Flirting is a way for people to signal their attraction and interest in another person. It is a behaviour that is rooted in our human nature, usually with the aim of making a connection with somebody, and potentially having a romantic relationship with them. However, research indicates that there are various reasons as to why people flirt. This can include: assessing someone’s interest in us, gaining a sexual partner, boosting our self-esteem, or simply to have a playful and exciting interaction with another person.
Benefits of Flirting
Much research has focused on flirting as being a means to an end, with the goal being to seduce a potential interest in order to have a sexual or romantic relationship with someone. Not much is usually said about the other benefits associated with flirting. One of these is the increase in one’s self-esteem and self-confidence. When you flirt with someone and they return your advances, it is only natural to feel good about yourself, because it creates a feeling of being wanted by another.
Research also points at flirting having other benefits, including improving our communication skills and helping us feel sexier. Creating a stimulating conversation and making another person laugh are important skills that are essential for flirting, and are also part of human communication. When the interest is mutual, that’s a sure bonus! This helps to create positive energy and a spark between the people involved, guaranteed to lift your mood and make you feel better about yourself.
Why do people find it hard to flirt?
The most common issue that people face when it comes to flirting is not knowing how to flirt, or not being able to tell if somebody is flirting with them. One of the top tips when it comes to flirting is to have open body language – smile, keep your shoulders back and do not cross your arms. This will make you seem more approachable to the other person, and will also help them to lower their walls. Open the conversation with a question, such as if they’ve ever been to this place before. Aim to ask questions that will have the person open up about their likes and interests, and then listen to them attentively. Still wondering whether the other person is enjoying the encounter? There may be some cues to help you assess this, such as whether they give you short answers or engage in the conversation with you, whether they are looking away, etc. If you notice that they’re not very interested, you can simply tell them that it was nice chatting to them, and then get back to what you were doing before that. No hard feelings!
Why do people avoid flirting?
A lot of people avoid flirting because they fear being rejected by the other person. This is because we often think that we are not attractive enough, or not worthy enough of another person’s attention. Instead of flirting with the aim of achieving a goal (e.g. getting that person’s number or asking them out on a date), focus on making the other person feel good, and having a pleasant conversation with another person. People with social anxiety may have a harder time flirting with others, or even being open to receiving flirty gestures from others.
Slow down, focus on what you are saying and doing, and use your body language to communicate to someone that you are interested in them. And if you’re not sure whether someone is flirting with you, assess their body language, look out for compliments and check whether they act differently around you than they do with others.
Pamela Borg is a counsellor who enjoys working therapeutically with adults experiencing various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing, gender, sexuality, relationship issues.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Field, B. (2021). Why Flirting Is Good for Your Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/flirting-is-good-for-your-mental-health-5190392
Limbong, A. & Tagle, A. (2021). The Key to Flirting? It’s Not About You. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2021/07/11/1014019821/flirting-how-to-dating-romance-advice?t=1643456334876
Psychology Today (n.d.). Flirting. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/flirting