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How to Tell the Difference Between Flirting and Being Friendly

In retrospect, being friendly is entirely different from flirting, and the main difference is the relationship between people involved. Flirting often takes place when people are sexually attracted to each other whereas being friendly does not involve any attraction. Misreading one for the other can get you in some hot water and make for some awkward nights.

Telling the Difference Between Flirting and Being Friendly

If you have a hard time figuring out the difference between flirting and just being friendly, certain signs like physical proximity and body language can help. Here are a few things you should look out for.

Body language

Flirting: Body language tells us everything. When a guy is flirting with you, he'll look very enthusiastic about the conversation you're having and make eye contact while talking. He will grab your attention through his body language. He'll lean towards you when you speak as a way to say, "I'm listening." When he hugs you, you will have full body contact instead of just upper body contact.

Friendly:If he's just a friendly guy, he might make casual contact but won't go out of his way to touch you. He will have a casual posture and might close himself off by crossing his arms. He'll keep at a distance while talking to you. He might like your company and your conversation, but his body language says he thinks of you as a friend.

"Maybe someone went out of their way to say hello and even asked how you were doing, so surely they're flirting, right? But not necessarily, psychologist Antonia Hall explains. "They might have just been making a friendly gesture, because they're kind-hearted. See if they make direct or prolonged eye contact."

Social behavior

Flirting: In a social situation, a flirting woman shows continuous interest. She will actively seek you out and not pay close attention to other men. She will do her best to find common topics to discuss and point out things you have in common as signs that you should be together. She may also mention how she feels to mutual friends. When she is not talking to you, she is looking and smiling at you. If there are other women around you, she'll casually stake her claim by standing close to you or touching your arm. 

Friendly: A woman who is just being friendly will generally talk about anything and has no problem including everyone in your conversation. She'll never intentionally break the touch barrier. She might even act as your wingman and talk you up to other women. She won't mention you to mutual friends except in passing.

"The fact women are responsive at all can be misinterpreted as 'they're into me.' But, in reality, there are clear signs beyond just saying 'hi' back that can show you're flirting," says dating coach Thomas Edwards.

Direction of the conversation

Flirting: When a guy is flirting with you, he might talk in a softer voice, so you have to lean in closer to hear him. He will casually try to find out if you are single, and mention that he too is single. You will receive a lot of compliments during the conversation, and he will have fun gently teasing you.

Friendly: A guy who is being friendly will talk to you as he talks to his other friends. He won't bring up that he's single, or he'll talks about the other girls in your presence.

"Flirty has an agenda that friendly doesn't have," says psychotherapist Tina Tessina (aka Dr. Romance). "As a result, friendly conversations are more casual while, in a flirty one, the person has a slightly more intense interest in getting to know you and getting close."

Context of the situation

Flirting: If a girl is interested in you, she tries subtle ways to be physical... usually. But what happens if you're around her parents, or she's socially awkward? While physical proximity is a good sign, not everyone feels comfortable allowing others into their personal space. Sometimes it's cultural, sometimes it's mental. The key to picking up on signals is to watch for clusters and pay attention to the context of the situation. 

Friendly: Some girls are very touchy feely. Watch for three or four signs in her body language to figure out her intentions. See how she reacts to your flirting. If she realizes that you are misreading her signs, she'll adjust her behavior accordingly.

"Without knowing someone's intentions, flirting and friendly behaviors are often nearly identical, and this makes knowing the difference extremely frustrating for everyone involved," says relationship counselor David Bennett. "In actuality, everything depends on the context and level of romantic interest in each person."

It is important to realize that everyone doesn't flirt the same way. Observe how they interact with other people -- it might just be their personality. If you're really confused, ASK! There is no harm in putting yourself out there.

Have you ever misread friendliness for flirting? Tell us your story in the comment section!

Contributor, April 2, 2019

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