5 Signs She Likes You and Isn’t Just Being Polite
Signs She Actually Likes You and Is Not Just Being Polite
Differentiating between flirting and politeness is tricky.
The magic of true romantic flirting rests on its mysteriousness — it’s more exciting when you’re not sure exactly what just happened. You walk away from an encounter, whether in real life or online, and your head buzzing with questions:
“Does she like me?”
“Does he secretly want to make out?”
“Is this going somewhere, or are they just being polite?”
These are the kinds of things it’s normal to ask yourself when it comes to flirting. And to a degree, it can be fun and harmless not to be sure. That said, there are many cases where it’s genuinely important to be able to tell the difference between flirting and polite, friendly conversation. Sometimes, misreading a smile or a joke as flirtation can lead to not just awkward, but deeply inappropriate situations.
Flirting with someone who’s not interested in you, or making concrete advances towards them if you thought they were flirting with you, could lead to many things: harassment, a fractured friendship, or an altercation with a jealous partner (if the person is already in a relationship).
On the flip side, if you categorize real instances of flirtation as simple politeness, you could be missing a great chance at a first date, a fling or even a long-term relationship. So what can you do?
To help you decipher the difference between friendliness and flirtation, we spoke to three different sex and dating experts. Here’s what they had to say:
Why Politeness Can Be Mistaken for Flirting
The first thing you should know is that men have a long and storied history of misunderstanding women’s intentions. When it comes to flirtation, it’s certainly no different.
“A woman’s politeness is often mistaken for flirting because ‘friendly’ and ‘flirty’ can look almost identical — smiling, laughing, positivity, attentiveness, feeling connected,” says Connell Barrett, dating coach for The League. “It’s very easy to confuse the two, especially when you want her to be flirting.”
That desire factor is a huge part of it. Rarely do men mistake the politeness of women they’re not attracted to — or men they’re not attracted to, for that matter — for flirting. But basic human decency from someone you think is a total babe? That can start to feel like flirtation pretty fast.
In part, it’s a problem men as a group are responsible for. As men are more likely to express violence or anger, many women will try to be polite and even friendly to men they don’t know rather than curt or dismissive.
“Women's politeness gets mistaken for flirting because they don't want to hurt a man's feelings,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of “Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today.” “They act friendly and open, and men tend to mistake that for flirting.”
Then there’s the fact that men seem like they’re simply more likely to perceive flirtation, period.
“I conducted a study a couple of years back [that] looked at perceptions of first-date success,” says dating expert Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D. “Men interpreted the following as being sent by women to signal interest: date talks about herself (may show that she is comfortable in letting her guard down), diverting the conversation to sex, offering to split the cost of the meal, and responding right away if he initiates a second date. What was interesting was that no behaviors signaled that she wasn’t interested. Some of the behaviors I included were that she never contacts you again and never responds when you contact her, which one would think are pretty clear signals of disinterest.”
It’s only one study, but the possibility that men are both willing and able to misread basic signals of non-interest (or even neutral signals) as flirtation definitely exists. Cohen, for her part, thinks that modern hookup culture might play a role in that.
“Whereas people may jump to the conclusion that men may just be missing obvious signals, perhaps it is due to the current state of dating/courtship,” she says. “When online dating, we may be seeing many people concurrently. Perhaps men just adopted a healthier strategy of saying that, ‘If she doesn’t respond to me, maybe it’s not something to do with me, and instead, is just circumstantial.’”
How to Figure Out If She’s Flirting or Just Being Polite
Regardless of why men are misreading signals, the question still remains: Which signals indicate flirtation and which indicate simple politeness?
“Flirting can be difficult to interpret, as the message may seem ambiguous, may be influenced by our own beliefs about the other person and can even be influenced by context clues,” says Cohen. “There is a lot of information out there about what to look for, but it’s not necessarily scientific, and not all people may make bold overtures indicating their interest.”
Differences Between Politeness and True Flirting
What are the differences between friendly politeness and true flirting?
It will depend from person to person. For some people, they’ll be close to the same thing; for others, they’ll be miles apart. Things that will constitute clear flirtation for some people might be meaningless gestures to others, and vice versa.
Sometimes, certain jobs — things where you have to deal with the public, like cashier, barista, customer service representative, etc. — will require or pressure employees to put on a more friendly demeanor, which can easily get mistaken for flirting. Generally speaking, there are a few signs that the person you’re talking to is attracted to you, and is singling you in terms of how they behave towards you.
That might not mean that they want anything more from you — you can flirt without any real desire to take things to the next level — but these five signs will at least allow you to recognize when you’re being flirted with (and when you aren’t).
1. Eye Contact and Focus
If the conversation you’re having is in person, how the other person responds to your presence can be a huge tell.
“If she's nodding and smiling, but not really contributing to the conversation, she's just being polite,” says Tessina. “If she's leaning back and not really engaging you, she's just being polite. If she's glancing around, she's just being polite.”
However, if she is flirting, “she'll be making definite eye contact, being very interested in whatever you're saying, and letting you know what she thinks,” adds Tessina.
2. Personal Conversation
Another way to focus on someone, apart from your eye contact and how present you are in a conversation, is to take the conversation to a deeper, more personal place by mentioning things you wouldn’t talk about with just anyone.
If you want to see if someone’s flirting with you, “notice how personal the conversation gets,” suggests Barrett. “Friendliness is more surface-level, but a woman who’s flirting wants to go deeper and get more personal, finding out about your life, your feelings, your past.”
3. Physical Touching
Another big way to establish a flirtatious, intimate bond with someone? Physical touch, especially in the case of a woman touching a man. They don’t want to be seen as sexually inviting to the wrong guy, or to too many guys, because of the societal double-standard known as slut-shaming.
Regardless of your genders, however, flirtatious touch in the early going can be an indicator of interest and a precursor to deeper, more sexual or romantic physical affection.
“Touching is a clear signal of romantic interest,” says Barrett. “If she touched your hand, arm, shoulder, that’s a big sign. And if she ‘escalates’ to touching you in a more personal area, like your lower back or abs, she’s almost definitely flirting.”
4. Behavior Towards Others
It’s possible that being very focused, having personal conversations and being more touchy is simply how a person functions.
If you want to know whether they like you in a special way, you’ll want to pay attention to how they treat other people. Are they bringing the same upbeat, charming energy to every conversation, or does it change when they’re focusing on you?
“Is she nice and friendly with everyone, or does she give you extra attention?” asks Barrett. “If she singles you out, she’s likely flirting with you.”
5. Response to Compliments
If you’re questioning whether the person you’re flirting with is genuinely into you, one good way to test that is to compliment them in a flirtatious way and see how they react.
“To find out if she’s interested in romance, not just being nice, you can pay her a flirty compliment:
‘You have a very charming way about you’
and see if she blushes and returns the compliment, or if she instead pulls back,” says Barrett.
RELATED: 10 Compliments Most Women Can’t Resist
While some people might get a little bit flustered by a compliment regardless, if they’re genuinely attracted to you, a flirtatious compliment about what a great conversationalist they are, how they make you feel or similar, will be met with more engagement, not less.
What to Do If You Think She’s Flirting But You’re Not Sure
If you’re still not sure, it can be tricky to approach the subject head-on.
That being said, that doesn’t mean you need to live in uncertainty for the rest of your days. If you think there’s genuine evidence that the person has been flirting with you, there are ways to move the conversation forward.
Tessina notes what, while there may not be a culturally acceptable way to simply ask if someone’s flirting with you, “you can suggest going for a bite to eat, or asking them about what they’re interested in.”
Barrett agrees that going for it is worth a shot.
“There’s nothing creepy about asking a woman out, as long as you do it with sincerity, and are totally OK with whatever the answer is,” he says. “This makes your interest in them crystal clear:
‘Hey, I’m really liking talking to you. We should go on a date. Are you up for it?’”
“This can be scary, but no matter the answer, you’ll know for sure (and you might get a date),” he says. “Making romantic interest clear takes courage, which is very attractive to women. Sometimes just asking a woman out can turn a spark into a flame for both of you.”
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