How to flirt?

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 your ‘target’ knows that you find him or her interesting and attractive, he or she will be more inclined to like you.
Although this simple fact has been demonstrated in countless studies and experiments, you don’t really need scientists to prove it. You already know 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 is someone you have never met!
Conveying that you like someone, and judging whether or not the attraction is mutual, clearly involves a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
When asked about flirting, most people – particularly men – focus on the verbal element: the ‘chatting-up’, the problems of knowing what to say, finding the right words, etc. In fact, the nonverbal element – body-language, tone of voice, etc. – is much more important, particularly in the initial stages of a flirtation.
When you first meet new people, their initial impression of you will be based 55% on your appearance and body-language, 38% on your style of speaking and only 7% on what you actually say.
Also, their non-verbal signals will tell you much more about their feelings towards you than the words they use. We show attitudes such as liking and disliking not by what we say but by the way we say it and the posture, gestures and expressions that accompany our speech.
The customary polite greeting “pleased to meet you”, 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.
Non-verbal flirting
When a man and a woman meet for the first time, both are in a difficult, ambiguous and potentially risky situation. Neither person knows what the other’s intentions and feelings are. Because stating intentions and feelings verbally involves a high risk of embarrassment or possible rejection, non-verbal behaviour becomes the main channel of communication. Unlike the spoken word, body language can signal invitation, acceptance or refusal without being too obvious, without causing offence or making binding commitments.
Warning: some of the non-verbal flirting techniques outlined in this section are very powerful signals, and should be used with caution. Women should be particularly careful when using signals of interest and attraction. Men already tend to mistake friendliness for flirting; if your signals of interest are too direct and obvious, they will mistake them for sexual availability. Eye contact
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 or hurtful encounter.
Eye contact – 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. 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 eye contacts of more than one second. Among a crowd of strangers in a public setting, eye contacts will generally last only a fraction of second, and most people will avoid making any eye contact at all.

This is very good news for anyone 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 (not too much more, though, or you will seem threatening). If your target maintains eye contact with you for more than one second, the chances are that he/she might return your interest. If after this initial contact, your target looks away briefly and then looks back to meet your gaze a second time, you can safely assume that he/she is interested. If these eye contacts trigger a smile, you can approach your target with some confidence.
If, on the other hand, your target avoids making eye contact with you, or looks away after a fraction of a second and does not look back again, you should probably assume that your interest is not returned. There is still the possibility that your target is just a very shy person – and some females may be understandably wary of signalling any interest in male strangers. The only way to find out is by close observation of your target’s behaviour towards others. Does she consistently avoid direct eye-contact with men? Does he seem nervous, anxious or aloof in his interactions with other women? If so, your target’s reluctance to meet your gaze may be nothing personal, and it might be worth approaching, but only with considerable caution.
Once you have approached your target, you will need to make eye contact again in order to strike up a conversation. As soon as your eyes meet, you may begin to speak. Once a conversation begins, it is normal for eye contact to be broken as the speaker looks away. In conversations, the person who is speaking looks away more than the person who is listening, and turn-taking is governed by a characteristic pattern of looking, eye contact and looking away.
So, to signal that you have finished speaking and invite a response, you then look back at your target again. To show interest while your target is speaking, you need to look at his/her face about three-quarters of the time, in glances lasting between one and seven seconds. The person speaking will normally look at you for less than half this time, and direct eye contact will be intermittent, rarely lasting more than one second. When your target has finished speaking, and expects a response, he or she will look at you and make brief eye contact again to indicate that it is your turn.
The basic rules for pleasant conversation are: glance at the other person’s face more  when you are listening, glance away more when you are speaking and make brief eye contact to initiate turn-taking. The key words here are ‘glance’ and ‘brief’: avoid prolonged staring either at the
other person or away.
The most common mistake people make when flirting is to overdo the eye contact in a premature attempt to increase intimacy. This only makes the other person feel uncomfortable, and may send misleading signals. Some men also blow their chances by carrying on a conversation with a woman’s breasts, rather than looking at her face.
Interpersonal distance
The distance you keep from the other person when flirting is important, because it will affect his or her impression of you, and the quality of your interaction. Perhaps even more importantly, paying attention to the other person’s use of distance will tell you a great deal about his/her reactions and feelings towards you.
When you first approach an attractive stranger, having established at least an indication of mutual interest through eye contact, try to make eye contact again at about 4ft away, before moving any closer. At 4 ft (about two small steps away), you are on the borderline between what are known as the ‘social zone’ (4 to 12 ft) and the ‘personal zone’ (18in to 4ft).
If you receive a positive response at 4ft, move in to ‘arm’s length’ (about 2ft 6in). If you try to approach much closer than this, particularly if you try to cross the 18in ‘personal zone/intimate zone’ border, your target may feel uncomfortable. The ‘intimate zone’ (less than 18in) is reserved for lovers, family and very close friends. If you are close enough to whisper and be heard, you are probably too close for comfort.
These distance rules apply particularly in face-to-face encounters. We will tolerate reduced interpersonal distances when we are side by side with someone. This is because when you are alongside someone, it is easier to use other aspects of body language, such as turning away or avoiding eye contact, to ‘limit’ your level of involvement with the other person.
You can therefore approach a bit closer than ‘arm’s length’ if you are alongside your target – at the bar counter of a pub, for example – rather than face-to-face. But be careful to avoid ‘intrusive’ body-language such as prolonged eye contact or touching.
If you have misjudged the appropriate distance, in either a face-to-face or side-by-side encounter, the other person’s discomfort may show in his/her body language. Your target may attempt to turn away or avert his/her gaze to avoid eye contact. You may also see ‘barrier signals’ such as folding the arms or crossing knees, or rubbing the neck with the elbow pointed towards you. If you see any of these signs, back off!
Finally, remember that different people have different reactions to distance. If your target is from a Mediterranean or Latin American country (known as the ‘contact cultures’), he or she may be comfortable with closer distances than a British or Northern European person. North Americans fall somewhere between these two extremes. Different personality-types may also react differently to your approach: extroverts and those who generally feel at ease in company will be comfortable with closer distances than introverts and shy or nervous types. Even the same person may vary in tolerance from day to day, according to mood: when we are feeling depressed or irritable, we find close distances more uncomfortable.
Most of us are quite good at controlling our faces – maintaining an expression of polite interest, for example, when we are really bored to tears, or even nodding when we really disagree! But 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 by a tense posture with 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 posture.
When flirting, you should therefore watch out for signs of this ‘non-verbal leakage’ in your partner’s posture – and try to send the right signals with your own posture.
Your partner’s ‘non-verbal leakage’ can give you advance warning that your chat-up isn’t working. If only his/her head is turned towards you, with the rest of the body oriented in another direction, this is a sign that you do not have your partner’s full attention. Even just the feet starting to turn and ‘point’ away from you can be a sign that his/her attention is directed elsewhere, or that he/she is thinking about moving away. Leaning backwards and supporting the head on one hand are signs of boredom. ‘Closed’ postures with arms folded and legs tightly crossed indicate disagreement or dislike.
More positive signs to watch out for would be a partner’s body oriented towards you, particularly if he/she is also leaning forward, and an ‘open’ posture. These are signs of attentiveness and interest or liking. Experiments have also shown that females are more likely to tilt their heads to one side when they are interested in the person they are talking to. Men should beware, however, of automatically assuming that these signs indicate sexual interest. Women should be aware of men’s tendency to make such assumptions, and avoid signalling interest too obviously.
Another positive sign is what psychologists call ‘postural congruence’ or ‘postural echo’: when your partner 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 indication of harmony and rapport between the pair. If the position of your partner’s body and limbs appear to ‘echo’ or ‘mimic’ your own, particularly if his/her posture is a mirror image of yours, the chances are that he/she feels an affinity with you.
When flirting, you can also use postural echo to create a feeling of togetherness and harmony. Experiments have shown that although people are not consciously aware of someone deliberately ‘echoing’ their postures, they will evaluate a person who does this more favourably. If you ‘echo’ your partner’s postures, he/she will not only feel more at ease in your company, but will perceive you as more like-minded.
This technique obviously has its limits. We would not suggest, for example, that a woman in a mini-skirt should ‘echo’ the open-legged sitting posture of her male companion. But if he is leaning forward with his left forearm resting on the table, she could create a sense of common identity by ‘mirroring’ this aspect of his posture – leaning forward with her right forearm on the table.
In addition to these ‘generic’ signals of interest, there are specifically male and female posture signals which are often seen in flirtatious encounters. These tend to be postures which enhance the masculine or dominant appearance of the male, and the femininity of the female. Males may adopt postures which make them appear taller, larger and more impressive, such as placing hands in pockets with elbows out to enlarge the chest, or leaning one hand at above shoulder height on a wall to appear taller and more imposing. Females either adopt postures which make them look smaller, such as drawing the knees towards the body when seated, or postures which draw attention to physical attributes attractive to males, such as arching the back to display the breasts, or crossing and re-crossing the legs to draw attention to them.
As well as overall body posture, the gestures we use can signal interest, attraction and invitation – or 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 conversation, gestures are mainly used to enliven, clarify and ‘punctuate’ our speech, or to show responsiveness to what the other person is saying. In a flirtatious encounter, the amount of gesticulation, the directions of the gestures and the co-ordination of gestures can indicate the degree of interest and involvement your partner feels towards you.
Different cultures vary widely in the amount of gesticulation that accompanies their speech (Italians say that you can silence an Italian by tying his hands behind his back), and even within a single culture, some people naturally express themselves more through gestures than others. Generally, however, someone who is interested in you will be more lively and animated in conversation, using more gestures when speaking in order to keep your attention, and more responsive gestures to show interest when you are speaking.
Similarly, you can signal interest in your partner, and keep his/her attention focused on you, by enhancing your speech with appropriate gestures: shifting your hands or head slightly at the end of sentences, using downward hand movements to emphasise a point, ‘projecting’ what you are saying towards your partner by open-palm hand movements and so on. When your partner is speaking, you can show responsiveness by nodding in agreement, throwing up your hands in surprise, bringing them together in a ‘silent clap’ of appreciation, etc.
Researchers have found that nodding can be used to ‘regulate’ conversations. If you make single, brief nods while your partner is speaking, these act as simple signs of attentiveness, which will maintain the flow of communication from the speaker. Double nods will change the rate at which the other person speaks, usually speeding up the flow, while triple nods or single, slow nods often interrupt the flow altogether, confusing speakers so much that they stop in their tracks. So, if you want to express interest and keep your partner chatting with you, stick to brief single nods.
You can also watch for gestures which indicate anxiety and nervousness, such as hand-clasping movements and palm-rubbing. As a general rule, anxious gestures are directed towards the anxious person’s own body (known as ‘proximal’ movements), while ‘distal’ movements, directed away from the body, are 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. As with posture, the greatest involvement and harmony is achieved when gestures are synchronised – when the movements 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 or pub, and you will see that they often tend to lift their drinks and take a sip at the same time, and that many of their other body movements and gestures will be similarly synchronised. Psychologists call this ‘interactional synchrony’ or ‘gestural dance’, and some of their research findings indicate that the timing of matched gestures may be accurate down to fractions of a second.
Although this synchronisation 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 partner seem awkward and uncomfortable with each other, try to be more sensitive to the patterns of his/her gestures and body movements, and to reflect these in your own body language.
If your partner spontaneously begins to synchronise his/her body language with yours, this is a sign that he/she feels comfortable with you. Men should not assume that it necessarily indicates sexual interest, however. Women can avoid creating this impression by reducing synchronisation, adopting a more ‘closed’ posture and avoiding the use of gestures which are specifically associated with flirtatious behaviour. 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 the breasts.


How to flirt? How to flirt? Wednesday, August 21, 2013 Rating: 5
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