Advice from a Matchmaker: For my Ladies Who say they can’t Flirt
A lot of the women I work with say they can’t flirt. Are you one of them? Well guess what? Everyone can flirt and – Surprise! – you do flirt naturally but the issue is you’re consciously stopping yourself from doing so.
Sure, maybe you can’t do Elle’s bend & snap but a lot of flirting has nothing to do with our conscious mind. When you see someone that revs your engines your body reacts to it, like it or not.
Let’s take the eyes for example.
When you see someone you find attractive, your pupils dilate on their own — even if you know you shouldn’t be attracted to them and even if you don’t consciously know you’re attracted to them they dilate.
You can’t control the dilation and other body responses but you can control what you do with the notification that you’re attracted to someone.
You may wish to get into their personal space, say something suggestive or, if you know they’re taken, you may ignore the notification of attraction). That’s up to you but those pupils of yours dilated on their own and the object of your interest, if he/she has made contact with you will have registered your interest even if they don’t consciously know it.
What I think happens is a lot of women and men don’t notice their body reacting or, if they do, suppress the feelings even if there’s no harm in showing your attraction.
In Anatomy of Love, a book by Dr. Helen Fisher (Biological Anthropologist; Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute; member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University; and Chief Scientific Advisor at Match.com) gets into the nitty gritty of how we flirt without even trying. (You should definitely read the book if love confounds (or interests) you but here I’m going to summarise her section on body language.) This includes eye contact, smiling, how we stand and touch, and even how – if we dare – talk.
Now before I give you the run down I want to give you a real-life example. You know that section of the mid-levels escalator past Hollywood Road where it’s a moving walkway and then connects to the overpass/gallery area and then there’s the overpass above Des Voeux road and connects to IFC? That’s one of my favourite people watching areas in Hong Kong because there’s so much action happening.
This is also the area where I notice I make eye contact with men the most. The sequence goes something link this:
- We’re walking in opposite directions.
- Eye contact will be made when we’re about five metres apart and my eyes seem to grow a little bigger.
- We hold the gaze for just a second. Maybe a touch of a smile or raised eyebrows.
- My eyes dart to the side and lower in out of embarrassment and maybe my cheeks get a little flush too.
Ladies, does this happen to you too?
Let me guess: Most of you are shaking your heads.
I know this because I always ask my female matchmaking and coaching clients this question when we cover body language and so far they have all said no.
Now I’m not calling you ladies fibbers but I know this happens to you too….because it happens to all of us.
There’s literally a “universal pattern of female flirting,” which happens everywhere in the world regardless of culture or language or moral code.
The process goes like this:
- The woman smiles at her admirer and lefts her eyebrows in a swift, jerky motion as she opens her eyes wide to gaze at him.
- She drops her eyelids, tilts her head down and to the side, and looks away.
- Often she also covers her face with her hands, giggling nervously as she retreats behind her palms.
You may not notice in the moment but you are sending out signals, which is just another way of saying you’re a flirt 🙂 So please don’t say you can’t flirt because you totally can.
Eating with your eyes
Do you ever notice your eyes change when you look at something delicious like a slice of decadent cake you want to devour or an amazing set of lips you want to kiss?
Let’s do an exercise: Stop reading this and look at something close to you and pretend it’s drop-dead beautiful. It can be your phone, a cup of coffee or anything else that’s close by. Tell yourself it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen and do your best to believe it. Notice how your eyes feel different. The corners of your eyes might stretch and pinch at the very same time, and maybe even the area around your eyes will also get a little flushed, they seem to grow bigger. For me it almost feels like my eyes are stretching out of my sockets and brining the object closer to me.
You know the phrase, “eat with their eyes?” That’s basically what you’ve done.
Kind of like this woman…
The eyes say it all (as do her shirt pulling and biting her bottom lip and inner cheeks) and you really can’t blame her!
Gaze into my eyes
In Anatomy of Love, Dr. Fisher discusses the copulatory gaze and return gaze of two primates (or people) engaged in courtship. When you’re attracted to something it’s hard not to looking lengthily and longingly.
Dr. Fisher writes in Psychology Today, “Eye contact seems to have an immediate effect. The gaze triggers a primitive part of the human brain, calling forth one of two basic emotions—approach or retreat.”
Of course, before eye contact can be made, we need to get the other person’s attention. Men stand tall, chest thrust out, and do everything possible to take up as much room as possible (manspreading much?!) as well as preening. And older men, use “props” to show success (in lieu of youth and vigor).
I love Dr. Fisher’s description of men when they’re peacocking for us women: “I’m here; I’m important; I’m harmless.” That’s the most contradictory message ever but yet here we are. (Thanks Mother Nature!)
Women will get men’s attention by preening, moving around, smiling, gazing, swaying the hips, batting eyes. Again, these are all signals (aka flirting) so don’t tell me you don’t flirt!
If mutual interest has been confirmed, the next step is to smile. This is also something natural that happens without conscious prompting. I think it’s only when we tell ourselves ‘don’t show I’m into him’ that we stimey the smile.
Dr. Fisher explains in Anatomy of Love, the human ‘upper smile’ shows your upper teeth and “is often combined with a one-sixth-of-a-second eyebrow flash.” Then there is “the ‘open smile,’ in which the lips are completely drawn back and both upper and lower teeth are fully exposed.” This is what’s usually used when we’re trying to pick up.
The gift of the gab
Once smiles have been traded, one of the parties (not always the man!) will find themselves inching closer to start a conversation.
This is fucking hard. What to say!? How to say it!?
But Dr. Fisher says don’t worry too much because it is “often meaningless.” Its purpose is just to break the ice so say whatever you need to say (but don’t be crass). I feel that women have to be less worried about what they say than men do because women because women are more sensitive to words and are more prepared to reject a man based on what he says if it makes her feel vulnerable (in a bad way) or instills any degree of fear or repulsion.
Dr. Fisher says, grooming talk is “distinctive because voices often become higher, softer, and more sing-songy…moreover what you say often matters less than how you say it…you give away your intentions with your inflection and intonation.”
When it comes to flirting, the basic ways to flirt via speech include:
- Giving compliments (easy if you like him and completely free to offer them so don’t be stingy);
- Making jokes and laughing at his (also sometimes laughing more than needed or laughing at something that doesn’t really merit a laugh); and
- Playful teasing.
Ladies, this last one is gold. Dudes tease each other incessantly and good-natured ribbing is their mother tongue so if you can playfully tease him, you are connecting with him at a level he really gets. But it only works if he is 100% sure you’re being playful and not teasing so don’t get into touchy subjects and make sure you are smiling.
Now, I’m giving you these instructions but you don’t need them. Once you get confident and into your groove you’ll do these gestures on your own. It will come naturally and fluidly – as long as you let yourself.
The gift of the grab
Last thing is touch. Most of my clients – male and female alike – balk at the idea of touching on the first date or encounter. Dude, just do it.
I really can’t stress enough how a little touch goes a long way.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to touch his groin or face!
Good places to touch include his arm (upper or lower), his shoulder, his hand or his back. These are totally acceptable places to touch even if you haven’t known each other for more than a minute.
Dr Fisher says, “How insignificant this touching looks; how important this touching is. Human skin is like a field of grass, each blade a nerve ending so sensitive that the slightest graze can etch into the human brain a memory of the moment. The receiver notices this message instantly.”
The reaction is telling: He will either flinch and withdraw (not interested) or stay put (interested or at least not not interested).
The last word
Don’t kid yourself that you can flirt. You can. It’s literally like walking because you learn the basics naturally but it’s up to you if you want to take it up a notch (e.g. strut your stuff). Don’t cramp your style. If you feel something for someone and it’s not inappropriate then take it up a notch with one of these methods.
The beauty of all these types of flirting is that they are low-profile and you are not signaling too much too soon and you are also not being obvious that you like the guy or want him to like you. Most of these methods are done without speaking and that which does include speaking isn’t straightforward (e.g. there’s no “I like you, like me back please”. If he’s not interested you can chalk it up to friendliness and if he is interested in you then yay.
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