Does Your Flirting Style Work for You?

Researchers tested the 5 most common approaches. One was the clear winner.

Posted May 27, 2015

Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock
Source: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

How good are you at flirting? Can you catch a person’s eye and use the moment to generate his or her interest? Do you have friends who flirt with ease and clear success, but struggle yourself to say the right thing?

Maybe it’s a matter of flirting competence. In a recent experimental study, researchers put different flirting styles to the test and examined their perceived appropriateness and effectiveness (Weber, Goodboy, & Cayanus, 2010). Their results offer some intriguing ideas about how those looking for love might best approach the social challenge of flirting.

To begin, the researchers identified five common flirting styles:

  1. Direct introductions – a simple approach of self-introduction.
  2. Direct compliments – stating something favorable about someone.
  3. Humor attempts – using wit or other funny means to induce laughter.
  4. Cute-flippant lines – clichés or “cute” pickup lines.
  5. Third-party introduction – being introduced by someone else.

These styles offer different approaches to the challenge of flirting. Which of the above have you attempted? Has it ever worked for you? What about your friends' styles? How effective are they are securing someone's attention?

In order to test the effectiveness of these styles, the researchers created videos depicting each style and had about 300 men and 300 women view the videos and provide evaluations. (Note: They focused only on heterosexual romantic scenarios in which men approached the women.)

What works?

The results showcased a clear winner: Third-party Introductions. Think about it: if you’re introduced to someone through a friend, there is a type of sponsorship at work. The trustworthiness and positive associations you have for your friend are extended (at least initially) to the unknown stranger. This creates an advantage for that person (and maybe for you as well) because you hold favorable expectations that may make for a more positive overall meeting. The reverse might also be true: If you’re not too keen on your friend's matchmaking instincts, you might assume the person you’re being introduced to is similarly annoying, quirky, etc.

Coming in second—and the most successful one-on-one approach—was Direct introductions. Forget the game-playing: Just go up to someone and say "Hello" to strike up a conversation. Such an approach was revealed in the study as highly effective.

What should you avoid?

You might avoid trying to use humor as a starting point, especially if doing so isn’t a natural and authentic representation of who you really are. Such attempts are often viewed as ineffective, though it might depend on whether the perceiver views the humorous effort as actually humorous. In other words, if you’re not really funny, your humor (and your attempt to flirt) will likely fall flat.


Weber, K., Goodboy, A. K., & Cayanus, J. L. (2010). Flirting competence: An experimental study on appropriate and effective opening lines. Communication Research Reports, 27(2), 184-191.

More Posts