The Wisdom & Art of Flirting
As a therapist, I see both singles looking for a relationship and couples trying to rekindle a spark. You know what both groups of people need more in their lives (and more practice at)???
Flirting is to behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, oftentimes for amusement rather than with serious intentions…well, sometimes it actually is fun and serious! Flirting dances along appropriate and non-invasive signaling of attraction and the possibility of something more. Either way, it’s fun!
So, getting better at flirting, whether if you’re in a relationship or actively looking for one, can be a great thing to practice, better understand, and artfully apply skills.
The Wisdom of Flirting
There are different reasons to flirt and knowing how to apply them can make all the difference for you and your (potential) partner. According to a study by Dr. David Henningsen, he examined the different motivations of flirting and came up with six distinctions.
Flirting can and indeed, ought to be fun. To be in the present moment with someone, playfully interacting with another can easily put a smile on your face. Think about the last time you exchanged witty banter or caught someone’s eye. It can be uplifting and make you feel good.
Flirting can be a boost to our own self-esteem. When you flirt with someone and are really present to the fun and playfulness of it, it can often help you to get out of your own insecurity, self-doubt, and critical mind. You can also challenge yourself to kindly push out of your own comfort zone and score small (or big) wins when flirting. Successful flirting can make us feel attractive, fun and desirable.
Flirting is a way of letting someone know that you’re attracted to them. So, in a relationship, to flirt with your partner is playful, fun and can signal a desire for more intimacy. It’s also a way to easily reconnect, especially if your partner works too much or you need to breathe life back into your relationship.
If you’re not in a relationship, flirting is a way of letting the other know that you’re attracted to them and a way of gauging to see if they could also be interested. Does the person you’re flirting with lean in more? Laugh with you?
You can playfully explore that space in between to see if they are going to respond in kind or want something more. There’s a fun dance to flirting that allows you to explore what’s possible and play with the idea of “maybe.”
Sometimes we flirt to get what we want, persuade or meet a goal. It doesn’t have to be as manipulative or dastardly as it sounds. You may be familiar with the expression, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” In dealing with people, flirtations can be used to get a drink from a bartender or have your partner complete a task or household chore.
Flirting can be driven by sexual desire. It’s a socially acceptable way to make suggestive advances rather than explicitly asking for sexual intimacy. In Dr. Henningsen’s study, he found that men more often viewed flirting as sexually-driven whereas women reported flirting for fun and relational motives. Overall, it can certainly work both ways.
This may lead to mixed messages for men as well as women. So, when in doubt, be clear about your intentions – like the woman in this picture if you’re feeling particularly brave and confident – and as suggested below, keep your flirting interactions short and sweet.
The Art of Flirting
While some of these tips below seem obvious, when you really take on practicing these skills as a challenge, you then can artfully apply what tips work best for you.
This doesn’t mean that you need to lose weight or wear the latest trends. What’s attractive is confidence, ease, and a smile.
As for clothing, wear whatever makes you feel good about yourself. Choose a color that stands out and can draw someone’s attention.
A great way to start up a flirtatious conversation is to compliment someone. You could choose to focus on their physical appearance (“Hey, those are some cool shoes you’re wearing”), their behavior, (“That was an incredibly kind thing you did to help that person”) or their mood (“You look rather happy today”). It’s a great conversation opener and to see if you can transition that into playful banter.
When out in a crowd, it’s important to appear approachable and facing where others can see you. Keep your body posture open. Look interested or willing to engage. Think alternatively someone with that back to others, hunched over their phone and sitting with their arms crossed.
It’s important to remain peaceful and at ease in your body. Feel your feet on the floor. Lengthen your spine. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, smile to yourself and remember this can be fun.
Without being creepy, make eye contact with someone that you find attractive and hold that view for a slight bit longer than what would normally be appropriate. See if you can catch their glance and hold it for a moment. But see if they will be in that moment with you. Sometimes there can feel like there is electricity in the air in that instance.
There’s also the look and then look away. Then, of course, look back coyly to see if they are checking you out yet. But do it subtlety, slowly, not too obvious. There’s a lot of space to play here. Check your body language (above), relax, and smile.
If you’re in close proximity of to someone that you find attractive, find a way to kindly break into their personal space “bubble.” Find a way to get into their personal space like grab an appetizer off a tray or take a step toward them so that another can pass. Then step back into your space. Accompany that with a smile, a slight touch on their arm or shoulder. If they are interested they may smile back and will find a way to close that space again.
We are attracted to people that “dance with us.” It allows us to get on the same wavelength as another. In a 2009 study of speed daters, researcher Nicholas Gueguen trained women to match behaviors by mimicking the nonverbal gestures and words of some male partners and not others. “If the partner touched their arm, for example, they were instructed to touch his arm a few minutes later. When women mimicked their partners, the partners were more likely to want to give them their contact information—and to rate them as more sexually attractive.”
So, consider, matching smiles, posture, and light touches when flirting with another. Research shows that it works!
When you engage in flirtatious conversation, keep it light and playful. Generally, it’s good to stay away from anything heavy (religion, politics). And for good measure steer clear of humor unless that’s a strong point for you and pickup lines that border on (or are blatantly) cheesy.
Keep your flirtations, short and sweet like the butterfly to the flowers. Light touch, beautiful smile, easy breezy and go. Small wins help the ego. And if they want more (conversation, a date), they’ll follow you!
There are plenty of reasons to flirt within your relationship, if you’re online dating or looking for love. I hope these tips were helpful for you. If you would like help “getting out there” or sprucing up your relationship, I’d be happy to provide resources or help any way that I can. Please contact me for a free 15-minute consultation.