For years, I said, “I’m a bad flirt!” when what I really meant was, “I’m too shy to flirt!”
Then I got better at it, but I still said, “I’m a bad flirt!” when what I really meant was, “My flirting style is dorky and non-traditional, but still charming!”
Nowadays, though, I’ve learned more about flirting and the various ways it can be done – and I finally recognize that my approach to flirting is both valid and effective. My eyes widened when I first encountered the term “meta-communication” – i.e. communicating about communicating – with regards to flirting, because that is totally what I do. It has worked for me, whether I was engaging in monogamous or polyamorous dating, and I think it can work for you too!
Here are some of my favorite tips for flirting via meta-communication…
Acknowledge your flirting as such. This is effective for the same reason that it works well to use the word “date” when you ask someone on a date: it makes your intentions crystal-clear, sets your flirtee’s anxieties and uncertainties at ease, and – when done well – makes you come across as a smooth, bold, fearless flirt.
“Is this a good time to flirt with you?”
“I’m really enjoying flirting with you; maybe we could do this more later?”
“Sorry, I get really flirty when I’m [tipsy/happy/super into someone].”
“Can I try out a ridiculous pick-up line on you?”
[cartoonishly over-the-top eyelash-batting, smouldering glances, etc.]
Acknowledge how you’re feeling. Flirting is so often portrayed as a performance, where you have to be an actor or a puppeteer – but it can be even more delicious to let your flirtee see what’s behind the curtain. You come across as more human and real when you cop to your emotional processes – and this also helps build rapport and trust, because your flirtee knows if you own up to your feelings, you’re likely to also tell the truth about other things later on.
“I get really nervous around you ’cause you’re so cute!”
“If I wasn’t so shy, I’d make a dirty joke about what you just said, but…”
“I really wanna flirt with you, but I’m not sure I’m getting that vibe from you, so I’ll back off.”
“If I wasn’t so [tired/anxious/busy], I’d be flirting so hard with you right now… Maybe next time?”
“Sorry if I seem unfocused; I just can’t stop thinking about how good-lookin’ you are!”
Propose a hypothetical. This is a low-pressure way to gauge your flirtee’s reaction to things you want to do or say, or just to you in general. You’re giving the other person space to turn you down if they want to – but also giving them space to respond positively if that’s how they’re feeling.
“What would you say if I told you you look super handsome in that suit?”
“What would you do if I said I wanted to kiss you right now?”
“I wouldn’t be mad if you gave me your phone number… In fact, I might even be thrilled!”
“If someone wanted to flirt with you but was really shy, what would be the best way for them to do that?”
Give them an opportunity to take things further. Consent is just as important in flirting as it is in sex, and you want to give your flirtee the same freedom to express or revoke consent that you’d give them if the two of you were bangin’. Much like the first-kiss technique advocated in the movie Hitch (“Go 90% of the way, then let her come to you“), this type of flirting clearly expresses your interest in the other person but leaves them room to decide how far they want to take things.
“There are a lot of saucy things I want to say to you right now, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate…”
“If I have another drink, I’ll probably get reeeal flirty with you… Think I should?”
“Let me know if you’d ever want to go out on a date sometime; I’d love that!”
“I bet you’re an excellent kisser. Maybe I’ll find out someday; who knows?”
“I have to go [talk to another friend/do something else], but come find me later if you want to be shamelessly flirted with some more!”
Here’s what’s important to keep in mind with all of these suggestions: flirting is very dependent on context, environment, and preexisting rapport. A lot of these lines won’t work if you just bust ’em out unprompted. But if you already have a good connection with someone, they seem potentially into you, and you want to express your interest in them without overwhelming them, some good meta-communicative flirting can be just the ticket!
Extra resources for flirting keeners:
• Reid Mihalko and Cathy Vartuli on being a better flirt, how to flirt when you’re shy, “the innuendo game,” and building rapport.
• Reid Mihalko talking about flirting on a swingers’ podcast.
• The School of Life on why, when, and how to flirt.
• Bex on being a flirting fetishist.
• Social anthropologist and “flirtologist” Jean Smith on the science of flirting.
Heads up: this post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own.