how do you tell if someone who seems friendly is actually hoping something more will develop?
Good post, LR. It's from the heart..... and it makes one think!
My guess is..... 1) you are physically attractive or otherwise charismatic. 2) when you talk to people, you do a lot of smiling and/or make prolonged eye contact.
I suspect you're a bit of a heart-breaker.... guys fall for you, hopefully express their interest, then get the brush-off.
Take a look at your last line, quoted above. It gives the impression that 'nice' guys are friendly, but when they start hoping for something more, they are no longer 'nice' !! You really are a 'commitaphobic', as you admitted. This is something you need to think about..... because getting 'committed' can actually be a nice thing..... it enables you to get close to people.... and that can be mutually enriching. But of course it's got to be with men you are attracted to.
But maybe you do have boyfriends.... the problem you have is with men with whom you don't have any romantic interest (?)
Anyway, to answer your question: 'how do you tell if someone is hoping for something more than just being friends?' Well, someone who has just fallen for you, is going to give a lot of prolonged eye contact, eyeball to eyeball. He is going to be very attentive (not fiddling with his iphone). He's going to be very chatty and positive/smiley/laughy. He's going to seem very switched-on, because he's physiologically aroused.
How do I know? Because I've been there lots of times (as will most of the other guys in the Forum) and I know very well what it is to draw a blank with the woman in question.
I suggest that if you really find such attention from men to be 'uncomfortable', rather than 'sweet and flattering', then you need to work on your interpersonal skills, so that you don't come across as attractive/ intimate/ approachable. But I must point out that you are lucky to get male attention.... there's plenty of women who would love to get it, but don't. And you too are going to be in the same boat when you get older and less attractive.
If it sound like I'm telling you off, then 'no offence'. I mean well !!