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The Best Ways for Men and Women to Flirt

The ratings for 26 common approaches.

Key points

  • Some ways of flirting are better than others at effectively communicating our interest to potential partners.
  • Flirting behaviors that communicate an aspect of emotional commitment are often most appealing to women.
  • Flirting behaviors that suggest physical and sexual interest are often most persuasive to men.

When we flirt, we often have a simple goal. That goal is to communicate our interest to a potential partner, in a subtle manner, without blurting it out directly. That way, we can try to see how they feel about us without opening ourselves up to direct rejection.

Nevertheless, when we get into the details of how, exactly, to flirt, things get a bit more complicated. Specifically, some flirty behaviors seem to communicate romantic interest better than others. So, which behaviors work well and which fall flat when we flirt? Fortunately, research has the answer.

Flirtation Effectiveness Research

Wade (2015) evaluated the effectiveness of various flirting behaviors through a series of studies. In some of the studies, Wade asked men to detail all of the behaviors they would use to flirt with a woman in order to communicate their interest. A total of 26 flirting behaviors were identified. Then, women were asked to rate the effectiveness of each behavior.

Women rated seven flirting techniques as most effective for men to communicate romantic interest. In order of effectiveness, those were:

  • He holds hands with you
  • He spends time with you
  • He asks you out
  • He kisses you
  • He makes you laugh
  • He acts interested in you
  • He has dinner with you

In the other studies, Wade also explored the effectiveness of women's flirting behaviors. Like the men above, women were also asked to write down the behaviors they use to flirt and communicate romantic interest. In this case, 14 behaviors were identified. Then, men were asked to rate the effectiveness of each one.

Men rated five flirting techniques as most effective for women to communicate romantic interest. In order of effectiveness, those were:

  • She kisses you on the cheek
  • She rubs against you
  • She moves closer to you
  • She touches you, in general
  • She touches your arm

Taken together, Wade also noted a difference in the types of flirting behaviors that were deemed most effective for men or women. On one hand, the best ways to flirt for men seemed to convey an aspect of emotional commitment and investment to the woman. On the other hand, the best ways to flirt for women seemed to convey some physical and sexual interest to the man.

Flirting with a Partner

While everyone has their particular flirting style, the above research suggests some behaviors may be more effective than others. Specifically, men and women tend to receive different flirting messages more clearly. Given that there is a lot of miscommunication and bias around flirting overall, sending the clearest signal to a chosen partner can be very important. So, when you are flirting with a partner, you may want to consider the following approaches for best effect.

Flirting with a man. It seems that men may overlook some subtle flirting efforts. As a result, the initial flirting of eye contact, smiling, and talking may not be enough for them to clearly get the message you are interested. Frankly, this may be compounded by modern trends as well, with men being concerned not to overstep boundaries without getting clear indications of interest. Thus, the best way to flirt with a man appears to be by getting close and then touching him somehow. Fortunately, there is often a simple progression of physical flirting that can let you ease into such touching, reducing the risk of rejection or negative reactions. Thus, you can see how interested he is in return before making a bigger step, and avoiding possible awkward moments.

Flirting with a woman. Women appear to be a bit more emotional in their flirting receptiveness, although the behaviors they most appreciate are not subtle either. To start, they clearly understand and respond well to some of the same touching, holding hands, and kissing behaviors as the men above. Beyond that, however, they also appreciate a partner who asks them out—especially to an actual dinner date. They respond well to a partner who shows interest in them, spends time with them, and makes them laugh, too. Essentially, women want a partner who shows signs of investing in them and being committed. Remember though, we are still flirting here, not proposing marriage on the first date. So, make sure to start off small, even asking them out indirectly, and being moderately hard-to-get. That way, you both enjoy the little rewards of each step and avoid the possibilities of getting rejected after a big gesture.

© 2022 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Facebook image: MDV Edwards/Shutterstock


Wade, T. J. (2015). How to flirt best: The perceived effectiveness of flirtation techniques. Interpersona, 9(1), 32.

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