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The new flirting rules

Think you’ve passed the age to flirt? Think again…

If you’ve become single again in your 30s, 40s or beyond, the thought of re-entering the dating scene can be overwhelming.

After years in a relationship, many of us lose confidence in our ability to attract potential new partners. And as for flirting – the very suggestion can make us cringe! Surely flirting is something that comes naturally to some people… but not you?


But according to social and cultural anthropologist Jean Smith, flirting is a skill that can be learnt. In fact, Jean runs ‘flirtology’ seminars and ‘flirting tours’ around London, where people learn to send subtle signals to the opposite sex that they’re open to offers – and learn to read other people’s signals. ‘As with anything, the more you practise flirting, the more proficient you become, until it becomes second nature,’ says Jean. ‘People with good flirting skills know how to make others feel as if they’re the only person on earth – or at least in the room. People want to be around those who make them feel good, and that’s what skilled flirters do.’

More than words
Good flirting has nothing to do with smart pick-up lines or how good-looking you are, and everything to do with what vibes you send out. According to Jean, that’s mostly about body language, non-verbal communication and a ‘sexual undertone’. ‘Women tend to flirt more subtly than men,’ says Jean, ‘but both genders use the same tools: lingering eye contact, smiles, open body language, standing close together and synchronicity (taking actions at the same time). Research shows that women generally take the initiative in two thirds of encounters. A man may think he’s instigated it, because he physically approaches the woman or says the first words – but more often than not, his actions arise from a woman encouraging him with signals of approachability.’

‘We all subconsciously send out gestures that reveal our innermost feelings,’ agrees Tracey Cox, author of Pocket Superflirt (Dorling Kindersley, £5.99). ‘Adjusting your body language can drastically up your chances of someone liking or respecting you,  often without you saying a word!’ Flirting is also about being able to read other people’s non-verbal cues. ‘If you’ve made lingering eye contact several times and he’s reciprocating your smiles, it’s a clear sign he’s interested,’ says Jean. ‘Once you’re talking, clues that he’s attracted to you include angling his body and feet towards you, and touching your arm or hand.’ ‘Another telltale sign is when he puts his thumbs in his pockets with his fingers pointing down,’ adds Elizabeth Clark, author of Flirting For Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, £12.99). ‘It’s like a neon welcome sign to his flies! And if his body language mirrors yours – for example, leaning in when you do – then he’s interested!’

What’s stopping you?
What if you’re too shy to flirt with someone you’ve just met? According to experts, you don’t have to feel confident – you just have to look it. ‘Men love self-assured women, so play confident, even if you don’t feel it,’ says Romy Miller, author of Man Magnet (The Book Factory, £8.06). Jean teaches three flirting methods depending on whether you’re shy or assertive. ‘Fear of rejection can also stop us from flirting,’ says Jean. ‘Some people subconsciously ignore flirting cues because they can’t believe someone is interested in them. They also think if they don’t try, they can’t fail. We must realise that if someone rejects us, we’re no less attractive – perhaps we’ve caught them at a bad time, they’re gay, married, have a headache, or we’re just not their type. There are many other men whose type you are. It’s a numbers game – the more shots you take, the higher your percentage of scoring!’

Flirting or cheating?
Is it okay to flirt when you’re in a relationship?

‘If you’re doing it because you simply need an ego boost, then you’re being irresponsible and hurtful to your partner and dishonest to the person you’re flirting with,’ says Jean. ‘But if your relationship is good and you simply enjoy the fun and good vibes of flirting, there’s no harm in it – as long as everyone is aware of the boundaries.’ And don’t forget to flirt with your partner! If you’re out of the habit, you might feel silly to start with – but it’s a great way to inject fun and sexiness back into your relationship.

Flirting mistakes
Overdoing it. Staring or touching him too much makes you seem creepy. Laughing loudly makes you look like you’re trying too hard. Less is more. Flirting with too many people. Batting your eyelashes at every man in the room, makes you seem indiscriminate. Be selective. Not giving him your attention. If you’re constantly distracted by your phone, BlackBerry or other people, he’ll think you’re not interested. Being overly suggestive or sexual. You’ll give the impression you’re just looking for a wild time. Not knowing when to retreat. If he’s looking away, checking his phone and not mirroring your body language, he’s not interested. Politely say goodbye and move on.

Release your inner flirt

So, you’ve spotted someone you find attractive. How can you signal that you’re interested in getting to know him better? Here are our top ten tips for successful flirting

  1. Make eye contact and hold it for a few seconds, then look away. Repeat a couple of times and you’ll get your message across. Quickly raising your eyebrows or glancing sideways at him are also strong signals.
  2. Smile. We’re all attracted to happy, positive people – so grab his attention with a flash of your pearly whites.
  3. Turn your body to face him and lean in to focus on him. Keep your body ‘open’ and inviting – don’t fold your arms across your chest or cross your legs away from him.
  4. Playing with your hair or toying with jewellery is a giveaway that you’re attracted to him. Drawing attention to your mouth (pouting or running a finger over your lips) puts the idea of kissing into his subconscious.
  5. Laugh at his jokes. Crack a few jokes yourself if you feel confident. Keep it light and humorous.
  6. Be tactile. Touching him lightly on the arm or shoulder shows you’re interested in getting closer, without being overtly sexual.
  7. Use his name while chatting to him. It signals that you want to connect with him.
  8. Ask questions. Weave the answers into the conversation later – it will also show that you’ve paid attention.
  9. Give out small pieces of personal information. This invites him to reciprocate and moves the conversation to a more intimate level. But be wise about what your share!
  10. Above all, have fun! Remember flirting doesn’t have to lead anywhere and if he isn’t interested, it’s no big deal.

Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you flirt, the more naturally it will come – and before you know it, you’ll be effortlessly capturing men’s attention. There’ll be no stopping you!

For more on Jean Smith’s flirting seminars, tours and personal coaching courses, visit www.  

Pictures: getty images

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