Friendliness vs. flirting: How to tell the difference

One of the basic tenets of flirting is that you have to keep it ambiguous. It’s all about the banter, the back-and-forth teasing, and the moments spent wondering whether your insane chemistry could ever amount to anything more. 

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One of the basic tenets of flirting is that you have to keep it ambiguous. It’s all about the banter, the back-and-forth teasing, and the moments spent wondering whether your insane chemistry could ever amount to anything more.

That doesn’t make interpreting the signs any less frustrating, though. How many times have you been disappointed (or embarrassed) after misreading someone’s friendliness as flirtatiousness? Conversely, think about all the times you might have missed your chances because you didn’t recognise the other person’s interest in you.

There’s no cut-and-dry way to classify every action as either flirty or non-flirty. Everybody is different and actions should always be looked at in context and in a cluster (as in, it’s more likely that she’s flirting with you if she does five flirty things rather than just one).

But to make the process a little less painful, we’ve given 10 of the most common moves a verdict of friendliness versus flirtatiousness.

1. Adding you on Facebook the same day that you meet
Social media might have made it easier to stalk – er, research – the people we’re interested in, but it’s also given us a whole new medium by which to misinterpret their actions. While some women would argue that immediate Facebook friendship denotes curiosity, and thus, romantic interest, it’s more likely that the guy just needs a more casual way to connect with you than over the phone. 

Verdict: Friendliness

2. Using a chat-up line
Nowadays, pickup lines are so corny that it’s impossible to take them seriously. But we’ll have to admit that they’re a silly, effective way to break the ice with an attractive person. The more gimmicky, the better. It can be as obvious as a guy saying, “Do I know you? Cause you look a lot like my next girlfriend,” to something more indirect, like, “I looove your glasses, can I try them on?” (Heads up, it’s also an excuse for him to see what you look like without specs).

Verdict: Flirtatiousness


3. Using a lot of emojis in a text
Ah, emojis. So adorable, yet so misleading. A winky face is often interpreted as a sign of flirtation, but where do you draw the line between teasing and being tongue-in-cheek? And what if the guy (or girl!) just really enjoys using emojis? Anyone who’s ever downloaded Whatsapp would know that it’s impossible to carry on a chat without spamming the other person with pandas, koalas, smileys, and hearts.

Verdict: Friendliness, but it also depends on the content of the text.

4. Commenting on your lack of a wedding ring
There are a couple of ways that guys go about this. Sometimes they flat-out mention that they noticed you weren’t wearing a wedding ring (which is awkward to bring up, but well, blame the attraction for impairing his better judgment). Other times, they’ll “mistake” the ring you’re wearing on your ring finger for a wedding ring, when it’s obviously not, and use it as an excuse to bring up your husband. Which is your cue to correct him, which he’ll take as his cue to go all in.

Verdict: Flirtatiousness

5. Complimenting your appearance
As wishy-washy as this is going to sound, it depends on the compliment. If the girl or guy says that you look gorgeous, handsome, pretty, or cute – completely out of the blue, and with a small smile – they’re totally flirting. But a simple compliment about your appearance, such as “you look nice” or “that colour looks good on you,” shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Verdict: It depends on the compliment

6. Making eye contact, smiling, and looking away
This is a classic flirtation move. But make sure you catch the smile (or blush) at the end, as there’s a world of difference between checking someone out, and accidentally making awkward eye contact with them. Once you determine that the other person is flirting with you, make eye contact again, and then walk over to talk with him or her.

Verdict: Flirtatiousness

7. Asking to take a picture with you (and only you)

ALERT! ALERT! Unless you’re a celebrity, this person sees you as more than just a friend. This incredibly straightforward flirting method is especially telling when he wants to do a phone selfie, as it means that the two of you will squeeze together.

Verdict: Flirtatiousness

8. Laughs at all your jokes
There’s a difference between someone saying your joke is funny and that you are funny. If the person says “that joke was awesome,” but not “you’re hilarious, I love you!” then he’s probably just a friend. Look out for phrases like “you crack me up!” or “ROFL, I love you.

Verdict: Friendliness if they’re charmed by the joke. Flirtatiousness if they’re charmed by you.

9. Offering to walk you home
Back in the day, this was interpreted as a courtship ritual. But nowadays – especially if you live in a sketchy neighbourhood – it could just mean that the guy’s being a gentleman. And that he cares about you enough, as a friend, to ensure that you get home safely. Take this one with the “cluster rule” – if you teases you, tries to hold your hand, or tries to linger with you outside your door, then he probably has special intentions.

Verdict: Friendliness

10. Offering to pay for your meal
Again, you need to apply the cluster and context rule here. Did you forget your money? Are you visiting the guy from out of town? Does he owe you a favour and has offered to pay it with food? If the answers to these questions are no, then it’s likely he feels affectionate toward you.

Verdict: It depends on the context. But for the most part, flirtatiousness. 

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