A young couple flirting on a park bench together

The Art of Flirting

by Eharmony Editorial Team - July 7, 2009

If we stopped flirting, falling in love, and reproducing we'd soon disappear.

If we stopped flirting, falling in love, and reproducing we’d soon disappear. But even though nature has endowed us with all the necessary parts we need to save ourselves from extinction, not everyone knows how to use them to their best advantage.

Get your copy of Nicholas Boothman’s “How To Make Someone Fall In Love With You In 90 Minutes”

Flirting is more than just fun — it’s fundamental. Our entire survival as a species depends on human connection. If we stopped flirting, falling in love, and reproducing we’d soon disappear. But even though nature has endowed us with all the necessary parts we need to save ourselves from extinction, not everyone knows how to use them to their best advantage. This is particularly true when it comes to flirting.

The promise-withdraw routine is the very heart of flirting. It’s used by both men and women to create arousal, and its dynamic is exactly what it says it is: giving attention,
then taking it away, then giving it again — tension, release, tension; eye contact, look away, eye contact. One look doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but a second look, and a smile add up to an unmistakable signal of interest. Men and women all over the world use this basic routine to signal and arouse interest in another person.

We can break flirting down into three main types: public, social, and private. Public flirting is usually a spontaneous, amusing, and harmless way to brighten someone’s day. Social flirting adds a sexual element to the mix, signalling interest. Private flirting is one-on-one, radiates sex appeal, and enhances your ability to make someone fall in love with you in 90 minutes or less.

Public Flirting
We all flirt in one way or another from time to time. There are many situations where you probably don’t even realize you’re flirting. You banter with the woman at the pharmacy or joke with the man at the dry cleaner. The guy at the deli counter smiles and addresses you by name every time he sees you. These are the kinds of interactions humans are designed to enjoy and respond to. Public flirtation is innocent, makes us feel good (it is, after all, a form of flattery), and keeps us in touch with other people.

Social Flirting
Social flirting is a friendly and playful way to let someone know that you’ve noticed him and are interested. You can use a hello or good-bye to emphasize how great things are when you’re together. You can lend her your jacket if she looks cold. You can “accidentally” brush up against him, or bump shoulders casually when walking down the street. Throw a quick glance. Compliment her. Cast him a sidelong gaze. Tell her how good she’d look in that sexy dress you see in the store window. A woman can send sexual signals by licking her lips slightly, tracing the outline of her collar with her fingers, playing with her hair or jewellery, or running her hand down her thigh. A man can do the same by straightening his tie, running a hand through his hair, or gently tossing his head. There’s obviously a fine line between too much sexual innuendo and not enough. As a general rule you should take care that your behavior isn’t sending mixed signals or promising more than you’re prepared to deliver. Flaunt your sexuality too much in your social flirting and you’ll probably come across as a tease and/or cute or silly. Too little flaunting and you run the risk of becoming just a friend.

Private Flirting
Unlike public and social flirting, private flirting is strictly about one-on-one sex appeal. The word flirt in its current meaning dates back to mid eighteenth-century England, where Lady Frances Shirley is credited with coining the term fan flirts to describe
women who used the flitting rhythm of their fans (in combination with their eyes and mouths) to tease and send sexual signals. Public use of the fan may be gone, but flirting
is still first and foremost about “making eyes.”

Making Eyes
Flirting begins with the eyes. After that you can flirt with your mouth (a smile, a pout), with your personality, with your shyness or your coyness, or with your sense of humor. You can flirt with words or with food and drinks. You can flirt for business or for pleasure, with goals or without. The possibilities are endless, but first you must make eyes. One of the most irresistible and sensual techniques in flirting one-on-one is to make eye contact with your man or woman, then shift your gaze every five or ten seconds from their eyes to their mouth, then back again. This was how a fan flirt would beguile her suitors, first using the fan to hide her mouth and reveal only her eyes (as she gazed from her partner’s eyes to his mouth and back again),then, while she looked him in the eye, lowering the fan to reveal her own mouth while lowering her eyes to gaze at his mouth. All the while she would use the gentle rhythm of the fan strokes to intensify the sexual innuendo. After a heart-stopping moment, she would cover her mouth again with the fan and bring her eyes back to his. Yow! Don’t bother with the fan, but do alternate your gaze from the eyes to the mouth when talking with your date. It’s a very, very subtle move but make no mistake: it signals sex.

Flirting Is Fun
Some people are born to flirt, others have natural flirting skills that seem to come and go depending on the circumstance, and some of us just have no clue and need to be taught-but we all have the potential. Flirting is really a question of attitude — you don’t have to be intense about it. Every day you come in contact with people left, right, and center, whether you’re at a bar, on the bus, or at a pottery class. So make eye contact, smile, and go over and say “Hi” if it feels right. Learn to flirt with style, respect and subtlety and you’ll make yourself irresistible.