For a lot of people, flirting is hard.
Most of us are reasonably intelligent and, under normal circumstances, can carry on a conversation with no problem. Yet when we realize that there might be romance at the end of that rainbow, we clam up – or, worse, we start going waaaaay overboard.
It’s not so much that flirting is difficult; all you’re really doing is chatting with someone and occasionally dropping sly hints (sly hints, not “I like to cook breakfast THAT’S A HINT THAT YOU’RE SPENDING THE NIGHT I WANT TO SLEEP NEAR YOUUUUUUU”) that you find them attractive. It’s the idea of flirting that trips us up most often.
If a non-romantic conversation peters out, we just…walk away. We don’t really care. But if we get it in our heads that there’s a chance at love and the conversation doesn’t go well, we treat it as though it’s the end of the damn world. But if you flirt correctly, it’s not really that difficult. In fact, it’s fun!
Here’s how to do it right.
Words Alone Won’t Help You
A whopping ninety-three percent of our communication is non-verbal — that is, body language, tone, and facial expressions. This isn’t entirely true; try speaking to someone for 7 seconds, then spending the next 93 staring, winking, and nudging them with your elbow while you go “Eh? EH?” (Actually, don’t try this, because you’ll end up in jail.)
That said, there is some truth to this: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Body language is how most of us express that we’re romantically interested in someone. So when you’re flirting with someone, you need to send non-verbal signals that you’re sexually attracted to them; in fact, those are the only signals you should be sending at first. (So, avoid walking up to a someone and saying “Come: let us make the beast with two backs.”)
So what are some examples of positive body language?
Eye contact, smiling & nodding
Eye contact is an easy way to express that you’re interested in them; not only that, it’s an easy way for you to gauge whether they’re interested in you. If they’re not making eye contact, odds are they’re not comfortable or relaxed.
Make sure you also nod periodically. Nodding says “I’m listening, I’m interested, and I value what you have to say” [stage whisper: Even if none of those things are true] Also, smile. Not constantly, because you’re not Pat Sajak, but smiling will put you both at ease.
Good posture sends a message that you’re confident and self-assured. It says “I feel good about flirting with you,” which tells them “It’s okay to feel good about us flirting.” I know that sounds kind of pick-up-artisty, but nobody wants to be approached by a slouching, frowning person who won’t make eye contact.
There is no fetish for “people who look like if a burlap sack filled with oatmeal and depression came to life.”
What You Say Does Matter
When it comes to flirting, body language is hugely important, but you can’t just bark random words at them and expect to get your point across. You still need to demonstrate that you’re capable of carrying on a good, interesting conversation.
Tease Them (But Don’t “Neg”)
Playful teasing is a great way to break the ice and get them smiling and laughing. But as I’ve noted before, you can’t just be a dick and expect them to stick around for long. What you’re really aiming for is, like, Today Show-type banter: the kind of teasing you can do to a coworker without getting yourself fired. (This is true not just for flirting, but relationships in general. Don’t be a dick.)
Don’t Compliment them (At First)
Part of the fun of flirting is the implicit acknowledgment that each person finds the other one attractive. Saying it point-blank is like handing someone a birthday present, but announcing “Picture frame.” before they can open it — it takes all the mystery out of the encounter.
I know this advice sounds like horseshit, because the only way to be confident is to, y’know, be confident. But when it comes to flirting, the phrase “fake it ’til you make it” is your best friend. If you’re nervous, remember that this is just one small interaction out of hundreds of thousands in your life; if you had half a million dollars, would you really be that upset by losing a $1 bill in the wash?
These tips work best if you send the signal that you’re confident. If you’re flirting without confidence, the person you’re flirting with is going to pick up on it. Then they’re going to wonder why you’re not confident, which will make them feel less confident about the interaction, and before you know it, you’re working at Orange Julius.
There are probably, like, 10 people on the entire planet who’ve always been confident. It’s not an ingrained trait, it’s a behavior, and like any behavior, it has to be learned. Everybody has had to pretend to be confident at some point in their lives. Some just start the process earlier than others.
It may feel a little strange at first, maybe even like it’s not really you doing the flirting. But the more you fake it, the less you’ll need to fake it, because you’ll naturally get better at it.
And if all else fails, there’s always Tinder.