Is he looking at me? Did she just smile at me? Flirting is fun and exciting, but did you know it is an essential part of our evolution, too?
This coquettish, amorous interaction between men and women is a crucial component of human life that has facilitated relationships since the beginning of time.
But how much is too much? And when is it not enough?
It is part of our biological nature to be attracted to and express interest in the opposite sex. Beyond the physical and mental attraction to a person, social psychologists have found that there is an innate evolutionary approach to attraction that focuses on the probability of reproductive success with that person. All the sudden harmless flirting seems to be serving a greater function.
As mankind has evolved, so has the art of flirting! Though there are certain aspects of flirting that have remained the same. The goal of flirting, whether on purpose or not, has always been to attract attention. Much like a peacock’s colored tail and a lion’s full mane, humans groom themselves to attract attention of a potential partner.
Flirting, like most forms of communication, is governed by a set of socially-accepted, unwritten guidelines. The most important guideline to remember is “subtlety succeeds.” You don’t want to be overly brazen, for instance, asking “I like you, do you like me?”
You also do not want to be wallflower who goes unnoticed. Flirting is about the thrill of the chase, and no one likes to win a game without a bit of a challenge.
So what do these guidelines entail? First, it is important to realize there is a time and place for flirting. Appropriate places for flirting are bars, parties, school, leisure events and occasionally at work. The appropriate amount of flirting is directly related to the time and place.
Everyone has different styles of flirting, which makes every approach unique. There is the type of flirting that will allow you to get closer to your potential mate, and there are flirting tactics that will make you persona non grata.
For instance, in the workplace it is important to keep flirting to a casual, friendly level. There is a thin line between flirting and sexual harassment, which is a serious offense especially in an office environment.
People engage in flirtation for many different reasons. One priority of flirting is simply to flatter another person. People throw out compliments, exchange smiles or glances, all harmless fun that can strengthen social interaction.
On the other hand, there is flirting with the goal of attracting a potential mate sometimes called “flirting with intent.” When “flirting with intent,” it is important be selective when choosing someone to approach.
The first step to initiate flirting is to “make eyes,” which is when you begin eye contact with one another. Some people will use the dead-on stare and smile technique while others prefer the look and look away. The game has begun!
Now you must approach your possible catch (the man or the woman can approach -- this is the 21st century). The next step is interpreting body language, which sometimes can result in mixed signals if you aren’t a keen observer.
A woman will use specific signals to reveal she is interested in a male. For instance, she will giggle or laugh, twirl her hair, briefly touch the male’s arm, smile and have direct eye contact. Men typically respond with relaxed posture, direct eye contact, and leaning close toward the potential female.
But more important than body language is the start of a good conversation. Be creative, funny and intelligent. Most importantly, be yourself. An intriguing conversation will disclose more about you than any covert signal. If the person is interested, the conversation will be lively yet relaxed and keep his/her attention.
How do you know when flirting has gone wrong? If the person you approach avoids eye contact and reaches for their friends, you can safely bet they are probably not interested.
Engaging the opposite sex takes practice and there are some serious dos and don’ts when it comes to the art of flirting:
Don’t use cheesy or crude pick-up lines to start a conversation. One of the top conversation starters is a comment on the weather or simply a compliment. If you don’t feel confident with that try, “Hi, my name is…” it is easy and friendly.
Don’t come on too strong. Try to avoid too much physical contact off the bat, people’s perception of personal space varies greatly.
Do make sure the person you approach could potentially be interested in you. If within the first 10 minutes you feel the conversation has come to an end, move on.
Do avoid flirting with people in serious relationships or people who are married. This will inevitably lead to trouble.
Don’t mistake friendliness for flirtiness. Some people are outgoing and social by nature make sure you don’t get the signals mixed!
Do Relax! Seeming anxious and nervous will not help the flow of conversation.
Flirting is an instinctive and natural process that should be enjoyable and exciting. With the right combination of confidence and conversation, you are sure to be a master of the art of flirting in no time!
Jaclyn Johnson is an eDiets editorial intern and a journalism/mass communications major at New York University.
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