Time and time again, when I ask people their biggest struggle with flirting, it boils down to one of two things: “I can never tell if people are into me…” OR “But what if I’m being a creep?!?!?” In both cases, my answer is the same. Read the damn room.
Turns out, the more someone is into you, the harder creepiness is to achieve.1 People that are creepy are people that are too forward at the jump or who don’t realize it’s time to just back away slowly and give up a lost cause.
What’s difficult is that many people, especially people who are socialized as women, are going to feel obligated to be polite which, while not a bad thing, can certainly muddy the waters. So, how do you tell if that cutie is really down or if they’re just smiling and waiting for you to move on?
If someone is interested in you, they’re going to be interested in spending more time with you, continuing the conversations you’re having, and starting new ones. Obviously every interaction has its ebb and flow, but your involvement should hover around the 50% mark, with the other person picking up the slack. The scales can tip to 60/40 in one direction or another, to compensate for storytelling, or shyness, but at the end of the day, if you’re carrying all of the weight in a conversation there’s a reason, and it’s because they don’t want to be there.
Have you initiated every conversation you’ve had? Are they giving you one-word answers to your probing questions? Are you the only one asking the questions? Have you sent 3+ texts and not gotten a response? These are all signs that you’re not grabbing their attention the way you want to and are toeing that creeper line.
Alternatively, if they regularly reach out to you and work to continue conversations then you’re headed in the right direction. I can remember plenty of times, especially at the beginnings of relationships, where I could see people coming up with excuses to prolong conversations that had otherwise naturally reached their conclusion. Now if this was someone who I wasn’t into it would be annoying, but because of our mutual attraction I found it endearing. We both clearly wanted to continue talking to each other, it didn’t really matter what about, and it was never long before conversation was flowing easily again.
I’ve Got A Case Of Body Language
When people are present because they feel like they have to be instead of because they want to, it’s usually very easy to read in their body language. If they are tense and closed off, have their arms crossed, are angling their body or leaning away from you, or if they are looking around the room at literally everyone except you2 these are all signs that they don’t want to be there.
Instead, someone who is into you might pay particularly close attention to you, making lots of eye contact and leaning in, as if they’re afraid to miss a word of what you’re saying. They’re going to be relaxed and open, or maybe a little nervous and fidgety, but rarely tense and uncomfortable.3
Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me
So far, most of what we’ve talked about are simply indicators of interest, friendly or romantic. Touch, on the other hand, can be a pretty clear indicator of if they’re looking for a connection of the more naked variety. Is this person actively touching you when you hang out? Do they grab your arm to emphasize a point? Stand a little too close to you, so your shoulders brush? Make excuses to put their arms around you or hug you? These are all very good signs.
Beyond that, how do they react when you touch them? Do they lean into it? Do they try to make the touch last? That’s a sign they may want more, if on the other hand they tense up, flinch, or pull away when you touch them, that’s an excellent indicator that you should not be touching that person.
Memories Turn Into Daydreams
When a person is into you, you’re going to stand out to them in the same way they stand out to you, and it’s entirely possible that they are analyzing (and overthinking) your interactions in the same way that you are. A side effect of that overthinking, is a damn near impeccable memory of the interactions you’ve had.
Does your crush know exactly how you take your tea? Ask how that game you were excited about went? Remember the names of each of your brothers they’ve never met and know who you main in Smash, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat? Do they send you memes, songs, and articles they know you’re going to love (When did you even tell them that you’d been meaning to try glassblowing…)?
It’s totally possible that this person is just being a good friend, but at the very least their recollections are a sign that they care about you, platonic or otherwise. See how they interact with their other friends: if they bring this attention to detail to all of their relationships then chances are good it’s just how they show their love, but if their care for you stands out when compared to all of the others, that means you stand out to them.
Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby
When something comes up in conversation once that’s an accident; when it comes up twice, someone is doing it on purpose. When all of your conversations somehow come back to “Man I wish I had someone I could ____ with” or “Gosh, I just need a good date lately” or “Huh, so I saw this article on rimming, have you ever done something like that?” I invite you to consider that that person is putting out a call for applications to a position in their genitals.
This is maybe the most tenuous evidence in this piece, I’ll admit. I mean frankly, my conversations with everyone come back to sex, including my mother, but that’s just because I find sex downright fascinating, and it’s also a major part of my job, my community, and my hobbies. So yea, it comes up. It’s also possible that your friend finds you to be the person they’re comfortable confiding in about sex because they’re not attracted to you.
On the other hand, if your boo is laying with their legs in your lap, focusing entirely on you, and discussing your kinky preferences, right after surprising you with that drink you liked from that smoothie spot up the street? You should maybe consider asking if you can kiss them.
Which brings me to my last point, because the easiest way to tell if someone is into you is simple. You ask them. It doesn’t have to be awkward, it can be charming, dorky, and a way to continue flirting.
“Hey… what do you think would happen if I kissed you right now?” as you lean in close.
“Ya know if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were flirting with me just there…” with a wink for good measure.
“Hey, I might be totally off base, but I think we’ve got a thing here? What do you say we go for coffee and give this a shot?”
At the end of the day, trying to read signals can only take you so far, and you can waste a lifetime trying to intuit the meaning behind that smirk they gave you at your board game night last week. Eventually, you need to take the leap of faith, or you need to move on, because staying in limbo is going to make you both miserable and any attraction that was there is going to die in the process.
- Note: Harder. Not impossible. This is not your permission slip to climb into people’s windows and watch them sleep. That’s not charming, even if you are a sparkly vampire. Especially if you’re a sparkly vampire tbh. [↩]
- Hint: They’re looking for an escape. [↩]
- Keep in mind, many of these tips, but especially the ones regarding body language, won’t be as straightforward when the person you’re flirting with isn’t neurotypical. A person on the Asperger’s/Autism spectrum, for example, will often struggle with eye contact, whether they’re interested or not, so while these clues can be a helpful starting point, they are not the be all end all, and it’s more about knowing the person you’re talking to. [↩]