Even if you’re not looking for a relationship, it can be dispiriting to feel that people don’t flirt with you. If you feel unflirted with, this article might help.

Are you sure you’re not flirted with?

Some people think true flirting is obvious, for example, “Wow, you’re gorgeous!”

In fact, flirting is usually more subtle. Here are some possible flirtations:

  • Standing in your line of sight, or when talking with you, closer than three feet away.
  • Looking you in the eye for longer than the half-second norm, especially if then quickly averting eyes.
  • Even a flash of an authentic smile (wrinkles aside eyes), especially if accompanied by quickly averted eyes.
  • Leaning slightly toward you, with both feet facing you. (One foot aside can be a cue s/he’s trying to escape.)
  • Asking you an unnecessary question about you. For example, passing your cube, the person asks “How are you?” Of course, if s/he keeps walking while asking it and the tone is obligatory, it’s probably not flirtation. But a “How are you, Mary?” said with sincerity in a soft, low tone while looking you in the eye, gives reason for hope.
  • Playfulness. A little joke or even mild teasing can be flirtation. Example: While smiling, say, “You’re such a little brat.”
  • Physical touch. Possible flirtations include: brushing imaginary lint from your collar, a soft touch of your shoulder, forearm, and especially your hand, and even more so your face. A hug that lasts even one second longer than the standard hello or goodbye hug can be significant.
  • A compliment. A personal one such as “Nice necklace” and certainly “Wow, it’s easy talking with you!” could well be flirtation, especially if accompanied by one or more of the behaviors listed above.

More often used by women:

  • Twirling a lock of hair.
  • Open body language: shoulders back, chest out.
  • Tilting her head slightly left or right.

More often used by men:

  • Opening the door for a person or helping put on her coat when normally not doing that.
  • Taking up space, for example, wide stance or arms extended onto the neighboring chair.
  • Teasing. Making light fun of you, for example, “You’re the coolest person I ever met…tonight.”

How to flirt successfully

Doing the above will improve your flirting and so will these:

  • Wear moderately alluring clothes. Err on the side of form-fitting rather than muumuu but unless the goal is mainly sex, keep that exposed cleavage down to an inch or less, for example.
  • Mirror the other person. While staying within your natural range, consider mirroring the other person’s energy level, seriousness, body language, length of utterance, and level of intellectuality.
  • Small talk is far from small. Everyone knows that your opener about the weather or event you’re attending merely lets the person know you’d like to start a conversation. Getting deep too fast is off-putting even to most people who crave intimacy.
  • Aim for moderation in volume and tone. Vary your pitch, volume, and pace enough to hold your companion’s interest. Speaking too fast or too loud is a turnoff.
  • A conversation is like a ping-pong game, back and forth with each person talking roughly half the time. Keep your utterances under a minute long. That maximizes both of your engagement.
  • Be an active listener. Really listen and, as appropriate, nod, smile, and frown.
  • Practice reciprocal disclosure. If the person discloses something, reveal something a bit more intimate. That encourages the person to continue increasing the intimacy level. So, for example, if s/he moved the conversation from the upcoming sports game to her getting together with her brother, you could escalate by saying you get along really well with your brother but not with your sister.
  • Err on the side of positivity. Don’t be a Pollyanna, but if even half of your comments are criticisms and complaints, it’s usually a turnoff.
  • Perhaps ask yourself, “What would James Bond do?”

Close the deal?

If  you’re interested in going beyond flirting, there’s no need to be fancy. Just ask him or her out for a few days from then. That’s a sign of respect and lack of desperation. For example, “Hey, would you like to see a movie Saturday night?”

Of course, people don’t behave very predictably. So even if you do all of the above, you won’t bat 1.000 or anything close to it. But don’t let that stop you from flirting. Not only is it fun, at the risk of sounding like your parent, “You can survive rejection. And if you don’t try, you can’t succeed.”

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© Copyright 2014 Marty Nemko, Ph.D., All rights Reserved.
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Named the San Francisco Bay Area's "Best Career Coach," Marty Nemko has been career and personal coach to 4,500 clients and enjoys a 96% client-satisfaction rate. The author of seven books (250,000 copies sold) including How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School plus over 2,000(!) published articles, including on Time.com where he also writes, Marty Nemko is in his 26th year as host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco.) He was the one man in a one-man PBS-TV Pledge Drive Special. Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is married to Barbara Nemko, the Napa County Superintendent of Schools. They have one daughter and one doggie: Einstein, whose name is false advertising: He's dumb as dirt but sweet as they come. The archive of Marty Nemko's writings and radio show plus an active blog and Twitter stream are at www.martynemko.com.