Flirting Series: Flirting Communication Styles

On the surface, flirting may be described as an ‘art’ which becomes an expertise and we naturally try (some more successfully than others) to master. Individuals naturally perfect the way they view flirting; it may be a certain look, a flutter of eye lids, a puff of their chest, a touch of their hand… however these self-made flirting experts may be unsure if their date is picking up on their [less than] subtle cues, or may not know if their date is flirting back.

Being unable to recognise if someone you are dating is flirting with you is a natural occurrence. “I am not sure if he/she liked me?” is something even elite Matchmakers regularly answer and address with their clients. Ask yourself if you are aware if someone whom you thought you had a connection with, is flirting with you? Unless you both happen to have the same flirting style – you are likely to be unsure of the answer!

So what is a flirting style? Although flirting is about nonverbal sexualised and romantic communication, which seems quite straight forward, it is vital to recognise the importance social psychology and individual differences play in this apparently ‘playful’ act. It has been suggested that we each have our own unique mix of flirting communication styles and as such, we accept and see flirting in different ways.

Dr Hall, expert in communication, identified five key communication styles in flirting[1]:

1.     Physical           - Emphasis on body language & the physical expression of interest with

sexual intent

2.     Polite              - Focus on manners and politeness

3.     Playful            - Focus on flirting with little or no long term romantic interest

4.     Sincere           - Focus on creating a sincere and strong emotional connection

5.     Traditional      - Focus on traditional roles of male and female input

Individuals have a mix between these five styles, with higher percentages in certain areas. Depending on their own individual differences they develop, experience and subsequently uphold different types of relationships;

1.  Physical          Develop relationships quickly and experience a strong sexual chemistry.

2.  Polite             Develop deeper relationships which are long standing and mature over a period       of time. They do not enjoy the flirting norms.

3.   Playful           Need flirting to boost self-esteem & generally see it as a playful, meaningless act rather than an important stage of developing a relationship.

4.   Sincere          Develop meaningful relationships with sexual chemistry being secondary to emotional connection.

5.   Traditional     Women who are traditional often feel as if they are not noticed by men. Traditional males will wait longer before developing a relationship with their match and the process of courting will be slow.

Understanding these differences helps us understand that someone who is dominant in a physical style may not connect with an individual who shows dominance in a polite style… these differences can be one reason why some people just don’t ‘click’ or cannot find a connection despite being similar in interests and lifestyle. We previously discussed how ‘just not clicking’ could be due to the ‘mate assessment’ stage of attraction, and as such could be due to the Power of Smell [] or the Power of the First Kiss [].

Although on a basic level we are now aware of differences in how individuals interpret flirting, we are none the wiser on the style mix of our current match. We can however look at generalisations where research based on 5,020 participates found that women score higher on physical, polite, sincere and traditional styles where as men showed higher scores in playful styles. Hall et al (2010) also found that a mix of high scores/dominance in physical, sincere and playful styles actually is a predictor of dating success and relationship success is seen in those with mutually high scores in physical and sincere styles.

It is therefore important to understand that your intention: long term relationship vs short term fling, and your flirting style: dominance in physical, polite, playful, sincere or traditional, are in line with one another. It is at this point that you may be able to look at previous unsuccessful dates and recognise the similarities creating an unsuccessful interaction and subsequently you can make positive change.

[1] Hall. J.A (2013). The Five Flirting Styles: Use the Science of Flirting to Attract the Love You Really Want.