The Art and Science of Flirting


Knowing how to flirt is both an art and a science. A slew of research provides a convenient road map to what works best and what doesn’t:

1. Skip the cheesy jokes: According to research, both men and women react poorly to silly jokes, hollow compliments, cheesy pick-up lines and overt sexual references. Be sincere and, most importantly, be yourself.

2. Ask interesting questions but don’t interrogate: Most people’s favorite topic of conversation is themselves and research confirms this. A Scientific American article entitled “The Neuroscience of Everybody’s’ Favorite Topic” states:

Why, in a world full of ideas to discover, develop and discuss, do people spend the majority of their time talking about themselves? Recent research suggests a simple explanation: because it feels good.

Find common ground — inquire about topics that genuinely interest you and where you can relate. Build on what they say. Avoid firing out checklist, predictable questions like, “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” and ask open-ended question instead.

3. Active listening: Truly listening involves hearing what the person is saying and also paying attention to their nonverbal communication. Respond by paraphrasing and reflecting on the conversation to move it forward — it shows them you genuinely care about what they have to say. Resist the temptation to interrupt immediately and hijack the conversation: “Oh you like skiing? Me, too! I just came back from heli-skiing in British Columbia.”

4. Body language: Nonverbal cues speak volumes. Make eye contact, smile, laugh, unfold your arms, lean in. The right body language projects confidence and warmth.

5. Accentuate the positive: In yourself and search for the positive in the person you are flirting with. Mention your interests and highlight the positives in your life. It will allow for the other person to see you in the best light possible and open up the conversation to shared interests. But be mindful not to overdo it. Check yourself and assess whether you are dominating the conversation. One counterintuitivesuggestion:

Avoid your favorite topic — whether it’s opera or your Shih Tzu — or else you’ll probably talk too much.

6. If you’re female, be direct: Research suggests men appreciate a direct statement of intention, “Let’s get together next Monday,” more than a subtle request or sexual innuendo. Studies show that women don’t immediately provide cues expressing interest, thereby leaving men in the dark. Expressing attraction and interest builds confidence in both parties.

7. If You’re a man, be witty: Witty men — smart jokes, not crude or silly ones — are perceived as appealing, attractive and intelligent.

8. Graceful exit: Don’t let the conversation drag. If you feel an awkward silence coming on, politely excuse yourself. Leave them wanting more.

If all else fails, try joining a band if you’re a guy, or wearing less makeup if you’re a girl. Studies show that women are more attracted to men with guitars than without, and men prefer less makeup on women than most women think.

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