I Swear I’m Not Flirting…

… Except when I am. πŸ™‚

We’ve all had that moment. You know, that moment when you’re talking with your friend of the opposite sex, and suddenly a mutual acquaintance comes over and asks if you’re dating. The two of you laugh it off and explain that no, you’re just friends. “But, like, you were totally flirting,” the acquaintance explains later, after your not-boyfriend has left the scene. “He definitely seemed into you.”

Whether or not the events panned out that exact same way for everyone, they do hold true to a lesser extent. Maybe it’s because romantic comedies have led us to believe that best friends of opposite genders are clearly soulmates (thank you, Nora Ephron! :)), or maybe it’s because the social cues we have always considered flirting are a little broad. For example, when you skim AskMen.com’s Signs She’s Flirting article, you’ll find that many of these signs (such as smiling, making eye contact and playing with one’s hair) signify things we also do in situations when we’re not flirting. Some lists may be comprehensive and even hold some truths, but they don’t tell the whole story.

These expectations we gain from such articles are misleading because then we start to equate everything with flirtation and romantic interest, and that can be harmful. I want to be able to hold a conversation with a male friend without making him feel like I’ve led him on, and I want to be able to laugh with him publicly over something funny we just saw without having others think we’re madly in love.

I asked a friend how she would define flirting, and she claimed that people do it unintentionally all the time, regardless of romantic interest, and that it’s more of an attitude than anything else. This leaves me wondering: where do we draw the line between unintentional and intentional flirting? Is unintentional flirting something we do just for fun, or is some weird part of our subconscious telling us to act now? Does it even matter?

Of course, when it comes to interactions between men and women, a lot usually seems to get lost in translation (otherwise there wouldn’t be so many Facebook fan pages like this). We just have to try our best to differentiate between playful banter and full-on I-want-to-get-with-you cues, and not mistake a friendly smile for a come hither.

That is, of course, unless you do like that person and want to send those cues out, and then it’s another story entirely.

My question to you readers: Where do you draw the line between friendliness and flirtiness? Tweet this!

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6 comments

  1. Dude, why make a distinction at all? Are humans such insecure and socially-conscious creatures as to necessitate clear-cut, black-and-white definitions of what is and isn’t acceptable within an arbitrary construct of friendliness? What else is flirting than a singular evolution of extroversion? Why actively limit your friendliness to the end of appearing less friendly, less close and less comfortable, only to avoid the grave possibility of misinterpretation as a sexual cue? Is is really so awkward to say in those rare cases of severe misinterpretation, “Hey, I’m sorry – I don’t want you to think I don’t like you, just not like that.”?

    1. I agree with you in the sense that we shouldn’t have to change our behaviors so dramatically in order to maintain a particular construct, and I definitely don’t plan to act any less friendly around guys I’m not at all romantically interested in but still consider friends. I just wonder at what point does such friendliness begin to seriously lead people on without meaning to, and where we can avoid sending mixed signals if that is what we’re doing. I don’t want to discourage people from being friendly and kind by any means; more than anything, I wanted to comment on how silly it is that these things ARE so misinterpreted and blown out of proportion. πŸ™‚

  2. Sometimes I think the fun of awkward, ambiguous friendship/pseudo relationships/ relationships/ whatever between men and women is the uncertainty. You can still hope that there might be something there. If you find out the truth, you might get disappointed. Until that moment he’s a friend. He could also be the one. Who says you have to choose?

    1. That’s very true, and uncertainty can be exciting. I love the flirty banter when there is some possible attraction there, but then there are the guys that you would probably not ever consider for anything other than friendship… not even in the ambiguous relationship type of sense. Those are the guys you *don’t* mean to flirt with and don’t want to lead into thinking that you’re interested, but still certain gestures and inflections in your voice might make them think that you do like them in that way. I’m definitely a fan of the occasional friendship-ambiguity, just not the idea of leading someone down the wrong path if you’re genuinely never going to be interested.

  3. Things like this can lead relationships to become suuuper-uncomfortable, in my experience. Like you said, sometimes it happens with guys who you’ve never even thought of as anything but a friend. I’ve had at least one friendship ruined on a huge scale because he misread my intentions and it got super-uncomfortable.

    1. I understand exactly! It’s one thing when it’s one of those will-they-won’t-they kind of scenarios and there is a little attraction there, but pretty awkward when it’s one-sided. Especially when people accuse you of flirting when you weren’t trying to flirt in the first place! And when the other person doesn’t take the hint…

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