“How do I know if she’s interested? How do I know if he’s interested?”

[Editor’s note: Condensed and composited answer from two different seekers on a similar subject.]

Women confuse me. Are they reacting too subtly and I’m missing the clue? Is my initiated physical contact “action in a vacuum”? Should I expect return physical contact from someone who is interested in dating moreso than simple friendship? At what point does there have to be some return indication of interest from the girl?

They may be reacting too subtly OR you may be missing the clue — good or bad.

Here is some valuable information you may or may not have; I’ll do this in bullet form.

  • Most girls are trained/brainwashed to be polite at all costs. Unfortunately a cost is frequently a lack of clarity on the truth. A few of us have come to understand that most if not all men would prefer a short, simple, “I’m really flattered but I’m not interested in dating you right now” to the long-drawn-out “gosh you’re nice and funny and we should hang out but don’t make a move because we’re friends but I might decide I’m into you later so I don’t want to burn a bridge and piss you off forever.” That sucks. It’s hard to be a guy in that respect. Sometimes you just have to leave her no option but to be straight with you: “This has been really fun. I’d like to take you out again soon. Do you think that you might be available for a date again on Saturday?” Pretty much no way she can answer ambiguously there. And if she hems and haws, that’s an answer, too.
  • You are right to give just the cheek kiss if you don’t know whether a smooch would be welcome. If she wants to turn that into a smooch, she will.
  • There are universal signs for flirting, too. They are conscious or unconscious. Master the signals and you may know more about her intentions than she realizes.
  1. Touching her hair. No matter the hairstyle, a woman who is flirting will play with, rearrange, and move her hair around. A finger-comb, a shake, a retidying, a fingering a tendril, whatever. It’s a major giveaway.
  2. Touching of your leg or chest. Major signals. Even if for just a second. WAY into you.
  3. Touching your arm. Careful in your assessment — this can be sympathetic, “let him down easy” type touch. But if she lingers, you are in.
  4. Eye contact. Now, few women are comfortable with direct, lengthy eye contact. However, a HUGE flirt is to have her head tilted slightly down, her eyes look up at you, then down and away, then back up at you. This is the body language equivalent of doing the “come here” beckon with her pointer finger. Again, she may not realize she is doing this combination. It’s coy and a little submissive — so it’s pretty irresistible. (She might be conscious of it, in which case, it’s not submissive at all. But I digress.)
  5. There are others: the heightened laugh, the compliments, sitting on your lap, allowing you to pick up the check — but if she’s generally flirty, those could mean anything. So the most “obvious” stuff COULD be totally meaningless, ironically.

If you get none of these, she’s not interested. She might want to be your friend. Or not even.

You can’t do anything about how the girls comport themselves. But you CAN get less clueless. Talk to your trusted female friends about how they act and their standards.

Ask a variety of women how they act when they do like someone but are shy, or don’t like someone and don’t want to hurt feelings. Finally, ask one of your more bitchy female friends how she lays down the law with someone, just so you know the boundaries. (Oh wait, I guess you just did. 😀 )

To your last question, “at what point does there have to be return interest from the girl?” That is completely up to you. If you want to spend time with her, you invite her to spend time with you. If she wants to, she will, if she doesn’t, she won’t. How many times do you want to be turned down before you give up… and how many times do you want to spend time in the Friend Zone?

(I think a woman should only turn a man down twice. If he asks again, and she has no interest in spending time, she should just SAY SO. I don’t blame sane but persistent guys. Ambivalence breeds optimism sometimes. If he pursues after she has said something clearly, then that’s stalking. And that’s another issue entirely.)

I loved what you wrote about the signs that women give men. Now, confidentially…. what about the reverse? What are the giveaways, esp if he’s shy or trying to be discreet about liking you?

Your question is rather vague. First and foremost: Have you tried asking him?

Also, as my patron saint of ill repute Dan Savage says, “Open your mouth, solve your problem.” I can’t say this enough, especially in this context and especially to women. Men are shy about approaching women because they have been rejected so often over their lives, bless their persistent ever-lovin’ hearts. But women are chickens when it comes to approaching men because they don’t have the training. Too bad! Suck it up and take a chance!! Truly, nothing could be easier.

In short, if a guy is single and makes an effort to spend time with you, you can 85% assume he digs you. There may or may not be a bunch of other little signals, but who cares? All you need is that one: If he likes you, he will pursue you.

With women, a guy has to guess. With men, a woman shouldn’t. A few people made a bazillion dollars off a book “He’s Just Not That Into You,” which really probably could have been five sentences. They aren’t mysterious, the fellas.

Men DO NOT GO LOOKING FOR WOMEN FRIENDS. Women friends happen because the women want to be friends. Please now allow me to quote Chris Rock:

Men don’t have platonic friends, OK? We just have women we haven’t f’d yet. “As soon as I figure this out, I’m in there!” I mean, we got some platonic friends… I mean, I got some… but they’re all by accident. Every platonic friend I got is some woman I was trying to f’k, I made a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up in the friend zone.”

Of course there are exceptions. Of course men in love make platonic friends and have no other intentions. Of course once the friendships are established, quality men value those friends for what they are. And yes, there are men who really are cool with female friends and never, ever thought of them as targets. But I would call most any man who denies the basic truth of the above, a liar.

So, you want to know if a guy likes you? 1) Pay attention — you should be able to figure it out. 2) If you really can’t guess, ASK HIM. But you’d better be able to deal with NO graciously. And only ask if you want the answer to be “yes” and you are prepared to follow through. Because if someone were to humiliate a man by asking and then responding, “oh, I thought so. Yeah, well, I’m sorry but I don’t feel the same and I hope we can still be friends!” then I hope karma takes a big bite out of that someone’s ass.

Nonverbal suggestions for the tongue-tied gal: Take his arm or hand sometime and see if he flinches or smiles. Hug him longer than necessary.

But straightforward verbal communication is my favorite method, as I’ve stated many times.

A few ideas: Plop on his lap and tell him, “Do you know how sexy you are?” Tell him, “If you ever want to take me out, I think i could find some time in my busy schedule.” Personally, I’ve found a lot of success with the impromptu, “hey, wanna make out?”

You can find your own catchphrase. Have fun!


About amywinns

Semi-snarky, semi-sincere, occasionally ranting, always paying attention. Feminist who can work a skirt and crack a joke. Grammar nerd who is also fun at parties. Mid-career writer/editor with 15 years’ experience in newspapers & magazines who now helps developers at a major media corporation communicate with the suits who write the checks. Pro-women, pro-family, pro-choice, pro-workingclass, pro-entrepreneur, pro-farmer. Like every other bourgeois Brooklynite, I choose local/organic/raw food — mostly vegetables — whenever possible/reasonable/affordable but I’m not a smug asshole about it. Hometown: Atlanta. Weird hobby: lindy hop. No pets, no kids, no thanks.
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One Response to “How do I know if she’s interested? How do I know if he’s interested?”

  1. Pingback: What advice would you have for men in how to respond to ambiguous signals from women? | Amy Winns

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