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As a loud, extroverted, and playful college student based in the United States I often find myself in situations where people (primarily women) think that I am flirting with them even when I am not.

How can I communicate that I am not flirting with them, I am instead being friendly and myself. When is the appropriate time after meeting someone to bring this issue up?

  • 4
    I am having trouble imagining this. Are you telling them they are attractive? Suggesting the two of you have a date? Asking them very personal questions? What specific actions are interpreted as flirting? – Kate Gregory Jul 21 '17 at 13:01
  • @KateGregory I tend to not mention physical appearance, I ask them the same types of questions as I ask everyone "What are you passionate about", "How many small dogs could you take in a fight", mostly lighthearted questions. – Joe S Jul 21 '17 at 13:10
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    You have a decent question. Could asking about passionate interests be a mistake when you are not looking to promote passion? Other than that, I'd wait until someone else brought up flirting before addressing it. Or say you play for the other team. – Yosef Baskin Jul 21 '17 at 13:38
  • Do you think this justifies the extrovert tag? – marcellothearcane Jul 21 '17 at 14:45
  • @marcellothearcane I think that certain introverts might also have this issue, and the issue itself is not due to the extroversion, more how I communicate. – Joe S Jul 21 '17 at 14:50
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There is no good time to communicate verbally that you are not flirting with them. However, from the start you should use your paraverbal, nonverbal, and situational to communicate that you are not flirting with them.

Paraverbal

It is important to remember that communicating is not limited to what you say, but how you say it. Take the following sentence:

Hey, how are you doing?

It can be said in such a way as a simple greeting, emphasized for flirtation, or emphasized for deep concern. Depending on how you are talking, it could drastically change how it is interpreted.

Nonverbal

Posture, hand position, facial expressions, and body language all communicate various things. If you want to know what various hand positions and facial expressions are communicating there are sites with whole pages on them: Read Body Language Signs and Gestures Here is a summary of the section on hand positions (note the last one):

hands folded shows negativity, skepticism, blocking the message he receives, the other person is perceived as a stranger, defensive position (person defends his heart).

if you put your hands on your hip they widen body, you seem bigger, more threatening and convincing or influential.

hands behind your back or in front, one holding the other by the forearm denote insecurity, mistrust, fear.

hands behind your back, one holding the other by the wrist usually comes with chin up and chest facing forward symbolizing an authoritative person, courageous.

asymmetrical shaking hands show that the person is approachable, hands with slow movements show safety, securance (those that have slower moves know that what they have to say is important that’s why they have no rush, they have all the time in the world).

steeple up hands shows dominance, leadership and steeple down allegiance, obedience.

thumb in your pocket or outside the pocket denote domination, safety, strength, sexual aggression.

playing with cylindrical objects such as cigarettes, a finger, a cocktail glass or any other signifies courtship.

Another one from the same article has to do with what your eyes are looking at:

Intimate look = between the eyes and breasts to the thighs

So if your eyes are drifting down and checking them out, before you even open your mouth, you have already caused them to form a bias on anything you do say. Think of the classic example of husband is walking with his wife and turns his head as an attractive jogger passes by in the opposite direction, and the wife then smacks him. Husband did not say a word, but the simple act of turning his head was enough.

Needless to say, a lot of little things you are doing you may not even be aware of that are causing the miscommunication. One time I had someone videotape me and a group of fellow college students giving a presentation for a class. I watched the recording later, and was absolutely shocked at the little things I had done that I was not aware of. If someone ever video tapes you at a social event try to see if you get your hands and watch it several days later, to make sure that the video is correctly capturing what you think you are doing.

Situational

One of the fastest ways to communicate to an individual that you are not flirting with them, is to have someone accompany you, preferably a significant other or someone of the same gender you are trying to talk to. People tend not to flirt in front of their significant other, and so having a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse accompanying you will let them know that anything that might be construed as flirting is likely not the case (unless of course your significant other is giving you dirty looks, then they will absolutely assume you are flirting with them).

Final Advice

If you cannot figure out how people are coming to the conclusion that you are flirting with them, then I recommend asking a close friend (preferably a women, since you state they are primarily the ones who are thinking this) who is good at picking up on subtle things for help. Have them follow you around at social events you go to, with them keeping an eye on what you are saying and doing. Then have them report anything they picked up on as flirting.

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    "thumb in your pocket or outside the pocket denote domination, safety, strength, sexual aggression" - There is literally no where else in the world your thumb can be. – RyanfaeScotland Sep 24 '18 at 22:22
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It depends on if the perceived flirting is welcome or not. If they perceive it as flirting and seem to be uncomfortable because of it. It is likely best to clear the air directly and figure out what you are doing that makes them uncomfortable and alter the behavior.

If they feel like you are flirting and are welcoming it, then it becomes much harder to address without causing hurt feelings. Your best bet is likely to alter your behavior to discontinue what they are taking as flirting, at least until they can catch the hint. If you are in a relationship, you can also potentially bring that up in a positive context to let them know that you aren't flirting without having to embarrass them directly.

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I agree with CandiedOrgange that you should try to avoid mentioning that you are not flirting with someone else because that could be taken to imply either:

  • They are not attractive OR
  • They wanted to get with you, which they might not want to admit, even if they were thinking about it, because you've just rejected them

A lot of the time people mention that they have a significant other as per Sqaq's suggestion. Personally, if I don't have one, I'm not comfortable with lying like this, unless the situation truly is exceptional. I can see why people would though, there really needs to be another way to signal that you aren't interested in the other person romantically whilst maintaining plausible deniability.

If you went on a date recently or if you have a date soon, you could also use these to send a signal. People who are flirting with others are generally less likely to talk about current dating activity.

Another strategy that people sometimes use is to say things like, "You are such a great friend", with emphasis on the "friend". I've never done this though because if you overemphasis the term friend you'll come off as weird, but it seems to work for some people.

I would also suggest not to worry excessively about the other person's feelings. Their feelings are their feelings and ultimately it is their responsibility. Although you should certainly try not to lead anyone on, it is very hard to look after other people's feelings given that you rarely know exactly what they are thinking.

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You ought to realize that by coincidence, your "lighthearted" questions such as "What are you passionate about", or "How many small dogs could you take in a fight" happen to be the same as, or similar to ones recommended by professional flirts or pickup artists to their clients. The gist of such advice is to get introverts to act in a more extroverted fashion, which you do naturally.

One solution you might try is to say, "I ask everyone these questions." This is a technique called "reductio ad absurdum;" obviously you're not flirting with "everyone," therefore probably not them. If pressed as to why, you might answer, "That's just my style." You should bring this up as soon as you feel that you are being misunderstood.

(Note: I am recommending what I believe to be honest answers coming from someone like yourself. If my assumption is wrong, don't use those answers.)

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