Things You Say And Do That Make People Think You’re Flirting (When You’re Not)

Things You Say And Do That Make People Think You’re Flirting (When You’re Not)

We’ve all been there – you’re being your friendly self, then BAM! The other person gets that glint in their eye, thinking they’re about to score when you were just trying to, you know, be nice. Let’s identify the culprits of crossed wires to help avoid those awkward “oh, haha, I wasn’t…” moments.

1. “You’re so funny!” (especially accompanied by a light touch)

Sharing laughter builds bonds, for sure, but add in an affectionate tap on the arm, and you may be inadvertently launching a thousand romantic fantasies. Enthusiastic appreciation is great, but limit the physicality to avoid sending that green light to someone misinterpreting your friendly vibes. It’s ridiculous that this is the case, but if you want to avoid awkwardness as much as possible, you’ll have to keep your hands to yourself, no matter how innocent those touches might be.

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2. Constant compliments, even on minor things

“Love your shoes!” “Your hair looks great today!” — it’s kind to boost people up, as Harvard Business Review notes, but too much praise can be misconstrued, especially across genders. If you wouldn’t say it to your same-sex buddies, maybe hold back, or make the compliment group-directed, not laser-focused on one specific person.

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3. Making intense eye contact and remembering little details

Being fully present in a conversation is good manners, but holding someone’s gaze a bit too long, remembering that offhand comment they made weeks ago… it reads as romantic interest to some. A friendly smile is better than prolonged staring, and sadly, sometimes feigning a slightly shorter attention span saves accidental heartache.

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4. Going out of your way to do favors for them

Helping a coworker is the right thing to do. Grabbing coffee for a cute acquaintance is where it gets murky. If you wouldn’t offer that same level of assistance to anyone else regardless of attractiveness, it could be misinterpreted. It sucks to limit kindness, but sometimes it’s safer than getting unwanted attention.

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5. Asking overly personal questions early on

Deep-diving into someone’s relationship status or childhood trauma on the first meeting strays past water cooler chat. Intense interest in their inner life reads as potential romantic interest. Keep it light initially, unless there’s a pre-established closeness warranting more personal conversations.

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6. Self-deprecating humor that could be misinterpreted as fishing for compliments

A little playful insecurity is endearing. Constantly saying “I look terrible today,” or “I’m so awkward” can backfire. They may feel obligated to reassure you, setting up a dynamic where they are constantly stroking your ego, which gets…weird. Avoid fishing for compliments whenever possible.

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7. Using a lot of pet names and “inside joke” type language.

“Hey gorgeous,” or playful terms like “troublemaker” are generally reserved for those we’re crushing on. Using them liberally, even as your way of being affectionate with everyone, sends the wrong message to the less platonically-inclined.

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8. Texting late at night, or sending messages that lack clear purpose

drunk woman texting in a club

“Whatcha doing?” at 11 PM sets off potential date-vibes. It’s fine between established friends, but if it’s work-related, email is safer. Early on, keep interactions within normal waking hours unless there’s a real reason to text after dark.

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9. “Let’s hang out soon!” with no concrete follow-up

It’s the polite brush-off, but to someone eager, it leaves a glimmer of hope. If you have zero intent to actually hang out, best to avoid this phrase altogether. If you truly DO want to see them again, suggest a specific timeframe or activity to show you’re serious.

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10. Complaining about being single or asking if they know anyone to set you up with

Even if genuinely commiserating about your dating woes, this opens the door. Suddenly, they may see it as a challenge – to be the one to fix your lonely heart! Best to keep relationship venting sessions to those who AREN’T potential love interests.

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11. Giving physical affection on the more enthusiastic side

Some people are huggers – it’s your thing! But lingering hugs, a playful squeeze of the shoulder, even a casual arm draped around someone… this signals intimacy to a lot of people. If they misinterpret your touchy-feely nature, it’s on them, but it also means frequent awkwardness in your future. If you don’t want to be misunderstood, Forbes notes, you need to communicate clearly — and that includes with your body language.

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12. “You remind me of my ex… (even if followed by something nice!)

Why would anyone think this is a good idea? Even if you’re complimenting their sense of humor, the fact that you’re comparing them to a past love sends a shiver down the spine. Nobody, especially someone you’re not into, wants to dwell in the shadow of your old flame. Also, if you don’t see this person romantically, it’s an extra weird comparison to draw.

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13. Playful teasing that borders on negging

Flirting and good-natured ribbing can be a blurry line, but if your teasing is backhanded (“That’s a…unique haircut…”) or consistently pokes at their insecurities, it’s less playful and more likely to make them think you’re either rude or awkward as hell when it comes to making a move on them, even if you meant no harm.

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14. Oversharing about your physical insecurities

Everyone has hang-ups, but ranting about your “fat thighs” or “weird hairline” can either make someone uncomfortable, or make them feel like you want them to tell you how beautiful you are/what a catch you are. A little venting is fine, but constant self-critique gets tiresome. It also makes them wonder why you’re so desperate for validation from them in particular. Is it because you have deeper feelings for them? They might think so!

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15. Drunk texting/messaging

Young woman covering her mouth in shock©iStock/Art-Of-Photo

Liquid courage dissolves inhibitions, which often means drunk texts that are overly familiar, or professing “feelings” you wouldn’t dream of mentioning sober. Ouch. Even if they know you were tipsy, seeds of doubt are planted. Best to put the phone down after a couple of drinks.

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16. Not clearly cutting things off when you sense the other person is into you

Not reciprocating =/= being mean. Sometimes, ghosting IS the kindest option if the other person is misreading the situation badly. Giving them false hope by continuing contact solely to avoid an awkward conversation often causes more pain in the long run.

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Gail is Bolde's social media and partnership manager, as well as an all-around behind-the-scenes renaissance woman. She worked for more than 25 years in her city's local government before making the switch to women's lifestyle and relationship sites, initially at HelloGiggles before making the switch to Bolde.