Flirting: it’s certainly an art form. Come across too overzealous and you’re desperate. Come across too shy or dismissive and you’re rude. In full disclosure, I fall under the latter. Definitely not shy, but dismissive or ambiguous are two adjectives I hear a lot—and then I always get the feedback that I’m a b*&^% (which is so unfair, considering that an unenthusiastic guy would never be labeled the same). If I’m being my most positive self, then I can take this as a learning moment. Here’s the lesson (I think): I don’t like to waste my time (a defect character trait I have come to accept), but there’s always a better way to go about not being interested in someone else rather than an eye roll, a frown, or a flippant comment. Or even worse: silence.
True story: I’m so out of the game that I was walking my dog a few weeks ago and a guy in a convertible stopped his car, reversed, pulled up beside me, and started talking.
It went something like this:
Him: “Hi, I’m XXXX. I couldn’t drive past and not stop to let you know how beautiful you are. What’s your name?”
Me: “I don’t have a name.”
Yes, I actually responded like a sixth grader. In my defense, I was so caught off guard and very out of practice.
Him: “Okay then. Well, I hope you have a great day.”
And then he drove off.
To give myself a bit of credit, I am slightly near-sided so I couldn’t see what he looked like and I thought the whole “I couldn’t drive by without letting you know you’re pretty” was trite and cheesy.
But that’s not the point. Flirting is like a muscle—think of your abs. You want that four- or six-pack, right? Then you have to work at it. Do crunches, sit-ups, go to the gym—-whatever is necessary. Well, same is true with flirting. Even if he’s not the one (and chances are, he’s not), you still need to work that proverbial muscle so that when the right one saunters by, you’re entirely prepared.
After this embarrassingly failed exchange, I’ve begun to hone that flirting muscle.
Editor’s note: Although this article uses male pronouns, the advice applies to all sexual orientations and gender identities.
First and foremost, you must change your attitude about flirting. Don’t be afraid of failing. It happens to the best of us. (Note the true story above—that’s a big F for failure.)
Since then, I’ve tapped back into my college flirting days (save for the drunk and debaucherous side of me), and here’s what’s worked and what hasn’t so far:
DO make eye contact. Three times, actually. Feeling that “feeling” toward a guy whose gaze meets yours? Hold it. Look away—and then make sure to have your eyes meet his two more times. The rule of three is something used in screenplays, too. It’s so the audience knows to pay attention (because it takes most people three times to actually get it). Well, same is true with flirting. He needs to be reassured that you actually mean to look at him—so three times is a charm.
DON’T stare. There’s a fine line between flirty eye contact and full-out stalker staring. Remember to blink. Look around the room. No need to memorize every pore on his face and every nose hair out of place—if your flirting is successful, there will be plenty of opportunities to study him next time around (and, hopefully, many times after that).
DO strike up conversation. Part of flirting means showing you’ve got a playful personality, so don’t be afraid to open up (the mouth, ladies, not the legs). Be carefree and easy-going. Remember to smile. Keep the conversation light. Don’t know what to say? Rule of thumb: compliment is king. Don’t go overboard, but try something simple like “I like your shirt.” Or, “you’re funny.” Men love a good compliment (they’re especially fond of being told they make you laugh).
DON’T pretend to be someone you’re not. If you don’t like rock climbing and camping and he’s the outdoorsy type, don’t conform to what you think he wants in order to get your flirt on. Instead, change the subject—delicately. Take it to more neutral—and playful—territory. Come prepared with a funny story or two (and practice on your friends before). This way, you’ll have it ready to go in your “flirting tool kit” for when awkward silence and a no-go topic of conversation rears its head. But definitely, 100 percent stay away from controversial topics, like religion, politics, and the names of your unborn children.
DO allow your hand to gently touch him. Gently being the key word—like a feather—let it graze against his thigh or his shoulder. If things are going really well, perhaps even his hair (although I never recommend touching the hair because, like women, guys can get weird about having their perfectly coiffed do felt up).
DON’T touch him in an inappropriate place. This should be common sense, but just in case: if you’d feel uncomfortable if it were done to you, don’t do it to him. #METOO works both ways, people.
DO bring your acting skills to the table—imagine yourself as the most confident, smart, witty, and beautiful person in the room. Then play that persona. Smile. Laugh. Tuck your hair behind your ear. Tell a joke or two (nothing dirty). Show him your best self, even if you have to fake it till you make it. P.S. Always have a few silly—not sexual or repulsive—jokes ready to go in that “flirting tool kit.”
DON’T be overly confident. This comes off as narcissistic and unapproachable. There’s a fine balance—find it. For example, sticking out your chest, telling him to feel your six pack, giving him your college GPA—not necessary. When it comes to flirting, it’s about you AND him—it’s a team sport, not solo style. The kiss of death is coming across as if you’re better than him—even if you are, no need to rub it in his face.
DO accept small tokens of chivalry. You can still be a feminist and appreciate a man wanting to buy you a drink, pull out your seat, or open the door. In fact, men like to feel as though they’re “needed.” Perhaps sad, but true. If you come off as so independent that you won’t take his drink or find it offensive that he opens the door for you, he’ll likely think you’re ungrateful. Allow him to do something nice—and remember to say thank you as a way to acknowledge the gesture. And if you don’t drink, try “I’d love some water, thank you.”
DON’T berate him if he doesn’t do this type of thing. Instead, teach him, in a playful, loving way. Think of it as training a dog: if you want to potty train your dog, you give her/him treats every time she/he successfully does her/his thing outside. Train your man in a similar way. When he does something nice, give him a treat (nothing sexual—a compliment will suffice). If he doesn’t do something nice, don’t get aggressive and demand he act a certain way. Some men aren’t trainable—cut your losses and move on. Not even worth spending the energy to flirt with (or yell at) a guy who can’t so much as open a car door.
DO show your vulnerable side. This is a hard one, especially for us women who don’t necessarily tap into the vulnerability element often. Vulnerable does not mean you’re a door mat. It’s just you opening up in an attempt that he’ll feel safe enough to open up too. And when it comes to flirting, a slight show of vulnerability is vital.
DON’T flirt to the point of a hook up—unless that’s what you’re after, and then good for you and go live your life! YOLO. But if you’re the type of person who is flirting for a first date or even a second, letting him get to first or second base will likely make it a one-night situation. Flirt just enough to hook him, then excuse yourself. Men like the chase—so allow him to pursue you.