Of all the people you know, who is best at communicating their attraction to members of the opposite sex? Chances are it’s someone who:
- is extroverted
- is assertive
- is resilient
- has a history of success attracting all kinds of people
These lucky few enjoy receiving attention and bestowing it on selective others. They experience rejection as much, or even more, than other people, but they chalk it up as the other person’s loss. I often hear people like this described as being someone “who can get anyone they want.” They know how to flirt in a way that sends exactly the message they want to communicate, and they flirt so much that they get results.
Flirting is an important part of the mating dance. It’s a way of expressing sexual attraction in a lighthearted, fun way. If it’s not reciprocated, there’s really not much loss of face. Of course, many of the signals we send are subconscious body language and facial expressions. However, despite our being biologically programmed to signal interest and recognize it in others, we often get our wires crossed.
- He thinks she’s into him because she gave him a friendly and open smile.
- She thinks he’s not interested because he hasn’t asked for her number.
- He’s convinced she’s out of his league, so her witty banter strikes him as needlessly cruel.
- She believes that he is very interested because he touches her arm and back when he is speaking to her, and she doesn’t notice that he does this with a lot of girls.
Jeffrey Hall, a professor at Kansas University, just completed a study which looked at the flirting styles of 5,100 adults. His goal was to help people become more self-aware in the way they communicate.
People often find themselves frustrated or unhappy with their ability to get others to notice them, for others to find them interesting, and for others to know they are interested in romance — not friendship or just a short-term hook-up.
Knowing something about the way you communicate attraction says something about challenges you might have had in your past dating life. Hopefully, this awareness can help people avoid those mistakes and succeed in courtship.
Hall designed a survey, available online here, that has now been taken by more than 25,000 people. (I encourage you to take it – at the end you’ll get an analysis of your flirting style, placing you within percentiles for your gender and age.) In studying the results, Hall identified five distinct styles of flirting:
1. Physical flirts:
- Tend to feel attracted right away.
- Express sexual interest in a potential partner with body language.
- Develop relationships quickly.
- Have high sexual chemistry with their partner.
- Have a greater emotional connection to their partner.
2. Traditional flirts:
- Think men should make the first move and women should not pursue men.
- Adopt a more passive role in dating.
- Women are likely to report trouble getting men’s attention and are less likely to flirt or be flattered by flirting.
- Women may mistakenly think someone is flirting with them.
- Men often know a potential partner for a longer time before approaching them.
- Men are more likely to wait until an existing relationship ends before flirting with a woman.
- Tend to be introverted and prefer a more intimate dating scene.
3. Polite flirts:
- Focus on proper manners and nonsexual communication.
- Are less likely to approach a potential partner.
- Do not find flirting flattering.
- Tend to have meaningful relationships.
4. Sincere flirts:
- Believe that personal and private conversation is the best way to develop romance.
- Create emotional connections and communicate sincere interest with confidence.
- Women tend to score higher in this style, but it is advocated by both genders.
- Have strong emotional connections.
- Have strong sexual chemistry.
- Have relationships that are typically meaningful.
5. Playful flirts:
- Often flirt with little interest in a long-term romance.
- Tend to flirt and be flirted with everywhere they go.
- Find flirting fun and enhancing to their self-esteem.
- Are often perceived as flirtatious, even when they don’t intend to flirt.
- Are less likely to have important and meaningful relationships.
Being aware of how we communicate romantic interest gives us insight about how that style may not always work out in the way we want. We might attract people who respond to our way of flirting, but not help us get the relationship we want. Because all people are a mix of styles, they should attempt to emphasize the styles that meet relationship goals more than the styles that do not. It is easier to emphasize or minimize parts of our behavior that are already there than change them completely.
Not surprisingly, Hall found a high correlation between Physical and Playful styles, Traditional and Polite, and Polite and Sincere. Conversely, the Polite and Physical styles are polar opposites.
Based on my observations of the sexual marketplace (SMP), here are some speculative thoughts I have about flirting styles:
- The most promiscuous women rely heavily on Playful flirting with a strong side of Physical flirting. They engage in clear, sexually charged touches and body language.
- Many women engage in Playful flirting, even though they do want a long-term relationship. They are unaware of sending a message to men that is in direct opposition to their goal.
- Playful flirting is perhaps the most common style in a college environment, reflecting the focus on short-term flings.
- Men with high social visibility and status, i.e. Players, are most likely to use Playful and Physical styles.
- Men with less social dominance, i.e. Nice Guys, are more likely to use Traditional, Polite and Sincere styles.
- Having a sincere conversation can be a form of flirting. The best way to demonstrate sincere interest is to seek the thoughts, opinions and experiences of the other person.
- Women who believe that men should do all the pursuing clearly get pursued less than other women. Passivity means lost opportunities for flirting and communication.
- Men who are traditional do not flirt if they are unavailable – a major plus in terms of character.
- Traditional flirting is least effective in the current SMP, as it best characterizes the formal dating mores before 1970.
- Polite flirts are likely to be effective only with other polite flirts, as they are extremely reserved in their demonstration of interest.
By the way, in doing this reading I came across another study on flirting.Badoo, a global networking site, looked at 20 countries to see what percentage of contacts between the sexes are initiated by women. Here’s their final ranking:
- Dominican Republic
- Italy/Argentina (tie)
- United Kingdom
- Czech Republic
- United States :-/
Lloyd Price, Badoo’s Director of Marketing was quoted:
This study focused on who makes the first move. What it shows is simply that American women are less likely than those in most other countries and much less likely than Spanish and most Latin women to be the one initiating something with a man.
What this suggests to me is that an American woman who is willing to initiate should expect a warm reception overall. Clearly, the stubborn notion that men should initiate is not nearly as prevalent elsewhere as it is in the U.S. Many American women must be pursuing a Traditionalflirting strategy, the least effective one in drawing male attention.
Additional thoughts? What kind of a flirt are you? Is your flirting style serving you well?