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[1]. 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[2]. Although health authorities usually don’t opine on smile hiding issues with respect to face masks[3]. I can’t believe it either… 

There are three keys to eye contact:

  1. 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[4] 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?[5]), 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. 

[1] Some students in the US saw my Ted Ex talk and asked me if they could do their own version and of course I said yes. You can check out their superb lesson here

[2] 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)

[3] Although some tourism authorities have views on this. Check out Indonesia Tourism’s “Stay Stong, Don’t let anything hide the smile” visuals

[4] 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)

[5] The Coronovirus Podcast: What is Herd Immunity? BBC Radio 5 Live