Like it or not, smiling and showing interest of any kind to a member of the opposite sex puts you at risk of being perceived as flirting -- or at least "interested." The only way to make absolutely sure that you're not seen as flirting is to refrain from smiling or making any eye contact at all. Unfortunately, the more genuinely interested you are in becoming friends, the more likely it is that your interaction could be mistaken for flirting. And in that case, the best you can do is engage with caution.
- Skill level:
Other People Are Reading
Treat the person you're talking to no differently than you treat others around you. People are likely to look for signs that you're treating them special for a reason when trying to decide whether you're flirting.
Stay away from complimenting physical features or broaching sexual innuendos, no matter how innocent, before you've built enough rapport to have established your relationship as strictly platonic.
Refrain from unnecessary or lingering touching. Resting your hand on his shoulder, or your hand on her elbow, just a moment too long sends the wrong message. Unless it's entirely unavoidable, keep your hands to yourself altogether while still building rapport.
Watch your body language. Pointing your body or your toes in the direction of the person you're speaking with indicates a romantic interest. If you're attracted on any subconscious level, such body language might become a giveaway, regardless of your intentions.
Make casual mention of your girlfriend or boyfriend at an appropriate moment, for good measure. If you know the person you're speaking with is in a relationship, express your awareness by asking friendly questions about his girlfriend as well.
Extend no invitations to hang out one-on-one before you've known each other long enough that it seems like a perfectly natural thing to do. If you want to get to know your new pal better, stick to group outings until it's clear you're on the same page.
Refrain from being overly thoughtful -- no text messages just to say "Hi!" or "I had a good time last night -- you?" or greeting your friend with a burnt CD and the explanation that, "I know how much you like Coldplay, so I copied their new album for you," just because. Any aimless contact, or any effort that appears to have gone out of your way, will seem like you're hoping and waiting for more than friendship to transpire.
Refrain from being coy. Your new friend may ask you out to test the waters, whether she believes you're into her or isn't quite sure. Be straightforward, saying earnestly how you feel and that you hadn't meant to come off as feeling otherwise. Take care to neither imply that you may be interested nor respond with haughtiness that might offend. In the interest of remaining friends, don't allow the exchange to fall into an awkward abyss. Show you're still interested in a friendship by interacting beyond the awkward moments that immediately follow. Hopefully, your buddy will come back around and be happy with what you have.
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- "Wing Girl Method"; Do You Know These 10 Signs She's Flirting With You?; June 2009
- "The Dater's Coach"; Can You Be Friendly With the Opposite Sex Without Looking Like You're Flirting With Them?; May 2011
- "The Dater's Coach"; What's the Difference Between Flirting and Being Friendly?; February 2011
- "Associated News"; How to Tell the Difference Between Friendly and Flirty -- Dating to Relating for Men; September 2010