For some people, flirting occurs as naturally as a friendly mode of communication. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell the difference between flirting and friendliness. The key difference lies in the intention of the person who is flirting and how the recipient interprets those actions.

The Flirter's Motives

You can flirt simply to have fun or you can flirt to attract potential romantic partners by showing the other person that you're attracted and interested, according to the “SIIRC Guide to Flirting.” Many acts of flirtation can be taken as either a “come on” or as an act of friendliness, such as giving someone a smile, a wink from across the room, or engaging in light, friendly banter. Whether someone is flirting will depend on who's doing the flirting and on his intentions. The person who flirts is usually influenced by his romantic attraction to you and his desire to have his feelings known -- even if he does not state his intentions directly.

Subtle Verbal and Non-Verbal Clues

Some forms of flirting are more likely to be done in private, when no other observers are close enough to hear or see, suggests Elizabeth Bernstein, an award-winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal, in her article, “The New Rules of Flirting.” If someone asks a direct question such as, “Are you seeing anyone?” that person will likely ask that question privately. Beyond what a person says, a person may also communicate her attraction to you via a combination of vocal signals and body language. A seemingly simple line such as, “It’s nice meeting you,” can take on a romantically charged connotation if the speaker drags out the last word, while simultaneously raising her eyebrows and smiling -- and if she hangs on to the handshake a few seconds longer.

Interpreting the Signals

Often, onlookers or the person you're interacting with can tell if you're flirting or simply being nice, although that isn't always the case. For example, it's more common for males to misinterpret a female's acts of friendliness as flirting or signs that she is interested, even if that isn't her intention. Additionally, a person may be put off if you try to make physical contact too soon or if you are too forceful in your actions.

Similarities Between Flirting and Being Nice

Some similarities exist between flirting and being nice. Successful flirting involves you being nice to the person you are focusing your attentions on. If you do not come off as being friendly and likeable, you are likely to turn away the other person. When flirting is to simply have fun, it is much like friendliness. Both sets of actions share the aims of making the other person feel comfortable with you, of engaging in interesting conversation and in making him laugh.