says Dr. Leslie Morrison Faerstein, Licensed Psychotherapist, and specialist in Women, Aging & Eating Disorders. “When I first was introduced to a partner when I was 45, the person who connected us said "Be careful - he's good for a fling." I continued to miss the red flags or, actually, saw them and chose to ignore them despite friends and my daughter telling me, ‘Enough!’ Finally, after nearly 14 years and a lot of grief, I ended it.”


Hertelier’s own Emily Goldfischer adds, “I ignore red flags when I want something to work out, like I want to just will the red flag away. However, ultimately that does not serve me, I have realized. It would actually be more useful to acknowledge the red flags and change my behavior based on the signs I am getting.”

“I completely relate to what Emily posted,” says Writer, Editor, and Content Creator, Sarah Zimmerman. “I have also realized that my ability to spot (and act on) red flags has increased with my age and experience. I know now to trust my intuition, to check in with myself when I'm having specific feelings (usually in my gut), and to not be afraid to act on my feelings. The bonus: my first instincts have usually proven correct and saved me a lot of heart- and work-aches! I have also realized that my ability to spot (and act on) red flags has increased with my age and experience.”


Customer Success and Operations Expert, Stephanie Macey, goes on to say, “I saw the red flags, but I was hopeful that I was overreacting or reading too much into things, and I was trying to remain positive rather than dwell or focus on the potential negative.

I think as women, we try to remain positive and hopeful and tune out what our gut is telling us because we want to be confident that things will work out the way we expected.

I think as women, we try to remain positive and hopeful and tune out what our gut is telling us because we want to be confident that things will work out the way we expected. We are often "peacekeepers" and we want to avoid rocking the boat or being accused of overreacting (or the dreaded "being emotional"), so we drown out the red flags with the dream scenarios in hopes that we will end up with the result we were imagining.


Geez, I can relate to all our contributors, and so appreciate the willingness to share their experiences and perspectives. That’s what women do, though, and I don’t know about you, but I no longer feel so alone in or judgy about my personal struggles with red flags.


That said, I leave you with some words of wisdom and sage advice from Career and Leadership Coach, Kathy Hubler:


"One reason women ignore red flags on the job is because they think something is a one-time thing, whatever it is that happened, and that it couldn't possibly happen again. We are great at making excuses for whatever happened or whoever reacted (so and so was tired/stressed/overwhelmed) to ignore the red flags. I think women do this because we know we'd personally never behave or react in that particular way, that is the way that is raising those red flags. However, this isn't about our own character, but the character of the person who is raising those flags.

In the job search process, I see women ignoring red flags all of the time. Whether it's because we desperately want out of an old situation and into a new situation or because at first glance the job is a dream job, it's hard to recognize red flags when we are focused on what we want vs the reality of what is happening around us (such as, the job interview process, how the job is being described vs. how it was written about in a job description). It's easy for us to ignore what we don't want to hear because we are so focused on what we do want to hear.

It's easy for us to ignore what we don't want to hear because we are so focused on what we do want to hear.

Red flags can look/feel like: a literal gut reaction (like a kick or knots in the gut that can make you feel sick to your stomach), the sensation of a heavy heart, a facial expression/reaction that happens automatically, the feeling/thought of "WTF!?", and anything else that doesn't feel good or right in the body, in your thoughts, right down to your soul (which makes it difficult to explain, but when you know something is off you just know!).

To get better at recognizing red flags, start by thinking of a past experience where you originally did not pay attention to the red flags, and made a decision, only to realize later that you missed that something was off. How did that make you feel? Where did you feel it in your body? What is that sensation saying to you as you think back on it? Get to know this sensation and understand the message behind it. Remember this feeling so that when you feel it again you can recognize it more easily, assess the situation, ask for more time (if you can) to get clear and understand what is bothering you, and make knowledge-based decisions to move forward in ways that work for you and not against you.”