How To Know If They’re Just Being Nice (Not Flirting)

Flirting can be a tricky thing, especially for those of us who aren’t so adept with all the unspoken rules and social cues that go along with it. Many of us are often left wondering how we should act around the people we like or what the right thing to say would be, how we can subtly let them know that we’re interested in them and, in turn, decipher if they feel the same way about. 

It can all get real complicated real fast. And the last thing any of us would want is to make the embarrassing mistake of reading too much into someone’s words or gestures and possibly jeopardize our friendship with them by making things awkward. But who can blame us when it’s so easy to mistake something’s friendliness for something else, especially when you don’t know them that well yet? After all, flirting is meant to be subtle, and even more so if the other person is shy or playing coy with their feelings.

Don’t worry, though. You’re in luck! Because here are 8 tell-tale signs that can help you tell the difference between someone who might be interested with you, and someone who’s just being nice:

1. They’re nice to everyone.

The first thing you should always take a look at when trying to figure out someone’s feelings for you is to compare the way they treat you to the way they treat everyone else. Are they just as friendly with you as they are with a lot of other people? Although it might seem like they’re flirting with you at first, the truth is there are actually a lot of people who are just very friendly, chatty, and comfortable joking around with just about anyone. Be careful not to read too much into it and keep an eye out for any of these other signs, too.

2. They never initiate anything.

Sure, you might be talking to this person a lot and spending lots of time with them, but think back on the last time the two of you actually made plans. Who was the one to initiate it? Have they ever actually gone out of their way to spend time with you or strike up a conversation with you? If you’re the one doing most, if not all, of the initiating, then it’s most likely that, although this person certainly enjoys spending time with you, it doesn’t mean they’re actually flirting with you (Messman, Canary & Hause, 2000).

3. They don’t hang out with you alone.

Similar to the points made earlier, just because someone spends time with you and talks to you a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are trying to start anything up with you, especially not if they never hang out with you alone. So if the only time you and this person ever get together is with a bunch of mutual friends around or when you have to (like if you work together, take the same route going home, or just have a lot of the same classes), then they probably just want to be friends and nothing more.

4. They keep a respectful physical distance.

While some people may be more comfortable with it than others, touching and other acts of physical affection (like hugging or putting your arm around someone) can be completely platonic and appropriate with friends. Most people though try to keep their touch respectful and only reciprocate the touches you initiate or when appropriate, like to comfort you when you’re upset, scared, or anxious (Parks & Floyd, 1996).

5. They’re careful about what you talk about.

Another tell-tale sign that someone’s just being friendly and not actually flirting with you is if they’re careful about what the two of you talk about. Even our closest friends are mindful not to send us mixed signals or do things that may be mistaken as romantic advances by taking care not to talk about anything that might be too intimate or too personal for us to share. That is, they usually keep your conversations restricted to more friendly territory like what’s going on in your lives, how you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and any common interests you might share. That’s it.

6. They don’t open up too much.

Again, the simple act of striking up a few conversations with someone isn’t in and of itself enough evidence that they have feelings for you or are trying to flirt with you, especially if they’re careful not to open up to you too much. So think back on the last time you and this person spoke. Did they seem guarded to you at all? Are there some things you sensed they might have been reluctant to share or talk to you about? It might be because they were worried that sharing too much about themselves might give you the wrong idea behind their intentions. 

7. They let conversations end organically.

One of the best ways we can distinguish between someone who just wants to be friends and someone who wants more is by looking at the way our conversations with them. If they like to keep talking to you for as long as possible, even about the most mundane things, then it’s safe to say that they’re flirting. On the other hand, if they just let your conversations fizzle out and reach their natural stopping points, sometimes not even bothering to say goodbye, then they’re probably just being friendly with you (Egland, Spitzberg & Zormeier, 1996).

8. They talk about their crushes with you.

Last but not the least, while this sign might be the most obvious of all, it’s still worth mentioning here because, surprisingly, some people may still need convincing. But trust us, if this person is comfortable enough to talk to you about who they like, who they find attractive, or who they might be romantically interested in, then that’s as clear a sign as any that they only see you as a friend and nothing more. After all, when you’re flirting with someone, it’s practically taboo to insinuate to them that there might be other people you’re interested in, too, because that’s just going to ruin your chances of ever winning them over.

So, do you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here? Has reading this list helped you figure out if someone is just being friendly to you or if they’re genuinely flirting with you? If you liked this article and want to read more about this topic, here’s what you should click next: 8 Signs It’s Not Friendship, But LOVE, 7 Signs Your Best Friend Has A Crush On You, 8 Signs A Guy Secretly Likes You, and 8 Signs Someone Has A Secret Crush on You.

References:

  • Messman, S. J., Canary, D. J., & Hause, K. S. (2000). Motives to remain platonic, equity, and the use of maintenance strategies in opposite-sex friendships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 17(1), 67-94.
  • Parks, M. R., & Floyd, K. (1996). Meanings for closeness and intimacy in friendship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 13(1), 85-107.
  • Egland, K. L., Spitzberg, B. H., & Zormeier, M. M. (1996). Flirtation and conversational competence in cross‐sex platonic and romantic relationships. Communication Reports, 9(2), 105-117.

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