How to Flirt.
June 3, 2002 10:24 AM   Subscribe

How to Flirt. "Flirting is much more than just a bit of fun: it is a universal and essential aspect of human interaction." What social science can tell you about flirting and how to do it.
posted by sheauga (32 comments total)
This article completely takes all the fun out of flirting. I imagine the writer of the article going down a mental checklist when he/she spots someone interesting in a bar:

"Hhhm do they have roughly the same amount of physical attractiveness as I? Will they most likely flirt back with me if I flirt with them? Is this an appropriate social situation in which to flirt? What will I do if they show interest? How will I be able to tell if their response is friendliness or a sexual reaction?"

What a killjoy. Just flirt, already.
posted by iconomy at 10:34 AM on June 3, 2002

for a psychology class, i critiqued a number of journal articles in which the results of studies on flirting were reported. it gave me a lot of insight into the process.

one study in particular asked participants to respond if the behavior of certain people was flirtatious or was not. relevant factors included setting: more people were considered flirtatious in a bar rather than at school, regardless of method. more people were considered flirtatious if they approached the participant to address them rather than those who conspicuously sat next to the participant (i.e. attempted to act disinterested). more people were considered flirtatious if they told the participant "you look nice" rather than asking the question "what time is it?"

i was watching a show on bravo the other day. it was the actor's studio with james lipton, and anthony hopkins was being interviewed. he said something: "be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid." he was quoting another, probably. but boldness is the thing. say what's on your mind; there's certainly no shame in telling a girl she looks nice if you think she does.

this article gave me some weird images, though. colleges are places to flirt, i suppose. so i imagine an awkward 28 year-old man walking to the campus of depaul university and entering the library. noticing a gal with a copy of john keat's collected works open, he made his move and stammered out a hello, i l-l-like keats, would you like to go for a pizza? and she responded: oh my god, you big giant huge freak.
posted by moz at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2002

moz, I love that story. Did that really happen?
posted by Faze at 10:56 AM on June 3, 2002

Flirting is like breathing. That's all there is to it.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:09 AM on June 3, 2002

Flirting is an instinct? Give me a break. It might be necessary when people have nothing more in common than their looks. But mutual attraction and happy marriages can happen without the "benefit" of flirting. Shallow science for shallow people.
posted by gordian knot at 11:20 AM on June 3, 2002

anthony hopkins was quoting goethe, for what it's worth. :)
posted by acornface at 11:24 AM on June 3, 2002

Flirting is like breathing in that if you put a plastic bag over your head and secure it with a rubber band, in a couple of minutes you will not be able to flirt.

Flirting also releases carbon dioxide into the air, which is in turn converted to oxygen by our friends the leafy trees, in the magical ballet of photosynthesis.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:31 AM on June 3, 2002


i suppose in the bizarrosphere in which we all live, sure, something like it could have happened. but i wasn't witness to it. i just recall having gone to my school's library to read a while back, thinking to myself "i totally could meet some girls here" and thinking to myself "wow, i totally graduated a year ago." but the library had a nice study, and i was reading a sexy story, so everything was ok. (the book was Choke by Chuck Pahlaniuk. it's all about choking the chicken and sleeping with girls who also wear glasses and labcoats. and the usual pahlaniukan nihilism and revolution, but not quite like fight club.)

but back on topic: when you flirt, don't be a big giant huge freak. be normal. say things like "hey brah"; "so you wanna go get trashed at (the bar where 21 and over really means 18 and over)?"
posted by moz at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2002

Flirting is very important, I think. Not being good looking does not preclude the need for the flirt. And mutual attraction and happy marriages are kept alive by flirting.

Communication is important for a happy marriage - if you are a good flirter, I would think there is a higher chance of you being a good conversationalist.

for mutual attraction to be founded on more than just looks, communication once again comes up.

Good flirting is a good representation of charisma - since an 'ugly' person with good conversation skills coulg be a very good flirt (although the whole conversation initiation is probably tougher).

As it is, there are good flirts, and horrible flirts. And it may not be complete instinct, but a mixture of nuture and nature, but instinct I think is definately a piece.
posted by rich at 11:47 AM on June 3, 2002 [1 favorite]

Thank you Kafkaesque, that was hilarious!
posted by homunculus at 12:36 PM on June 3, 2002

One thing I learned from this is that, apparently, men will mistake just about any form of communication for a sign of 'sexual availability'.
posted by varmint at 12:56 PM on June 3, 2002

Varmint, you are totally making me hot.
posted by Skot at 12:58 PM on June 3, 2002

Flirting requires confidence...

which is in short supply *everywhere* these days, or so it seems to me. Or, at least, it's in short supply all the places *I* hang out in...

Except at the gun show this weekend.

All of those girls were dripping with self confidence...
posted by baylink at 1:37 PM on June 3, 2002

"One thing I learned from this is that, apparently, men will mistake just about any form of communication for a sign of 'sexual availability'."

To carry it a little further, varmint, men will mistake just about anything for a sign of sexual availability, aka flirting. Breathing, minding your own business, reading a book, eating at a table by yourself, casual conversation, etc., ad nauseum.

Sorry, rich, happy marriages don't require flirting, any more than the initial relationship does. This whole "study" seems to come from the same mindset that says a woman needs to greet her hubby at the door naked or dressed in black nothings if she wants to keep him happy.
posted by gordian knot at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2002

I don't equate flirting to women greeting their hubby at the door naked.

I think flirting has more to do with the chemistry and interaction between two people. Sure, the article tells you 'how to flirt,' but people who naturally flirt together well I think have the better relationships.
posted by rich at 1:58 PM on June 3, 2002

This article completely takes all the fun out of flirting.

This epitomizes the New York upper-class-media bitch, as portrayed in 'Sex in the city'. Unless you own a major media obsessed magazine, you'll never even come close to meeting such a creature.
posted by HTuttle at 3:27 PM on June 3, 2002

Strewth... I found this article totally depressing. It objectifies the whole process to the extent that it sounds like advice for buying a second-hand car.
Flirting's pretty natural anyway, isn't it? It's like what some dude who I can't remember said about walking: You have to concentrate on it at first, but if you keep concentrating, you fall over.
This study goes outside-in, anyway. It picks out all the external markers of unself-consciousness, confidence, and attraction to someone else. If you're convinced you're some kind of limp-dicked no-hoper then no matter how well you walk the walk, inside you'll still feel like crap, and it'll come through.
Maybe I'm just bitter because I can effortlessly flirt with girls I feel indifferent towards, but whenever I'm faced with that *one* oh-you're-so-perfect-my-internal-organs-could-just-liquify perfect girl, I go totally goopy and bashful and can't even look her in the eye. Gah... I've got something in my eye *sniff*
posted by RokkitNite at 4:38 PM on June 3, 2002

Flirting is not "pretty natural," it is a learned behavior. If you don't learn it quickly enough so that you have some success with it fairly rapidly, you will become discouraged and eventually, lacking the opportunities to improve the skill further, cynical and bitter.

Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything...
posted by kindall at 5:36 PM on June 3, 2002

iconomy, dinner...cocktails...boat rides on my razorfish...exotic trips to Khajuraho...

...did that need a smiley:)
posted by bittennails at 5:51 PM on June 3, 2002

You cannot flit in Metafilter, but you can in Metatalk.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:33 PM on June 3, 2002

See? Some people are natural born flirts!

PP, I flit from MetaFilter to MetaTalk all the time - I had no idea there were rules about flitting. Thanks - I'm off to check the guidelines.
posted by iconomy at 8:40 PM on June 3, 2002

i like that gary larson mating ritual comic :) "hey ba-by! hey ba-by!"

oh and smoove b :)
posted by kliuless at 8:43 PM on June 3, 2002

Those guide....lines happen to be the ones I like to lick...

Lots of smileys here :) :) :) :) ... and a wink;) that might be facetious though...
posted by bittennails at 8:45 PM on June 3, 2002

*bats lashes*
*waves shyly*
*looks up winsomely*


Where'd everybody go?

posted by jonmc at 10:14 PM on June 3, 2002

iconomy & rokkitnite: i hear what you're saying about the clinical language, but i think you're missing the point.

this document is not actually a 'how to' guide; it's a behavioral study that's been reverse-engineered into a tongue-in-cheek (that's one's tongue in one's own cheek, flirting puns aside) instruction manual.

the author is, in fact, verbally flirting with us, the readers. and the two of you are misinterpreting, much like the men who mistake breathing, minding your own business, reading a book, eating at a table by yourself, casual conversation, etc., ad nauseum (gordian knot) for sexual availability (doubly interesting, considering that at least one of you is a woman).

the point of the article is not: this is how to flirt; but rather: these are the behavioral patterns and social cues that have been demonstrated to constitute the activity known as 'flirting'.
posted by mlang at 10:53 PM on June 3, 2002

me no flirt good. me get russian bride.
posted by mrhappy at 11:24 PM on June 3, 2002

did i get this right? They think our human brains are like the peacocks tail, a device only to store charisma and casual conversation and flirts in, so that one day they'll attract a mate and reproduce?

so us being bipedal (and tiny, and vulnerable) has nothing to do with the size of our brains then? So it's not like the smart bipedal guys and gals survived, passing on even bigger brains to their offspring? Oh.OK. we got bigger brains from flirting. yeah that makes evolutionary sense.

posted by dabitch at 3:12 AM on June 4, 2002

.....intelligent people don't get laid

*ears perk*

Finally, an upside to stupidity...

I hope....
posted by jonmc at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2002


stupidity doesn't wipe out the mullet. Sorry, brah.

Is flirting innate? Is it a learned behavior? Flirting in some aspects must be innate, as part of the instinctual behavior humans have for packs and groups. But like any 'instinctual' behavior, practice and trial and error makes the behavior better, and more 'learned'.
posted by rich at 9:13 AM on June 4, 2002

mlang, I didn't misinterpret it. I chose to comment on one angle of my interpretation of the article. You misinterpreted my interpretation.
posted by iconomy at 9:50 AM on June 4, 2002

"One particular form of humour, playful teasing, is particularly common in flirtatious encounters...playful teasing allows partners to increase the 'personal' content of the exchange, while keeping the tone light-hearted and non-serious, thus escalating the level of disclosure and intimacy in a non-threatening manner"

I have a somewhat different take on teasing: that it's a form of disarmament. Teasing involves using ostensibly threatening/negative language in a positive way. It says, in effect, I am so attractive, and so undangerous as to your being that, even when I say these "offensive" things, they are positive/enjoyable.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:25 AM on June 5, 2002

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