Let's go back in time for a minute. Remember when it was easy to tell when someone was interested in you? When you were around 10 years old, chances are someone passed a folded sheet of notebook paper and it read in 10-year-old scribble: "Do you like me? I like you. Check yes, no or maybe." You smiled and checked the "yes" box. Yep, it was much simpler then.
But as we've gotten older, the dating scene's gotten much trickier. Nobody passes notes with yes, no or maybe boxes anymore. But don't worry. There are other ways to make your intentions known, or to know when someone is checking you out, and flirting is one of them. In fact, it takes between 90 seconds and four minutes for another person to realize that you are flirting with them. And using body language to flirt is the most common way we do it. Of course, body language isn't the only way we flirt. We also pick up on people flirting with us:
- 55 percent through body language
- 38 percent by the tone and speed of voice
- 7 percent through what we say [source: SIRC]
But what these statistics tell us is that the majority of the best flirting is conducted through body language and not cheesy pickup lines or other forms of verbal communication. Of course there are differences in the way men and women do use body language to flirt. As the old adage says, "ladies first," so let's start with the women.
Female Body Language Flirting
The female persuasion has worked on many a man since the beginning of time. Just ask Adam. Little girls learn early how to get the attention of little boys by doing things like twirling their ponytails and dropping their school books. So it comes as no surprise that a grown woman is good at using body signals to let a man know she's definitely interested. Words don't need to be spoken when a woman has identified the object of her affection. She just uses what she has to get what -- or who -- she wants. Here are a few examples of how women express their interest in the person whom she has her eyes set on:
- She gives the guy the "come-hither" look by shooting him with an unmistakable alluring look or glance.
- She lets her fingers do the talking by circling the rim of her glass of wine, twirling a pen, massaging her shoulder or neck, or lightly touching or squeezing a man's hand.
- Bouncing and behaving hair is one of the secret weapons of the seasoned female flirter. A woman will flip her hair, tuck it behind her ears, play with her bangs or whip strands of her hair in circles.
- Lips are tools not wasted by the experienced flirt. Applying Chanel red lipstick or slowly eating crème brûlée off of her fork can be seductive.
- Sharon Stone was on to something in the movie "Basic Instinct."Continuously crossing and uncrossing her legs (with panties on, please) is a definite attention-getter.
- Dangling high-heeled shoes or stilettos while sitting at a bar stool lets a man know she isn't going anywhere for a while.
- Of course, nothing beats a pretty smile. If a woman continuously smiles at you, chances are you are the one she's interested in.
The fairer sex isn't the only one who has perfected non-verbal flirting skills. Men also know how to light the sparks of intent in a person they want to get to know. Let's take a look at some of the ways men use body language when they flirt.
Male Body Language Flirting
Men are hunters and love the thrill of the chase. That's why bars and other hang-outs filled with members of the opposite sex ready to mingle are like playgrounds to them. Part of the hunt includes sending a potential mate signals to let her know she's the one he has his eye on.
For example, a man will stand to try to make himself look taller and more, ahem, erect. He might even put his hands on his hips to appear bigger to become the "alpha male" among his group of friends. He will use his temporary physique to alert the woman he's flirting with that he's the leader of the pack. And of course, women aren't the only ones who care about their physical appearance. A flirting man will suddenly fix his hair, adjust his cufflinks, smooth out his shirt and might even look in the mirror to make sure he doesn't have buffalo wings in between his teeth. More ways men flirt include the following:
- He will slightly raise his eyebrow at her.
- Oops. He might accidentally bump into her on the way to the bathroom or while he's at the bar ordering another drink.
- When he's off the clock, it's time to play. Men like to relax when they're out of the office. So, when he straightens, strokes or pulls on his tie, he is signaling his prospective companion that he's ready for a good time -- with her.
- Another way a man flirts is by moving his chair or body to get closer to really listen to the conversation. A cheeky smile is another clue that he's flirting.
- He will find any old excuse to touch a woman on the arm, back, knee or shoulder or any other body part in a way that's not creepy. If it's done right, it's enough to make the hair on her skin stand up and take notice.
- A man will make sure that his body language is open (women do this too). That means he isn't turned away or crossing his arms like he's uninterested. He's doing the opposite.
While men and women use different signals to attract the opposite sex, sometimes imitation is the highest form of flattery. Let's move to the next section to find out more.
Mirroring Body Language
You're sitting on the couch at your cousin's New Year's Eve party chatting it up with the woman you noticed minutes after you arrived. During the conversation, you cross your legs. A few seconds later, she does the same. She then leans back on the couch to get more comfortable. You follow suit (but not right away). While the conversation is extremely engaging, you take a quick second to lean forward and pick your Champagne glass off of the coffee table to take a sip. She -- wait for it, wait for it -- does the same.
These simple gestures have made both of you much more relaxed and more willing to continue the conversation into the New Year and possibly on to the second date. Why does this copy-cat dance work so well? Studies show that the chances of strangers bonding depend highly on mimicry, "a synchronized and usually unconscious give and take of words and gestures that creates a current of good will between two people" [source: Carey].
We typically sympathize, relate to or in the case of flirting, like a person who subtly mimics our moves. Marketers and salespersons use this technique to get the general public to purchase their products. Those who flirt use it (whether they are aware that they are doing it or not) to increase the chances of the other person growing to like them. A couple can mimic moves on the dance floor, or by simply ordering the same drinks and appetizers at the bar. By the end of the event or evening, this type of flirting puts both of them in sync and shows each other that the feelings are definitely mutual.
Eye Contact Flirting
So what's the No. 1 tool that both men and women use to flirt? The answer is probably obvious to most of us. Magazines, journals, dating blogs, studies -- and we'd be willing to bet, flirting connoisseurs -- would all agree that it's through eye contact. This is one of the most direct ways to tell if a person is really interested. And, it's a good tool to cut through the cat and mouse game of trying to figure out another person's interest all night.
There are a few different forms of eye contact, so follow closely for tips. If a person looks over at you from across the room and looks away when you look back a few times (we're not talking about stalkers here), chances are they are in to you. In fact, a man is more apt to approach a woman only after she has made direct eye contact with him [source: Kelly].
Another type of eye contact is the long gaze that signals romantic or sexual desires. If you feel like someone is staring at you (in a good way), long gazing is flirting at its best. A different way to flirt with your eyes is by staring into someone's eyes for a few seconds then breaking eye contact to look them up and down or at a particular part of their body and then back in their eyes. This type of flirting is more sexual than casual. Just make sure you are ready for what the next step might bring.
A word to the wise: Be careful about the direct eye contact approach. Because it is so direct, both of you need to be on the same page. If someone you like looks away or stops making eye contact with you, chances are they are not interested so you need to move on. In addition, constant staring at a person outside of social settings and flirting situations, borders on the line of a Criminal Minds television episode. But for those on the prowl on a Saturday night, making direct eye contact for long periods of times is not only acceptable, it's welcomed. And, who knows, it could be the start of an unforgettable evening.
- "Brain Facts and Figures". (Sept. 28, 2010). http://faculty.washington.edu
- Carey, Benedict. "You Remind Me of Me". New York Times. Feb. 12, 2008. (Oct. 2, 2010). http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/health/12mimic.html?_r=l&ref=science&oref=slogin
- Effective-Communicating.com "How Men Flirt -- Is He Really Interested?" (Sept. 28, 2010). http://www.effective-communicating.com/how-men-flirt.html
- "Eye Contact Flirting Techniques". (Oct. 1, 2010) http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/11623/1/Eye-Contact-Flirting-Techniques.html
- Freeman, Shanna. "How Flirting Works". (Sept. 25, 2010) http://people.howstuffworks.com/flirting.htm
- Health Guidance. "Eye Contact Flirting Techniques. (Sept. 25, 2010) http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/11623/1/Eye-Contact-Flirting-Techniques.html
- Kelly, Maura. "The Only Two Flirty Body Language Moves You Need to Know". Marie Claire. May 26, 2009. (Sept. 28, 2010). http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/dating-blog/flirtatious-body-language-basics
- Social Issues Research Centre. "SIRC Guide to Flirting". (Sept. 25, 2010) http://www.sirc.org/publik/flirt.html