We all want to know how to do it just right flirt, that is. It's the vivid image of the slam-dunk, rejection that sends many of us into the kind of social paralysis in which we either impress others as extremely shy or somehow snobby. How can we read the signs and learn how to avoid coming off like an over confident, over zealous, overbearing pest, while not missing out on a real opportunity to connect with a potentially great partner? Find out below how to display and react to them in order to optimize your chances of getting a bit closer to that really hot guy or girl "over there" without going unnoticed, going overboard, or sacrificing an ounce of dignity!
In order to accurately read body language and put out the right signs, the first task you must undertake is to live in the present. That means doing your best to mentally shed your history of rejection or all the times you found yourself asking "why did he/she break up with me? What's wrong with me?" For purposes of this article, living in the present means accepting that plenty of times we get broken up with for reasons which are completely out of our control. It also means being honest enough with yourself to admit that you're not perfect either. As long as you can mentally strike the balance between self-acceptance and a willingness to always improve and grow you're ready to play.
So you're at a club or a party with your buddies and you're scoping out the crowd. According to Sigmund Freud, we use "unconscious perception" which enables us to quickly gather lots of information about the people around us just by watching them, and decide if we feel a basic attraction for them. We focus in on things like the way they move their bodies, the sound of their voices, how often they laugh or smile, or the way they use give and take in conversation (are they good listeners or conversation "hogs".) And when we're scanning the crowd for a potential mate, our antennae are on full power we're most likely not going to miss the traits, actions or interpersonal styles which we desire even when those desires live in our sub-conscious. That's right you might be very surprised to realize what you're actually attracted to, (but that's another article.)
Now for the "flirting roadsigns" I've categorized them to give you the best overview. The ones cited here will pack a punch if you use them correctly and give you the green-light when you realize they're being used on you.
1. Initiating eye contact This is the opener, especially employed by guys, and really signals interest. The key here is sustained eye-contact and more confident men and women tend to give prolonged stares when they're ready to move in. Regardless of your gender, when you notice someone you think you might like, noticing you, look back. For those of you who are "eye-contact shy" here's a mental exercise which can help. Pretend that you already know this person and have had a good, friendly experience with them. Quickly paste their face onto your old childhood, playground buddy and this will instantly activate the facial muscles used to smile. You should wind up with a "mild smile" and your eyebrows should arch a bit as well. Practice at home in the mirror. Remember, your ability to return a glance also says a lot about your self-confidence; and self-confidence is very attractive, especially to the kind of person you want to attract someone who feels happy with themselves.
2. The Approach Once eye contact has been established, the two of you need to get close enough to talk, and how this happens says a lot- about both of you. For instance, a beautiful client of mine was approached by a handsome man at a cocktail party. Instead of approaching her eye to eye; face to face; or shoulder to shoulder- sending the message that he was ready to be open, honest and direct, he snuck up behind her and pulled her hair. Cute? Playful? Spontaneous? I think not- try immature and evasive. They went on several dates before he told her that he was married! A confident, experienced man will approach directly, yet not invade your personal space by getting too close too soon. Without using a yardstick here, you will intuitively feel how close is too close. If you make subtle shifts away from him, yet he persists, he's obviously not reading the signs correctly and is possibly too arrogant to accept rejection. As in the example above, expect more of the same on a grander scale if you get involved.
3. The Conversation Watching two flirters in conversation is like watching two dancers in-synch. They tend to lean in together and pull back at similar times, and if one leans back for a rest he or she can be coaxed back into more "personal", personal space. The visual montage of this conversation includes broad smiles and nodding to the point that you may need a neck massage the day after, laughter, and an overall intense focus on each other as if nobody else existed. Subtle touching is also on the menu here- and I do mean subtle. This could range from an "accidental" brush against a G-rated body part to intentional touching under the guise of something completely benign, (ever had your palm read by a stock broker in a bar? You get it.) Answering the cell phone, while not a serious crime in this day and age, is not exactly the behavior you want to see- especially if it happens repeatedly- a red flag for signs of conflicted feelings, possibility that he/she is a workaholic, too attached to mommy or daddy, or trying to keep too many other potential mates happy. Time to look for a new face to make eye contact with…
4. The Heavy Artillery Now we're talking subliminal and not so subliminal messages about pure, raw sexuality. There are numerous body parts outside of the obvious which remind us of, and keep our minds on sex. Hair, especially long hair for women, the neck, cleavage, the shoulders, and the mouth. Both women and men will position their bodies in order to highlight these areas. Hair flipping and lip licking are classic. But tilting the head to expose more of the neck, as well as arching the back to emphasize cleavage is also effective. Men sitting with their legs apart and their hands casually resting on their inner thighs are pointing, consciously or not, to their crotch. There's also a lot going on inside. According to scientific research in the area of human sexuality, in addition to universal signs of flirting, there are a number of physiological changes driving romantic interest. For example when a man and woman are sexually attracted to each other the brain releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurochemicals give us the feeling of optimism, extra energy, and an increased pulse rate.
5. The Goodbye Again, how this is handled can speak volumes, and balance is the key. A direct and polite request for your phone number is clearly indicative of self-confidence and interest in you as a person, (to be confirmed by an actual call of course). Just goodbye is an ending that may leave things "hanging" and can signal a host of circumstances ranging from, "I'm too nervous to ask for her number," to "I better get home before my girlfriend kills me." If he eventually makes the effort to contact you, consider how it's done creative or stalkeresque? The bottom line here is that if you have the "heebeegeebees" from his efforts to contact you, honor them and move on. Finally, if you like the guy, make it clear that you had a great time whether or not he asks for your number at least you gave each other the opportunity to practice your social skills!
Finally, according to a popular couples therapy style known as Imago Therapy- we are wired to hone in on those who display characteristics which remind us of mom, dad and any other caretaker who had a significant impact on our lives. So while there may be universal "flirting language", who we flirt with and who flirts with us is no accident.
Laura Grashow Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who has been working with children, adolescents and families for over 15 years. She specializes in relationship issues, parenting, divorce, and child development. For more information, see Dr. Laura's website.
Plus, check out Laura's new book "Dating the Older Man." It is the ultimate comprehensive guide to coping with large age differences in love relationships. In today's world, factors such as high divorce rates, plastic surgery, increased life span, internet dating, and even Viagra are making older men more available and more attractive choices for younger women. Get great practical answers to real problems and dilemmas including issues relating to blended families and how to be a step-parent. The book is a veritable "how to" for relationships packed with great strategies and is an invaluable resource for women in the modern dating world.