Sometimes, a person’s friendliness can be just as frustrating as it is attractive. This is especially true when you’re trying to figure out if a guy is interested in you or just being friendly.
It’s not always easy to tell everyday kindliness and sociability from flirting, so sometimes those relationship advice columns that offer the “undeniable signs he likes you” are actually just signs that he’s a genuinely friendly guy.
Most of the uncertainty comes from the stakes — it’s not the sort of thing that you want to wrong about, after all. If you are wrong about his intentions, then the situation could get awkward or possibly even damage friendships.
So how can you tell if someone is flirting or just being nice and polite?
Here’s how to tell if a guy is interested in you or just being friendly.
1. He makes it a point to maintain eye contact.
This one seems small, but eye contact is an important and meaningful type of body language and also one of the first indicators that he has an interest in you, particularly if he doesn’t know you that well yet.
If you’re in conversation with him and he’s making eye contact with you, then that’s just polite. But if you aren’t talking and he occasionally locks eyes with you from across the room, then that’s a pretty big giveaway.
Bonus points if he quickly tears his gaze away from you when you look back at him.
2. He seems awkward around you.
Sometimes we slip up. Everyone has said something dumb or made some other social faux pas at some point and it always feels worse than it actually is. Odds are pretty good that people may not have even picked up on whatever that silly thing you just said was or are naturally moving past it.
If he says something out of turn or a joke of his falls flat when you’re around and he absolutely deflates or gets really quiet, that’s probably only a glimpse at what he’s feeling. Odds are that he thinks he just blew it and has no chance with you now that he’s made his conversational blunder.
On the other hand, he could just be dealing with some run-of-the-mill social anxiety.
In the event that he does do something like this in a group setting, watch out for if he looks over at you. If he’s particularly interested in your reaction, it shows he’s giving weight to what you think and probably feels a little something extra for you.
3. He gauges your reactions.
When someone (especially if it’s him) makes a joke or starts talking about something in a group setting, pay close attention to whose reaction he focuses on. He might be checking to see if you find it funny or interesting.
The early days of romantic interest are all about collecting intel on the person you’re into. So if he’s interested, he’ll want to know what you find funny, interesting, uninteresting, and offensive so that he can tailor his approaches.
4. He talks about you.
As time goes on and you start wondering if his advances are just coincidences, he’ll probably reach out to your friends about you before he tries approaching you directly.
If he asks them for information about you, like your relationship status or what you’re interested in, chances are he’s into you.
5. He goes out of his way to strike up a conversation with you.
Pay attention to how he talks to you over the course of several get-togethers.
If he regularly talks directly to you, referencing previous conversations that you two had, and regularly talks to you about you and your interests, then he probably thinks about you and your conversations a lot.
If he talks to you about specific interests like hobbies or your career and expresses an interest then it’s possible that he is genuinely just interested in the topic, but if other factors indicate that he’s interested in you, then this could be another good sign that he’s paying attention to you because likes you.
6. He regularly makes the first move.
It can be hard to tell if a guy is interested in your or just being friendly over text, where it’s more difficult to convey tone. But if he routinely reaches out to you first over text or engages with all of your social media posts, then that means that he thinks about you when you’re not around and has a desire to speak with you.
If he texts you often and he’s the one to start the conversation then that could be a pretty good indication that he’s romantically interested.
7. He always tries to be near you.
Once he is somewhat close to you, he’ll probably try to talk and hang out with you one on one. This will start out with side conversations in group settings.
When everyone goes out to eat or goes to a party, he’ll inexplicably always be nearby and will try to strike up a conversation.
This is a critical point because this is where you’ll be getting some very strong signals.
As Love and Comsic Coach Ronnie Ryan puts it, “If a man is interested he will ask you out and take you out. He’ll look forward to spending time with you to get to know you. Maybe once a week at first but more often within a short time.”
The above subtle signs are the language of flirting.
If you aren’t interested:
You have to use compassion to let him know. Speak his language: When he’s singling you out bring other people in. When he’s talking to your friends let them know that you aren’t interested. If they’re good friends, then they’ll help that information get to where it needs to go.
If you are interested:
You still need to speak the language. Play eye contact tag, engage him the way that he’s engaging you. There’s a risk in broaching the subject, but you’ll need to do it eventually if you want to get anywhere.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Dan O’Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.