“How do I know if someone is interested in me?” Such a question plagues singles everywhere. Were they just being friendly or do they want more? What kind of “more”?
I reached out to Dating & Consent Empowerment Coach Erin Tillman to get the expert 411 on this fraught topic.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
First of all, is it even possible to “know” if someone is interested in you?
Yes! There are so many levels to this.
In the initial stages, someone who throws a smile your way at a bar or someone who has swiped right for you could be interested in you. After the first meetings and maybe after going on a few dates, if someone is frequently texting/calling/responding to you, they have some level of interest! Even better, someone who is making plans to see you regularly has some level of interest in you.
The tricky thing is figuring out what level of interest they have and what exactly they are interested in with you. Some things to look for include:
- Did they make the first move or respond to yours? If you meet someone out in the world and they throw prolonged eye-contact your way, that could be a signal of interest. If someone offers to buy you a drink or come hang at their table of friends, they could also be interested.
- Are you communicating with each other and talking about your ideal amount of time you’d like to spend together? The clearer you can be about what you are looking for, the better. A simple, “I love hanging out with you, but I also recharge with solo time,” is a good place to start. The more specific you are about what you’re open to and interested in, the more you and others can figure out if you’d make a good match together.
- Is your potential love interest actively trying to make plans with you or are they regularly accepting your invitations to hang out? Both could be a sign of interest. Same if they suggest hanging out 1-on-1 (or accept your invites to hang 1-on-1) instead of group hangs or friendship hangouts.
It’s also important to figure out if the level of interest they are showing you is too much, not enough, or just right for you. This might vary from person to person and relationship to relationship. Ask yourself how much time and attention you need from someone you’re dating. Start by having a convo about what makes you both feel loved in a relationship. If you see potential with someone, but you have different ideas about how much time you want to spend with each other, meet somewhere in the middle and try to compromise so that you are both happy.
You’ll never really know if someone is interested if you don’t try. And always remember, someone who isn’t interested in you is making room for someone else amazing to come into your life who is enthusiastic about you!
What are some physical cues to look for? Verbal cues?
For all the puppy owners out there, think about how your pup reacts to you when you walk in the door—you know they are happy to see you because they might be barking, wagging their tail, or jumping up to greet you!
Now obviously, your potential human partner won’t be barking and wagging their tail when they see you, but what might be the equivalent to that? A big smile? A big hug? Someone saying, “I missed you,” or “I’m so happy to see you?” Some people might laugh out loud at your jokes or touch your arm while you share a personal story.
What are some strategies someone can use to glean if someone they’re into is interested back?
The main way to tell if someone is interested in you is contact. Are you communicating regularly? Are you both carving out time and making plans to spend time together? Is there a verbal or energetic expression of excitement when you are actually together? Though everyone can express interest & excitement differently, there should be some energy shared in your own ways that makes each of you feel wanted and feel like the other person is happy to be with you.
Where does this desire to “know” someone is interested come from?
There are so many reasons why we want to know if someone is interested in us. It can be because we want to get to know someone better, we want to date this person, we see a potential partnership with this person, or maybe we simply want to feel wanted. Also, something I hear all the time from my clients—we want to avoid ‘wasting time’ with those who aren’t interested in us.
How does consent play into figuring out if someone is interested?
The new normal in this #MeToo era is enthusiastic consent. If someone isn’t a ‘Hell Yes’ about the interaction that is happening, it should be considered a NO.
There is always a learning curve when getting to know someone new. This is why communication is so important. If someone is not able to communicate verbally or if verbal communication is not someone’s preferred way of communicating, establish some nonverbal ways to express comfort. If someone is resistant to or avoiding physical contact, that might indicate that they have some level of disinterest or even if they are interested, they aren’t totally comfortable. Having a fun, flirty dialogue about these things either verbally or by writing them down, can help jump-start the convo.
What shouldn’t people do when trying to figure out if someone is interested?
Don’t nag or send endless messages to your potential love-interest. If you have to beg for attention, and it frustrates you that you have to beg for this attention, then you should stop immediately! You should never have to beg, convince, or nag someone to be in a relationship with you!
What’s the #1 thing you want people who feel shy about putting themselves out there to know?
You never know unless you try! You definitely won’t get a YES if you don’t try. A lot of people feel nervous or anxious when mingling with other singles, approaching someone that makes us swoon, and going on first dates. Everyone goes through this to some degree. The difference is that some people are able to accept the nervousness as part of the dating process and that can help to propel them through the anxiety. Nobody hears YES 100% of the time! Remembering this can help to make it all a little less stressful.