Flirting or just being nice? Here’s how to find out

By Prapoorna M

Last Updated: November 11, 2022

In our daily life, we sometimes encounter little surprises, not knowing how to put them into words. Some little things that we notice and can’t refrain from doing. Smiles tell us something, but then we doubt whether it is this and how to go about it. Is this flirting or just being nice? How to go about it?

Usually, men are more likely to flirt offline to escape from reality and online for control and relaxation. But women are open to online and offline flirting for fun because they tend to be superior to men in non-verbal transmission and understanding of information.

Flirting vs Friendliness: Key Differences

How to know if this is Friendship or Flirtation-ship?

To distinguish friendliness from flirting, it is important to be attentive and notice details in the other person’s behaviour. Many verbal and non-verbal cues help you identify. Psychologists advise paying attention to eye contact, as it tells you the huge difference between “friendly” eye contact and “flirtatious” one. A friendly look always stays relaxed and may be accompanied by a nod indicating an understanding. But, a “flirtatious look” is indicated by prolonged eye contact with drooping eyelids. The person can lean forward, flick the hair, or adjust the clothes as a hint. Flirting tends to convey a certain interest in intimacy. Body language speaks volumes. Research shows that certain behaviours taken together can indicate romantic interest.

Flirting or just being nice?
A couple looking at each other

When two people work on the same project at school, university, or work, they often display nonverbal cues. They include open and relaxed posture, copying each other’s movements, and making eye contact. These signals help people show interest in each other and establish a collaborative relationship. But this could not mean the other person is flirting. A simple friendship or an official relationship based on a common area of work or interest is entirely different from flirting.

For those who are navigating more complex relationship questions, our article on understanding different relationship phases might offer additional insights.

Common Signs of Flirting vs. Being Nice

SignFlirtingBeing Nice
Eye ContactIntense and lingering, often with a playful glintBrief and casual, indicative of general interest
ConversationPersonal topics, compliments, playful teasingGeneral topics, polite inquiries, neutral tone
Physical GesturesSubtle touches, close proximity, mirroringHandshakes, high fives, appropriate distancing
Consistency of BehaviorBehavior changes or becomes more intense around youConsistent behavior with everyone, no special treatment

Is He Flirting with Me?

Though everything seems normal, there will be certain things that you can find if he’s flirting with you.

You can spot a difference in behavior.

Though your guy might not be obvious in behavior if he’s flirting, there’s certainly some difference that you will notice. Pay attention to the changes in his behavior around you, like laughing louder and lowering his voice while speaking to you. Even the body language speaks volumes!

Caught you!

Just simple eye contact might not be an indication. But, if the gaze is still for a few moments and his looks lock at you every time he laughs, he likes you.

Teasing, but not hurting!

He often teases you, and you like it too. Flirting can be indirect, but with hints, hidden compliments and jokes. Don’t confuse it with bullying or humiliation that hurts.

His Nervousness shows

You can notice how nervous he feels and tries to cover up. He does fidgeting, plays with a pen or keychain, or moves his leg constantly. He does so, because he is worried next to you.

Shows interest in your life

Your life matters to him. He might directly or indirectly bring up related topics such as saying something like this: “Your boyfriend is lucky”, or “How can such a beautiful girl be alone?” Otherwise, he might start with simply offering a drink or coffee. So he carefully tries to find out if you have a boyfriend.

Being humorous

He wants you to feel relaxed being with him. He tries to make you laugh with funny jokes, narrating incidents, puns, and stories.

Laughs with you

He laughs at your dumbest jokes. He wants to show that he appreciates you and laughs loudest at the usual jokes. You might wonder if you are being so funny.

You get many likes

He will compliment you much, mostly for everything you do and share. This person will be the first to respond to your posts online. He shares every post you put in and loves to share what he feels the best. You can find him the first to like and comment on your posts and photos to get your attention.

For more on how men communicate, read our piece on how men react when they like a woman.

Is She Flirting with Me?

A lady rarely comes across as dominant or clearly articulates her interest. Women tend to flirt more furtively than men. They give him signs that they are interested in, and it is then up to him to interpret their signs and initiate the next steps. Usually, women don’t send the signs. In particular, shy women send flirting signals very cautiously.

A couple sitting together
A couple sitting together

However, she also tends to show interest but with different signs. Here’s the list that helps!

Touching You!

Have you noticed her touching you casually often during your conversation? Are you sure these touches are not accidental? Great! You may consider this as a sign of her interest. A woman keeps touching a man randomly when she likes him and wants him to make more physical contact.

Thinking about what to do? You can step forward for a slight touch, like stroking her arm or briefly touching her upper back. You may tap her on the shoulder when you show her something.


When you start a casual conversation, and if she blushes, more than just friendship could develop. Blushing is a physical reaction that’s just obvious. So hey, those pink cheeks are saying something!

She looks nervous

Have you noticed that she seems nervous while talking to you these days? Then you are most likely the reason for it. Because in a normal conversation with her buddy, she is not excited. Excitement and nervousness would bring a smile to her face, too. In a group conversation, you can notice her gazing at you but looking away when you look at her. 

She laughs at everything.

You can notice that she laughs at absolutely everything you say. Even your lame jokes and stupid stories sound funny to her. Exciting, isn’t it?


She will try to imitate or mirror you if she intends to hint at something. For example, if you put a glass of drink in your mouth during a group conversation, she would also try doing the same.

Knowing if the person is trying to flirt with you is a common interest. With all these gestures, you could easily identify the same. Along with those, if the person leans towards you and follows all your words, it means he or she is interested. If you want to match the flirt, you should look deep into the eyes of the other person. You will get an answer in the form of the above hints.

Why do people Flirt?

A Couple sharing a moment together
A Couple sharing a moment together

Why do people flirt, anyways? According to Northern Illinois University professor David Henningsen, there are six motives for flirting. The reason could be any of these six.

  • The person is interested in having you as a sexual partner.
  • The person feels flirting as a sport and enjoys it rather than taking it as a serious attempt to have a partner for life.
  • The person experiments with flirting to understand how it feels to be in a relationship.
  • The person chooses to flirt to build rapport with a familiar person.
  • The person uses flirting as a social tool to attract attention.
  • The person uses flirting to achieve certain goals through another person.

Flirting is mostly used to increase rapport with a person you love. It is a great way to show your partner that you like them. It sometimes takes an important place in a relationship. Studies say that people who flirt claim to have a good understanding and grasp of the interest of others. They are direct and confident in their romantic intentions. Such people quickly become attracted to a person and engage in personal conversations. 

People often choose indirect flirting strategies that include cracking jokes, teasing, smiles, and glances which can be flirting and the usual manifestation of friendliness. Everything will probably seem clear if they speak to each other to express mutual interests. But, Flirting is also a safe way to get rejected, without getting hurt. Many of us are not very pleased to receive direct refusals. So, many of them prefer to test the waters with non-obvious hints to express interest in another person.

Suppose you are looking for professional help to find out whether the person you flirt with or the other way around can be your partner for life. In that case, having a few pre-marital counselling sessions is good to find out the matching score! Book your appointment today to fixate on your relationship partner.

Flirting can be part of building a strong bond. For those considering marriage, understanding the importance of premarital counseling is beneficial.

Frequently Asked Questions for “Decoding the Signals: Is It Flirting or Just Being Nice?”

1. How can I tell if someone is flirting with me or just being friendly?

The key is to observe their behavior. Flirting often involves more personalized attention, subtle physical gestures, and a tone of conversation that goes beyond casual. If their behavior is consistent with everyone, it’s more likely to be friendliness.

2. What are some common flirting signs to look out for?

Common flirting signs include prolonged eye contact, playful or teasing conversation, compliments that feel more personal, and subtle physical gestures like light touching or leaning in closer than usual.

3. Can flirting be mistaken for friendliness?

Yes, flirting can sometimes be mistaken for friendliness, especially if it’s subtle. Personal biases and expectations can also influence how one interprets these behaviors.

4. How does the context affect whether behavior is seen as flirting or just being friendly?

The context, like a professional setting or a casual social gathering, greatly influences how behavior is perceived. What might be considered flirting in a social setting could be seen as just friendly in a professional environment.

Context Matters in Social Interactions

5. How do gender differences affect flirting behaviors?

Men and women might exhibit different styles of flirting due to social norms and individual personalities. However, it’s important to avoid overgeneralizing based on gender stereotypes as personal styles vary widely.

6. What should I do if I’m unsure about someone’s intentions?

If you’re unsure, consider direct and respectful communication. Asking straightforward questions in a non-confrontational manner can help clarify intentions.

7. Why is it important to respect personal boundaries in social interactions?

Respecting boundaries is crucial to ensure comfort and consent in any interaction. Misinterpreting signals and overstepping boundaries can lead to discomfort and strain in relationships.

8. How can personal feelings influence the interpretation of social signals?

Personal attractions and feelings can lead to biased interpretations of social signals, making one perceive friendly gestures as flirtatious or vice versa. Self-awareness is key in objectively assessing these interactions.

9. What are some tips for navigating mixed signals in social interactions?

Observe the consistency of behavior, consider the context, and be aware of your own biases. When in doubt, direct communication is often the best approach.

10. How can I improve my ability to distinguish between flirting and friendliness?

Improving this ability involves practice, observation, and learning from experiences. Paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, and understanding the context of interactions, can greatly enhance your interpretation skills.

About the Author:

Prapoorna Mangalampalli, Psychologist

Prapoorna, an author with dual master’s degrees in Psychology and English, excels in exploring and enhancing human experiences. Her writing, characterized by deep empathy and insight, primarily focuses on the complexities of counseling, spanning areas such as online, marital, relationship, child, family, and career counseling. Specialized training in various counseling sectors underscores her dedication to positive change. In her blogs, Prapoorna offers valuable guidance and a unique perspective for parents of children with Autism and special needs, creating a supportive community in this realm.

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