I was talking to one of my friends recently, and she said something that really surprised me.
“Oh god, I don’t know how to flirt or be a flirt with women.”
What shocked me wasn’t the sentiment—lots of us feel this way—it’s that this friend is a HUGE FLIRT. It’s her default state of being. She is always touching people; her eye contract is deep and steady; she gushes and knows how to compliment sincerely; she’s excitable, friendly, and magnanimous; she also plays with her hair constantly and is incredibly curious about even the most mundane topics. One time she even picked a flower for me! A flower from the earth! It was adorable.
And yet, she thinks she doesn’t know how to flirt.
I thought, if she’s “bad” at it, we’re all doomed.
Then I remembered that so many of us feel clueless, confused, unsure of what we’re doing, and scared to offend people, especially those we find attractive.
How do we change this? How do we reverse these untrue beliefs about ourselves that act as barriers to getting to know people? What makes someone a “good” or “bad” flirt, anyway? Why do we do it at all? What are some ways people show interest, physically and verbally, and how we can get better at recognizing it?
These are the questions we’ll focus on in this post. Let’s break it down.
What Is Flirting, Actually?
At its core, “flirting” is interacting with someone in a playful manner. This can be demonstrated with verbal or physical cues, it can be a form of teasing, it can be silly, it can be subtle, or it can be wildly obvious and direct.
images via Getty
Women tend to be more subtle
Studies show that women underestimate how much people are flirting with them, while men, perhaps unsurprisingly, overestimate. People flirt for fun, for sex, for exploration, and even for transactional reasons (i.e. to get something from someone). We’ll talk more about this below, but for now, all you need to know is this: flirting is playful interaction.
On a physical level, this can take a few different forms. It can be: