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Flirting is a fundamental fixture in humans’ sexual repertoire, a time-honored way of signaling interest and attraction, to say nothing of mutual awareness. It is a kind of silent language spoken by men and women around the world.

The Roots of Flirting

The ways people communicate interest are deeply rooted in human nature. All humans come equipped with the language of flirtation, from ways of glancing to movements such as licking one's lips, to meet nature's most basic command—find a good mate and multiply.

Flirting is not a trivial activity; it requires many skills: intellect, body language, creativity, empathy. At its best, flirting can be high art, whether the flirter is vying for a soul mate, manipulating a potential customer, or just being playful.

The process of flirting allows a person to signal interest in small increments, and enables both parties to gauge the interest level of the other. Flirting is driven by emotions and instinct rather than by logical thought. Yet profound information is transmitted in flirting—the gestures and movements used in flirting may provide reliable clues to a person's biological and psychological health.

    Why do people flirt?

    People most often flirt to convey interest in someone and potentially build a relationship. But research has actually identified six specific reasons why people flirt:

    1. Relational reasons — to turn an acquaintance or friend into a partner.

    2. Exploring motive — to gauge if someone else is interested in you.

    3. Fun — to have a playful, exciting interaction. 

    4. Instrumental reasons — to encourage someone to complete a task, such as a household chore. 

    5. Esteem motive — to reinforce one’s own self-esteem.

    6. Sex — to gain a sexual partner.

    How can you tell if someone is flirting with you?

    Flirting can be subtle and indirect, so sometimes it’s hard to decipher whether or not someone is expressing interest. Clues to spot flirting are body language, such as smiling, leaning forward, and touching, and verbal cues such as compliments or references to being available. You can also ask yourself if the person’s behavior is consistent over time and whether they act differently with you than they do with others.

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    How People Flirt

    The alchemy of creating connection between two people can be subtle, enthralling, warm, humorous, and even thrilling. Flirting combines body language—such as smiling, laughing, and touching—along with an engaging conversation and attentive listening, which ultimately leads to a rhythmic and playful back and forth.

    What are examples of flirty behavior?

    The hallmarks of flirting are surprisingly universal. Women often smile, arch their eyebrows and widen their eyes, tuck their chin down and turn slightly to the side, toss their hair, put their hands near their mouth, and laugh. Men, for their part, often arch their back, stretch their chest, and laugh as well.

    Which nonverbal cues do people use to flirt?

    Flirting can take place without any words at all. Here are a few ways to tell that someone is interested in you—or ways that you can use to convey affection for someone else: lingering eye contact, smiling more than usual, nodding, lightly touching, touching the lips, licking the lips, and glancing at the person’s body.

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