Flirting might not be the first thing on your mind in the midst of obsessive handwashing, avoiding anyone sneezing (even if pepper related) and a general mistrust of everyone. However, the show must go on! Humans are social beings. Isolating from each other indefinitely is not going to work very well. So I thought I would share with you a few simple pointers on flirting in the age of the coronavirus (COVID19).
Touch is one way of showing interest in someone if you are out and about; but we know that touch is not advisable for the time being. No more hand-shaking or deep passionate kissing with that attractive stranger on public transport.
Fortunately, there are other ways to flirt. In my research into flirting behaviour, I found there were 6 signs of flirting. I teach these with the acronym. H.O.T. A.P.E. in my Tedx talk. This is the perfect time to call on the most powerful of all the six signs of flirting: eye contact. No touching required. Put the phones away. Not only are they a cesspool of bacteria – the last thing we need when trying to avoid any virus – but they force our eyes to be cast downward. Our demanding digital divas have stolen our attention for far too long. As a bonus, you can even use eye contact while wearing a face mask. But there is downside to that: it hides your smile. And some health authorities advise against mask wearing for COVID19 reasons. Although health authorities usually don’t opine on smile hiding issues with respect to face masks. I can’t believe it either…
There are three keys to eye contact:
- The amount of time that you hold it for
To show interest, hold eye contact for at least three seconds before looking away. Any less, and they might miss it, or just think you have something in your eye. Yes, they might initially look away; but maybe they are shy, you caught them off guard, or they don’t know what to do. So, try again, just to be sure. This leads us to the next point.
- Try to make eye contact up to three times
If they look away every time, or don’t hold your gaze at all, you know there isn’t reciprocal interest. In this case, please stop. If you don’t the situation can go from sexy to stalker in a very short time. They might think you are giving them the COVID19 evil eye and the chances are they do not have virus But, no worries, just try with someone else.
- The intent behind the eyes
Is it flirty? Is it friendly? Maybe it’s too soon to tell what the intention is. It’s safe to say the look you give someone you find attractive in the queue to buy hand sanitizer will have a different feel than the look you give the old man as you try and fight him for his loo roll. People can feel the intent behind your eye contact.
A nice thing to do if they do return your eye contact is to smile. If they smile back you can either leave it and remember it as a nice human connection during a strange time or, better yet, you can change your proximity. Go and stand close enough to them, while still keeping the recommended 6 feet (2M) away, so that it will seem natural when you ask the question: “Would you like to duo-isolate with me sometime?”.
As for smiles, I would continue doing that with everyone you meet (those other 4 brave souls) as part of your daily routine. It’s a nice reminder that we are all in this together, rather than a ‘me vs. the rest of the world’ type mentality. I’m loving Singapore’s “Together We Overcome stories”.
If you must work from home or ‘self-isolate’ (should this be selflessly isolate?), it is not unreasonable that you may find yourself drawn to online dating or using apps. My advice is to not get caught up in the hugely energy draining situation of texting and swiping. Move it to a digital video date asap. Not only will it give you a chance to make a human connection with someone, at a time when human connections are vital if only virtual, but you can be super-efficient about weeding out people with whom you won’t match – all from the comfort of your sofa. You can even wear your track suit bottoms which makes this an exemplary second option to meeting in person. And if you do insist on using dating apps please remember to use them on your personal device, don’t use them via your employer’s Citrix server. Employers really don’t like dating apps on their networks (another fine reason not to use them).
Don’t let a pandemic stop you from spreading the flirting love. At some point in the future how you deal with COVID19 might make a wonderful “So how did you meet?” story.
 Face masks for the general public are not recommended to protect from infection, as there is no evidence of benefit from their use outside healthcare environments (Source: Public Health England COVID 19 Advice to Employers)
 0.006% of the Chinese Population have been identified as having tested positive for COVID 19 (Source Center for Systemns Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University)
Flirting. At first reading it might seem something frivolous. However, I have learnt over my 20 years of research, coaching, leading flirting tours and giving talks on the subject, that it is so much more. The word flirting is one of those in the English language that carries a multitude of different meanings for different people.
We might think flirting is about how others respond: if they convey like or rejection; but flirting is more often the gateway to learn about ourselves. It arises feelings of our self-worth, attractiveness and sexuality. Am I good enough? It reveals the feeling of rejection. Is it soul-destroying? Is it par for the course? Does it matter?
This is the mystery of flirting; it might appear light and fluffy on the surface, but provokes so much more beneath. Let’s not underrate this seemingly insignificant behaviour.
On Valentines’ day I had the privilege of working in collaboration with the Guardian, leading 18 singletons on a Fearless Flirting Tour. I was reminded of two things, which are the secret to unlocking your flirting freedom:
- Learn how to be comfortable in yourself
- Be happy to show people who you are
This issues are not easy to overcome master. If you need some help learning how to do this, I can help you in a couple ways:
Let me help you learn how to be comfortable in yourself and then show people who you are. You won’t have trouble flirting anymore, trust me.
The other day as I was riding my bicycle, a man was trying to cross the street to avoid being hit by me. I flashed him a smile and said, ‘Don’t worry, I wouldn’t hit you!’’. His response? He giggled. We both went away happy.
I play softball on Wednesday nights. My favourite position is 1stbase. A young woman has joined our team and I am teaching her the ropes of 1st base. As I explained to her, it doesn’t matter if you don’t catch the ball. What is more important is that you make everyone feel welcome when they get on base. Compliment them on their hit or tell them how fast they run. You are their first point of contact on base and it’s important to be a good host.
What both of these illustrations have in common is that they are both examples of what flirting is about; it’s about making others feel good. What I have noticed in my decades of teaching flirting is that it only feels hard when we are worried about what others think of us. When we are trying to get them, to make us, feel good. Flirting is easy when our goal is making others feel good/special/noticed. When we change our focus from us to them, the pressure is lifted, the self-consciousness evaporates, and we are left with what flirting really is: a chance to appreciate others in a playful way. So, where will you start with this new attitude? Who is the first lucky person to be the recipient of your charms?
I love working with you all. I am constantly learning. For example, one of my clients explained that he had taken the information I had given him and had ‘gamified’ it. Turning the process of approaching and talking to women into a game served two purposes.
- It took the pressure off of him as an individual and turned this interaction into something fun.
- By thinking of this as game, in terms of levels, it served as a reminder for what to do – and how to proceed – should things be going well.
As a general rule when playing ‘The Approaching Game’ you carry out a level and then you assess the reaction. It’s only upon assessing the response, that you will know whether or not you should proceed to the next level. By the way, giving space to see the other person’s reaction is also what stops you from being creepy. At any stage, if you start getting a bad reaction: they stop smiling, take a step back from you, their body language becomes closed, it means you make your departure. In that moment, with that person, you have lost the game. No worries, you can always start another game with someone else! Also, these same rules apply for women approaching men, which should be happening just as often. No, there is nothing ‘hard-wired’ about men being the ones who approach. I have actually carried out anthropological research on this. But, that’s for another day. Today, we go through the levels of the approaching game.
Level 1 – Smile and/or make eye contact with someone
Do they: ignore you, look away, or frown at you? Game over with this one – move on
Do they: give you a smile or even a hint of a smile? Return your look, even for a millisecond? Do you find they are all of a sudden in your vicinity, whereas they weren’t before? All good signs. Proceed to level 2
Level 2 – Go over and ask them a question: Are you having fun? Have you been here before? What is that you’re drinking? (The cleverness or originality of the question is *not* the important part here. The point is just to start the interaction).
Do they: Look annoyed? Say something that then turn away? Leave? Game over.
Do they: Smile or answer you? Proceed to the next level
Level 3 – Engage in conversation with them. Ask them more questions; listen to what they say.
Do they: look annoyed, say something back and then turn away, leave? Game over. You should congratulate yourself. You got to level 3!
Do they: Seem like they are enjoying themselves? Ask you questions back? Proceed to level 4
Level 4 – Say something nice about them.This is where the actual book ‘The Game’ revealed its egotistical, out of touch side. You don’t get people to like you by being mean to them. Or, if it does work, it will only work on people with self-esteem issues. If you want people to like you, make them feel good. This could be anything nice that you are thinking about the other person, ‘I am having fun talking with you’. ‘You are funny’. ‘I love your dress, it’s very stylish’ ‘Why can’t everyone be like you?’ We have been taught to keep our cards close to our chest and not let the other person know we like them. This is wrong.
Do they: frown, look away, leave? (Chances are very slim this will happen at level 4) Game over
Do they: Smile, say thank you, blush, return the compliment? Hurrah! It’s level 5 for you, champ.
Level 5 – Touch them lightly on the arm or back. It’s very important to assess their reaction here. This could tell you everything about how they are feeling about you now.
Do they: move away from your touch, look awkward, stop talking – Go back to level 4 and try again. If they still react negatively, game over. Move on to someone else
Do they: reciprocate, smile, say something flirty, show any sign at all that they like you?
Hurrah! You have completed game ‘how to approach’… and won!
What to do next? Well, have you checked out my book: Flirtology: Stop Swiping, Start Talking and Find Love. It’s full of useful and practical tips. (It’s also rated 5 stars on Amazon…yipeeeee).
Let’s say that you are fully on board with the Flirtology way of life: you believe that making connections with people is a good thing, strangers aren’t that scary, and you are ready, willing and (want to be) able when a good flirting opportunity arises.
But, maybe you are finding that people’s responses aren’t what you would like them to be; perhaps when you try asking a question, you get a strained smile or a quick exit. No, it’s not you. It’s most likely you are not asking the right kind of question in your opener.
Starting with a good foundation is essential. What does this mean?
On my last Fearless Flirting Tour, the group was in the supermarket, practicing asking questions to shoppers. I saw a guy looking at the plants.
I said to him: ‘Do you like plants?” <—- Good opening question
He said that he did.
I then asked him if he knew how to keep my succulent alive, because I didn’t.We went on to have a lovely discussion about plants. He showed himself to be a very caring and nurturing person in the way we spoke about plants and in the way he helped me learn about plants. It was a nice interaction.
One of the women on my tour saw him later and tried to recreate our discussion. I am sure she could have, but her line of questioning didn’t allow for the same type of conversation that we had.
She asked him: ‘Where did you get the plant?’
He pointed to the plants.
She then asked him: ‘Do they have any aloe vera plants?’
He said that he didn’t know, and then left.
Do you see how the type of question that I asked, around his preferences and his knowledge, allowed for a conversation to potentially blossom (ahem), where as her questions were mostly of an informational nature, i.e. yes/no, directional?
This is the difference between an interaction question, one which leaves room to build rapport and learn a bit more about the other person (should they wish) and an information question, which usually consists of closed answers, that don’t reveal much about the other person.
Do yourself a favour, make sure that you start with a good foundation and use an interaction question. Anatomy of an interaction question:
-Asks them their opinion or their knowledge about something
-Makes them feel special (you get this one for free. The act of asking someone their opinion on something, already makes them feel special)
-Allows you to learn a bit about the other person
Here is your challenge for the week:
Ask five people interaction questions this week. Here are some examples of general interaction questions.
Do you know anything about xxx?
Can you recommend this?
Have you tried this before?
What do you think about xxx?
What is flirting? This is the question that I asked 250 women and men across four different cultures. I conducted an anthropological study on the heterosexual flirting behaviour of people in the cities of NY, London, Paris, and Stockholm. As a side note, Stockholm might not seem like a natural fit with these other cities. But, at the time, the U.N. ranked Swedish women as having the least amount of inequality amongst all the countries in the world. I wanted to see if this affected flirting behaviour. Hint: It certainly did. In a nutshell, in societies where there is greater gender equality, women tend to display the same behaviour around sex, approaching, and assertiveness that has traditionally only been done by men. I used this research to write my dissertation, as well as my first book, The Flirt Interpreter.
But, what I would like to focus on is your personal attitude to flirting. This will greatly affect your ability to flirt or not, and to enjoy it or not. Perhaps you are similar to the New Yorkers, who see flirting as a fun way to pass the time. This means you will probably be more apt to flirt in your day to day life, and see it as harmless fun. In contrast, if you see flirting as a more serious endeavour, as told to me by a Swedish interviewee, ‘you had better choose carefully because you only get one choice’ you might be more reluctant to begin.
Over the years, I have created my own definition of flirting. I see it as playful fun. My mental model towards the world is, ‘Who wants to play?’. The power here, is that if my attitude is around having fun, I only care about those who want to have fun with me. This means that I don’t take it personally, on the rare occasion, when I run across someone who doesn’t want to engage. I don’t feel rejected: it just means that this person, at this moment, doesn’t want to play. It takes the onus off of me.
Let me ask you again, ‘what is your attitude around flirting?’. If it is currently any of the following:
Good girls don’t flirt
Flirting is a commitment
I don’t like the person enough to flirt
Flirting is hard
Or anything else that is causing you pain or difficulty, then now is the time to change this.
I am offering you three solutions
As always, I also have loads of free articles and blog posts that I have written for you as well. Let’s make sure 2019 is different from previous years. You got this!
Times are a-changin. Can you feel it in the wind? Part of my duty to you is to prepare you for this shift. It’s exciting, it’s already happening and it will benefit us all. Are you ready for it? Will you embrace it or will you resist? Will you take the easy way or the hard way?
New realizations come to me daily, and I wish I were a better writer. I don’t trust my writing skills to be able to share it with you in the way that I want. This is why I love doing talks/workshops; it’s easier for me to communicate in person. It’s also why I have slowly, slowly started making my way towards doing YouTube videos. (The equipment is still in an Amazon box in my room, but should be unpacked any week now…)
Last time I wrote on how the female/male divide does not help us to connect. Fundamentally, we are all people, with the same goals: to be loved, to be happy, to be safe. Yet, it still seems second nature to think of each other as, firstly, different. From what I have learned from female participants on my fearless flirting tours, they find it easy approaching and talking to other women. They say they feel safe. However, when it comes to speaking to men, they put men in a different category altogether; they are not fellow humans, they are M-E-N. And, some men have similar feelings about talking to women; that it is, somehow, harder. Why are there different categories? I don’t see why there should be a difference.
I wondered why It wasn’t hard for me to see men as fellow humans. My theory is that if you grow up with siblings who are a different gender to you or if you spend time platonically with people of a different gender, you quickly learn that there might be a few little differences between women and men. But, more importantly, you learn that they are pretty much just like you. It’s always the few differences that people like to harp on about. One of my favourite things about the fearless flirting tours, especially now that men are coming out in full force, is that women and men get to hear what the other is feeling. They are surprised that the other person is having the same difficulties and issues as they are. They thought it was specific to their gender. They always reassure each other,. ‘Oh, no, you don’t need to worry about that. Women would love it if you said that’. The guys tell the women, ‘Oh, guys feel that way too. I thought it was just us who felt that way’. And thus, it is confirmed; they are both experiencing the same thing.
How do we lessen this perceived canyon of differences? My first suggestion is to start making friends with people of the opposite gender. Yes, that’s right: friends. Don’t only look at each other as sexual opportunities, or romantic potential. There is so much more on offer. I cherish my male friendships. (I must thank my buddy’s wife, Maike, for letting me hang out with her husband. What a cool and secure woman). I can’t wait for this attitude to be the norm. And, I am constantly encouraging my husband to have more female friends in his world as well. More balance can only lead to healthier lives.
My task to you for this week is to start making contact with people from the opposite gender. But don’t look at them as ‘opposite’ (See? It’s even in our lexicon!) just look at them as humans. When you approach it like this, it makes it easier to interact. And, it’s more correct. See for yourself what happens when you do this. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
I have been running my business, Flirtology, for over 15 years. As both a social anthropologist and a small business owner I have watched the trends in the dating world over the years.
In early talks with my publisher last year, I championed hard to make sure my new book spoke to both women and men. My publisher was not convinced, ‘but women are the main book buyers in this market’ she said, very reasonably. I explained that, first of all, it didn’t make sense to help half of the people. What about the other half? People need good partners. I also told her if guys weren’t buying the books, it was because they were completely left of this market when it came to any logical, reasonable information. She graciously conceded when I showed her the demographic breakdown from my newsletters and google analytics.
So, a recent trend that I couldn’t help but notice is the fact that my business has now doubled. Why? Because men are now active participants in wanting to learn the Flirtology ways. My book, in seems, has been instrumental in them contacting me. I couldn’t be more delighted.
Let’s face it; people are confused. In my attempt to redress gender roles and replace them with a new era of interaction and communication, I will write a 4-part blog series around the subject of women and men. Today, I will address the fact that men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus, even if it might seem like it…
Thinking that men and women are from different planets is not only incorrect, but it makes our lives harder. And, let’s face it. Do we need any reasons to make our lives harder than necessary?
When I am coaching private clients, I have noticed that there is often a push/pull attitude towards the idea of being in a relationship; they want one, yet when it comes to discussing the reality they are not quite sure. Much of this hesitation revolves around what they think they have to give up once they are coupled up. They are worried that they are going to have to subsume themselves into the relationship to the extent that their individuality disappears, that they will have to make so many compromises that they lose sight of themselves. Is the price of a partner giving up yourself? I am here to assure you that it needn’t be that way. I am living proof.
When I think of my husband, I often feel a swelling in my heart. He’s so adorable! And while love might be grand, love + respect is even better. That is our foundation. Sometimes it’s challenging because he is a Capricorn and I am a Pisces. You see what I mean? Astrological charts aside, we are very different people, and come at most situations from very different perspectives. Fortunately, we usually want to end up in the same place. In the past, I have shared with you how when we go away together, we travel to Heathrow separately and meet at the flight gate. We want to do the entire journey differently: he wants to leave hours early, I want to leave at what I consider a sensible, but not excessively early time. He wants to eat at the airport. I want to eat at home. He wants to take the tube to the Heathrow Express. I want to take a cab there instead. After getting scrappy with each other on yet another fractious trip to the airport where neither of us was doing it the way we wanted, we decided to meet at the airport for future trips. Now we just get the good parts of the holiday and have eliminated the annoying ones. And there’s a genuine excitement about seeing each other waiting at the gate: that’s where the real holiday starts!
This is a perfect example of what I mean by us having the same end goal, but wanting to take completely different paths to get there and honouring that. The only way for this set-up to work, and not have either partner’s freedom/feelings squashed, is to let the other person do their own thing. But it has to be done in the knowledge, on each side, that just because something isn’t our way of doing things, it doesn’t mean it’s not equally valid. There’s nothing wrong with my husband’s enjoyment of making his way somewhere well in advance, and there’s nothing wrong with my cutting things a bit finer.
If I make this sound easy, it’s not. It takes self-confidence as well as confidence in our partner. Letting your partner approach things in a way that is different to yours, only works when you have love and respect in your relationship.
There are 4 important components to making sure that both parties’ needs are met. These aren’t things you can sort out once and forget about: they need to be attended to continually, again and again throughout the relationship.
- Know what is and what isn’t important to you
In order for you to hold your sense of individuality, you must first know yourself. What are your values? How do you fill yourself? These answers to these types of questions are at the heart of everything. Do you know you? The key to uncovering this will be explored more fully in my new course, ‘Learn to Flirt with Yourself and the Rest is Easy’. In the meantime, I urge you to make a list, right now, of the 5 things that you can do for yourself that you know will nourish you.
Mine, for example
- Yoga 3x a week
- Epsom salt baths with lavender oil 1x week
- Attend a talk/lecture/workshop 2x month
- Cook healthy and creative lunches for myself 4x week
- Steam room 1x week
- Netflix 2x week
Did you notice that my partner didn’t even appear on this list? These are all things that I do for myself, so that I can be a good partner for him. We often expect our partner to fill us and that’s not fair. He is busy filling himself, so that he can be a good partner for me. He can’t fill me as well. But, this is powerful: it means that we can all accept responsibility and have the power to make ourselves happy. We don’t need to rely externally for that.
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