How do you know if that person you just met is interested in you? The clues are there—you just have to learn how to decipher them.
“People frequently don’t pick up on signals that someone is flirting with them, and even if they do, they often don’t convey their interest in return because they don’t want to be embarrassed if they’re wrong,” says Jeffrey Hall, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas who has conducted research on how people express and accurately detect romantic interest.
Just being nice?
There are generational differences in flirting styles,” Hall says. “Older adults tend to be more cautious, polite, respectful, and hands-off, so their efforts to communicate attraction often are perceived as just ‘being nice,’ especially when it’s happening somewhere other than in a social situation like a party or in a bar.”
When someone is flirting with you and you don’t recognize it, he or she may assume you are not interested—even though that may not be the case. What could have become a great relationship never has a chance to develop.
How do you avoid such missed opportunities? “You have to raise your antennae a bit to be more open to the possibility of someone being interested in you and communicate your own interest more clearly,” Hall says.
For instance, if someone you’ve just met asks questions clearly aimed at determining whether you’re currently in a relationship, that can be a clue indicating potential romantic interest. But rather than guessing and perhaps making incorrect assumptions, consider exiting your comfort zone to take the direct approach.
“Just saying how much you enjoyed the conversation and suggesting that you’d be interested in staying in touch or getting together again communicates your interest in the other person without being overbearing,” Hall says.
And to boost your courage, you might keep in mind these figures from his research: just 18 percent of women and 36 percent of men recognized flirting when it was happening. With odds like that in your favor, it’s worth taking the leap.
Andrea Rock is freelance journalist who specializes in health topics. Her work has earned her the American Academy of Family Physicians Award for Outstanding Journalistic Achievement In Reporting and Writing on Family Medicine and Health Care, the National Magazine Award for Journalism in the Public Interest, and the Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting. She was a senior writer and editor for Consumer Reports for more than a decade, and is the author of The Mind at Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Money, SELF, O Magazine, and Ladies’ Home Journal.