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In the first consultant session with someone of the opposite sex, where we explored a specific subset of her business challenges, a potential solution came to my mind. I did, however, not mention that solution, because in this stage I wanted to get a good image of the status quo without biasing her.

In the speaking notes, can I say: "I did not mention that solution because I did not want to lead her on", or would that have a sexual connotation, which would be inappropriate? Is it professional to phrase it like this?

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    The answer depends too much on the nature of your "sessions", the nature of the work, who is overseeing the work, etc.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 23, 2022 at 21:52
  • You might prefer prompt her or influence her. Or say I wanted her to find a solution independently.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 24, 2022 at 0:38
  • Write it as an answer @BoldBen. "Bias" may also work.
    – banuyayi
    Sep 24, 2022 at 5:55

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The weight of dictionary definition says that you are not necessarily being sexual. Here are three examples:

Cambridge
to persuade someone to believe something that is untrue

Collins
If someone leads you on, they encourage you to do something, especially by pretending that something is true
and also
to lure or entice, especially into trouble or wrongdoing

Merriam Webster
to entice or induce to adopt or continue in a course or belief especially when unwise or mistaken

Some of these definitions (such as lure and entice) are consistent with sexual overtures, although not necessarily so and not restricted to that usage.

However, think of the synonyms. Here for example is the M-W list: allure, bait, beguile, betray, decoy, entice, lure, seduce, solicit, tempt

Many of these are heading strongly towards being implicitly sexual (allure, solicit, seduce, tempt)

I therefore suggest that context is all-important. You may use lead on if you make very clear that the leading on related only to a line of argument.

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