Dating would be so much easier if everyone put their personal fear of rejection aside and put all their cards on the table.
We would know who is into us and who isn’t, and we wouldn’t be left trying to decipher the clues. But people are messy and complicated. Life is messy and complicated. We do fear rejection.
We get our hopes up when we like a guy, and we get our feelings hurt when he doesn’t like us back. Dating — it’s a real rollercoaster!
Can I be honest here? I hate rollercoasters. I enjoyed them when I was younger, but I also had a lot more tolerance for drama in my life at the time. These days, a real-life rollercoaster makes me anxious and nauseous — much like real-life dating.
I don’t want the dramatic ups and downs. I want to fall in love with someone I can trust will catch my tender heart. Isn’t that what we all want, after all?
People are rarely as straightforward as we’d like, which makes it easier for everyone to hide behind their own insecurities. Instead of asking people straight out how they feel, we might look for the clues.
Are we overcomplicating things? Yes. Is this human nature to do? Absolutely! Since we want to avoid a potentially awkward conversation, let’s talk about how to determine when a guy likes us but is trying to play it cool.
How to Tell If a Guy Likes You but Is Playing It Cool
For today’s purposes, we’ll focus on how to tell if a guy likes us but is playing it cool. Some of these signs are universal, and others tend to apply more to men than other genders.
Let’s talk about how to determine if a guy actually likes us but is trying to hide that information. Then, we’ll discuss why he would do that.
Why listen to me? I’m Crystal Jackson and I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and individuals and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships, self-improvement, and psychology. My work has been featured in large publications such as Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, and Mamamia.
1. He’s Always Glancing Your Way
A guy who likes us is going to keep glancing our way. He can’t help it. His eyes are drawn to his crush. He might be trying to play it cool, but his eyes will betray him.
We might not always catch him gazing in our direction, but it’s bound to happen eventually. The gaze is powerful, and it’s a scientifically significant sign of attraction.
2. He Regularly Engages with Your Social Media Content
When a man likes us but wants to play it cool, he might follow our social media content and watch our stories in an effort to stay in the loop.
He might not like and comment your posts, but it’s easy to see that he’s watched the latest story. As a friend, it’s possible that he stays up to date on all his friends’ stories, but it could be yet another sign that he likes us as more than a friend but is trying to hide it.
3. His Body Angles Toward Yours
Another way to know if he has a crush on you is to decipher his body language. If he leans in and angles in your direction, that’s a sign that he likes you.
He might be trying to play it cool, but his body can’t help but turn toward the one he wants. It’s not something he’s doing consciously. It’s just what we do when we have a crush on someone.
4. He Runs Hot and Cold with You
One of the more frustrating parts about trying to decipher how someone feels is reading them when they run hot and cold.
One moment, we’re absolutely certain they like us, and in the next, we’re seeing signs that we’re still firmly in the friend zone. It’s confusing.
While this can be a sign that he’s just emotionally unavailable, it might be another indication that he’s trying not to overplay his hand.
He might drop some clues he’s into us, but then, he might decide he’s gone too far and take a step or two back. He’s in his head about this whole thing, so his actions won’t always be clear.
5. He Remembers the Small Things
A man with a crush is going to remember the small things. He’s so attuned to what we’re saying that he might remember an obscure detail and show it.
If we mentioned a favorite treat, he might show up with it. If we indicated a particular day has special significance, he might make an effort to honor that when the day comes. This is one of the sweetest signs that he likes us even though he’s trying to play it cool.
This is one of my favorite signs of a crush because it’s so sweet and it shows thoughtfulness. I’ve been the recipient of small but thoughtful gifts, and I’ve given them when I’ve had feelings for someone else. It can be a way to show caring for our friends, but it’s also a way to make a crush feel special.
6. He Loves to Tell You About His Day in Detail
Another sign that a guy likes us but is really trying to play it cool is when he tells us about his day in detail. It’s a sign that he’s trying to include us in his daily life.
He doesn’t just say work was “good” and everything was “fine.” He actually shares about what happened during the day. We don’t have to dig for details because he’ll volunteer them.
This is particularly true for online dating. I can always tell when someone just isn’t that interested when they don’t try to keep a conversation going. Monosyllabic responses lead nowhere, and it becomes difficult to engage with someone who won’t share any more than that.
A good rule of thumb is to rule out anyone who isn’t all that interested in sharing their day or learning about yours. That’s what I’m doing. It may narrow the playing field down substantially — it might even clear it — but the right person will be worth the wait.
7. He Tries to Make You Laugh
Another clue that he’s interested but trying not to show it is that he does his best to make us laugh. This is one of those hints that can be confusing.
Maybe he’s playful with all his friends. It’s hard to tell. All we know is that he does whatever he can to get a laugh out of us, and it seems to please him to make us happy.
Studies have even shown that women are more attracted to men who make them laugh, so this is a great technique for him to use if he’s interested.
This is another of my favorite signs of a crush. Who doesn’t love to laugh? A former flame once made me laugh even on my worst days. In fact, he’s likely the only person I’ve ever dated who could do that.
He didn’t dismiss my feelings, but once they’d been discussed, he helped me feel better. I can honestly say that while the relationship didn’t last, there are times that I wish the friendship did because it was truly a remarkable quality to have someone care enough to try to make me laugh on a hard day.
8. He Mentions That He’s Single
It’s very possible that a man who likes us will mention he’s single. He’ll bring it up in conversation. It’s his way of testing the waters to see if that information makes a difference to us at all.
It’s yet another indicator that he has feelings for us but is trying to take it slow and gauge our response to his single status.
9. He Wants You to Meet His Inner Circle
Friends hanging out with other friends may not seem like a sign of a crush. Here’s the kicker though: If he makes it a point to include us in his friend circle and introduce us to everyone, it’s a good sign that he likes us a lot.
Whether that’s as a close friend or as something more … well, we’ll have to read the other signs to be sure. It’s a good sign and a possible indicator of romantic interest.
Please note that someone who avoids this is also showing his level of interest. I’ve had people I dated who made sure to never include me in friend and family gatherings and those who always made sure I was invited.
If they are trying to compartmentalize us, it’s unlikely that they see us as having long-term relationship potential.
10. He Has Told His Family and Friends About You
Another sign that he like us but wants to play it cool is when he’s told his friends and/or family about us. We’ll likely know when we meet them if they’ve heard a lot about us.
They’ll be sure to mention it or to give him significant looks during the introductions. It’s a strong sign of a crush if he’s told his friends and family all about it.
I once met a date’s friends and immediately knew they’d heard all about me. They were there to make sure I passed the vibe check so that their friend wouldn’t get hurt the way that he had in the past.
It was flattering to know that he’d talked me up to the point that they sincerely wanted to meet me and equally flattering that he was so keen to show me off. This is a promising sign for relationships.
11. He Makes Time for You
A guy who likes us but is playing it cool will make time for us. Maybe he isn’t confessing his feelings and shouting to the rooftops how he feels, but his actions likely tell the story.
He makes time for us — even when he’s busy. This is his way of showing us that we’re a priority for him. He’s going to make sure some of that time is one-on-one, which will give him an opportunity to have our undivided attention and to give us his.
12. He Tries to Impress You
A man with a crush will try his best to impress. He’s going to be a bit of a showoff to try to get our attention. It’s a cute and/or annoying way (depending on how we feel about him) to try to show off his best traits.
If he’s a gym rat, he’s going to be flexing. If he’s a career man, he’ll be humble bragging about his latest success story. Wherever his talents lie, he’ll likely be showing them off in an effort to attract and impress us.
13. He Makes an Effort to Engage with You
When having a conversation, the guy with a crush who is trying to hide it is going to make real effort to engage.
He’s not just going to give monosyllabic responses to everything we ask. He’s going to ask questions himself and try to have a real conversation. He might be awkward about it depending on his level of social fluency, but he’s going to try and keep trying. It’s his way of showing he likes us without having to say it.
14. He Asks for Your Opinion
Another important clue that he likes us as more than friends is that he asks for our opinions. He doesn’t solicit everyone’s opinions, but ours matters to him.
He wants to know what we think, and he’ll actually consider what we’re saying. It’s another way of showing that we matter to him — even if he isn’t brave enough to say it straight out yet.
15. He Flirts with You
Look, some men were born flirty. They probably winked at nurses from their cribs. Flirtatious men are a dime a dozen, but this feels different. Maybe he flirts with us more than his other friends.
Maybe the attention feels special. It likely is. When he has a crush but wants to play it cool, he might turn up the flirty behavior for us and turn it down for everyone else.
Different styles of flirting might make this difficult to decipher, so we’ll need to pay careful attention.
16. He Offers Genuine Compliments
Pay attention to the compliments he gives. If he is constantly offering genuine compliments, it’s possible he likes us but is trying to be cool about it.
He’ll notice the small things, and many of the compliments won’t be physical. He’ll let us know that he appreciates how we look but also appreciates our character.
It might be subtle, or it could come across heavy-handed. It really depends on his social skills. The point is that this is a significant hint that he’s got feelings he’s not sharing with us.
17. He Gets Vulnerable with You
Another tried and true sign of a guy who’s caught feelings is that he gets vulnerable with us. He tells us what he’s thinking and feeling, and he doesn’t just gloss over the details.
He might share the truth about a hard breakup or share his favorite family memory.
It doesn’t matter if his vulnerability is something happy or sad or something in between. He wants us to know him in a real way — and he’ll show his true, inner self to us that he doesn’t necessarily show to everyone else.
18. He’s Protective of You
Maybe this guy is protective of all his friends, but it’s also possible he’s especially protective of the ones he likes in a romantic way.
The fact that he watches out for us is a good indicator he has feelings. It’s just a matter of determining if these are strong platonic feelings or if there are romantic undertones to these interactions. Protectiveness is a great sign though.
19. He Shows Jealousy
Jealousy isn’t a subtle sign. If he gets jealous of the people we date or of other men in our lives, it’s possible that he’s showing his hand. He has real feelings for us that he’s trying to keep hidden.
He might go out of his way to act like he’s totally cool about our date, but we’ll still spy the flare of jealousy. It’s cool, he’s cool, and everything’s cool — so why does he seem so agitated?
That green-eyed monster isn’t a cute look on anyone, but he might not be able to help it if he’s crushing but isn’t ready to say so.
20. He Tries to Make You Jealous
Another way he might accidentally show his true feelings is when he tries to make us jealous. He might be trying to get a sense of how we feel with this behavior.
He might talk about other women just to see if it gets a reaction. Or he might flirt with someone else but watch how we respond.
It’s not the most mature way to signal he has feelings, but he might be trying to find out how we feel without taking a risk.
21. He Makes an Effort with His Appearance
Does he always make an effort to look good when we’re around? That’s a question we should be asking when we’re trying to determine if he has feelings for us.
If he’s really enhanced his wardrobe, hygiene, or overall look, it’s possible that he’s doing a little bit of preening to get our attention. It’s also probably that he just wants to look his best because he’s got a crush.
He might think it’s unrequited — and it might be — but he’s going to do his best to show himself in the best light when we’re around.
22. He Teases You, a Lot
A sure sign of a crush is someone who teases us. On the one hand, it makes us laugh — something he’s always trying to do anyway. On the other, it’s playful and fun. He isn’t mean about it.
He’s not disrespectful. He’s just having a good time teasing us and engaging in completely un-serious banter. It’s one way that he keeps playing it cool while he nurses his secret feelings and attraction.
Banter might be one of my favorite things. While I have that kind of relationship with my friends, I like to have it in my romantic relationships, too.
A former partner was great at banter, and by the end of that relationship, we had collected so many delightful inside jokes. It was something I treasured then and will always cherish. That kind of teasing is indicative of their feelings, so don’t dismiss it.
23. He Gives You His Undivided Attention
This is not a guy who’s going to be answering texts from his fan club when we’re in the room. No, this is the guy who gives us his total, undivided attention when we’re present.
If he looks down at his phone at all, it could be because he’s nervous. Mostly, he’s tuned in to the time spent together. A casual friend might respond to texts or scroll through social media while we’re hanging out. A friend who wants to be more than friends is more likely to give his undivided attention.
24. He’s Responsive to All Messages from You
We might not expect our friends to be available around the clock, but we’ve come to suspect this guy is — at least when it comes to us. He makes a real effort to engage day or night.
He might not initiate contact most of the time, but he’s always responsive to our messages.
He’s probably trying to play it cool by not being the first one to reach out, but he’s showing interest with his rapid responses.
Even if he hesitates to respond immediately, we’ll see that he’s reading our messages as soon as he gets them. If he waits to respond, he might be busy — or he might be trying his best to play it cool, so he doesn’t seem overeager.
25. He Doesn’t Talk About Other Romantic Interests
Is he single but never mentions other romantic interests? That’s not normal friend behavior. If he goes out of his way to never talk about the people he dates, it’s possible that he avoids this subject so he doesn’t seem unavailable to us.
He might be dating because he thinks we’re not interested, but if we show interest, he might be ours for the taking.
But it’s also entirely possible that he’s not dating at all because his interests lie elsewhere. Could it be with us?
26. He Hugs You When He Sees You
A big hug from a friend doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s into us. But it could. A friend who always hugs us when he sees us could be indicating attraction.
It’s especially true if those hugs are full body and linger a bit. And if he does that only with us. Of course, someone who likes and respects us isn’t going to hug or touch us without consent. But if we’re into it, he’s going to give us the biggest and best hugs.
27. He Mirrors Your Body Language
Another subtle sign that he likes us but is trying to play it cool is when he mirrors our body language. Research shows that mirroring is a sign of attraction.
If we do something, he mirrors it back. It’s not intentional. In fact, most of the time, we don’t even notice that we do this with the people we’re closest to.
It’s an unconscious reaction — one that can signal a crush. Watch his body language to see if it is mirroring. For instance, touching the face results in him touching his own. Pay attention to this small and subtle sign he’s got a crush.
Why Guys Play It Cool
Wouldn’t it be simpler if he was upfront about his feelings? We’d spend less time looking for clues and more time enjoying his company. But there are reasons why a guy who likes us will try to hide it.
He Fears Rejection
One reason he’s trying to play it cool is because he fears rejection. He might be afraid of risking the friendship, or he might not want to find out for certain that we aren’t into him.
Plus, revealing a crush can be awkward. He might try to play it cool in hopes we’ll be the ones to make the first move so that he doesn’t have to.
He Can’t Decipher Your Feelings
It’s also possible that he’s having trouble deciphering our feelings. He might not be able to tell if we like him only as a friend or if we see him as something more.
He might try to play it cool while he figures it out. He might think that we run hot and cold or do any number of confusing things that make it hard for him to get a handle on how we’re feeling.
If we’re into him, we might have to drop some more obvious hints if we’re not willing to be the one to make the move.
Otherwise, there’s going to be stalemate while we both wait for the other to do something about these feelings.
We can’t rule out the possibility that he’s just shy about romantic relationships. He might be having a hard time coming up with the right words to say to reveal how he feels.
He could be blocked by social anxiety. He might be genuinely trying to share how he feels but struggling to do it.
He’s Emotionally Unavailable
It’s also entirely possible that the reason for his hot and cold behavior is that he’s emotionally unavailable. He likes us, and he’s attracted to us. He just knows that he’s not ready for a relationship.
Maybe he just got out of one, or maybe he’s lugging around lots of baggage he doesn’t want to unload on us. Either way, his reticence when it comes to sharing his feelings could be because he knows he’s not ready for that next step.
The Next Move Is Yours
If we’re interested, we might need to find more ways to show it — especially if we’re unwilling to be direct and have a conversation about it.
We might need to make the first move if we don’t want to keep waiting. Of course, making that move does run the risk of rejection or social awkwardness, but it will also answer the questions we’re having.
If we’re not interested, that’s something we need to clarify, too. His behaviors might be making us uncomfortable. We may be looking for a way to shove him firmly in the friend zone in a way that doesn’t tempt him to try to leave it again.
It’s awkward, and we might be trying to avoid hurting his feelings. Yet, it would be infinitely crueler to carry on and get his hopes up than to let him know we’re not now and will never be interested in him in a romantic sense.
It seems cruel, but it’s easily the kinder action than leading him on because we don’t want to say the silent parts of the relationship out loud.
Sometimes, we just have to speak up. It’s not easy, but it’s going to be the only way we’ll know for sure where they stand.
It might even take some of the awkwardness out of our encounters and give our minds a break from overthinking. He might be trying to play it cool, but if we lack the patience to wait for him to reveal his feelings, we might want to step up, speak up, and solve this mystery once and for all.