According to Tara Fields, PhD and author of The Love Fix, flirting is much less complicated. "It does not have to mean some kind of cheesy or goofy technique," Fields explains. Unless you're just looking for a hookup which in that case, a few strategically placed hair flips might do just the trick, she adds.
But if you're flirting to get to know someone, your intention should be to let them know that you're into them, rather than trying to get them to like you. "I just want to let this person know that I'm interested," Fields recommends saying to yourself before your next virtual date or even texting conversation. Focusing on that intention will help to take the pressure off the situation, the relationship expert explains. And hopefully make it easier for you to be yourself.
If the concept of flirting still seems a little scary, that's okay. So many things can go through your head when talking to someone from, "Am I laughing too much?" to "Did they see the food in my teeth?" But according to Fields, those are the worries you can afford to ditch when you focus on these eight tips below. They'll help you flirt with ALL the confidence you need.
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1. Ditch the canned responses.
"Stay away from any of the cheesy advice that some so-called self-proclaimed dating experts says you should do," Fields explains. Think: Throwing your head back and giggling whenever they say something funny or the bend and snap (sorry, Elle Woods!). Instead, just try to be as authentically you as possible and talk the way you naturally would with a friend. It's the best way for them to get to know the real you. And if you two don't click, that's okay. That person just wasn't your match, Fields explains.
2. Make eye contact.
This is a simple technique, but one of the most important, Fields explains. Looking someone in the eye is a great way to let them know you're not only interested in them, but the conversation they bring to the table. Not sure how to do it? "Just look at the person—not in some artificial goofy come hither way—but in a way that feels natural and organic," Fields explains. Don't overthink it.
If you're more of a numbers person, according to research conducted by the University of Michigan in 2012, you can follow the 50/70 rule which suggests that during a conversation you should make eye contact for 50 per cent of the time while speaking and 70 per cent while listening. In between those times you can take a sip from your drink or take in the rest of the room for a bit. This balance will display both interest and confidence.
3. Go with the flow.
Whether you're dating the person IRL or getting to know each other over FaceTime and something embarrassing happens, try your best not to get flustered, Fields suggests.
If you spill a bit of wine on your shirt during a date, once you've cleaned up, instead of dwelling on the situation, try and make light of it by saying something like: "That's what I get for trying get dressed up for you." And know that you don't have to worry about this person judging because real talk: "You don't really know who this other person is at this point, so why get anxious about it?" Fields says. And there's a good chance they're also occasionally clumsy.
4. Compliment them.
This can be a tough one to do because giving someone a genuine compliment calls for vulnerability, Fields explains, because it means getting real about how you feel about their look, personality, outfit, etc. But chances are, even if you feel a little nervous about telling them you love when they scrunch up their nose when they're deep in thought, they'll appreciate the kind words and your authenticity, says Fields.
5. Use your surroundings.
One of the benefits of the rise in dating apps is that, in some ways, you can be more open virtually than you might be face-to-face, Fields says. The person you're talking to virtually will likely get a glimpse of your home during video calls and you might see their rescue dog walking around in the background. Use that to your advantage to get flirty and maybe suggest an IRL doggy playdate down the line.
6. Ask questions.
This goes hand in hand with using your surroundings—whether you're at a bar or getting to know each other over video chat. Make sure to take note of certain things about the person and ask questions, Fields emphasises. If you've chatted with them a few times and notice they always wear the same necklace, ask why it's special to them. Or maybe a unique painting on their wall's caught your eye; ask them for the story behind it. This will show them you're interested in taking the relationship deeper than just the surface level.
7. Bring in a bit of humour.
Once you've been talking to someone for a while, you'll have more room to bring some more levity into your interactions. Fields suggests leaning into this as much as possible. It's a foolproof way to gauge the other person's sense of humour and demonstrate how comfortable you've both become with each other.
So, go ahead and make that joke about how their greys are coming in, but they still look great, or poke fun at the fact that you're preparing the same tired bowl of pasta every evening when they call. "If you're looking for a relationship, what you want is somebody who's gonna love you for your authentic self," Fields says.
Smiling exhibits warmth, Fields explains. And it's crazy what a difference turning up the corners of your mouth can make when talking to someone. A 2003 Neuropsychologia study found that seeing a smiling face can activate the region in your brain that processes sensory rewards. Translation: When you see someone smiling or when you smile at someone, they actually feel special, like they're doing something right which can go a long way during an awkward first date (amirite?!).
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.