You’re chatting to a guy at your office or at the coffee shop and having a totally innocent conversation… or so you think. Romance is the last thing on your mind, but it’s clearly on his. It seems like no matter how casual and platonic you try to keep things, men always assume you’re trying to hit on them (or inviting them to hit on you. Why do guys always mistake friendliness for flirting and what can be done about it?
Why guys mistake friendliness for flirting
The disclaimer here of “not all men” applies, of course. However, given how common this occurrence is, we’ll speak in generalities for the purpose of this article.
- They’re overconfident. Some men may have a high level of confidence in their attractiveness and may assume that any woman who is friendly with them is interested in them romantically. The idea that you could be already taken, gay, or simply not interested simply wouldn’t cross their minds.
- It’s wishful thinking. Men may sometimes mistake friendliness for flirting because they want to believe that the woman is interested in them. This is especially true if you know you’re a hot commodity and have a lot of people interested in you. They want to convince themselves that they could bag an amazing woman like you.
- They’re misreading social cues. Some men may have difficulty reading social cues accurately and may interpret innocent actions such as smiling, making eye contact, or laughing at their jokes as signs of flirting. This isn’t always consciously done. It could very well be an innocent mistake.
- They lack relationship experience. Some men may not have had much experience with women or may not be familiar with the social norms surrounding romantic relationships. As a result, they may mistake friendliness for flirting. Again, this could very well be an innocent mistake, even if it is a somewhat annoying one.
- It could be down to cultural differences. Different cultures have different norms and expectations when it comes to social interactions. Behavior that is considered friendly in one culture may be interpreted as flirting in another.
- They’re projecting their own feelings. Some men may project their own romantic feelings onto the woman, assuming that she must feel the same way if she is friendly with them. In other words, when they’re into you, they assume you’re into them. The alternative never even crosses their mind.
- You’re in a sexually charged environment. If the environment is sexually charged, such as a bar or nightclub, men may be more likely to mistake friendliness for flirting due to the high energy and social dynamics of the setting. After all, if they’re going out to find a hookup, you must be too. If you’re talking to them, you must be attracted to them, right? (Wrong!)
What to do when this happens
It can be frustrating when someone misinterprets your actions, especially if you’re just trying to be friendly. Here are some steps you can take if you find yourself in this situation.
- Be clear. If you’re not interested in the guy romantically, it’s important to be upfront and clear about your intentions. You can say something like, “Hey, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page — I’m not looking for anything romantic right now, but I appreciate our friendship.” For most guys, this should be enough to get the point across.
- Set boundaries. If the guy continues to flirt with you even after you’ve made your intentions clear, it may be necessary to set some boundaries. You can say something like, “I’m not comfortable with the way you’re talking to me. Please respect my boundaries.” Even if he thought he could change your mind or wear you down, he should get the hint when you say this.
- Be consistent. It’s important to be consistent in your behavior so that the guy doesn’t get mixed signals. If you’re not interested in him romantically, don’t engage in behavior that could be interpreted as flirting. Chances are, you weren’t anyway — he just thought you were, which is on him.
- Be empathetic. It can be hard for someone to realize that their feelings aren’t reciprocated. Try to be understanding and empathetic while still being clear about your boundaries. You don’t have to be a bitch to get your point across. You can let people down gently.
- Be firm. If the guy really won’t take the hint that you’re not into him when you’re being nice, sometimes you have to be a bit firmer. In that case, being assertive or even harsh may be necessary.
Remember, it’s not your responsibility to manage someone else’s emotions, but you can be respectful and kind in how you communicate your boundaries.