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The 5 Most Common Flirting Styles: Which Type Are You?

Aug 19, 2013 at 3:47 PM Chime in now

Couple flirting at diner



Before telling you what I discovered, it is important to keep in mind that everyone employs all five styles to some extent. Most people score very high on one or two styles of flirting, very low on another and in the middle for the final two. While everyone is usually dominant in one or two styles, it is very unlikely that anyone scores at the top of one style and at the bottom of all of the rest. This means it is also unlikely that a person scores toward the bottom of every style. In reading about these five styles, keep in mind that everybody is a mix of each flirting style, scoring high or low on each. So if you are thinking, “I don’t have a flirting style,” just take the online Flirting Styles Inventory (the FSI for short) to find out where you stand, compared to others who are just like you. (See page 00 on how to take the FSI online.)

1) The Physical Style

The first style was the easiest to uncover because it is the one most of us think of when we think of flirting—if one style typifies the universal definition of flirting, the Physical style is it. People will say that if you want to know if a woman is flirting, look at her body language. Look at her hands, hips, eyes and smile. For most people (and for most academic researchers), what people do physically with their body, face and voice is the best way to know if they are flirting. Translating these behaviors into a style was relatively straightforward: the Physical flirt feels comfortable and confident using her body language to communicate interest. Physical flirts are not shy about letting a potential partner know how they feel and they do so through their physicality, nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness. They know what they’ve got going for them and aren’t afraid to use it.

The Survey Says:
Nearly 75 percent of women admit to trying to “casually bump into a guy” to get his attention.
A Physical flirt experiences the following things quite often: other people interpret his everyday manner as more sexually charged, he has little difficulty letting others know he is interested and he thinks other people are flirting with him everywhere he goes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, individuals low in the Physical style would be uncomfortable expressing their romantic interest in a physical or sexual way, and would be slow to show their interest in another person with their body language.

A Physical Style, Not Sex:
To clear up a couple of points of confusion, the Physical flirting style does not directly tap into a person’s sex life, sexuality or attitudes about sex. In Chapter 2, “The Physical Style,” you’ll get the lowdown on what the Physical flirting style says about a person’s sex life. For now, it is important to keep in mind that having a Physical style isn’t just about sex. We all know someone who is very touchy-feely. We know that this person enjoys and is comfortable with physical touch, but this doesn’t mean that she is interested in having sex with everyone she hugs. The other thing is that the Physical style of flirting doesn’t make you Don Juan. This is an important distinction between the flirting styles approach and other perspectives on flirting: your flirting style doesn’t make you a “good” flirt. As we will see in future chapters, Physical flirts have more success doing certain things, but are less successful at others.

Research Says:
Your physical attractiveness can change dramatically during a first date. Your personality affects how sexy other people perceive you to be. What you say can either enhance or undermine how physically attractive your date perceives you to be.

2) The Polite Style

The Polite flirt is a very careful flirt. He minds his Ps and Qs and good manners are a must. The Polite flirting style is a rule-governed and cautious approach to the communication of romantic interest. This style embraces politeness, refuses to engage in inappropriate or obviously sexual behavior, diligently follows courtship rules and adopts a cautious approach to relationship initiation. The Polite flirt is especially concerned about avoiding the image of looking needy, trying too hard, embarrassing himself, losing control or appearing too aggressive or insensitive. Although these are worries everyone has when flirting, the Polite flirt believes that following the rules is much more important than being direct.

What is particularly interesting about the Polite flirt is that she doesn’t like it when someone else aggressively flirts with her. The Polite flirt feels that forward people are rude and (gasp!) impolite. As a consequence, she is slow-paced and quite indirect in her communication of attraction. Think of someone who is very intrigued by someone she just met, but rather than being assertive, playful or overtly pushy, she is careful, kind and cautious. This new potential partner may have no idea that the Polite flirt is flirting at all, but for the Polite flirt, this is the way it is done. Although the Polite flirt is rather inhibited in her way of communicating romance, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to develop physical chemistry or end up in bed eventually. What this means for the Polite flirt (and for those who are being hit on ever so politely by a Polite flirt) is that she is keeping her physical feelings in check for the sake of romance. To the Polite flirt, being out-and-out direct when engaging in romance is simply uncouth.

The Survey Says:
Nearly 60 percent of daters hate it when loud music gets in the way of good conversation.
Polite flirts have more conservative attitudes about dating and courtship. The Polite flirt feels uncomfortable meeting new people at parties or clubs, and is likely to prefer more low-key or genteel settings, like coffee shops or church. For this style, a nonsexual approach is preferred, and forward or direct advances by prospective partners are threatening or unwelcome. By contrast, those who score low on the Polite style behave in an incautious manner, worry less about social conventions, and, if need be, will use forward or aggressive tactics during courtship.

3) The Playful Style

The Playful flirt sees flirting as a game. For the Playful flirt, it is fun to meet people, to chat them up, and to try to get other people to fall for them. The Playful style is bubbly, funny, flirty and fun. Playful flirts simply do not believe that you should only flirt with someone because you want to have some sort of relationship—either a hookup or a marriage. Playful flirts are just not worried how other people may interpret their behavior as long as they’re having a good time. A flirtatious interaction is done for its own sake—no (romantic) ties required.

The Survey Says:
Playful flirts are the only flirting style to flirt even when they are not physically attracted to someone, and the only style to say, “I will flirt at every opportunity.”

Boost That Self-Esteem:
In the process of discovering the five flirting styles, I noticed an interesting trend in academic research. We began to document what flirting does for the communicator. On the top of that list: flirting makes you feel good. By attracting attention, being engaging and playing little games that come along with flirting, it makes you feel sexy, exciting, inviting and desirable. It is simply a self-esteem boost. Notice that none of these things are even remotely about finding someone good enough for tonight, much less for a lifetime. The Playful flirt embraces all these added bonuses that come along with flirting and really doesn’t care if it leads anywhere relationshipwise.

The bottom line: flirting can be done for reasons other than starting a relationship. You might flirt to get a cop to let you out of a speeding ticket or flirt with a waitress at a restaurant or, if you work in retail, you might flirt with a shopper to get him to bring out the high-limit credit card. The Playful flirt knows this and has absolutely no problem with it.

Not for Very Long:
What this means, though, is that actually getting into a long-term relationship is tricky for the Playful flirt. Not only does he have to put aside the endless temptations to flirt with other people, he has to follow through and try to keep one and only one person interested. This is a tough challenge for the Playful flirt. And, once in a relationship, just try to tell him not to flirt with other people. I have a friend who flirts with waitresses while out on a date with his wife! He is still married and even has a little girl, so that doesn’t mean he isn’t loyal. The two of them just had to accept that it is hard for him to turn off the charm when he sees a chance for a little shot of self-esteem.

4) The Sincere Flirt

The Sincere flirt flirts by showing sincere and personal interest. This flirting style is marked by a desire to create an emotional bond with a new crush. The Sincere flirt knows that one of the primary ways to develop intimacy on a first date is to share things about yourself and get the other person talking, too. The Sincere flirt takes this old saying to heart: If you want to be an interesting person, get someone to talk about himself. The Sincere flirting style is defined as a desire to communicate romantic or sexual interest by paying sincere attention to a potential partner’s underlying personality. The Sincere flirt conveys attraction by looking for an emotional connection, as opposed to sexual interest. She may also be sexually interested in another person, but for her, sexual chemistry evolves through communication and self-disclosure. Sexual chemistry may develop, but it takes a back seat to an emotional connection.

People Like It:
This style of flirting is highly preferred and effective. Seeking an emotional connection with a partner is rated as the most agreeable, desirable and most honest of all strategies. No doubt this is likely why it is also the most common flirting style.

Wait a second. You may be wondering, If people know that showing interest, being sincere and asking questions are sure-fire ways to build intimacy and closeness, why doesn’t everyone do it? Even if people know that something works, that doesn’t mean they can do it naturally, confidently or effectively. Like the Physical style, people might know that a little physicality will up their chances of being noticed by the opposite sex, but it may not come easily to them. A Sincere style of flirting may be boring or slow-paced for someone who doesn’t like all the talking it requires. Also, because it is generally nonthreatening and nonsexual, and some people like a little danger and fun in dating, the Sincere style could be a bad fit. Although the Sincere style is effective and very common, it just isn’t everyone’s thing.

5) The Traditional Style

The Traditional style of flirting revolves around the idea that, in dating, men should make the first move and women should not pursue men. It may seem strange that, despite changes in our society, this style of flirting would still be around, but Traditional flirts still follow this pattern. In fact, they insist on it. For Traditional flirts, a strong belief in separate roles for men and women not only guides their own behavior, but it influences how they see other people. A very Traditional woman might say things like, “I expect a man to do all the work when we are dating” and “I expect a man to put me on a pedestal” and “I deserve to be treated like a lady.” A very Traditional man might say, “Women who are too forward are probably promiscuous” or “Men who do not take the lead on a date are not real men.” Clearly, the Traditional style is tied up in tightly defined rules and roles: men are men and women are women.

The Survey Says:
Nearly 25 percent of men said that they have had to work hard to get a woman interested. Only 9 percent of women said that they had to work hard to get a man interested.

Read from a Script

This style is important in figuring out who does what to whom on a date. As we all know, there is a well-defined series of events—or a script—that occurs during a date: Men ask women out. Men pick women up. Men open doors for women. Men pick up the tab at dinner, and so on. There is also a well-defined script when hooking up: Men come on to women. Women consent to being kissed. Men get a little more aggressive. Women gently push back. Men pursue further, and so on. Men are the aggressors and women are the gatekeepers. The bottom line is that Traditional flirts not only believe in this script, they practice what they preach. They strictly follow this series of gender-prescribed actions because they strongly believe that this is how it is supposed to happen.

Research Says:
Many men think that women who initiate a conversation are more seductive and more open to having sex.

Role Reversal:
As you might imagine, men are much more likely than women to wish that women would make the first move. Many men would be happy to give up their role as aggressor. This means that a truly Traditional flirting style in a man is pretty rare. However, by not being at least somewhat Traditional, men are probably missing out on a lot of potential dates. Without approaching women and being assertive in courtship, a guy is most likely just going to sit in the corner of the bar with only his drink for company. Most women rarely approach men who don’t take at least some sort of proactive role. On the other hand, for women, not being at least a little Traditional has real consequences. A woman who is somewhat aggressive can potentially damage her reputation and come off as promiscuous. So a non-Traditional woman may risk her reputation if she were to assertively approach a man.

JEFFREY A. HALL, PH.D., is a nationally recognized expert on flirting and relationships. An associate professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, Dr. Hall has been interviewed about flirting and the FSI more than 50 times by TV, radio and print media worldwide, including features in USA TODAY, Time, U.S. News & World Report, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and BBC radio, among many others. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his family. Check out his book, THE FIVE FLIRTING STYLES

Read More:
How to Tell When a Guy is Flirting with You

10 No-Fail Pick-Up Lines for Women to Meet Men

18 Body Language Clues That Say He's Interested

Flirting: 5 Things You Should Never Do

Body Language Signs To Say 'I'm Into You'






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