The notion of flirting is nothing new. The first guide on how to flirt was published about two thousand years ago by an ancient Roman poet named Ovid. It was called Ars Amatoria, where he claimed he taught cupid everything he knows. So what exactly is Flirting?
As humans began to rely more and more heavily on their brains (well, most of them), the mark of a man able to take good care of a woman was someone who was generally smarter than his rivals.
Humans have developed complicated unspoken rules of ‘musts’ and ‘must nots’ regarding flirting. So much so that directly saying ‘You’re hot, wanna shag?’ opens the window for social ridicule. Flirting allows us to communicate between the lines by making statements that are not overt enough to cause much pain or embarrassment should our flirtations be rejected.
Flirting in modern humans is a form of playing. When we were children we would play games with each other in order to get to know one another. Now that we’re older, the toys have changed (and breasts have grown), but the general rules of play have not. As a man, when you introduce yourself to another man, you use the same tactics to get the other man to like you that you would use to get a sexy woman to like you. You follow much the same principles; the only difference being that there’s no intention of getting that man into bed (unless you’re really drunk and in Thailand).
In short, flirting is the game that humans play with each other in order to:
Get the other person to like them.
Gauge the other person’s intentions.
Show they like the other person.
Show their intentions towards the other person.
Establish status not just between the two of you, but also in comparison to other potential mates.
The first key to successful flirting is not an ability to show off and impress, but the knack of conveying that you like someone. If the lady you like knows that you find her interesting and attractive, she will be more inclined to like you back- even if it’s just as friends. This is called Reciprocal Liking. You probably notice that when you are told someone fancies you, or hear that someone has praised or admired you, your interest in that person automatically increases – even if it’s someone you have never met! This reflects the notion that we like people who like us and see us as socially valuable.
Conveying that you like someone, and judging whether or not the attraction is mutual involves a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
Like many other human activities, flirting is governed by complex, unwritten laws of etiquette. These laws dictate when, where, with whom, and in what manner we may flirt. We generally obey these laws instinctively without being conscious of doing so, and only become aware of them when someone commits a breach of this etiquette – by flirting with the wrong person, or at an inappropriate time or place. For example, trying to flirt with a widow at her husband’s funeral would incur serious disapproval. This is a somewhat obvious example (don’t try it at home kids), but the fact is the more complex and subtle aspects of flirting etiquette can be confusing – and most of us have already made a few embarrassing mistakes in our time.
In Puritanical cultures like the western world, flirting has acquired a bad name. Some of us have become so worried about causing offence or sending the wrong signals that we are in danger of losing our natural talent for playful and harmless flirtation. As little children, we were all involved in completely harmless flirtation with the opposite sex. This could have been a crush on a babysitter, or a girlfriend in kindergarten. At that time, it was instinctual. However, as time went on, we became too concerned with gender roles, expectations and social rules to hold on to the playfulness of flirting. Let’s change this.
When trying to flirt, most of us focus on the speaking element. As you can see above, the non-speaking elements- body language, how you dress and tone of voice- are much more important, especially in the initial stages of your first meeting.
These non-verbal signals will tell you much more about their feelings towards you than the words they may say. We show our attitudes, such as liking or disliking, not with what we say but by the way we say it and the postures, gestures and expressions that accompany our speech.
The customary polite greeting “Hello”, for example, can convey anything from ‘I find you really attractive’ to ‘I am not the slightest bit interested in you’, depending on the tone of voice, facial expression, position and posture of the speaker.
Women are generally much better at reading body language than men. The invention of the fMRI brain imaging machine has allowed us to monitor and compare brain activity in men and women. When shown an image, men use the left side of the brain, which is the side that governs logic and language. Women, on the other hand, use both left and right side of the brain, which deals with perception and creativity. This is why men find it particularly difficult to interpret the more subtle cues in a woman’s body language, and tend to mistake friendliness for sexual interest.
When thinking about how we are communicating with our own bodies, we want to be thinking about what we want to communicate. Obviously, we want to communicate confidence, friendliness and openness amongst other positive things.
Let’s look at each area of the body and discuss ways of non-verbal flirting.
It’s all in the eyes. Your eyes are probably your most important flirting tool. We tend to think of our eyes mainly as a means of receiving information, but they are also extremely high-powered transmitters of vital social signals. How you look at another person, meet his or her gaze and look away can make all the difference between a successful, enjoyable flirtation and an embarrassing, hurtful encounter. Looking directly into the eyes of another person is such a powerful, emotionally loaded act of communication that we normally restrict it to very brief glances only.
Prolonged eye contact between two people indicates intense emotion, and is either an act of love or an act of hostility. It is so disturbing that in normal social encounters, we avoid making eye contact for more than one second at a time. Among a crowd of strangers in a public setting, eye contact will generally last only a fraction of a second, and most people will avoid making any eye contact at all.
This is very good news for you wishing to initiate a flirtation with an attractive stranger. Even from across a crowded room at a party, you can signal your interest in someone merely by making eye contact and attempting to hold your target’s gaze for more than one second. If the lady maintains eye contact with you for more than one second, chances are she might return your interest. If after this initial contact, your lady looks away briefly and then looks back to meet your gaze a second time, you can safely assume that she is interested. If the eye contact triggers a smile, you can approach the lady with some confidence. Often, a woman will only give you one shot to make good eye contact so you better make it good.
When we look at people we’re unfamiliar with like in a professional business situation, our eyes make a zigzag motion — we look from eye to eye and across the bridge of the nose.
This makes the eye contact feel very solid and piercing. When flirting, only flip between the eyes and mouth when specifically doing what is called the Flirting Triangle.
The Flirting Triangle is when the look drops below eye level and moves into a triangle shape — we look from eye to eye and down to include the nose and mouth. The more intense the flirting, the more closely we look from eye to eye, and the more time we spend looking at the mouth.
This is a highly seductive way of looking at a woman, and oozes sexuality.
Don’t over-do it though as you may come across as a sexual predator.
Let’s say your lady of choice smiles at you. How do you know whether the smile is spontaneous or manufactured? A spontaneous smile is genuine and a manufactured smile is not real- it’s just her trying to be polite.
There are four ways of telling the difference:
Spontaneous smiles produce characteristic wrinkles around the eyes, which will not appear if the lady is ‘forcing’ a smile out of politeness.
‘Manufactured’ or ‘social’ smiles tend to be asymmetrical (stronger on the left side of the face in right-handed people and on the right side of the face in left-handed people).
Manufactured smiles tend to occur at socially inappropriate moments in the conversation (e.g. a few seconds after you have made a funny remark, rather than immediately).
A Manufactured smile tends to be held for longer (what is often called a ‘fixed’ smile) and then fades in an irregular way.
During a flirtatious exchange your face should remain constantly expressive. Inexpressiveness – a blank, unchanging face – will be interpreted as a lack of interest when you are listening. An absence of facial emphasis when you are speaking can be off-putting. You need to show interest and comprehension when listening, and to promote interest and comprehension in her when speaking.
You can do this through facial signals such as:
eyebrows raised to display surprise, as a question mark or for emphasis
the corners of the mouth turning up in amusement
nodding to indicate agreement
frowning in puzzlement
smiling to show approval, or indicating that what you are saying should not be taken too seriously
And so on.
Most of us are quite good at controlling our faces, such as maintaining an expression of polite interest when we are bored to tears or nodding when we actually disagree. However, we tend to be less conscious of what the rest of our body is doing. We may be smiling and nodding, but unconsciously revealing our disagreement with a tense posture and tightly folded arms. This is known as ‘non-verbal leakage’. While we’re busy controlling our words and faces, our real feelings ‘leak out’ in our body language.
If you speak in a monotone with little variation in pitch, pace or tone of voice, you will be perceived as boring and dull, even if what you are saying is truly fascinating and amusing. Likewise, loud volume, a booming tone and too much variation in pitch will make you seem overbearing. Speak too quietly or too slowly and you will seem submissive or even depressed. Aim for moderation in volume and tone, with enough variation in pitch and pace to hold your companion’s interest.
When you’re in front of the lady, be careful not to invade her personal space by standing too close. This can come across as threatening. The perfect distance to stand is close enough to be able slap her face, but not so close that you’re able to elbow her face. This was covered in detail in the approaching chapter.
By doing this, you can be almost touching and are able to create intimacy by speaking in each other’s ear without invading personal space. This can make the initial meeting much more relaxed and friendly.
When flirting, look out for signs of ‘non-verbal leakage’ in the lady’s posture – and try to send the right signals with your own posture. The lady’s non-verbal leakage can give you advanced warning that your attraction isn’t working.
If a lady only has her head turned towards you, and the rest of the body pointing in another direction, this is a sign that you do not have the lady’s full attention.
Even just the feet starting to turn and point away from you can be a sign that her attention is directed elsewhere, or that she is thinking about moving away.
Leaning backwards and supporting the head on one hand is a sign of boredom.
‘Closed’ postures with arms folded and legs tightly crossed indicate disagreement or dislike.
Positive signs to watch out for would be the lady’s body oriented towards you, particularly if she is also leaning forward in an ‘open’ posture. These are signs of attentiveness and interest.
Another positive sign is what psychologists call ‘postural congruence’ or ‘postural echo’. This is when the lady unconsciously adopts a posture similar to yours. Mirror-image postural echoes – where one person’s left side ‘matches’ the other person’s right side – are the strongest indicators of harmony and rapport. If the lady’s body and limbs appear to ‘echo’ or ‘mimic’ your own, there’s a pretty good chance she feels a strong affinity for you.
When flirting, you can also use postural echoes to create a feeling of togetherness and harmony. Experiments have shown that people will evaluate a person who echoes them more favorably, and are rarely consciously aware of the echoes taking place. If you ‘echo’ the lady’s postures, she will not only feel more at ease in your company, but will perceive you as more like-minded. A desire for postural congruence is one of the main reasons why we dislike approaching women that are seated if we have to remain standing. It prohibits us from establishing as much rapport with them as we would like.
When approaching, it can be good to do so with a keener eye for postural congruence. If a woman has her back up against a wall, try to get yourself in the same position. If she is leaning on a table, try to get yourself some table space on which to lean on as well. I would not suggest sitting cross-legged in a feminine pose if that’s what the lady is doing but aligning your posture as closely as possible like placing one ankle on the other knee when sitting would suffice.
We use gestures to signal a variety of things- interest, attraction and invitation; and discomfort, dislike and rejection. When flirting, it is important to be aware of these non-verbal cues, both in reading your partner’s body language and in controlling the messages you are sending with your own gestures.
In a flirtatious encounter, the amount, direction and co-ordination of gestures can indicate the degree of interest and involvement the lady feels towards you.
The amount of gesticulation in speech varies widely from culture to culture. People say that you can silence an Italian by tying his hands behind his back. Even without culture, some people naturally express themselves more through gestures than others.Generally speaking, someone who is interested in you will be more lively and animated in conversation, and will use more gestures when speaking and even go further to have more responsive gestures when listening.
You can also watch for gestures which indicate anxiety and nervousness, such as hand-clasping and palm rubbing. As a general rule, anxious gestures are directed towards the person’s own body (known as ‘proximal’ movements), while ‘distal’ gestures are directed away from the body and are considered a sign of confidence. As well as watching for these signals in your partner, you can control the impression you are making by using more confident, ‘distal’ gestures. In other words, hands close to the chest indicate anxiety but hands away from the chest demonstrate confidence.
As with posture, the greatest involvement and harmony is achieved when the gestures of one person are echoed or reflected by the other. You may have noticed that this tends to happen naturally between people who like each other and get on well together. Watch pairs of lovers in a bar, and you will see that they often tend to lift their drinks and take a sip at the same time.
Although this synchronization normally happens without conscious effort, you can use it as a highly effective flirting technique. If you feel the conversation is not flowing easily, or you and the lady seem awkward or uncomfortable with each other, try to be more sensitive to the patterns of her gestures and body movements and reflect these in your own body language.
If the lady spontaneously begins to synchronize her body language with yours, it is a sign she feels comfortable with you. In experiments, female hair flipping and head tossing were among the non-contact gestures most often regarded as sexually flirtatious, along with repeated leg-crossing and movements designed to draw attention to her breasts.
Even the most fleeting touch can have a dramatic influence on our perceptions and relationships. Experiments have shown that even a light, brief touch on the arm during a social encounter between strangers has both immediate and lasting positive effects. Polite requests for help or directions, for example, produced much more positive results when accompanied by a light touch on the arm. When flirting, it is therefore important to remember that the language of touch, if used correctly, can help to advance the relationship- but that inappropriate use could ruin your chances forever.
As a general rule, the arm is the safest place to touch a female stranger. Back pats are equally non-sexual, but are sometimes perceived as patronizing or overbearing. A brief, light touch on the arm to draw attention, express support, or emphasize a point is likely to be acceptable and to enhance the lady’s positive feelings towards you. If the lady finds you likeable or attractive, a brief arm-touch should prompt some reciprocal increase in intimacy. This may not be as obvious as a return of your arm-touch, but watch for other positive body-language -signals, such as increased eye-contact, moving closer to you, more open posture or postural echo and increased smiling. Your arm-touch may even prompt an increase in verbal intimacy, so listen for any disclosure of personal information, or even more personal questions.
If these results in a further escalation of intimacy from the lady, you might consider moving to the next stage: a hand-touch. Remember that a hand-touch, unless it is a conventional handshake, is much more personal than an arm-touch. By touching a lady’s hand, you are opening negotiations towards a higher degree of intimacy, so keep it light and brief: a question, not an order.
A negative reaction to your hand-touch, such as the non-verbal signals of displeasure or anxiety mentioned above, does not necessarily mean that your lady dislikes you, but is a clear indication that your attempt to advance to the next level of intimacy is either premature or unwelcome. A very positive reaction, involving a significant increase in verbal or nonverbal intimacy, can be taken as permission to try another hand-touch at an appropriate moment. After each positive reaction, take the intimacy further. By gauging reactions and taking it one step at a time, you can move into kissing a lady and (PARTYTIME!!) taking her home with you.
Don’t spend a large part
of the conversation speaking
about something negative.
Don’t fiddle or have a nervous switch.
Don’t check out other women or tell stories about your past sexual encounters.
Don’t engage in conversation that is all serious.
Don’t give a lot of attention to those trying to pinch the lady away from you or give you a hard time.
Give intense sexual eye contact to 3 ladies
Do the flirting triangle on 3 girls
Assess whether her smile is genuine or not with 3 ladies
Look at expression and work on being more expressive with your face to 3 women
Work on variation in your vocal pitch when talking to 3 women
Find 3 women and focus on standing in the correct distance from her
Focus on postural congruence with 3 women
Focus on gesticulating with your hands and body with 3 women
Touch 3 women to establish comfort and intimacy
Focus on reciprocal disclosure with 3 women