Picture this: You're minding your own business when suddenly you bump into an attractive stranger. You make eye contact, smile, and maybe even exchange a few words. As you walk away, you ask yourself, "Wait, were they flirting?" Because honestly, while there is a difference between flirting and friendliness, the line can be a bit blurry sometimes. If you struggle to tell the difference, Connell Barrett, Dating Transformation founder and dating coach with The League, tells Elite Daily you're not alone. "Friendly and flirty can look almost identical — smiling, laughing, positivity, attentiveness, feeling connected. It’s very easy to confuse the two," he explains.
Your own internal biases might also add to the confusion, dating coach Eric Resnick tells Elite Daily. "[They] help fill in the gaps of the story. If you have an attraction or [feelings] toward someone, it's very easy to read too much into things because your mind wants there to be something there," he says. "Conversely, if you are not interested in someone at all, you might misread actual flirting as just a friendly gesture."
Resnick adds that our interactions online and on social media can make it even harder to read one another. "[A] big reason that friendliness is misconstrued as flirting is that people interact less than ever before," he says. "It has become easier to be mean to people... especially if you disagree about anything. As a result of that, a lot of people aren't used to positive interactions on such a frequent basis. So, without a baseline, a lot of people can misconstrue any positive attention as someone having feelings toward them." Basically, it's complicated. But the experts say it's still possible to differentiate flirting from friendliness by paying attention to the following.
If They Single You Out For Attention, They're Probably Flirting
If you're unsure about whether or not someone is actually into you, Barrett says to note the kind of attention they give you. “Are they nice and friendly with everyone, or do they give you extra attention? If they single you out, they’re likely flirting,” says Barrett
Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships, tells Elite Daily the same can be said about social media. “Try to notice if the comments this person writes are generally flirtatious to everyone, and if so, it’s just the way they show their friendship. If you get the feeling you’re the only [they talk to in a flirtatious way,] then chances are they’re flirting,” she explains.
Their Body Language Can Be Telling
“Body language is one of the best indicators of flirting,” says Resnick. “Friendly hugs don't linger nearly as long as flirty hugs. There's a lot less active touching of your hand or your arm from someone who is being friendly than someone who is flirty,” he adds.
There are actually a handful of body language cues that can indicate flirtation over friendliness, Traci Brown, body language expert and author of Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence, tells Elite Daily. Some are more obvious, like “moving closer, direct eye contact, and ‘accidentally’ touching." Others are a little more subtle, but can be just as telling. Be on the lookout for them "crossing their legs toward you, leaning in toward you, or the eyes dilating when they look at you," says Brown.
If Your Conversations Feel Deep & Personal, They Might Be Flirting
Barrett says you should also pay attention to the nature of your conversations. “Friendliness is more surface-level, but a flirter wants to go deeper and get more personal, finding out about your life, your feelings, your past," he explains.
It’s also important to note how they compliment you, says Spira. “If you hear how beautiful you look today, it could be a sign of friendliness. [But] if the conversation goes deeper and you hear or receive a text saying, 'You look gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see you again,' then you’re moving into a regular flirt zone,” she shares.
Still Can't Tell? Here's How To Be Sure
While all these clues can be helpful in determining a possible flirter’s intentions, the clearest way to be sure is to just flirt back and see what happens, Diana Dorell, intuitive dating coach and author of The Dating Mirror: Trust Again, Love Again, tells Elite Daily. “If they are a bit awkward and steer the conversation toward more friend-like topics, then you have your answer. If they return that energy, chances are good they were flirting,” she explains.
This is, of course, assuming you're even attracted to them in the first place, says Resnick. “If you aren't interested in them as anything more than a friend, it's probably best to just ignore it. Don't call them out and embarrass them. They'll either get the point and back down, or they'll escalate, at which point you may have to say something,” he advises.
If you are interested, Barrett says it’s OK to be bold. “When in doubt, ask them out. This makes your interest in them crystal clear,” he says. “This can be scary, but no matter the answer, you’ll know for sure — and you might get a date. Making romantic interest clear takes courage, which is very attractive. Sometimes just asking someone out can turn a spark into a flame for both of you.”
Trust your instincts. You got this.
Connell Barrett, Dating Transformation founder and dating coach with The League
Eric Resnick, professional dating profile writer and dating coach
Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships
Traci Brown, body language expert and author of Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence