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How to Flirt with Someone You Just Met: A Full Guide To Flirting

Cain Parish

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Learning how to flirt can be hard. It’s a specific skill we’re never taught. The balance of humour, chemistry, romance and subtlety can be really difficult to balance without knowing how. Thankfully, this guide is here. This is a full guide to flirting, with someone you just met or have been interested in for a while. Read on to find out how it works.

A man and woman looking suggestively at each other with romantic intent, demonstrating how to flirt

Introduction: The Universal Language of Attraction

Flirting can be one of the most enjoyable parts of a new romance. Your heart tends to beat faster, butterflies show up in your stomach and you start to feel nervous.

If you’re prepared to flirt, by understanding the core components and skills necessary, that anxiety can be pleasurable and fun. If you don’t know what you’re doing and just taking shots in the dark, hoping someone will like you, it can be stressful and negative.

So, in order to avoid those negative situations, this is a full guide on how to flirt, especially with someone you just met. It covers the most important parts of learning to be a flirt, like how to acknowledge when someone both is and isn’t receptive to your advances, how to tease and what to say in difficult situations.

We’ve also got some stuff in here for online daters and texters, and a section for what to do if you’re shy and flirting seems way out of your comfort zone. Let’s get into it.


Defining Flirting: More Than Just a Wink and a Smile

Flirting is a complex, multifaceted behaviour encompassing verbal, non-verbal, and physiological cues. While it might be easy to think of flirting as just a playful wink or a cheeky smile, it’s so much more than that. Flirting can be:

  • Subtle: A lingering look, a light touch on the arm, or an innocent tease.
  • Bold: A forward compliment, a daring joke, or even a risqué innuendo.
  • Digital: A flirty emoji, a playful GIF, or a teasing text.
  • Teasing: Silly or snide comments, things that might sound like bullying but carry flirtatious subtext.

Basically, flirting is any behaviour with more-than-platonic intent behind it. It doesn’t have to be with an end goal of romance or sexual activity, as many people flirt for fun or to boost someone’s confidence. But, there does have to be an element of romantic/sexual communication involved. Flirting can look like almost anything.

I’m sure you’ve seen popular or attractive individuals say things that seem either off-putting or ridiculous on the surface, and somehow still get away with it and receive positive receptions. This is because flirting can literally take the form of almost anything. It’s incredibly contextual and personality-reliant, which is why many people find it so hard to learn.

Thankfully, working on becoming more attractive and developing your flirtatious abilities will come naturally over time as you become more comfortable with projecting your romantic and sexual personality out into the world.


The Psychological Foundations: Why We Flirt

At its heart, flirting is a form of communication. It’s a way to signal interest, attraction, or availability without outright saying it. From a psychological perspective, flirting serves several purposes:

  1. To Gauge Interest & Build Attraction: Flirting can be a litmus test to see if the feeling is mutual. Most people prefer to flirt for a while, just to test the waters, before verbalising their attraction in a more literal and straightforward way. It can be complicated and murky, as it’s sometimes hard to tell if someone is flirting with you. But it’s still drastically important to flirt first, to build attraction before anything goes any further.
  2. To Boost Self-Esteem: Being flirted with can be a confidence booster, reminding us that we’re desirable. Consider how nice it feels to have interest expressed towards you in a healthy, respectful and comfortable way. That’s how flirting can affect both sides if everyone’s doing their job right.
  3. To Bond: Shared playful interactions can strengthen bonds between individuals. Like I said earlier, flirting can be simply expressed to help another person feel good about themselves. Many people flirt all the time with friends or co-workers in a less-than-serious way, just as a little pick-me-up.

Understanding the underlying motivations can help in deciphering the intentions behind the flirt and in honing one’s flirting skills. If you can decipher why someone might be flirting with you or others, it saves the two of you from having issues communicating your feelings further down the line.


Indicators of Interest: Telling If Someone Is Receptive

Especially when you’re starting out practicing being a flirt, you run the risk of coming across as creepy. This can be really intimidating, particularly when you don’t know what you’re doing or what sounds creepy. A shortcut to avoiding creepiness is to try and understand how receptive someone might be to your flirting.

If this doesn’t make sense, think about this example. A woman on the street is much more likely to find flirting creepy. They don’t know you or anything about your personality. You don’t understand what she appreciates or finds attractive. The social situation of meeting someone for the first time with no context doesn’t set up attraction or provide context for flirting. Everything about that situation is hard to navigate, and unlikely to end with much flirty banter.

In contrast, think about a dim-lit bar, where everyone’s close together and music is playing in the background. A woman keeps checking you out from across the room, and smiles when you hold eye contact. In a flirting-appropriate environment, you received a number of context clues to indicate she might want to talk to you. There’s a significantly lower chance of being received as creepy, unless you say something particularly out of line.

Flirting is as much about reading cues as it is about sending them. Recognizing when someone is interested—or not—can save you from potential embarrassment and help you navigate the waters of attraction more confidently.

To do this, we look for things called Indicators Of Interest (IOI’s). It sounds odd, but all it is is looking for commonly found signals that people are noticing you or interested in you. They can happen anywhere, but mostly occur in situations of proximity and repeat contact, like a nightclub or a workplace.

If you’re not confident in your ability to flirt or tell if people are interested, as a beginner rule of thumb, try not to flirt with or approach anyone before you receive three or more IOI signals, without any negative signals.

IOI’s don’t guarantee someone’s interest. As with any body language assessment, it’s not an exact science. Simply seeing an IOI doesn’t definitively mean that the person is attracted to you, but it does make it more likely that they could be, with time and the right steps.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on indicators of interest:

Positive Indicators of Interest (IOIs)

When someone is attracted to or interested in you, they might:

  1. Maintain prolonged eye contact: A lingering gaze often indicates interest. We all know what is considered socially appropriate for eye contact. Anything longer than the average, especially combined with a nervous blush or a smile is considered an indicator.
  2. Initiate physical contact: Whether it’s a touch on the arm or a playful nudge, physical contact is a strong IOI. People are very aware of their physical space. If our skin is touching something, we know. People don’t just contact others by complete accident.
  3. Laugh at your jokes: Even if they’re not that funny!
  4. Lean in closer: They want to bridge the physical gap between you. Again, there’s a social norm for how close two people can get. Anything more than that is usually intentional, and signals feelings.
  5. Ask personal questions: An effort to get to know you better indicates interest. Especially very personal details like asking your name unprompted, trying to work out your schedule, or the area you come from.
  6. Fidget or play with their hair: These can be nervous ticks when someone is around a person they’re attracted to. People have to express their nervous energy somehow, usually through moving, fidgeting or bouncing on their feet.
  7. Compliment you: Especially on your appearance or something you’ve said. There is a difference between a flirtatious compliment and an average one. Flirty compliments are delivered with a different tone of voice to regular conversation, a lilt that carries implications. If someone appreciates you and their voice trails off to leave things to the imagination, it’s flirting.
  8. Mimic your body language: Also known as mirroring, this is a subconscious sign of rapport. They might match your posture when you change it two or three times, or face you in wa

Negative Indicators of Interest (IOIs)

On the flip side, here are signs that someone might not be into you:

  1. Avoiding eye contact: This can be a sign of disinterest or discomfort. People, especially women, are very aware of their eye contact. We don’t lock eyes with people we don’t want to speak to, to avoid giving out an invitation to someone we’re not interested in.
  2. Closed body language: Arms crossed, body turned away, or creating physical barriers (like holding a drink in front of them). This can also be a sign of nervousness, so judge this one against how anxious they seem as a person.
  3. Short or curt responses: If they’re not engaging in the conversation, they might not be interested. This is especially prominent over text. Single word or short, terse responses with little or nothing to engage with is usually a sign that the person wants the conversation to end.
  4. Constantly checking their phone: A clear sign they’re not fully present in the conversation.
  5. Mentioning other romantic interests: They might be trying to subtly signal they’re not available. This only applies with a degree of certainty when the person mentions their feelings, how they felt about a partner, something they particularly cared about in a romantic situation, or another context.
  6. Not initiating or reciprocating touch: A lack of physical contact can indicate a lack of romantic interest. Someone that pulls away when you contact them probably doesn’t want to be in contact with you.
  7. Looking around the room: They might be seeking an escape route or someone else they’re more interested in talking to. Most signs of distraction in this way is usually negative.

Understanding these cues is essential in the art of flirting. However, always remember that everyone is different. What might be an IOI for one person might not be for another. The key is to be attentive, respectful, and to always prioritize clear communication.

Despite flirting existing to bridge the gap between meeting and talking about feelings or attraction, if in doubt, there’s no harm in directly asking someone how they feel. You’ll get your answer. It’s either a resounding yes, or it’s a no. Maybe’s are no’s.


The Basics of Flirting: A Comprehensive Guide

Flirting is an intricate dance of social cues, body language, and verbal play. At its core, it’s a form of communication, signaling interest and attraction. But how does one actually flirt? Let’s break it down step by step.

1. Start with Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact can be a powerful way to show someone you’re interested. It’s one of the most primal forms of human communication. When you lock eyes with someone, even briefly, it creates an instant connection. However, there’s a fine line between engaging eye contact and staring, which can come off as creepy. Here’s how to get it right:

  • Hold gaze for 3-4 seconds: This is long enough to show interest but short enough to not seem intrusive.
  • Smile: A gentle smile can enhance the warmth of your gaze.
  • Look away occasionally: This breaks the intensity and adds a hint of mystery.
  • Be smooth with your glances: When you do break eye contact, don’t look away instantly like you’re anxious you’ve been caught. Drag your head and eyes away slowly, as if they’re being pulled through molasses. This makes it seem like your eye contact was intentional and shows confidence. A slight smile or smirk as you look away is a cherry on top.

2. Engage in Light Touch

Physical touch, when done correctly, can escalate the level of intimacy in a conversation. It’s a bold move, signaling that you’re comfortable with the other person. But remember, always ensure the touch is wanted and appropriate for the situation.

  • Start subtle: A light touch on the arm or shoulder can be enough to convey interest. Again, we know what our bodies have come in contact with.
  • Observe their reaction: If they seem comfortable or reciprocate, that’s a good sign. If they pull away, respect their boundaries and give them space.
  • Avoid overly intimate areas: Stick to safe zones like the arms, back, and hands. Anything that seems overly sexual is too much, too quick. It’s not flirting to smack someone on the ass, it’s just harassment.

3. Use Playful Teasing

Teasing is my preferred method of flirting for a number of reasons. It’s also the hardest. It requires someone to be quick on their feet, have a sharp sense of humour, and determine what is appropriate and inappropriate to joke about.

Teasing can be a fun way to flirt, as it introduces an element of playfulness into the conversation. It’s all about striking a balance between light-hearted banter and genuine compliments.

One of the most fundamental ways to tease someone is to intentionally mistake their intentions for something. If they’ve spilt a drink and aren’t embarrassed or uncomfortable for it, jokingly accuse them of wanting to ruin the table. Say things like “What did the table ever do to you?” and “If you hated your drink that much, I would’ve had it”.

When the two of you have flirted more directly and there’s attraction on the table, you can start to do the same thing with their intention towards you. If they make an accidental innuendo or double entendre, call them out on it. Telling someone that didn’t mean to be crude or make a sexual joke that they need to “buy you dinner first” is a classic for a reason.

Other forms of teasing that work include playful disagreements, where you play devil’s advocate to an opinion or preference of theirs in an absurd or humorous way. Saying you’re “boycotting Taylor Swift because your religion opposes brunettes” with the correct delivery is absurdist humour, and pokes fun at girls that like Taylor Swift.

These forms of teasing work because they show a number of attractive, positive qualities. The only people that can pull off good teasing are socially adept, funny and confident. You might not feel like you’re any of those things regularly, but if you pull off a good tease, your partner will absolutely feel that you are.

Some other notes:

  • Keep it light: Avoid sensitive topics or personal insecurities.
  • Be funny!!! If you’re not funny to both of you, you’re not teasing, you’re just bullying. If a joke doesn’t land, move on. Your delivery has to be as absurd as the comments you’re making, to be clear that you don’t actually mean the things you’re saying.
  • Be socially aware: Teasing only works when you’re in control of the situation. If the other person reacts negatively to an off colour joke or an overly personal comment, it’s bound to be more negative than positive. Be sharp, use calibration, and if you’re not sure about a joke, don’t say it.
  • Mix in compliments: After a batch of playful teasing, follow up with a genuine compliment to ensure the other person knows you’re joking and genuinely interested.

4. Show Genuine Interest

One of the most effective ways to flirt is to simply show interest in what the other person has to say. This can be achieved by:

  • Active listening: This means fully concentrating, understanding, and responding to what the other person is saying.
  • Ask open-ended questions: This encourages the other person to share more about themselves, deepening the connection.
  • Share about yourself: Flirting is a two-way street. Don’t just ask questions; share stories and experiences from your own life.

Being direct with genuine interest is good because it’s simple and straightforward. If the other person is into you, this will work 99% of the time. The main downside is that if the person is on the fence about you, being direct with your intentions does nothing to build attraction. It’s never going to turn a maybe into a yes, but it will help a yes become a more enthusiastic yes.

5. Mind Your Body Language

Non-verbal cues often speak louder than words. When flirting, your body language should align with your words and intentions.

  • Face them fully: This shows that you’re fully engaged in the conversation.
  • Mirror their actions: This subconscious act can create a sense of unity and understanding.
  • Maintain an open posture: Crossing your arms can seem defensive. Instead, keep your arms at your sides or use them to gesture as you speak.

In the same way that your partner’s body language is indicative of their interest in you, you want to demonstrate your interest in them by opening yourself up and being confident and receptive.

6. Know When to Take a Step Back

It’s essential to recognize when the other person isn’t interested or when it’s time to give them some space. Flirting should always be consensual and never feel forced.

Remember, offering someone an apple can be good, bad, or weird depending on the context. Insisting they eat the apple is always weird. Not taking no for an answer is always weird. If you want someone to eat your apple, offer it comfortably and let them choose whether they want it or not.

  • Look for signs of discomfort: If they’re avoiding eye contact, giving short answers, or looking around the room, it might be time to back off.
  • Give them an out: Make sure they feel they can leave the conversation without any pressure.

By mastering these basic techniques, you’re well on your way to becoming a flirting pro. Remember, the key is to be genuine, respectful, and attentive to the other person’s cues.


Textual Charms: Mastering the Art of Flirting Over Text

In the digital age, much of our communication has shifted online. And with it, so has flirting.

Online dating, whether it be through apps like Tinder or Bumble, or through social media like Instagram or Snapchat, has some clear disadvantages compared to flirting in person.

Obviously, the big one is the distinct lack of context clues like body language, tone and facial expressions. You simply cannot replace these in an online forum, so you need to compensate appropriately with how you choose to flirt. Here are some notes:

  1. Use Emojis Sparingly: Emojis can add flavour to a conversation, but overuse can come off as insincere. As a male, I pretty much never use emojis, which is a personal choice, but I do stand by it as advice. You can communicate tone and emotion through conversation, rather than relying on an emoji.
  2. Be Genuine: Authenticity shines even through the screen. Be yourself and try not to be too ironic or sarcastic. Both forms of humour have a place in the conversation, but not over text.
  3. Mind Your Timing: Don’t rush responses, but also don’t leave them hanging for too long. If you’re not sure, try and match their pace of response. Responding too quickly or too late can be off-putting.
  4. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Engage them in a genuine conversation, not just small talk. You want to try and dig deeper on every piece of information they give you, considering you have less to work off of than your average in-person conversation.

In text conversations, your attitude towards what you say has to change. In in-person conversations, you can change the mood and subtext of a conversation instantly with body language and tone. Text doesn’t have that option. For the two of you to flirt, you need to match energies and speak the same language. If one person makes an innuendo, the other person needs to pick up on it or risk the mood being ruined.

You can try and shift the mood by leaving breadcrumbs in conversations. For example, talking about the weather and then suggesting that it’s perfect cuddling weather gives your partner an opportunity to talk about cuddling, or at best invite you to cuddle with them. If they choose not to pick up on your breadcrumb, you know that the flirting hasn’t been reciprocated the way you might’ve liked.

All the same techniques apply, however. You have a lot of opportunities for teasing and direct humour, because of how easy it is to make puns and jokes around spelling of words over text. Poke fun at some spelling mistakes and build rapport by taking their messages literally. Type the way you would talk to them in person, minus the tone and the body language.

If you’re struggling for things to say, use observations. Talk about thoughts that have come into your head. Share sentiments or interesting observations. Texting is harder than conversation, because there’s not as much to bounce off of. To lead any amount of flirting, you have to drive the conversation, and you do that through observing things in your life and sharing them.


For the Introverts: Flirting Techniques for the Shy

Being shy doesn’t mean you can’t flirt. In fact, sometimes subtlety can be even more alluring. As an example, I always point to an old co-worker. He was shy and subdued, but he made an effort to spend time around us. As a cohort, we found him intriguing. His quiet resolve and intense concentration were very interesting to us, and not knowing anything about him was very intriguing. He struck up a romance with one of our other co-workers as a result of simply being himself; shy but mysterious.

  1. Master the Art of Listening: Being a good listener can be more attractive than being a good talker. Silence communicates a lot. People don’t know that you’re freaking out internally, and will interpret your silence as a reflection of whatever they’ve said to you. In the right situation, this can be a massive benefit.
  2. Use Your Eyes: A meaningful glance can speak volumes. As a shy person, you have to be in control of your body. If talking to people is too difficult, you have to make sure your body does the talking for you. Use glances, body language, and non-verbal communication to get your points across.
  3. Find Shared Interests: Bonding over a shared hobby can be a great icebreaker. For those without an innate self-confidence, it can be much easier to try and use things like shared interests or common observations as an icebreaker or jumping off point. You have to walk before you can run, and being able to talk about a mutual subject is the starting point for being able to flirt.
  4. Practice: Like any skill, flirting gets easier with practice. Your social battery is a muscle, and your ability to push yourself into social situations is a skill you need to practice. Flirting can be very daunting because of the vulnerability and potential for rejection, but the practice is worth it. The juice is worth the squeeze.
  5. Confidence: Shyness doesn’t always go away with more and more confidence, but confidence can certainly help. Finding ways to build up your attractiveness, and finding things to be proud of or demonstrate confidence in can go a long way to giving you something to fall back on. Hitting the gym or getting a solid career can make you feel competent and attractive, which is a direct opposition to your shyness.

Flirting as a shy person is much the same as regular flirting. The only difference is how you approach it. Some flirts will be extremely loud and proud, confident to the point of ridiculousness. If you aren’t confident, that isn’t going to be you right now. You need to work out ways to demonstrate your interest that are comfortable to you.

Confidence is attractive, it’s true. You might lose out on some opportunities because you can’t chase them down vigorously. But if you can just push yourself to make a little more eye contact and talk about a few more feelings, you might find yourself growing and improving.


Conclusion: Harnessing Your Inner Flirt

Flirting is a powerful tool in the game of love and attraction. By understanding its nuances and mastering its techniques, you can boost your confidence, deepen your connections, and truly harness the power of this age-old art. Whether you’re a bold extrovert or a shy introvert, remember that everyone has their own unique flirting style.

Your style and skills develop over time. Practice makes perfect. Nobody gets through an entire love life without falling on their face a few times. But with time and skills, your excuses become less relevant and you learn to flirt the way you’ve always fantasised about. This guide is a jumping off point. Internalise the information and make it your own. Try things out. Build hypothesises and test them. See what happens, what techniques you like and dislike. That’s how you develop social skills. That’s how you flirt.

F.A.Q.s

What is flirting?

Flirting is the subtle form of communication that demonstrates romantic interest and creates chemistry between two people. It’s equally verbal and non-verbal, combining all the elements of communication to show your intentions in an attractive, smooth and casual way. Good flirts have chemistry everywhere they go, and seemingly have an answer to everything. It involves humour, showing direct interest, body language, innuendo and a few other elements.


How do I develop a sense of humour?

The fastest way to develop humour is to simply start making observations. In the real world, humour doesn’t come from pre-prepared lines and corny dad jokes. Humour is a form of comedic observation combined with a strong, personal delivery. Maybe you’re sarcastic and dry, maybe you’re energetic and goofy. Find your style and simply start pointing out things you see as strange or amusing. Your phrasing and delivery will improve with time, and you’ll seem like one of those people that can simply throw something out off the cuff.


Why does flirting work?

We like people that just ‘get it’. Someone with confidence balanced with social awareness is a dangerous combo. Flirting demonstrates that you have the confidence to state your intention, the social intelligence to do it smoothly and without embarrassment, and the charisma to do it in a fun, attractive way. A good flirt signals everything that a potential partner might be looking for.

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About

Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of cainparish.com. A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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