flirting 101

Maybe you flirt to see if there's any potential with someone, or because you want to boost your own self-esteem, or you may even flirt just for fun (see Henningsen et al., 2008 for a categorization of flirting motivations). Whatever your motivation, flirting can be a fun and rewarding communication task if done in a charismatic and appropriate manner.

Although flirting is a great way to start or maintain a relationship with someone, it can also be extremely difficult to do. First of all, it requires you to put yourself out there; to be vulnerable. Each time you flirt, you run the risk of the recipient rejecting your advances or viewing you as inappropriate. It's also really difficult to judge the unknown. Many times, you're flirting with someone who you don't know very well. Saying that, you have no idea how they will react to you. This can be intimidating. Flirting may also be difficult for people with low self-esteem or low self-confidence. If you don't think highly of yourself, it may be hard to get up the confidence to engage in such an intimidating task.

I hope that this post will give you a better idea about how to more effectively flirt with someone.

An effective flirter is someone who always gains clearance first (Dindia & Timmerman, 2003). There are many questions to ask yourself to gain clearance:

  • Is the situation appropriate for flirting? It would likely be inappropriate to flirt with someone at a funeral service or in a hospital. Instead, casual social settings are likely the most appropriate places to flirt.
  • Is s/he open for an encounter? This refers to whether s/he is in deep discussion with others or if s/he is walking out the door, etc. Don't interrupt someone who is already involved in doing something else.
  • Does s/he look willing and friendly enough to approach? You be the judge on this one. If s/he looks like s/he will reject anyone who talks to him/her, don't waist your time.
  • Does s/he look in the mood for a conversation? Is s/he happy, sad, or angry? You don't want to start flirting with someone when s/he has been crying or when s/he looks like s/he just got into a fight with someone. It's probably not the best time.
  • Is s/he available? Here, you want to see if s/he is wearing a wedding ring or if s/he is with a significant other. If s/he is, don't bother him/her.

Once you've gained clearance for some flirting, you can head over and start up a conversation. While there are many different ways to flirt, I'm going to focus on two key flirting techniques.

The first technique is complimenting. Complimenting is a great way to flirt with someone to show your interest. When you're complimenting, however, there are a few things you want to keep in mind (Fox, 2004):

  • Make specific and/or unique compliments. Try not to use general or common compliments. For example, "You have such beautiful hair" is not very specific. If the person really does have beautiful hair, they've probably heard that one before. It's not specific or unique. Instead, after a brief conversation, you could say something like, "You're clearly well read-- a characteristic a really respect. Where did you get that quality?" This compliment is very unique in that most people don't compliment others on their intelligence or wit as often as on their beauty. Making specific or unique compliments will help you stand out in his or her mind as someone who is really interested and interesting.
  • Compliment things the person has chosen. Here, you want to stray away from things that the person cannot change, like their eye color. So, instead of saying, "You have great eyes," you could say, "You're an amazing dancer." To become a great dancer, one generally has to put in a lot of time and effort. Complimenting someone on a skill is much better than complimenting them on their physical beauty. Complimenting someone on their abilities is also much more unique.
  • Consider compliments that lead to conversation. Asking a question after your compliment not only makes you look more interested, but it can help the conversation continue. Instead of just saying, "Nice bike," you could say, "I really love your bike. Where did you get it?" Hopefully a conversation will then ensue and you can get to know that other person a little better.

The second technique is using humor when flirting. Using humor tends to lighten the mood, especially if you're actually funny. Like complimenting, there are also a few things to keep in mind when using humor:

  • Make sure you're funny. If you've gone your whole life with no one ever telling you that you're funny, you're probably not. Using humor when flirting is probably not the best technique for you.
  • Stay positive. You don't want to bring any negativity to any flirting situation, especially when you're using humor. For instance, making fun of the person you're flirting with or someone else is a terrible way to flirt.
  • Be lighthearted about it. Remember that flirting is fun! If you stay in good spirits, your joking will be viewed more positively.
  • Be appropriate. Jokes about sex, race, or religion are ineffective ways to engage in flirting with someone. Stay away from them.

So, next time you want to flirt with someone new, make sure that you gain clearance first. Then, you can compliments and use humor to flirt your heart out.

  • Dindia, K., & Timmerman, L. (2003). Accomplishing romantic relationships. In J. O. Greene & B. R. Burleson (Eds.), Handbook of communication and social interactions skills (pp. 685- 722). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Fox, K. (2004). The flirting report: The advanced guide to flirting. Retrieved from
  • Henningsen, D. D., Braz, M., & Davies, E. (2008). Why do we flirt? Flirting motivations and sex differences in working and social contexts. Journal of Business Communication, 45, 483- 502.

For more information about flirting, see the following resources:


Martha said...

Loved this post!

Christine said...

Great post! I really love the detail in the examples and the focus on compliments that are not solely beauty related.

how to flirt said...

Wow,didn't know this article was this old. However the information i got on flirting here is absolutely amazing. Thank you a bunch!

chat with strangers said...

Some helpful stuff here for my online adventures lol.

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