Flirting is a perfectly normal and natural way to show another person we are interested in them. Flirting is no more than a set of signals we use naturally. The only difference is, we give them a little boost.
When we look at someone, we’re taking into account something psychologist’s call ‘sign stimuli’. These are the outward signs that tell us about, approachability, attractiveness, mood and so on. We’ve also learnt how to exploit our best features, for example through the use of make up. Mascara and shadow enhances the eyes, then we have lipstick, blusher, hair products, perfumes and so on. These so-called ‘super-sign stimuli’ are designed to enhance what’s already there and add something extra.
Of course, make up isn’t essential, but cleanliness and good grooming goes a long way to making us more appealing. So, you’ve put on your best face and now it’s time to step out and step up.
Flirting should be fun, but there’s a few basic principles that can help the process along:
Flirting simply can’t happen unless there’s some form of contact. Yes, it’s possible to flirt over the phone (up to a point), but for this article we’re going to assume you want to learn more about someone else you’re interested in.
Where do we make first contact? In principle, it could be anywhere. A train, a line in a shop, a bar, you name it. In practice, unless you meet someone in short bursts over a lengthy period, you need time.
When we approach someone, there’s usually some acknowledgement. It may be a look, or a smile. The person may move over to make room. These aren’t necessarily flirting signs, merely a message that you’ve been seen.
A display of total obliviousness to the one who is approaching generally indicates lack of interest altogether. Don’t be discouraged. But if the one you approached shows absolutely no interest, then it’s time to re-group and try again. But let’s say the approach works. You have your positive acknowledgement, now what? Time to talk
It starts with non-threatening general chit-chat. You’re feeling each other out by referring to impersonal and unimportant matters. It might be the weather, or how long you’ve been waiting in line, the scenery, whatever. The key thing is a message that you’re not trying to come on hard. You’re safe, you’re open to conversation, you’re interested in what their thoughts are, even if it’s just about the weather.
Don’t confuse talking (conversation) with chat up lines. Really good flirting does not start by doing a Joey Tribbiani: ‘Hey, how you doin?‘ It’s much more likely to be mundane. Would you mind passing the salt? Is this your first visit? How’s the apple pie? I like your bracelet – whatever. The point is, without some form of verbal interaction, it is highly unlikely that the next step will occur.
Keep in mind that flirting doesn’t necessarily lead to anything. Flirting can be flattering, it can be funny and light-hearted, but if it does progress, it will move to the next stage, which is:
We’ve all heard of personal space. It’s the safe zone that tells us we’re not being crowded out. There are ways we can get a little closer to someone and that’s by standing at a 45 degree angle. It’s also less confrontational than face-to-face during first contact.
However, over a period of time, a couple that has begun to talk may also begin to orient themselves physically to one another. When they feel at ease, then face-to-face becomes more intimate. You can’t set a clock by this. It’s a step that can take minutes or hours, weeks or months. Yet, without this physical orientation toward one another, not very much can ever happen romantically.
The woman or the man (most often the woman) touches the other in a light, fleeting way. A couple might accidentally brush their hands against one another while reaching for a drink, or the woman might pat the man on the arm in the middle of a shared joke.
The exchange of very subtle, almost glancing touches may continue for some while, and if all goes well, can escalate into the casual affections shown by couples who are dating. If you’ve reached this point, then flirting has now become the beginning of a relationship.
Flirting is really the art of making contact. You only have one shot at making a great first impression. Good flirting is subtle, but not so subtle that it can’t be understood or responded to.
What to Avoid
The key word with flirting is subtlety. It’s about sending a message that you’re interested, maybe flattered and you’re happy in that person’s company. When it goes wrong, it can really crash.
Take a look at our friend here. At least two messages are being broadcast. The first is about himself. It says, ‘you don’t get much better than this, girls.’ As for wearing shades at the table (indoors), the open-neck/chest shirt. He’s either a narcissist or he’s so bad at flirting and trying so hard, that it’s laughable (but not in a good way).
The second message is about the end game. This guy wants one thing and his activities broadcast that message. Is he seriously about to suck on that strawberry? So what’s the message here? Is it, ‘I’m so sexy,’ or is it, ‘if I’m paying for this meal, I expect something at the end of it.’ This is flirting at its worst. It’s peacocking with a single objective in mind.