Study reveals the best tactics for flirting

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While many people are naturals at flirting, others struggle mightily when it comes to chatting up someone they fancy.

Now a new study has found that the best tactics differ depending on your gender, with women wanting men to be funny and generous.

On the flip side, males prefer the opposite sex to appear sexually available and to laugh at their jokes, according to researchers in Norway.

‘What’s most effective depends on your gender and whether the purpose of the flirtation is a long-term or short-term relationship,’ said Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

He belongs to a research group which includes scientists from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and State University of New York at Oswego.

A new study has found that the best flirting tactics differ depending on your gender, with women wanting men to be funny and generous. On the flip side, males prefer the opposite sex to appear sexually available and to laugh at their jokes, according to researchers in Norway

A new study has found that the best flirting tactics differ depending on your gender, with women wanting men to be funny and generous. On the flip side, males prefer the opposite sex to appear sexually available and to laugh at their jokes, according to researchers in Norway

WHAT ARE THE DOS AND DON’TS OF FLIRTING?

Which flirting techniques work?

Women want men to be funny and generous when it comes to flirting, according to researchers in Norway.

However, on the flip side, males prefer the opposite sex to appear sexually available and to laugh at their jokes.

And which don’t?

Last month, sientists from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus revealed the 11 most off-putting flirting tactics, which are ‘dealbreakers’ for many people.

They are:

  1. Slimy approach
  2. Bad hygiene
  3. Lack of exclusive interest
  4. Different views
  5. Vulgar vocabulary
  6. Lack of intelligence
  7. Narcissism
  8. Lack of humour and self-esteem
  9. Excessive intimacy
  10. Poor looks
  11. Stinginess

‘Flirting involves different signals that people send to each other. It’s done to attract potential partners. Men and women both flirt to get the attention of a desired partner, and perhaps to achieve a sexual or romantic result from it,’ said Professor Kennair.

He has studied flirting in Norway and the US and what people believe are effective tactics — for whom and in what context. 

‘Flirting can be done verbally as well as non-verbally,’ said co-author Joel Wade, a presidential professor of psychology at Bucknell University.

So what works?

Women who just want a short-lived fling from flirting need to signalise this clearly to their potential partner, the researchers said. 

‘People consider signals that you’re sexually available to be the most effective,’ said Kennair.

However, a completely different tactic works in another mating context.

The study shows that ‘signs of generosity and a willingness to commit works best for men who are looking for a long-term relationship,’ said co-author Mons Bendixen.

Men who want to keep a partner for a longer period of time, perhaps for life, should not come across as stingy or ungenerous, or as someone who prefers to change partners frequently.

But the most powerful weapon in the flirtation arsenal is humour, which almost always works to some degree for everyone, the researchers said.

‘People think that humour, or being able to make another person laugh, is most effective for men who are looking for a long-term relationship,’ said Kennair.

‘It’s least effective for women who are looking for a one-night stand. But laughing or giggling at the other person’s jokes is an effective flirtation tactic for both sexes.’

Co-author Rebecca Burch, of the State University of New York at Oswego, said: ‘It is not only effective to be funny, but for women it is very important that you show your potential partner that you think they are funny.’

But although humour is something you should put in your toolkit, the researchers said that people shouldn’t necessarily start with it.

'What's most effective depends on your gender and whether the purpose of the flirtation is a long-term or short-term relationship,' said Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

‘What’s most effective depends on your gender and whether the purpose of the flirtation is a long-term or short-term relationship,’ said Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

‘Smiling and eye contact are important. Then you can build your flirting skills from that base, using more advanced tactics,’ Kennair said.

The researchers also found that flirting was largely the same in the US and Norway, suggesting that such techniques are largely universal.

They said it was only culturally dependent to a lesser extent, such as in people’s body language, the initial contact and in the degree of generosity.

However, this also shows that people fine tune their flirting techniques depending on what is emphasised in their culture, which is a smart, flexible strategy, Burch said.

The researchers surveyed around 1,000 students in Norway and the US. 

Each participant rated how effective 40 different types of flirting were for a long-term or a short-term relationship, and whether the flirter was male or female. 

Those who took part were randomly assigned to the four versions of the questionnaire.

The researchers took into account the participants’ extroversion, age, religiosity, how willing the person was to have a relationship and ‘mate value’, that is, how attractive you are in the dating market.

‘Individual differences in age, religiosity, extroversion, personal attractiveness and preferences for short-term sexual relationships had little or no effect on how effective respondents considered the various flirting tactics to be,’ said Bendixen.

It suggests that our personality may be less relevant in how we make judgements of the flirting behaviour in others.

‘However, we do believe that personal characteristics affect the type of flirting people employ themselves,’ Bendixen added.

The study has been published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology. 

WHAT TACTICS DO PEOPLE USE TO STOP THEMSELVES CHEATING?

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick asked 362 heterosexual adults how they had staved off temptations to cheat while in a relationship.

1. ‘Relationship enhancement’ 

Seventy-five per cent of the study’s respondents, who were aged between 19 and 63, selected ‘relationship enhancement’ as their primary tactic.

This ploy included things like taking their partner on a date, making an extra effort with their appearance around them, or having more sex with them.

2. ‘Proactive avoidance’ 

The second most-popular was ‘proactive avoidance’, which involved maintaining distance from the temptation.

As well as physically avoiding the temptation, people also avoided getting close in conversation with that person.

3. ‘Derogation of the temptation’ 

The third and final tactic used by people was ‘derogation of the temptation’, which involved feelings of guilt, and thinking about the tempting person in a negative light.

Participants reported flirting less when they applied the final, ‘derogation of the temptation’ strategy.

But none of the strategies had an effect on the levels of romantic infidelity, sexual infidelity, and whether the relationship survived.

Psychologist Dr Alex Fradera, who was not involved in the research, said the findings show little can be done once feelings of temptation have crept in.

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