Love, lust and authenticity is nearly impossible to decipher in others. There’s never really any clear cut sign that someone genuinely cares for or has deep feelings for another.
And while there are a ton of different ways and words that people can use to convey their adoration, people are inevitably just too complex to really tell what’s going on in their minds.
So, say you meet someone for the first time, and they’ve piqued your interest. Flirting isn’t an exact science, and there’s no handbook that tells you what to do and how to do it in order to gain affection and attention from another.
There are however 18 different facial expressions and kinds of body language, all confirmed by a set of studies, that have been found to work favourably when it comes to heterosexual women flirting with heterosexual men.
In a series of six studies conducted by Haj-Mohamadi, Giiath and Rosenberg in 2020, these three researchers looked at identifying a facial expression of flirtation and its effect on men.
Once the information was gathered, they used the Facial Action Coding System, a decoding guide based on 23 different facial movements linked to various displays of emotion to reach their conclusion. Their results:
“Across our six studies, we found most men were able to recognize a certain female facial expression as representing flirting. It has a unique morphology, and it’s different from expressions that have similar features—for example, smiling—but aren’t identified by men as a flirting expression.”
In this way, they found that facial expressions displayed by women that men found to be flirtatious had four distinctive components:
- Head turned down to one side
- Chin tilted down slightly
- A slight smile
- Eyes turned forward, gazing at the target of flirtation
Interestingly, these four components led to a faster and more sexualised reaction from men, as opposed to happy or neutral expressions used by women.
Because of this, the researchers were successfully able to identify facial expressions that are actively associated with relationships, sex, communication, and mating initiation.
In a separate 1985 study done by Monica M. Moore, while conducted 30 plus years ago, several other effective flirting techniques were found.
Moore’s research actually took place at college campus bars, as her team observed over 200 single women, noting her nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language. This study successfully found 52 different nonverbal behaviours that women used to sign their interest in men.
Some of the most popular cues women displayed were:
- Dancing alone, either seating or standing, to the beat of the music
- Scanning the room for about five to 10 seconds without making eye contact with anyone
- A short sideways gaze at a man of interest for two or three seconds
- A longer gaze with a man of interest for more than three seconds
- Flipping her head backwards, resulting in her face being lifted briefly
- Using one hand to comb through her hair
- A smile, usually that showed teeth
- Moving her upper body forward and closer towards the man of interest
- Tilting the neck to one side, around 45 degrees, exposing the neck
- Laughing and giggling while talking with the man of interest
- Nodding in agreement to what the man of interest was saying
Then, once a woman had gained the attention of their man of interest, there were some favourable flirtatious nonverbal cues done by the woman that piqued the man’s intrigued even further, such as:
- Touching or caressing an object, or the man’s face, arm, leg, or back
- The woman placing her knee, thigh, or foot in such a way that it touched the man
- Hugging or hanging off of the man
To further prove the information found, Moore and her team set out on another study. One that would focus on men who approached women, as opposed to the other way round, like her first study.
They found their former research to be conclusive in that: men approached women who were displaying the behaviours mentioned above, for example: dancing alone, smiling, nodding, tilting their head etc. They also found that women who did not display any of the above behaviours, were not approached by men at all.
Plot twist? A woman’s level of attractiveness did not influence whether they were approached by men or not i.e. it was the behaviour of the women that attracted the men to them, not their appearance.
On the contrary, women who were deemed unattractive managed to gain more interest from men by displaying the above-mentioned behaviours than attractive women who did not.
Bottom line? The most effective way to flirt with a man, according to these studies, is to look at him, smile, have an open and relaxed body language, appear to be having fun, and or to scan a room without making eye contact. This led men to believe the women were approachable and interested. And once an interaction begins, innocent small touches on objects or him, and leaning in closer were found to work like a charm!