How to master the art of flirting (and what not to do)

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time for singles to sharpen their flirting skills.

Once upon a time, the art of flirting involved batting your eyelashes, lingering stares, charming conversation and peels of laughter.

At least, that’s what Jane Austen would tell us.

But in the modern dating world, flirting is now about sliding into someone’s DMs, hours of texting, and interpreting an array of emojis, from winking faces to drooling mouths and dubious-looking vegetables.

Dating coaches say the rise of dating apps is killing old-fashioned flirting skills, and making people more hesitant to woo a love interest in real life.

So, we asked the experts to explain the art of flirting and how to make a lasting impression.

What exactly is flirting?

Consider it the human version of the mating ritual – and sometimes just as brutal.

Flirting is a playful way to express sexual interest in someone (with subtler cues than the animal kingdom) through body language, touch, compliments and gentle teasing.

But make no mistake, some people flirt simply to score a free drink or boost their ego.

Dating coach Damien Diecke says the advent of apps has changed the flirting culture, as singles feel safer behind a screen.

“I’ve noticed over time that men are less likely to approach a woman these days, and also women are less likely to give a signal to approach them,” Damien says.

“For both genders, that fear of rejection in real life is higher now.”

How do you flirt in real life?

The eyes are the windows to the soul, as William Shakespeare famously wrote, and they can also open a door to the heart.

Damien, the founder of School of Attraction, says maintaining eye contact is one of the best and clearest ways to show someone that you fancy them.

“Prolonged eye contact demonstrates interest in a social context,” he says.

“And just have fun – if you can laugh with a person, it breaks up the tension and awkwardness.

“When you see both parties laughing and holding eye contact, that’s flirting.”

Therapist Natalia Rachel says flirting needs to be a two-way street, and both sides need to send positive signals through words, body language and energy levels.

“The flirt should ideally be a back-and-forth exchange, letting each other know you’re enjoying the experience,” Natalia says.

“Keep it going with open-ended questions, lots of smiles and if it feels comfortable, a light touch on the arm or back.”

She says for women, different styles of flirting will attract different types of men.

“If we like alpha men, we need to let them claim the alpha position,” Natalia says.

“If we like quieter, more sensitive types, we may need to lead and invite them out of (their) shell.”

Are there any important boundaries in flirting?

Respect is crucial in the dating game, and nothing is more off-putting than people who don’t take no for an answer, Natalia says.

“Flirting is meant to be a delicate dance, not a steamroller,” she says.

Natalia also cautions against being too touchy-feely early on, as it can ruin the magic of the moment.

How to increase your dating chances online

This is romance – not a job interview.

Damien advises against “data gathering” online with a barrage of fact-based questions, as it can lead to missed opportunities.

Instead, focus on connection and banter, and weaving in quirkier facts about yourself.

“The online dating conversation is often full of all these serious questions before you work out if you even click,” Damien says.

Showing that you’ve read their profile and avoiding lazy introductions – such as just using “Hey” – will also help you stand out from the pack.

Top tips to master the art of flirting

What to do:

  • Make eye contact and send an “invitation”, such as a smile.
  • Be authentic.
  • Be confident.

What not to do:

  • Don’t use cheesy chat-up lines.
  • Don’t be a sleaze by immediately angling for sex.
  • Don’t put yourself down.

More on dating online and in the real world:

Written by Elissa Doherty.