How to Tell if Someone is Flirting and Not Just Being Friendly


Alison has been friends with Joe for a few months. They would often hang out together and chat for hours. He was always friendly and attentive to everyone. But lately, she has caught him looking at her with a slight smile, and he started touching her arm or shoulder when they talked. Alison was confused. Was Joe trying to tell her something, or was he being his usual friendly self?

Misreading signals can lead to awkward situations and hurt feelings. On the flip side, failing to recognize someone’s interest can cause missed opportunities for potential romantic relationships. It can be challenging to differentiate between friendly and flirty behavior. This article will help you to distinguish it. 

Causes of confusion

It’s common for people to misinterpret someone’s behavior as flirting when they’re just being friendly. In his book, The Five Flirting Styles, Jeffrey Hall revealed that 91% of people have been in a situation where they thought someone was flirting with them, but they were wrong. 

There are several reasons why this can happen. First, individuals may be inclined to see what they want to see, especially if they’re interested in the other person romantically. 

Secondly, without knowing the intention in the first place, flirty and friendly behavior can look similar on the surface, with lots of laughing and smiling. 

Research also found that one of the motivations for flirting is to seek fun and not always relational. Thus, the goal of flirtation is pleasurable interaction rather than promoting a closer relationship. This is when miscommunication occurs.

Signs of flirty behavior

The art of flirting can be subtle, and it takes practice to recognize the signs. There are five flirting styles: physical, polite, playful, sincere, and traditional. Each style has unique attributes and characteristics that can help you differentiate between someone genuinely interested in you and someone merely being friendly. 

Body language says it all

When it comes to flirting, most people will use the physical flirting style, which is using their physicality to let a potential partner know how they feel. If you want to know if a person is flirting, look at their body language. 

A man will focus on you even though his friends surround him. He will lean back and make you feel comfortable around him. He will touch you more, brush your hair from your shoulder, and tap your hand while talking or laughing.

Women will play with their heads and expose their necks (e.g., head toss, head tilt) to show interest. If you spot a coy smile (i.e., looking down while laughing or smiling), that’s a good sign. She is likely nervous and trying to make a good impression.

Lots of compliments 

Compliments are a common flirting tactic and can range from compliments on physical appearance to personality traits. However, it’s important to note that not all compliments are meant to be flirty. 

Context and tone are important factors to consider. Suppose the compliment is accompanied by a lingering gaze, statements of availability, a suggestive tone of voice, or physical touch. In that case, it may be a sign that the person is flirting with you. Individuals with polite flirting styles often do this act. 

Trying to create an emotional bond

When someone is interested in you romantically, they may show personal interest in your life, such as asking questions about your hobbies, interests, and goals. They also offer social support by being there for you during tough times and helping you when needed. 

Besides, they may engage in self-disclosure — sharing personal stories and experiences to create a deeper level of intimacy and connection. It shows that the person is invested in getting to know you more personally and indicates that they are interested in pursuing a romantic relationship. 

These actions are found in people with a sincere flirting style. People who show this behavior express their romantic interest by attempting to establish an emotional bond.

Subtle yet significant changes in behavior

Their behavior will often change in noticeable ways. While it can be challenging to pinpoint what these changes might look like, there are a few general signs to look out for.

One key difference is that when someone is friendly, their behavior will likely be consistent whether they are talking to you or anyone nearby. However, if they are interested in you, you may notice a marked difference in their behavior the second you approach them.

They may try to look confident, make more eye contact, or even start to blush. They may also be more engaged in the conversation, asking more questions and leaning in closer to you. These changes in behavior can be subtle, but they are often a good sign that the person is interested in you romantically.

In conclusion

Not all flirty behavior is necessarily tied to relationship development. Some people do it just for fun. You need to be able to recognize flirting signals that are motivated by a romantic interest. 

Paying attention to the subtle change in their behavior might help. This includes how they treat you in front of their friend, how they talk and behave, and the attention they give to you. You can avoid awkward situations and seize potential romantic relationships by paying attention to these signals.

If you would like to take your reading on flirting behavior further, check out the Relationships Science Labs. Using the research of the Institute for Life Management Science, the lab produces courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Relationships Science Labs today.

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