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Signs They’re Attracted To You

And why we usually mess up how to tell if they like you

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camila waz, unsplash

You’ve probably Googled it and if you haven’t Googled it, you’ve certainly still wondered it. I say this because we all have.

“Are they into me or not?”

Maybe we wonder because we’re into them and want to know if it’s reciprocated. Maybe we wonder because we think we see signs and want to know if they’re for real.

But at some point or another, we’ve all wondered if someone is attracted to us.

And for those of us who try to Google it, we run into a slew of problems, mostly centralized around the fact that:

Most information out there is really, really stupid.

The problem with “signs” comes down to these two errors:

1. False Positives

Also known as “type I” errors in statistical hypothesis, this is an error in which a result improperly indicates presence of a condition when in reality it is not present. In other words: a “false alarm,” or “boy who cried wolf.”

In the case of attraction, this means:

You think they’re into you, but they’re not.

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False positives happens with:

  • Friendly or flirtatious people
  • People who may be attracted to you but (see below) don’t want to be, or don’t want to pursue anything
  • People who give mixed signals
  • When your one-way attraction to them overrides any sense or self-awareness you have about accurately reading their behavior
  • You get overly hopeful, grasping at things and making small signs indicative of something bigger
  • i.e., people who struggle (i.e., fail) to accurately read other people’s signs

2. False Negatives

Also known as “type II” errors in statistical hypothesis, this is an error in which a result improperly indicates presence of a condition when it is not actually present. For example: a medical condition that goes undetected, a guilty suspect acquitted of their crime, or the “silent but deadly” fart — you don’t think it’s there, but it is.

In the case of attraction, this means:

You think they’re NOT into you, but they are.

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Happens with:

  • Shy people
  • Socially awkward people
  • People trying to hide that they’re into you, for whatever reason
  • People who give mixed signals
  • People who struggle (and fail) to accurately read other people’s signs

THE PROBLEMS:

1. Human Beings Are Messy

Much of my writing hinges on this and I’ve already said a lot of what I want to say (here and here and here and here and here and many more places), but:

People are messy, imperfect human beings.

2. Attraction Is Not Black and White

I’m writing a whole other post on this, because it is such a huge topic and I am amazed at how badly we butcher it.

“Attraction” is not binary. I get so impatient with people who fail to realize this — I am truly taken aback at how much pain we cause ourselves by failing to realize it, and my jaw drops when people want “advice” because someone does one thing that indicates attraction (“texting”) and another that doesn’t (“ignoring you for a week.”)

We would resolve so much of our own pain and confusion if we just realized: attraction is not binary.

Just because they like you doesn’t mean they LIKE you.

Here’s an example:
I am not into cake. Like, at all. But today we swung by a local, hipster bakery with these adorable, Instagram-ready cakes, and even though I do not like cake and do not want cake, even I could admit: “that’s a pretty cake.” But that doesn’t mean I want some. So much in life goes like this, and so much of our “confusion” hinges on not realizing it.

3. Attraction Is Not Linear

Look, attraction isn’t clean-cut. Just because we feel attracted to someone doesn’t mean we’re on some “pre-defined” track that automatically progresses us to the next stage. In fact? More often than not, we don’t. More often than not, we are attracted to countless people in our lives, on various levels, without pursuing anything at all.

Like, we find others physically attractive but not like their personality. We may like both their appearance and their personality, but not be available for a relationship. We may like everything and be open to a relationship, but they’re already in one. Or, we might all be single and heavily attracted to each other on every level, but live in different countries. And even these are gross over-simplifications.

Like: I may want carbs, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to eat them.

Or: obviously Benjamin Sledge is an attractive dude and a good writer (hey boye), but that doesn’t mean I want to run off into the sunset with him, or him with me.

And: the same goes for anyone else I — or anyone else — may find attractive.

Ya dig?

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Just because you agree the cake looks good doesn’t mean you actually want the cake

Unreliable (i.e., total crapshoot) signs of “attraction”

Look, I’m not saying these are ALL WRONG. They may not be. In fact, these may well be 80% foolproof signs like 60% of the time, and you may well have some anecdotal story of when you or someone you knew or some situation you dreamed up in your head did one or more of these and it was “totally legit” and the parties involved were definitely attracted. That’s great. Mazel tov.

But the point here is: that’s not always the case. So let’s explore…

First of all, let’s understand contextual differences:

  • Is this a stranger in a bar?
  • A friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker?
  • Someone you’re casually dating?

These are all very different. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to tackle the second one: someone you know, have interacted with, and see interacting with others.

Signs that don’t matter…

EYES

Eye contact

The “signs” say:

“We like to make tons of eye contact with people when we think they’re attractive.” — Bustle

“Eye contact is a universal symbol of human attraction… even infants maintain eye contact with people they’re interested in.”

This is probably one of the worst “signs.” I mean, sure, eye contact does indicate attention. But it does not indicate attraction. (I mean come on — they have infants right there as support!)

Furthermore… false negative: they like you but are incredibly shy, avoiding eye contact. But more importantly, false positive: they’re a normally-functioning adult who understands how to converse.

I make eye contact with almost everyone I talk to. Want to take a stab at what percentage I want to bang? (Hint: very low.)

Pupil Dilation

Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of Success Signals, A Guide to Reading Body Language, shared:

“Dilation is a brain response that occurs when you like and are attracted to something.”

Which is true — but we have to be careful with this “sign,” because pupils dilate in response to anything that demands increased levels of attention.

Poppy Crum, PhD, a neuroscientist and technologist, did a TedTalk on technology and micro-expressions, in which she shared,

“Your eye responds to how hard your brain is working… When your brain’s having to work harder, your autonomic nervous system drives your pupil to dilate. When it’s not, it contracts.”

Below is a test subject’s eye responding to two jumbled, overlapping voices (about 3:35 in the video if you want to watch) — not sexual attraction.

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THE REST OF THE BODY

Body language

“Body language speaks a lot when it comes to knowing a guy that wants to date you.” — Dami Rhythms

It may — but it could also be very misleading.

You should observe the eye contact he makes with you, the way he leans toward you, and his sitting position

Proximity

The “signs” say:

People who like you are “anticipating the opportunity to become closer to you.”

Which, is true. But the problem with this is: sometimes people just like being close to others. Like, I like crowds and the middle seats on planes. I like throwing my arm around whoever is closest to me. That doesn’t mean I want to bang these people.

Leaning toward you

“They lean toward you… they just want to be close to you!” — Bustle

See above.

Feet / Toes

“The feet tend to point where the heart wants to go” — Wood

Please no more with the feet and toes. I almost never point my feet or toes toward the person I’m attracted to. We need to stop with this.

Mirroring:

The “signs” say:

“If they mimic your gestures, odds are they like you.”

Lemme be real honest: this is a basic “trick” of rapport. I’ve used “mirroring” in every single job interview I’ve been on since learning about it, and in most of the “big” in-person discussions I’ve had since.

So sure, it may indicate rapport or even desire — but that doesn’t always mean it’s sexual.

Touching

The “signs” read:

“If there’s a lot of arm-touching or ‘accidental’… grazing, take heed: that probably wasn’t an accident.” — Bustle

“Touch is a key sign of interest that will help you develop a relationship and you can use touch.” — Dami Rhythms

“If the guy moves his head towards your direction or touches you back. That means he has interest in you.” — Dami Rhythms

“If they’re interested, they might brush against you, or won’t move away if you brush against them.”

But like, great. You know who else touches me? My great aunt. Especially when she wants me to take a second helping of tuna casserole or something.

The other problem with this: touch can be forced. Like, when I want to create chemistry, I can touch someone. Easy as hell. And I’m not saying everyone (o even anyone) who does this is faking it, the reality is that “touch” is a major element in artificially creating (or maybe I should say “amplifying?”) rapport, as exemplified in pickup artist communities’ use of “kino” — touching someone in order to build comfort and attraction.

They lick their lips

Cosmo, geniuses that they are, wrote,

“When you’re into someone, you produce surplus saliva… If they quickly lick their lips or press them together, this weird phenomenon may be happening.”

Ever since I read that this was a “sign,” I’ve been hyper aware of when I do it. And lemme be real honest: I do it almost every time I talk to someone. Now to be fair, I also sometimes wanna lick people’s faces, so maybe I’m the weirdo. Though I doubt it.

ENERGY

Showing Off

Dami Rhythms wrote that people who are attracted “start talking about [themselves] a lot because he [or she] wants to prove [themselves] to you.”

Which… is partly true. But you know who else shows off? Little kids. Children run around like “look what I can do!” when they want attention.

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Wanna know who else likes showing off? Hibachi chefs, strippers, and ESFPs.

Nervousness:

The “signs” say:

“Unnecessary laughter, deep breaths, sweaty palms, fidgeting, looking away from you… [acting] anxious.” — Dami Rhythms

“If your crush appears to have butterflies when you’re around, they’re excited to be around you.”

Look, I get nervous every time I give a presentation, including the one-on-one, super casual presentation I gave to my company’s CFO. Does this mean I want to bang any of these people? NO.

They’re sensitive

Sure. Or they’re just sensitive.

You seem to put a bounce in their step

“You can tell when someone is happy to see you. If seeing you seems to enliven them, you’re on the right track.”

Probably true. Or they’re just excitable.

SPEAKING

Teasing

The “signs” say:

“If they tease you, it could signal interest. They do this to draw your attention towards them.”

Sure. Maybe sometimes. But you know who else I tease? My brother. Mercilessly. (Last time I saw him I glanced down at his belly as I went in for the “hello hug” and then said in his ear as we embraced “you’re getting fat.”)

Complimenting

The “signs” say:

“Recognize any compliments… this is a good sign.”

Lol. I compliment my mom, my sister, most of my friends, a great deal of my colleagues, and a lot of strangers. And sure, I like most of them — but sometimes I just like their haircut, or their shirt, or the way they always remember everyone’s birthday.

Asking questions

“We are very inquisitive when we’re around people who interest us. So if they’re asking tons of questions, they want to know more about you — and see more of you.” — Bustle

Yeah, or they’re just a normal person making conversation.

They don’t talk about other romantic conquests

Yeah, or they’re private. I don’t talk about my love life with anyone in my real life, and it has zero percent with me wanting to bone them all.

They ask your opinion

This is 100% personality. My sister, for example, asks everyone in her life about every decision, big or small, that she makes — from career to hair color. Others (see: me) care so little we all but forget to tell others that we’ve made them.

They listen

Come on. If this is how starved we all are for attention, I feel bad for us. This is just common courtesy, guys.

They tell you things about themselves

Guys, last week on my flight I sat next to a woman who told me all about her son, her daughter in law, her husband, where she lived, where she grew up, what kind of dog she owned… I think you get the picture. The point is: I can almost guarantee mama wasn’t “into me.” She was just bored — and chatty.

BEHAVIOR

“Running” into you

The “signs” say:

“If they turn up at certain places at a certain time of the day where you don’t expect to see they, it might be that they’ve been consciously ‘finding’ occasions to bump into you.”

Sure, maybe. Orrr they might just be running into you. Let’s calm down.

Smiling

The “signs” say,

“They smile at you.”

“According to M.Farouk Radwan, MSc, an ‘extended smile,’ or one that doesn’t fade quickly, ‘for no obvious reason,’ is real, and shows interest.”

Please don’t make me list all of the reasons that smiling is social, and doesn’t mean they want in your pants.

They invite you to meet their friends

Sure, you passed a basic barometer — they don’t think you suck — but that doesn’t automatically mean anything else.

They are nice

“It doesn’t have to be grand gestures of affection, but do they bring you a coffee after work because they know how tired you are?… Little gestures go a long way.”

Please tell me you see the flaw here. Some people are just nice. Some people (see: me) aren’t.

They stay up late with you

“Even if they have to work early in the morning. Because they can’t get enough of you, and they want to talk until 2.”

Maybe sometimes. I mean, yeah, I’ve definitely stayed on the phone until like 6 am with a dude I was into.

Buuut I’ve also stayed up with people I barely cared about, simply because I was having fun. So.

They try new things with you

See above.

Friends:

The “signs” say:

“If their friend knows that they have interest in you, they might tease them when you’re around.”

Oh, honey… Yeah, this might be true. Or they could be the sort of friends who are just giving him hell, or just wing-manning to get him laid when he’s not actually interested in much more — let alone you.

They are observant

The “signs” say:

“If you got a new haircut or changed your appearance in some way, they notice, because they’re paying attention to you.”

Please. None of my boyfriends ever consistently noticed when I got a haircut. I once dated a dude for six months without him realizing I was a vegetarian. Some people just aren’t that observant.

They engage with you on social media

Oh no.

First of all: tons of people who aren’t actually interested engage with people on social media. I mean, I myself follow and engage with tons of people I don’t want to sleep with (or date, whatever.) Get out more.

Second: there are people I am actually attracted to that I don’t engage with at all on social media. Namely: my boyfriend? I’ve never liked a single IG post.

They want your number

The other day my colleague asked for my number so we could carpool. Calm down.

They pick up the phone

“When it comes to plans, they just call you, instead of endlessly trying to figure things out via text.”

I’ve gone months without calling my mom. That doesn’t mean I don’t like her.

They don’t play games

“They think games are silly, and they want to be authentic with you.”

Lol, I 100% “play” with most of the people I like. You want to know the people I don’t “play” with? The ones I don’t like.

etc.

There are so many stupid signs.

The Signs That Matter

4. Staring (when you’re not speaking to each other)

“If they can’t stop staring… you’ve got your first clue.” — Bustle

This includes: glancing over, extending eye contact, flat-out staring, looking at you while they laugh, etc. This is especially true for dudes, and I’ve almost never found a scenario when this wasn’t true. Even when I assume the glance isn’t attraction, I very often later find out it was.

3. They want time with you

“They make plans… if they want to see you again sometime soon, they’re into you. No one wants to commit to something next Thursday unless they actually really want to spend time with you.” — Bustle

One big indicator (that you’ll likely not see, but is still there) is scheduling a party and inviting a bunch of people when you’re the only one they actually want to see. That is huge.

2. They want ALONE time — uninterrupted — with you

And “they minimize interruptions and distractions — putting their phone away, and resisting interruptions.”

If they are willing to spend along time with you, it’s probably a good sign. That being said, I have totally hung out with people one on one who didn’t make a move. So.

1. They treat you differently than anyone else

This is probably THE BIGGEST SIGN (below the actual biggest sign, below.)

Take any of the signs above — and all of the others I didn’t include — and just know that: all of these differ based on who they are and how they act with others.

Like, for me: “time” is the tell. I am normally a private person who can spend days on end by myself, and would rather hang out alone than with people I don’t like. I’ll flirt with anything that moves, but if I want to spend time with someone, it’s because I like them. (Or I want something from them, i.e., we work together, which also happens.)

But for other people, socializing is just socializing and doesn’t mean that much. Their “tells” are something else — and it’s for us to figure out.

The actual biggest sign: they tell you flat out that they like you.

Obviously, if someone comes right out and tells you, “Hey, Bozo, I like you!” then they probably do! Of course, it’s no secret at that point.

Again, even if someone says it as “a joke,” it probably isn’t. They’re just looking for a positive reaction but don’t have the guts to tell you in an obvious way.

If your friend straight up tells you that they like you, take it seriously. Even if you don’t like them back, have a talk with them and let them know, in no uncertain terms, how you feel. You might be worried that you’ll lose their friendship, but it’s better than stringing them along and making them think they have a chance with you.

Written by

Writer — www.krisgage.com reach me at krisgagemedium (at) gmail (dot) com

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