How to tell if she’s flirting or just being friendly

It’s been a while since my last newsletter, huh? At Quietly Romantic headquarters, there’s a tradition where if I go too long without writing anything new then I get to share an embarrassing story.

This one tops anything I’ve shared before.

Several years ago, I had a friend named Nicole that I always used to hang out with. We’d known each other for a couple of years and we’d always do things together such as…

  • Invite each other out to movies late at night
  • Cook dinner for each other at our apartments
  • Go out to restaurants at midnight to order dessert

…but we never went past just being friends.

Mostly because I’m a dense person.

One day, she invited me to her apartment and made dinner for me. She asked me if I wanted to stay late and play board games with her. We ended up playing Scrabble and, several turns into the game, she plays the word “W-A-N-T”.

On her next turn—I kid you not—she plays the word “S-E-X” right next to the word “W-A-N-T”. My reaction at the time?

“Okay, that’s +19 points for Nicole.”

And that’s why I stayed single that night.

Back then, I had no idea how to tell if someone was flirting with me or what the word “flirting” even meant. Sometimes my friends would even come out and tell me “Dude, why didn’t you talk to her? She was totally hitting on you” and I’d just stand there confused.

Was she really trying to flirt with me? Or just being overly friendly?

Now that we’ve all been vaccinated or are at least planning to (right? RIGHT?!), we’re starting to see the light at the end of the pandemic. Today I’d like to share with you an insightful Reddit post about flirting that recently hit the front page – People who are good at flirting, what are some social cues us oblivious people should watch out for?

Here are some of my favorite comments:

They make a lot of eye contact. They are interested in what you have to say and ask you lots of questions. They laugh at your jokes, even the lame ones. They initiate physical contact. They try to find space where you can talk more privately (this does not always mean sex but it often means they wish for more quality time with you).


Generally there’s no one thing that gives it away. Everyone says to look for eye contact, look at posture, look for mimicry, etc, and sure there’s some truth to that but no one should be expected to keep track of all of those things and not everyone exhibits any particular one.

In my experience, almost everyone can get a sense that someone is into them, but most people second guess themselves until they convince themselves it’s nothing. I say trust that sense. It’s based off all of these factors that we pick up consciously and subconsciously, and almost always it’s not a coincidence.

When you think someone likes you, you can test that theory in a few ways. A subtle but effective example is inviting them to something you know they can’t or don’t want to attend. If they express interest in rescheduling or finding some other way to spend time with you, they like you. Otherwise they’ll just say no, sorry I can’t make it. This works because you’re showing interest in spending additional time with them (this event would be more enjoyable for me if you where there) and if they like you they will be sure to make it clear that they are saying no to the event, not to you.

Of course, you could also just ask. In my experience anyone worth getting intimate with is mature enough to deal with that question.


My thoughts: The idea of people “second guessing” themselves is huge. I used to do this all the time. I’m not so keen on the idea of “testing that theory [by]…inviting them to something you know they can’t or don’t want to attend.” It comes off as a bit inauthentic. Instead, just ask!

Everyone is giving good advice, but flirting didn’t click for me until i heard it described not as a set of behaviors to look out for, but as an escalation of suggestive behaviors couched in plausible deniability.

Put practically, if someone is doing something to engage you that feels extra (lots of touching, looking at you in a way that feels a bit to long, or doing a lot of poking fun and complimenting you), then that might be flirting or it might not. That’s the whole point. Plausible deniability. They can safely disengage at any time.

If you want to know if someone’s flirting, you need to test it. You do that by escalating things, but just a bit, so that now you have plausible deniability (touch them back in a comfortable way, maintain eye contact, or joke-compliment them back). If they escalate back and continue to do so as you escalate in turn, that is flirting. Eventually one of you will break cover and do something with clear intent (a kiss, an approach + ask for a number, or straight up telling them what you think of them and that you’re interested). Otherwise, if you escalate and they don’t change their behavior or they back off, then they were probably just being friendly and you should take the hint and do the same.

Dunno if that’s something obvious to people, but it was definitely not for me, and college parties would have been way less fun had i not known. Hopefully this can help someone else too 🙂


My thoughts: This is my favorite comment in the entire post! I always found these lists online of, like, “20 signs to look out for to know if she’s interested in you” but it makes the most sense to watch not for specific behaviors but for suggestive behaviors with plausible deniability.

At the end of the day, how do you know for certain if she’s flirting with you or just being friendly? And if she is flirting, how can you tell if she’s flirting for fun or flirting because she’s interested?

Just ask her out! That’s how you’ll know for sure.

1 thought on “How to tell if she’s flirting or just being friendly

  1. I wish I had a post like this years ago. I had the reverse happen to me. (Mostly online though so I couldn’t test theories with in-person invitations, but she didn’t live that far away.) I thought I had a chance with someone because of the way she treated me. There was definitely some mutual escalation that I wouldn’t get from “just friends”. Then from one day to another she had a date on her bio. I asked and confirmed. She’s taken. We’ve been talking for years.

    I don’t want to start second-guessing myself next time this happens, but I’ve also read plenty of tweets from women saying “just because a woman is nice does NOT mean they like you” and others sharing their feelings saying “can I just be nice without men thinking I like them”. So I’m back to square one…

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