How To Flirt More Naturally, According To Dating Experts
Contrary to what might be popular belief, learning how to flirt is not about learning a bunch of specific techniques and "moves." Flirting isn't a science, and when we try to make it into that, we lose out on all the things that make flirting fun and successful: playfulness, surprise, and feeling a real connection.
If you're wondering how to get better at flirting, the first thing to do is to really understand what flirting is and why we do it in the first place. From there, it'll be easier to understand how to flirt in a way that truly feels natural for you.
What is flirting?
In the scientific sense, flirting is thought of as a process of signaling sexual interest to attract a potential mate. Many different animal species engage in some form of this seduction process, which might include specific gestures, body language, and direct or indirect overtures.
A more modern, human definition of flirting as it functions in our culture today would be to think of it simply as any method you use to signal to someone that you find them interesting and want to engage with them further. It's often a fun, lighthearted activity, though it can also involve an invitation to connect on a deeper level. Either way, flirting ideally feels good for both people if the feelings are mutual. It's about shared curiosity and excitement.
While people often associate flirting with showing you want to date or have sex, research shows people flirt for all sorts of reasons1: to see if there's sexual or romantic potential, yes, but also sometimes just to make the other person feel good, to boost one's own self-esteem, or even just to be playful and have fun with someone.
How to flirt with ease:
Don't get caught up in trying to adopt a certain persona you associate with "being flirty."
If you have some vision of what flirting is supposed to look like—dropping smooth one-liners or batting your eyelashes or anything like that—dating coach Clara Artschwager recommends throwing all those stereotypes out the window.
"With everything this world has been through in the last few years and is still going through, and really the state of our world, we are starved for honest and genuine connection," she says. "Thinking, 'OK, how do I flirt better?' I think is the very thing that kills our ability to have that kind of interaction."
Instead, she suggests asking yourself a different set of questions: How can I be more embodied? How can I be more of myself? How can I feel more at ease with myself?
That might sound fluffy to you, but the confidence that comes with really being yourself and owning it is something that often draws people in. Artschwager also notes that being real even about the parts of yourself or your life that are a little messy can also make people want to be more open with you, too. That openness is what breeds intimacy.
"When you meet someone, whether it's in a romantic context or a work context or anything, and you feel how at ease they are with themselves, that makes you feel good. That makes you want to open up, whether you realize it or not," she explains. "That's when we're like, this is a nice interaction. This is a nice conversation."
Be willing to make the first move.
These last few years have been a time of intense reflection for many people, and single people are coming out of the pandemic with a lot more clarity about what they're looking for in relationships, explains Shan Boodram, a certified sexologist and Sex & Relationships Expert for the dating app Bumble.
That means there doesn't need to be as much ambiguity in dating: By being clear about what you're looking for upfront, it's much easier to find people who have similar desires to yours—because they're probably looking for you, too.
"People now know what they want and aren't afraid to go after it, so if you think you may be interested in someone, feel empowered to make the first move and don't hesitate to be the first one to initiate the flirting!" Boodram says.
It's better to know right away if you're on the same page than to languish in uncertainty and what-ifs. By just going for it, you can jump right into exploring that connection right away or move on to the other fish in the sea.
Make it more casual.
According to Boodram, Bumble observed a trend that emerged from the pandemic called "slow dating," where people have started being more intentional with their dating and truly taking the time to make sure their partners are a good fit. In the lockdown era, she explains, that meant dating gradually, starting with having a series of casual video dates (yes, it's possible to flirt on Zoom), then meeting up for a low-key socially distanced date like a walk in the park, then moving to something more intimate.
"People can also keep this same approach in mind when it comes to flirting," Boodram explains. "Don't feel pressured to dive headfirst into flirting if that doesn't feel natural to you, especially after the past few years where we've all had limited social contact. Go at your own pace!"
Don't worry about nailing the art of flirting smoothly or jumping to make big overtures right away. If you think someone's cool, ask them to take a walk with you. Get a cup of coffee together. Ask thoughtful questions, and see if the interest is mutual. "Flirting" can be as simple as that.
Pay attention to your body language.
There's a reason why most flirting tips have a lot to do with body language—such as how you're positioning your body, where your eyes are looking, and what types of touch you exchange. These aren't magic psychology tricks. They're all just cues that show someone you're really paying attention to them and engaged with them. They also show specificity of interest: Most people don't constantly touch the forearms of everyone in the room. They only do that with people they actually like.
Below are a few body language cues that often signal interest in someone, according to Boodram:
- Making eye contact
- Orienting your body toward the person you are flirting with (hips and feet facing them)
- Mirroring their movements
- Catching their eye, averting your gaze, and then looking back again
The thing about all these actions is that people tend to do these naturally when they like someone. So the key here is to make sure you're not just trying to mechanically run through a bunch of flirting "moves" or follow some playbook. (People can tell you're doing that, by the way, and it often feels staged and uncomfortable. Plus, since they know they're not actually seeing the real you and what your true vibe is, they have no real reason to want to try to connect with you.)
Instead, just focus on shaking off your nerves and doing what comes naturally around a person you like, which may very well be some combination of the above actions.
Offer a thoughtful compliment.
"Compliments are also a fantastic flirting classic, but you don't need to only compliment a person on their looks," Boodram notes. "If you've discussed their favorite bands, tell them how impressed you are with their taste in music. If you've matched with someone on Bumble and they've included a photo of themselves rock climbing, compliment them on their bravery or sense of adventure."
People love feeling seen and appreciated. The caveat, Boodram notes, is to not get too long-winded about it. "Long-winded compliments in person, or even sending a long and detailed message, can sometimes come across as too intense."
Especially if you want to comment on someone's looks, she recommends keeping it short, sweet, and casual—"Wow, you have an incredible smile."
Open a real conversation.
Good conversation can be flirtatious. When you start up an actual conversation with someone, you're directly showing them that you're interested in their world and what they have to say.
"Many people think that making the first move has to be big, like asking someone for their number or going in for physical contact. On the contrary, it can be as subtle as asking someone for the time to open the lines of communication and see what they do once the ball is in their court," Boodram explains.
She recommends approaching someone with a simple question to kick things off, such as "Have you been here before?" or "How do you know so-and-so?" Then, ask thoughtful follow-ups to keep the conversation going.
"Circle back to things they've previously said to show you are paying attention," she adds.
Pay attention to how they're responding.
Speaking of paying attention, make sure the person you're trying to flirt with is into it before you keep at it! While someone has to make the first move, flirting only works if the interest is then reciprocated.
"I recommend that you assess (and reassess!) how the other person is reacting to you," Boodram says. "If it's in person, look at their body language: Have they stepped away from the conversation, or are they not making direct eye contact with you? If you're flirting with someone over text message or a dating app like Bumble, are they giving you short, one-worded answers? Be aware of when conversations are fizzling out and you're not getting a response."
If the other person isn't reciprocating the interest, don't take that as an invitation to try harder or approach them again in another medium, she adds. "Rather than finding other means of communication, such as approaching them again over a DM, take this as a sign that they may not be the right person for you."
Take no for an answer, and keep it moving. Try to take rejection lightly, too—not everyone is going to be into what you're putting down, and that's OK!
Don't overdo it.
People can sometimes overthink flirting or give it too much conscious thought, Artschwager notes. She likens it to when marketing people try to manufacture things to go viral—it rarely works because you're trying to plan something that can only really happen unexpectedly.
If you're too busy in the moment of an interaction thinking about where you're putting your arm or how smooth you sound, you're missing out on being present in the moment and actually doing the thing you're trying to do: actually connect with another human being.
So again, focus less on trying to be "more flirty." Instead, go into these interactions trying to be as authentic and yourself as you can possibly be, Artschwager recommends.
How to flirt over text.
It's very hard to flirt over text, Artschwager warns. "There is so much that's misconstrued digitally, whether it's on an app or it's via text, and I think that we need to use dating apps as a vehicle to get to the in-person connection as much as possible," she notes. "Your attempt to flirt and what you think is flirting can be read entirely differently by the other party and vice versa."
In the meantime, Boodram says that the best way to convey interest in someone over text is to stay engaged with the conversation and actually show interest in what they say. "Remember small details about their story and bring them up later, like: 'Hey! I walked past a billboard advertising the latest Marvel movie, and I remember you were going to watch it with friends. How did you like it?'"
You can also use playful language and emoji, she adds. Again, the key here is to do what's natural to you—how do you usually show enthusiasm and engagement while texting people?
How to flirt with guys vs. girls.
Boodram and Artschwager agree on this point: How to flirt with a guy and how to flirt with a girl is all the same. Rather than it being about a difference in how different genders flirt, it's more about acknowledging the differences between individuals.
"Flirting is so personal," Artschwager explains. What one person finds flirty won't always be the same as what another person finds flirty. "You have to find your own flavor and definition of that. So then the male-female question kind of becomes superfluous because it's not really about that. It's about what it means for you."
"We all have to accept that people can't read minds," Boodram adds. "Sometimes, flirting doesn't come in the form we are used to experiencing it. Be mindful of the small ways people can show they care."
That said, one area where gender may actually be important to the flirting experience is when it comes to LGBTQ+ dating, Boodram notes. Especially if you're flirting with someone of the same gender, or any situation where the relationship between the two of you wouldn't be the conventional cis-heteronormative one, it may be necessary to be a little more overt about your interest.
"You might need to be a little more directional in your efforts so the person is clear you are being more than friendly. In cities where members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not feel safe, this can be even more important because they might be afraid of misreading the situation," Boodram explains. "Being more directional does not mean aggressive—it means raising the flirty stakes one notch at a time with the goal to get to a place where your feelings aren't ambiguous."
Here's a real-life example she offers: "If you make eye contact with someone a few times, go over to pay them a compliment. If they compliment back, lean in and tell them that their words mean a lot because they're the only person whose opinion you care about that night. Then, of course, smile."
The bottom line.
In the words of Artschwager, flirting is so personal. There's no one way to flirt that's going to work for everybody and on everybody. The real key here is to be at ease and as natural as you can be, and then to focus on how you can show this person that you think they're interesting and you want to get to know them. It's as simple as that.
And have fun with it! Flirting can and should be fun for both of you, so lean into play and try not to take it too seriously.
Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.
You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter