Flirting Or Friends? These People Couldn't Tell The Difference—With Disastrous Results

August 11, 2023 | Miles Brucker

Flirting Or Friends? These People Couldn't Tell The Difference—With Disastrous Results

Whether we’re male or female, old or young, outgoing or shy, let’s face it—we all suck at reading other people to some extent. So, when a special someone decides to show us a little bit of extra positive attention, it can be extremely puzzling and frustrating trying to make sense of what their true intentions are. From advice to personal stories to some general musings, here are people’s thoughts on how to tell the difference between when someone is flirting and when they are just being friendly.

1. How Dare You Be So Nice!

I was once called into HR for allegedly flirting with an employee (not part of my own team). Her proof? I was always friendly to her, I frequently offered her milk to go with her coffee, and (worst of all) I once bought a round of drinks for everyone (her included) at an after-work social gathering. The head of HR was a bit puzzled about the whole situation and asked her what she would then suggest we do to resolve the situation.

She requested that from that point on, I should stop being friendly to her and just leave her be. This poor woman just could not accept the notion that I was simply being friendly.

lying spouses

2. A Study in Comparative Behavior

The best way to tell whether someone is flirting with you or whether they are just being friendly is by observing how they act around other people. If they act the exact same way with everyone else as they do with you, you’re unfortunately out of luck!

The Maury Povich Show factsShutterstock

3. The Key Question to Ask

Flirting is basically just a dumb game of chicken involving gradual escalation. However, if you directly ask the person whether they have a significant other, the way they respond usually makes their feelings pretty obvious.

Obvious Romantic Hints factsShutterstock

4. And the Answer Is...There Is No Answer!

The simple answer is that you don't ever really know whether someone is flirting with you or whether they are just being friendly. You have to just take a leap of faith. That's honestly all there is to it.

How We Met factsPixabay

5. Where Have I Heard This Story Before?

The way I discovered that someone who I thought was just friendly had actually been flirting with me was when I read someone's comment on Reddit about how they had missed all the signs—and then I instantly realized that the same exact thing had just happened to me. Now, I’m just lying here contemplating my life…

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

6. She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

It's not always easy to tell the difference! With my fiance, when we started hanging out I would convince myself that she liked me and then talk myself out of it. I would walk her home and she'd give me a really awkward "friend hug" before running inside, leaving me feeling like I had misread the signals completely. This went on for about three weeks before we finally kissed at a party.

I asked her about it afterward and it turned out she had been doing the same exact back and forth thing in her mind as I had been doing. Seven years and a proposal later, I think she might have a crush on me, guys!

Obvious Romantic Hints factsShutterstock

7. Everyone Is Different

There truly is no way to always be able to tell whether something is flirting or just friendly behavior. This is also exactly why people really need to stop the generalizing of entire genders’ behaviors. Being a hetero male, I can only speak about women in terms of dating them, but a lot of women do not realize that different men interpret friendly conversation in different ways.

One woman's hard to get is another's take the hint. One woman's insult is another woman’s being playful. One woman's flirting is another woman's friendly. This is why men can't "take a hint" ladies, you are all different. Same goes for you, guys. Your flirt might be another guy’s aggressive. Your nice gesture may be another guy’s sweeping her off her feet.

Cruel Betrayals factsShutterstock

8. Where It’s All Coming From

If you’re ever unsure about the nature of someone’s friendliness, a good thing to ask yourself is whether they ever initiate the “friendliness". Responding to someone else’s kindness is a very different and less significant thing than initiating it themselves. But even still, the only sure way to know is to just ask.

Weirdest Date FactsShutterstock

9. Two Can Play at That Game!

How do you tell if someone is flirting with you or just being friendly? Easy: Flirt back! If their flirting increases in frequency or intensity, they were flirting with you. If they pull back or tone it down, they were just being nice. In the latter case, just stop your flirting and it's all good.

“I Called It” Moment FactsShutterstock

10. Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

I once flat out told a guy that I liked him and that if he asked me out I would say yes. He just said "thanks" and never asked me out or responded in any way to suggest that he liked me back. Bummer. Then, a few months later, we unexpectedly kissed. He was like, "So, you like me?" I should have smacked him across the face.

Apparently, he thought I had just said that to him to be nice.

Blown Away Stupid FactsPxHere

11. That’s What Some Would Call an Ulterior Motive

As my dear old dad used to say: "Women who work for tips are NOT flirting with you".

Weird Flex Kids FactsShutterstock

12. It’s All About the Setting

Create the right situation (invite him or her over, or find a way to be alone with him or her in a comfortable environment)...and just ask. That's the way to find out. If he or she is not attracted to you, move on with your life and continue being friendly as if nothing ever happened (so that you don't lose a friend).

If he or she is attracted to you, then, by all means, do what you wanna do.

Obvious Romantic Hints factsShutterstock

13. That’s Pretty Funny, Eh?

Well, you can't ever really know. Like, for example, even if she sleeps with you, she might just be super friendly because she’s Canadian. So, honestly, you shouldn't ever get your hopes up and you’d better just keep looking and wondering.

Vegas factsGetty Images

14. A Hair-Raising Answer

If they're touching either their own hair or yours while speaking to you, it's probably flirting. That’s the tell-tale sign in my experience.

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

15. You Might As Well Have Prop-osed!

Sometimes, you just can’t predict what kind of random actions will make people think that you’re flirting with them. A few years ago, I was doing some work backstage on a theater production of Oliver! One part of my job was to keep all the props organized, and another was to make sure everything was quiet backstage during the show.

Throughout the rehearsals, I started noticing that one girl carrying metal milk pails over her shoulders would always unknowingly clang the chains against the pails and make a huge racket, so I started helping her carry them to her position on the side of the stage. As it was during the middle of the show, I never even spoke a word to her the whole time that I worked there.

About a year later, I bumped into someone who had been in the show and recognized me through a friend at the pub—and I couldn't believe what she told me. She said that every single one of the actors was convinced that I had a crush on the milk pail girl! Honestly, the thought had never even crossed my mind! I had made no attempt to even communicate with her.

I was literally just helping her move her loud prop from the table to her position. Astounding!

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

16. These Things Take Time

In my experience, if you randomly wake up in the middle of the night ten years later thinking “How could I not have understood that??” it probably means she was flirting with you.

Scariest Things They've Woken Up To factsShutterstock

17. Step By Step

When she asked me out: I was skeptical. When we slept together: more likely, but still can't be too sure. When we got married: I'm pretty sure she likes me!

Lost Crush FactsMax Pixel

18. Is It the Look in Your Eyes?

One of the biggest challenges in trying to tell whether someone is flirting with you or just being friendly is that so many people try to drop hints rather than just admitting how they truly feel to people who they have a crush on. In my experience, a lot of women (at least the ones that I know) think that being very subtle and dropping little clues is the way to go, instead of just going over and making the first move to see if the guy is even interested. Of course, that is very subjective.

But to give you an example: A female friend of mine once told me, obviously very frustrated, that she had been flirting with this guy across the room by looking at him and then shyly looking away whenever their eyes met. Yet, he somehow just didn't get "the subtle hint" that she wanted to sleep with him based on that!

Yeah, I wouldn't get that either. Just saying!

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

19. You Make It Sound So Simple!

The friendly, honest approach has worked well for me. If you are enjoying a pleasant conversation, simply try something like this: "You seem really nice. You’re definitely someone I'd like to go out with, if you'd like that too". If they're already taken or disinterested, they'll let you know. Either way, I've noticed that they seem to appreciate the attention as long as they sense that you're being sincere.

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

20. Eye See What You Mean!

I can always tell whether someone is flirting or just being friendly based on their eyes. If they are intentionally making a lot of eye contact or their eyes seem more open and clear than usual, that is typically a good sign. I would recommend closely watching how people behave, and I guarantee you'll start to notice the subtleties of body language.

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

21. A Win-Win Situation

If someone is excessively nice to you, assume attraction and ask them out. If they say no, you get your answer. If they say yes, you get a date.

Obvious Romantic Hints factsShutterstock

22. Taking It Slow

Sometimes, one can’t really tell what the other person’s intention is because they themselves aren’t fully sure! Often, girls will want to feel things out for a while before deciding how they truly feel about someone. Haven't you noticed that people become more or less attractive to you over time as you get to know them better?

I've met knee-knockingly gorgeous people who, after a while, I found to be visually repulsive or meh because I didn’t like their personalities. I’ve also met boring-looking people whose appearances then grew on me to the point where I now think they are hugely attractive and appealing. When I say “attractive,” I don’t even just mean in a physical sense.

I mean that I view them with a far broader appeal than only that. I just start to universally enjoy being around them and am constantly wanting to be in their presence. This applies even to people of both sexes, including people who I would never be interested in being with intimately. Friends, old people, celebrities, everyone.

Just...they all have great personalities and I like them. Or, in other cases, they are awful people and they repulse me, and my visual assessment of them morphs to match my emotional reaction to them. It's not immediate. It takes time to know people.

Obvious Romantic Hints factsShutterstock

23. Waiting on an Answer

Asking the person is the number one way to find out how they feel and what their true intentions are. For example, there was a waitress at a bar that my buddies and I used to order from for like a year. I was into her, but couldn’t tell how she felt about me. She was always fun and flirty in general, but I started to realize that whenever she would first walk up to our table, laugh, or make a joke, she would always look directly at me while doing so.

I assumed this meant that there was at least a chance she liked me, so I eventually asked her out and she said yes. She was beautiful, had a great figure, and was super down to earth. She then turned out to be someone who loudly cheers at high points of movies, and I just don’t need that in my life. We went our separate ways.

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

24. Kiss Me, Kate

It's not always easy to tell the difference, and I think I'm particularly bad at it. For example, here is a story that I experienced related to this: During my sophomore year of high school, I had a couple of classes with this girl who I had a crush on. Because teachers loved using alphabetical order, she and I ended up sitting next to each other in both of those classes. We started passing notes to each other during those classes, talking about random stuff and being a bit flirty.

One day, I decided to build up the courage to ask if she wanted to go out with me to a movie or something. So, I asked her out in one of our notes. She replied saying that she's really sorry but she doesn't like me in that type of way. I was devastated. But still, I also liked her as a friend and didn't want to lose that. So, I replied saying that I was fine with that and asking if we could just forget I ever asked and keep things the way they were before. After all, class would be so boring without our talks! She said that was fine and we stayed note buddies throughout the year.

Fast forward to my senior year. I had to repeat algebra because I messed up really badly during my junior year due to some personal issues. I'm in a class with a bunch of people who are all younger than me, and I end up getting seated next to this girl named Kate who I thought was so pretty. Like with the other girl, we ended up passing notes to each other in class and I came to find out that not only did I find her physically attractive, but she was also a really awesome person with similar interests to me.

I really, really liked this girl and crushed hard on her throughout the year. I would make her mix CDs that she would tell me she loved, and she even made me some back a couple of times. I'd share stories with her that I wrote, and also art that I was working on. The best part of my day was always getting to talk with her during algebra.

But, at the same time, I was scared of even trying to ask her out because of how I misinterpreted things last time, so I never did. I came really close a couple of times but never did. A year and a half after I graduated, I was dating a girl from the same class as her who had been a friend of mine for a couple of years. We were once hanging out with this other girl who was also in our class, and she brought up Kate and asked why we never dated.

I told her I didn't think Kate thought of me that way, and she was like, "Are you kidding me? She was so into you!" At that time, it didn't really matter much anymore because I was already in a new relationship and there was nothing I could do about it. At the same time, it did frustrate me to learn just how bad I was (and probably still am) at reading signals. I still wish I had at least tried with Kate.

Animals’ Biggest Power Moves FactsShutterstock

25. So Many Details!

When it comes to women, a bigger smile and more eye contact means she's being friendly. If it's a softer smile and she touches her hair or looks away a few times almost shyly, it's flirting. If she's talking about her body, it means she wants you to notice it.

Weirdest Date FactsShutterstock

26. When You’re Smiling

I’m still wondering about this very question, and I honestly don’t know how to tell the difference. In my case, she was a cashier at a local pizza place and we had a bit of small talk while I was waiting for my order. I managed to make her genuinely crack up and, before I left, she gave me a very attentive look while smiling at me.

I figured that she was probably just being nice or friendly so I decided not to make too much of it, but a part of me was definitely kinda hoping that the look she gave me had something more behind it.

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

27. It’s Not What They Say, It’s How They Say It

As a guy who at various times both flirts and is nice to people, I suggest you pay attention to the tone of the person’s voice and wording. It can be as subtle as the difference between a curt "Here's yours!" versus a "Here Anna!" with a half-blush smile.

Innocent Questions Crushed factsShutterstock

28. Close Sesame

A great way to tell if someone is flirting is to wink at them. If they smile at you or wink back and continue with the conversation, that is confirmation that flirting is taking place. If everything kinda dies down at that point, they were just being nice.

Obvious Romantic Hints factsShutterstock

29. If You Can Make It There, You’ll Make It Anywhere

There is a girl that I work with who has asked me to go spend the weekend with her in New York City, so I would assume that she’s flirting and/or interested in me. I mean, she’s kinda flirty with everyone, but it just seems like it’s even more so with me. She always makes a point to talk to me when I walk by and we’re always making each other laugh every time we talk.

Nevertheless, I am extremely afraid of trying to make a move since I work with her and she’s WAY out of my league. I wish I had the answer to this question so that I could know what to do in this situation.

Innocent Questions Crushed factsShutterstock

30. A Little Compliment Goes a Long Way

Give her a compliment, preferably about her personality. If it must be about her physical body, stick to the face. Especially the eyes. Girls love when guys pay attention to things like outfit choice. They also like it when you compliment something they can control, i.e. personality or clothing. You can also reciprocate whatever level of flirting she is doing.

So if she is full-on giving you compliments, touching you often, and getting close, then you should do the same.

Shouldn’t Have Done That FactsShutterstock

31. Sense of Humor

When I’m interested in someone, I will laugh while sort of leaning in towards them. When I’m not, my laughs are more the “throw your head back away from whomever I’m talking to” kind.

SO Said in Sleep FactsShutterstock

32. Same Action, Different Result

Really, with some people, you absolutely CANNOT tell. I once knew a girl who was super friendly with me. I got interested, and then after a few weeks around here I realized that this was just how she treated EVERY guy. With all of them, she’d smile, say, "Oh stop it you," act a little flirty, the whole shebang. I realized that I wasn't special here. I moved on—but the story doesn't end there.

Then, I met another girl who was friendly with everyone in the exact same way. We sat down at a birthday party one time and talked non-stop for close to three hours. She was friendly with other people just like the first girl had been, but I hadn't seen her spend this much time on anyone else before. I got her number and called her, and we talked until my phone died.

Our tenth wedding anniversary was about six weeks ago. Our oldest kid turns seven in a few months.

Burst Out Laughing factsPixabay

33. Taking the Lead

A good strategy is to openly flirt a little and assess their reaction. If they react in any way less than politely, then that's a no. If they respond by blushing or by flirting back, gradually escalate it. Then straight up ask: "I like you. Can I interest you in coffee/date/dinner, etc.?" I guess asking is really the only way to know at the end of the day.

Learned Too Late in Life factsShutterstock

34. The Power of Suggestion

If I’m making friends with a new guy, I’ll very pointedly suggest that we do things with a group. If I’m flirting, I’ll suggest something that has the potential for us to be alone together.

Obvious Romantic Hints factsShutterstock

35. Go With the Flow

If I could go back in time and tell my past self one thing about dating, and specifically about this question, I know exactly what I would say: "If you have fun hanging out with a girl, do just that. Spend as much time with her as you can, just like you and a friend would do. Don't even think about actually hooking up, and don’t care if she's not spending all of her time with you. If things are going to happen between you and her romantically, they just naturally will at some point".

Science Of Being Sexy factsPixabay

36. Sounds About Right

If they explicitly ask you to take off your clothes for any reason, chances are they're not just being friendly!

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

37. Legging It Out

They say you can tell a lot about a girl’s intentions by her leg positioning when she’s speaking to you. If her body language is generally more welcoming, that’s always a positive sign.

Flirting or Being Friendly FactsShutterstock

38. Two Strikes and She’s Out

I automatically assume people are being friendly. It's a habit. I'm aromantic now (meaning not interested in dating) after struggling with feelings towards romance in general for a bit, but before I discovered what aromanticism was, I just assumed that people were being friendly with me because I was, and still am, too unattractive.

Flirting wasn't my strong suit either, and I had a terrible track record with guys. Plus I can't commit to a relationship. Mmmmm, depression! Nevertheless, a guy I know apparently has a crush on me, yet from our interactions, I just assumed that he was being friendly. Imagine my surprise when his mom told me he was crushing on me.

I never would have known otherwise!

Nicest Compliment FactsShutterstock

39. A Change of Pace

Confusion over whether someone was flirting with me is actually how I came to be with my current girlfriend, believe it or not. When I first met her, I totally thought she was flirting with me, so I invited her to hang out one day. I thought we were going on dates the first four or five times, but she just thought we were hanging out as friends.

I found out later that she is always that friendly to everyone she meets and has a ton of random friends, so this wasn't unusual to her. I eventually picked up on the fact that things weren't going to be romantic between us, so I told her about the whole thing and we both just laughed about it. Things stayed that way for a few months and we remained friends.

Then, we were watching a movie together one day and, all of a sudden, she asked if I wanted to make out in the middle of it. Not sure what magically shifted the gears, but it was pretty rad though!

Nicest Compliment FactsShutterstock

40. Gone Too Soon

Sometimes, there honestly isn’t any way to tell what the heck is going through people’s minds when it comes to these things. I once asked a girl out who had been flirting with me for weeks. She gave me her number and then when I texted her to follow up, she said that she wasn’t free to hang out because she and her boyfriend were going to be attending a funeral the next day.

What kind of response was that???

Cruel Betrayals factsShutterstock

41. She’s Clearly New Around Here...

I once got falsely accused of flirting with someone at my old workplace when I was clearly just being friendly. I was very open about my sexuality (I am a male who likes other males). I would even frequently bring my boyfriend to work meetups every now and then. Nevertheless, we hired a new employee at one point and, within her first month of being with us, she went to my boss and tried to have my shift changed because I always "flirted with her".

She said that I complimented her too frequently. The compliments? One time I told her that she did a good job at stocking. The horror! Unfortunately, she now lives in the same apartment complex as me, so I have to see her all the time. I still resent her for that whole debacle!

Benedict Arnold factsShutterstock

Sources: ,

More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.