“How can I tell if someone is flirting with me through text message?”

person smiling while looking at a phone sitting on a couch
The Gender Spectrum Collection

One of my clients asked me this question during Date Better Bootcamp. We had already gone over in person flirting and what might indicate that someone is interested, or, more importantly, not interested, but she was still wrestling with this question.

My answer may surprise you.

Instead of talking her through the emojis that might be used or the flirty phrases one might throw in, I asked her, “What is making you need to know if this person is flirting with you? What’s your intention behind this question?”

There’s this in dating. Questions like these come up: “How do I know if this person likes me?” “How can I tell if they’re flirting with me?” “How do I sense they want to have sex with me?”

But there are problems with questions like these: they validate and prioritize mind reading and they assume everyone is a monolith, that we all express interest in the exact same way.

This is simply untrue. This ignores things like personality traits, disability, introversion vs extroversion, differences in where and how folks were raised, socialization, and so on. Sure, there are some similar themes we can watch out for, which I teach to clients, but if you’re looking for hard and fast rules, they don’t really exist.

So where does this leave us?

Of course, we should be sensitive to what we’re sensing on others. We should stay aware of whether this person does or doesn’t seem to be picking up what we’re putting down and respond accordingly. But beyond that initial assessment, especially if we’ve been talking to someone for a while, I don’t think we should focus on anything about anyone.

Instead we should tell. Or we should ask the other person so they can tell.

Now, sometimes, those flirty/confusing/butterfly-ey feelings that can be present at the beginning stages of dating can be so sweet. That unknown can be deliciously exciting.

But if you’re not enjoying basking in the unknown of a situation, ask for clarity. We don’t need to keep playing detective.

Because ultimately, even if we are able to tell with 100% foolproof certainty that someone is interested in us, we still can’t tell what that person . They could like us and have decided to not date for a year. They could flirt and be too recently out of a relationship to connect in that way. They can say sexy things and be celibate for a period of time.

The only way to know where someone is at and what they are interested in is to have a conversation and then see if their behavior aligns with what they are saying. That’s how we tell if they’re flirting with us. We ask.

Ariella is a Queer Dating Coach who helps kind, queer folks navigate the dating pool, so they have the courage to go after what they want in dating and in life.

Ariella is a Queer Dating Coach who helps kind, queer folks navigate the dating pool, so they have the courage to go after what they want in dating and in life.