What Is Your Flirting Style? How Do You Flirt?

Learn how to flirt in a way that matches your personal style.

Posted Dec 11, 2020 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

Knowing how to flirt is essential for successful dating. That is why we have covered the general aspects of flirting so thoroughly already. Specifically, in previous posts, we have discussed how flirting behaviors are motivated by the back-and-forth sharing of rewards and reinforcement. From there, we highlighted the essential behaviors used to flirt with a potential mate—making eye contact with them, copying their gestures, and touching them too. We then explored how such behaviors are put together in various flirtatious sequences, usually initiated by the flirting behaviors of women.

Now, with all that in mind, we can look at the various ways that you can put together your own flirting style and tailor it to your personal needs. Generally, the goal will be to match this style with other aspects of your physical, psychological, and behavioral attractiveness—while also appealing to the type of partner you desire as well. Fortunately, the research has already been conducted to identify different flirting styles and assess their overall effectiveness too!

Research on the 5 Flirting Styles

Researchers Hall, Carter, Cody, and Albright (2010) sought to evaluate different ways that individuals communicate their romantic interest to a potential partner. To do so, they reviewed the literature on the topic and created a questionnaire, The Flirting Styles Inventory, to measure five separate methods of flirting. Specifically, those five flirting styles were:

  • Traditional: Adhering to gender-specific roles, such as the woman signaling receptiveness through eye contact and the man making the first overt move of verbal communication.
  • Physical: Expressing sexuality, desire, and interest through nonverbal behaviors like open body language and touch.
  • Sincere: Forming an emotional bond with a partner by being friendly, making them feel comfortable, and creating good rapport.
  • Playful: Seeing the goal of flirting as fun (rather than trying to start a relationship) and just having a good time laughing, joking, and teasing.
  • Polite: Behaving in ways that are moral, cautious, and reserved—in order to not embarrass oneself, avoid rejection, and be selective.

Hall, Carter, Cody, and Albright (2010) then compared the flirting style scores of research participants to their other personality measures. Results indicated that extroverted individuals and those open to new experiences were likely to prefer physical, playful, or sincere flirting styles—whereas introverted and less open folks tended toward traditional or polite approaches.

Further evaluations indicated that the most agreeable individuals often utilized the sincere style, moderately agreeable and conscientious folks (who were very outgoing) flirted physically, and people who were not agreeable or conscientious tended to be playful in their flirting.

Beyond those findings, different flirting styles also related to relationship outcomes and experiences too. Hall, Carter, Cody, and Albright (2010) noted that dating success was more likely for those who were sincere, physical, or playful in their flirting styles. Furthermore, sincere and physical styles led to the fastest creation of relationships, with the best physical chemistry and emotional connection.  

In contrast, largely given their more cautious and introverted natures, individuals following a more traditional and polite style had a harder time getting dates and forming relationships. Nevertheless, traditional flirters tended to find some benefit from a slower-paced relationship development and polite flirts found their few relationships important and meaningful. Furthermore, polite individuals were inclined toward being sincere as well—which helped some of them be a bit more outgoing too. Overall then, while some styles maximized finding and connecting with a larger number of partners, other styles prioritized slowly building relationships with a select few.

How to Employ Your Own Flirting Style

As the research above indicates, each style approaches flirting in a somewhat unique way, highlighting some flirtatious behaviors and downplaying others. Given that, each style has its own pros and cons too. Therefore, to have the most success with your flirting efforts, it is best to match your style to your own attractive traits, personality, and love-life goals. Beyond that, there are more style-specific tips below...

Sincere Flirts can become more successful by focusing on building a positive personality and developing their uniquely attractive traits and skills. In addition, essential flirting techniques for this style include learning to build a partner's interest through eye contact and making them feel comfortable by copying their behavior too. Knowing when flirting is successful, by reading the body language of potential partners, can help as well. Taken together, all of these traits and skills assist the sincere flirt in meeting their goal of creating an emotional connection.

Physical Flirts can improve their chances of success by focusing on making the best of their physical appearance and practicing attractive body language. From there, flirting physically is about using body language persuasively and knowing how to touch to build attraction too. Learning to be confident and curious, rather than anxious, can assist the physical flirt in creating a smooth and passionate interaction as well. Overall, those traits and skills help the physical flirt to create the sparks of passion and sexual desire with a partner.

Playful Flirts tend to have a "don't care" and "all or nothing" type of approach to dating. Therefore, they first need to be able to cope with interpersonal rejection, which will inevitably result from their more playful and outrageous behaviors. From there, they are better able to deliver some of the overtly sexual pick-up lines used by men, or flippant pick-up lines used by women—both of which tend to turn on playful partners and turn off everyone else.

Beyond that, playful flirtation is also about selectively reward a partner's behavior with attention, while withholding it at other times to create anticipation too. Thus, the approach is ultimately about learning how to play hard to get, balancing hot-and-cold, approach-and-withdraw, as though teasing a cat with a string. This playful and carefree behavior helps to screen for other individuals who are open to uncommitted hookups and flings.

Traditional and Polite Flirts tend to have a similar focus on more practical relationship goals and finding a partner interested in commitment. As a result, both of these approaches can benefit from understanding the pros and cons of following gender roles, learning how and why modern dating norms are changing and identifying what makes someone a great romantic partner.

In practice, traditional and polite flirting is often about following gender-specific ways of getting attention—particularly the behaviors women use to get men to approach them. From there, traditional and polite flirts often break the ice in ways that do not risk rejection and more plainly share what they want in a partner and are willing to give in return.

Overall these flirting approaches are honest and have good intentions. Nevertheless, they can seem a bit stiff or disinterested to potential partners as well—especially outside of a more formal "courtship" type of situation. Therefore, while still maintaining their values and goals, traditional and polite flirts can benefit from adopting some behaviors used by the sincere and physical flirting styles above too. By doing so, they can more successfully connect with traditional and introverted partners, even when they find themselves in more modern and extroverted situations.

© 2020 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Facebook image: LightField Studios/Shutterstock

References

Hall, J. A., Carter, S., Cody, M. J., & Albright, J. M. (2010). Individual differences in the communication of romantic interest: Development of the flirting styles inventory. Communication Quarterly, 58(4), 365-393.