Whether it's with our bodies or our speech — or both — we're constantly communicating messages to people, even if they're unintentional. So if we're attracted to someone, it probably shows.
We've long known that many verbal and nonverbal behaviors are linked to underlying attraction, but a new study from the University of Kansas shows that these different ways of communicating attraction reveal a person's specific flirting "style."
In past research, co-author Jeffrey Hall had already broken down flirting styles into five different categories: physical, traditional, sincere, polite, and playful. The goal of this study was to examine the links between verbal and nonverbal flirting behaviors in the frame of these categories.
The researchers recorded the interactions between 51 pairs of opposite-sex, heterosexual strangers who had self-identified their flirting styles in a questionnaire. Each conversation lasted between 10 and 12 minutes.
Afterward, subjects reported their level of attraction toward the people to which they had spoken. Then, Hall and his team reviewed the interactions.
The team observed 36 verbal flirting cues — like complimenting, asking questions, and divulging information — and nonverbal flirting cues — like leg-crossing, leaning forward, and nodding. They concluded that both types of cues worked hand-in-hand to reveal each subject's flirting style. And the more a person was attracted to his or her partner, the more pronounced the behavior became.
Here is a guide to the five different flirting styles, adapted from the press release:
They express sexual interest more through body language than compliments and would rather talk to someone in a crowded place rather than alone in a room.
They believe men should make the first move and women should be more passive. They are more likely to lean into the interaction and adopt an open body posture. Females act in a more demure way, by showing their wrists and hands and gently teasing their partner.
They communicate attraction through self-disclosure and focused attention with little fidgeting. Females laugh and smile coyly.
They tend to be very hands-off and respectful, leaning back to create space, and staying even in verbal tone. It's difficult for others to tell if they are flirting.
They have little interest in romance — just flirting for flirting's sake — so they're less inhibited with words and touching.
But across all the flirting styles, they found, most people are pretty subtle, so we're often oblivious when people send us signals of attraction.
Hopefully, next time you see your crush, you'll have an easier time figuring out whether the feeling's mutual.
Which type of flirt do you think you are?
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