You may be a fantastic flirt (or know one when you meet one), but have you ever wondered what type of flirt you are? According to a study published in the October-December 2010 issue of the journal Communication Quarterly, people naturally fall into five different flirting categories. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to flirting,” says Jeffrey Hall, Ph.D., the study’s author and assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas. “When you understand the underlying messages that a potential mate is sending, it can give you insight into the person you’re talking to — plus, if you’re attune to the energy you give off yourself, you’ll have the ability to change the outcome of the situation.” Read on for the five most common flirting styles we use to woo each other.
Type #1: The sincere flirt
By and large, this is the most popular flirting method around, says Hall. There’s no chit-chatting here — these knowledge-seekers make a beeline for your heart, asking deep and meaningful questions that yield the most information about you. Time flies with this flirting style, and before you know it, you’ve told the person you’re with all about the ex you filed a restraining order against and that horrible rash you have… usually before the appetizers arrive. Tip: While it’s great to discuss big-picture topics on a date, this person isn’t your therapist and sharing too much, too soon is usually a turn-off. So take it slow and leave your skeletons in the closet in the beginning until you know each other better.
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Type #2: The physical flirt
You know that woman who keeps touching your knee or hand when she makes a point? Or the slick guy who puts his arm around you as you’re moving through a crowd? They’ve mastered the technique of the physical plirt, an effective style for showing interest that uses lots of nonverbal communication and sexual innuendo. “These men and women tend to use their bodies to make connections, and when combined with the ‘sincere’ flirting tactics, it’s a quite effective way to fast-track a romance — and make it last — because they’re combining meaningful conversation with the association of touch,” says Hall. “They see flirting as a means to an end.” Just remember, people tend to perceive this type of flirt as a player, so keep your radar up with this one until you know each other better.
Type #3: The traditional flirt
If you’re a female traditional flirt, you wouldn’t dare make the first move, and if you’re her male counterpart, that would be a deal-breaker, anyway. “These types of flirts are married to stereotypical gender roles, so the men enjoy being the pursuer while the women kick back and wait to be wooed,” says Hall. With these personalities, the men initiate and plan the date (over the phone, not via text message), pick their lady up and pay for dinner. But while it’s OK for the guy to do all the chasing in the beginning, a little reciprocation can give him positive reinforcement to keep on going. So if he covers dinner, ladies, pay for an after-dinner espresso or pick up the phone every now and then just to say hello.
Type #4: The polite flirt
This person moves so slowly that you might not even know he or she is interested in you. Days, weeks... even months can go by in between your initial “hello” and the first date — much less that first kiss. “These are cautious, thoughtful daters who plot their every move,” says Hall. “Not only do they find flirting and the dating process unappealing as a whole, but when they meet someone, they like to get to know that person slowly.” If you’re a man, you won’t appreciate a woman who makes the first phone call, and if you’re a woman, you’ll be uncomfortable with physical affection in the early stages of dating. “These flirts are introverted, quiet-natured people who tend to be shy,” says Hall. Therefore, you won’t find them belting out tunes at a weekly karaoke night. You will, however, meet them at the bookstore, coffee shop and through volunteer groups.
Type #5: The playful flirt
If you find yourself in the presence of a playful flirt, stay on your toes! This type flirts for sport, not love, and there’s no occasion that’s off-limits for doing so. If you’re working the door at a lounge, they’ll flirt for free entry. Waiting for the bathroom? They’ll flirt to cut in line ahead of you. And it doesn’t matter if you’re of the same gender; they’ll flirt simply as a means of communication. There’s one caveat here: “Because these types often flirt for attention or simply to get their way, it can mean they’re not really interested in the person they’re talking to,” says Hall. “Flirting gives them an ego boost, even if they’re already in a relationship.”
Elise Nersesian has written for Redbook, Stuff and other national magazines.