Human beings flirt for many reasons. The first and most obvious is to instigate a sexual attraction. Sometimes we do this because we would like to form some kind of a romantic relationship. Other times, we’re after something different – a discount on a purchase or a warning instead of a speeding ticket. We flirt so others will like us. We flirt to make someone feel important – or we flirt to disarm them. We flirt to discover our own sense of power, and sometimes to toy with it. We mimic and exaggerate attraction – sometimes manufactured, sometimes very sincere – to see if it is returned to us. Mostly, we flirt because it’s fun and we can. It makes us feel good.
We flirt to flatter others, yes, but mostly, we flirt to flatter ourselves.
Sometimes we know that we’re flirting – and sometimes we don’t.
In a 2015 study, Jeffrey Hall and Chong Xing from the University of Kansas determined that there are five primary styles of flirtation. In examining personal flirting tendencies, they found that each of us have a sort of flirting fingerprint, or a “unique dispositional manner of communicating romantic interest.” These fingerprints tended to fall into one of five basic mindsets, each of which reflects a specific view of sexual attraction and relationship dynamics.
Here is a rundown of each common method of flirting:
1. The Playful Flirt
– These are the people we typically consider to be most flirtatious. A playful flirt enjoys the act of flirting with others and sees it as a game. Even when they are in a committed relationship, they may flirt with strangers just for fun, or as means to a non-sexual end. These people often don’t even realize when they are flirting. To this group, flirtation is natural, casual, and very fun.
2. The Polite Flirt
– On the opposite end of the spectrum from the playful flirt, the polite flirt may not openly convey any sort of romantic intention at all. Rather, they will remain formal and polite – even distant – no matter their level of interest. They are unlikely to tease or initiate physical contact. They are masters of playing it cool – because they aren’t playing.
3. The Sincere Flirt
– The sincere flirt is a very skilled conversationalist. They are fantastic listeners, because they truly care to get to know what other people feel, think, and do. The sincere flirt deeply enjoys the process of getting to know a person and learning what makes them tick. In this study, sincere flirts were found to be unlikely to tease, but very likely to employ meaningful eye contact.
4. The Traditional Flirt
– This type of person is unusually self-aware in their flirtations. They see it as a game, and respect a time-tested set of rules and etiquette. A traditional flirt believes that a man should make the first move, especially when it comes to physicality. As such, traditional women are more likely to show their interest by means of verbal teasing, while traditional men may lean in closely or initiate casual physical contact.
5. The Physical Flirt
– The name says it all. These people flirt by touching others and using positive body language. They tend towards an open stance when attracted to someone, and are likely to smile and nod often. They will usually touch the person with whom they are flirting, even if they do so subtly. Physical flirts are less likely than others to give verbal compliments.
“You flirt with everything…You flirt with old people and babies and everybody in between,” wrote Rainbow Rowell. Do you flirt much more than you realize? Or are you more prone to playing it cool?