You’re in a bar when a guy comes over and approaches you. The conversation is casual enough – questions about what you’re drinking and if you’re just out orBut then they suggest meeting up or ask for your number. There’s no flirting going on — you’re not laughing at their bad jokes or leaning in as though they’re about to whisper. So, what gives? Why do some guys mistake friendliness for flirting?
One theory suggests men overperceive sexual interest in relationships with women so they can reproduce in them. Another suggests misperception happens because it’s a ‘universal evolutionary adaptation.’
Trying to decide who fancies you in real-life seems more challenging since dating apps. On an app, you can wait for a ‘like’ or a flirtatious comment. You don’t need body language cues because you’ve both signed up to a platform designed for singles to connect. You can also ignore a comment or politely say you’re not interested. But it’s difficult to turn someone down in public — what if you reject them and they turn around and say I’m just having a casual conversation? And how do you approach — what separates a flirtatious smile from a friendly one?
I appreciate that women often expect men to make the first move. Research suggests however, that women have more luck taking the lead, so maybe this will change soon. With guys expected to approach first, it’s understandable how they might confuse friendliness for sexual interest.
If they’re looking to chat and meet someone, they have a small window of signs to decipher. Not everyone makes it clear — sometimes due to shyness — that they’re interested. With that said, there is a pattern myself, the internet (according to other articles), and friends have noticed about some men being too presumptuous. As a friend of mine lamented, you can’t smile or say hi without them getting the wrong idea.
Some guys believe a woman on a night out without a ring is single and seeking a hookup or relationship. ‘What are you doing here alone’ and ‘If you were mine, I wouldn’t let you out of my sight’ are the most cringeworthy lines I’ve heard. In any setting, a man might not be used to conversations with women, so automatically assume your enthusiasm to chat and ask questions about their life means you fancy them. Ego can get in the way, as well as the inability to see you as anything other than a possible sexual partner.
At least on a night out, you can walk away and hopefully not see them again. But in a work setting, it’s awkward to tell a colleague not to get the wrong idea. Naomi (pretend name) recently met up with an old male friend for a catch up. In her mind, they’d been friends for years — meeting at university and navigating various relationships and career steps while keeping in touch when possible. For some reason, their most recent catchup gave the impression that Naomi wanted more. Once she explained there were no romantic feelings, he got angry and accused her of leading him on.
While TikTok is filled with ‘psychological signs that someone likes you’ — paying attention to where someone points their feet or how much they touch their face feels like a confusing strategy. Understanding body language helps, but how effectively can you use it?
What we need is more people to learn about space and body cues. When you’re out and spot someone you fancy, don’t follow them around or drag out a conversation until they’re making excuses to visit the bathroom. I appreciate it when a guy gives you space to enjoy your night. You can decide whether to go and ask for their number or avoid them and chat elsewhere.
But worse than following you around or assuming you like them, is when guys can’t handle your rejection.