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In dating and relationships, your lips can be put to persuasive use beyond speaking and smiling. Kissing is the key to love. Learn how to kiss well and you may find yourself with a partner for life (or the evening). Smooch spectacularly and you can keep a relationship strong over time too. However, if you slobber, drool, or forget your mouthwash...you might not get a second chance to make-out!

The research is pretty clear on this point - kissing counts for a lot. It influences the course of a romantic interaction. It makes-or-breaks love at times. So, we'll look at what the research has to say (as always). Then, I will share some tips on when and how to kiss persuasively. Have your chapstick or lip gloss handy :)

Research on Osculation (a.k.a. Kissing)

One of my favorite, detailed studies of kissing behavior was conducted in 2007 by Hughes, Harrison, and Gallup. The group surveyed a total of 1,041 undergraduate students (both male and female) on numerous aspects of kissing behavior. Here are the highlights of what they found:

Kissing is Persuasive:

  • Both men and women use kissing to decide on a potential partner (called mate assessment). Good kissers are more likely to get chosen as partners. Bad kissing, in contrast, is a deal-breaker.
  • Good kissing leads to feelings of bonding and attachment too. Sharing a smooch both creates and maintains a feeling of connectedness in relationships. This is important early in a relationship and over time.
  • Good kissing can also lead to arousal and sex. Passionate make-outs are often necessary (and effective) precursors to further physical intimacy. Done right, kissing is sexy, arousing...and can help you get intimate with a new partner or an established mate.

Elements of a Good Kiss:

  • Attractive kissing partners were found to have good hygiene. Fresh breath and clean teeth were key. Grooming had an effect overall as well. (For more on attractiveness and grooming, see here).
  • Both men and women also found assertiveness attractive in a kisser. Those who committed to the kiss, rather than made-out half-heartedly, were better kissers.
  • Touching, caressing, and general physical contact while kissing was also key to a successful smooch.
  • Finally, kissing with a new partner was best as closed-mouth kissing initially, with minimal saliva exchange (especially for women). Soft, moist lips were preferable - but a drooling, tongue-down was not. Over time, kissing could work up to greater "passion" and "intimacy", with increased open-mouth, tongue, and saliva exchange too (i.e. French kissing).

Gender Differences:

  • Overall, a good kiss appeared more important to women than men. The study indicated that women use kissing to judge a date or mate more than men. They are also more likely to use kissing as a way to bond and look for kisses throughout a relationship. In addition, they are less likely to kiss when they feel a partner only wants sex and nothing more.
  • Men, in contrast, were found to be somewhat less picky with their make-out partners. However, they were also found to be more passionate. Men prefer open-mouthed, tongue-included, wet kissing more than women. They also seemed to prefer that their partner makes pleasurable noises while making out.

When and How to Kiss

Given the research, there are three main times when you should kiss your partner for persuasive effect. Each instance is a bit different. Each time also requires a unique approach. Here they are:

1) Kiss to prove yourself and test a partner

The first kiss is essential and can be anxiety-provoking as a result. But, don't put it off for too long. Remember, assertiveness is attractive in a kiss. Besides, you want to see whether your partner kisses well back! So, pucker up when you see some interest...(for body language tips, click here).

Beyond being assertive and committed to the kiss, "good" first kisses have some standard features. The most important preparation is HYGIENE. Brush your teeth, stay away from smelly food, get some mouth wash, breath spray or mints. The smell and taste of your mouth is key.

Soft lips are essential too. So get some lip balm while you are at it. By the way, shower, wash your face, and smell good overall too (see here).

From there, it is all about the mechanics. Make sure to wet your lips slightly. Nicely lubricated lips are key (midway between dry and drooling).

Lean in and begin with closed-mouth kissing to start. Remember to touch as well. Hold your partner's cheek, brush their hair away from their face, and embrace or cuddle as you kiss.

In addition, let your partner "lead" the kiss a bit. See how they kiss. Remember, you're judging them as well and testing their "style". Also, take note of what they like and adapt your kissing to blend with it too.

Overall, this isn't the time for a heavy "make-out" or tongue-down. It is more of a heart-felt passionate kiss - perhaps with a bit of playful flirting. Only kiss for a few moments (be sure to leave them wanting more). But, continue to touch, cuddle, and look in their eyes for a moment afterwards too.

2) Kiss to connect and bond

Kissing can also make a partner feel noticed, loved, and connected. This is especially true in long-term relationships, where kissing can be forgotten. When you want your partner to feel good and "like" you, remember to give them a smooch.

The mechanics of a good "bonding" kiss are similar to the "testing" kiss above. Hygiene, soft lips, and a loving caress makes for an excellent moment. Bonding kisses can be very short, including a peck or caring kiss on the forehead. However, they can be longer and include a cuddly make-out as well.

Overall, this is about "bonding". The intention is to build a feeling of comfort and attachment here - not sexual arousal. These kisses are ideal during "spontaneous" moments, as part of a larger effort to build connection and rapport (for more on connecting, see here). This type of bonding kissing is also important AFTER sex to make sure a partner feels loved and attended to. So, don't forget the smooch and cuddle as part of the post-sex bliss.

3) Kiss to arouse and seduce

Kissing can also lead to passionate feelings and sexual activity. This is especially true for some of the more "intimate" open-mouth, tongue -included type of kissing. So, if you are "in the mood", persuade your partner's libido with a kiss as well.

Passionate kissing is essentially a progression of the above two types. All of the hygiene and touching rules apply. Then, the intensity gets turned up a bit with greater assertiveness. Slowly, the touching and embracing gets a bit more intense. Additional saliva and open-mouth is included as well. Tongue is added too.

Arousal kissing also lasts longer. So, you will want to have some time (and privacy). Then, escalate the intensity and see whether your partner reciprocates. If they start getting "turned on", becoming more assertive, and French kissing you back, then proceed to kissing other areas (like the neck) and foreplay. If they slow it down, then go back to an earlier type of kissing until they are on the same page. (To read their body language, see here; to understand their sexual motivation, see here).

Overall, the key to arousing and sexy kissing is blending in the other two types of smooching above. You want to convey passion, while also continuing to bond with a partner as well. Think arousing "romance novel"...not porno.


In the search for love, sex, and relationships, kissing is a powerful tool. Use it to assess your partner, prove your worth, bond with them, and turn them on. Just make sure to brush your teeth, moisten your lips, and be assertive. No one likes a stinky, dry, half-hearted kiss after all :)

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Until next time...happy dating and relating!

Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor

Previous Articles from The Attraction Doctor


  • Hughes, S. M., Harrison, M. A., & Gallup, G. G. (2007). Sex differences in romantic kissing among college students: An evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary Psychology, 5, 612-631.

© 2011 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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