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Appropriate Ways to Flirt

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

Flirting is a common behavior between individuals who are romantically attracted, but can also occur when there is no romantic interest, according to Northern Illinois University professor David Henningsen in a 2009 study. The appropriateness of your flirting depends on where it occurs and whether the person you flirt with understands and properly interprets your motives.

Location Matters

Choose the places where you flirt carefully. If you flirt at work, you could lose your job or find yourself in trouble with co-workers and supervisors, advises Matt Villano, writing for “The New York Times.” Flirt on your own time and in situations where the person you are flirting with won’t misinterpret your actions. For example, flirting on a date or while out with friends is usually appropriate. Flirting with your mate is also always appropriate and can keep your relationship healthy, advises Dr. Brandi Frisby, a professor of communications quoted in a “Wall Street Journal” article. According to Frisby, committed partners who flirt with each other report that flirting improves their commitment and relationship satisfaction.

Flirting Motivation

People flirt for many reasons, according to Henningsen, such as to deepen a relationship, to initiate sexual contact or to explore whether a prospective partner is interested. Other reasons for flirting include building self-esteem, fun and enjoyment and to gain a favor, such as cooperation on a project. If you are in a committed relationship, ensure that your flirting stays merely friendly, is okay with your partner and doesn’t violate the boundaries you and your partner have established, suggests Therese J. Borchard, associate editor for PsychCentral.

Healthy Flirting Guidelines

If you are flirting, the person you are flirting with should know your current relationship status, especially if you intend to start a romantic relationship. Borchard points out that secretive flirting is inappropriate, especially if the object of your attention is married or otherwise unavailable. If the person you are flirting with doesn’t return your interest, move on and find someone who is interested to avoid harassing anyone or making them uncomfortable.

How to Flirt

Smiling, sitting close together, complimenting or gently teasing the object of your flirting and verbal bantering are usually appropriate ways to flirt if the person you are flirting with is open to your attention. Gentle touching on the hand or arm might be appropriate if your flirting partner doesn’t object to being touched. You can look deep into the eyes of the person you are flirting with, mirror his body language and exude genuine warmth and pleasantness, suggests former “Psychology Today” intern Jen Kim. Expressing honest interest in the person is also generally an appropriate way to interact with someone you want to flirt with.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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