The old hand-on-the-arm is one of the oldest flirting tricks in the book, and it’s also one of the easiest ways to show someone you’re into them. But what about when you’re feeling shy or don’t feel comfortable invading someone’s personal space? You can still put your flirt vibes out there, with no skin-to-skin contact required.
Here’s the funny thing that University of Kansas researchers discovered in 2015. When Jeffrey Hall, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, coded 36 verbal flirting behaviors and non-verbal flirting behaviors, he discovered that good flirting is all about what you say and do. Examples of verbal flirting behaviors included asking questions and giving compliments, while non-verbal flirting behaviors were all about the body language — leg crossing, leaning forward and nodding. In the initial dating conversation in the study, people were most attracted to those who matched their verbal and non-verbal flirting style.
And the physical flirters who relied most on body language didn’t fare so well in the get-to-know-yous. They preferred to express their interest in real-time (when meeting someone at a party or a café, for example).
Physical flirting has its time and place, most often when you don’t have the time for a long chat or need an entry into a good conversation. And as the researchers in this study pointed out, most people have a really hard time figuring out if someone is flirting with them — which is where body language comes in yet again.
If you want to crank up the heat when meeting someone new, or just make things flirtier with your significant other, here’s how to send out those subtly sexy vibes without having to get naked:
1. Start with eye contact
The eyes are the window into the soul, and they’re also going to turn you into a really good flirt, Charlee Brotherton, matchmaker and founder of Executive Matchmakers, says. “So much can be transmitted through how you look at someone and how you move around them.” Without locking them in a death stare, Brotherton advises, “Use your eyes to put a spell on your man. Exude a sexual energy, and it will be reciprocated.”
2. Pull out the little black dress
And make sure you’re showing some skin — but not too much, Julia Bekker of relationship recruiting site Hunting Maven, says. “Wear something that shows off your best assets. A nice slit in a dress so you can flash him a little leg is sexy, or a dress above knee length if your legs are your best feature, perhaps a moderately revealing top.” To keep the seduction train rolling, Bekker recommends wearing heels and keeping your hair down since many men prefer that. But whatever you wear, make sure you feel sexy because it’s your essence that controls the room — and the attention of your partner.
3. Laugh together, a lot
Here’s another sexy activity you can do with your pants on. In that initial flirty convo, keep things light and try your best to crack some jokes or make some jabs, when the opportunity presents itself. Brotherton explains that humor bonds and makes people more attractive to one another. “Great banter is a wonderful way to flirt. Laughing (authentically) is known to instantly reduce stress levels and increases serotonin and endorphins. And having him equate you with happiness and fun will make him want more of you.”
4. Don’t put it all out there
Wouldn’t you know it, we’re most often attracted to an air of mystery. That person sitting across the table probably doesn’t want to know everything at once — no matter how much they’re grilling you on your life story. Arouse him by arousing his curiosity, Bekker says. “Be calm, cool and collected — and a little withdrawn but show him just enough interest. Don’t share too much. Don’t make the conversation all about you; show him that you can discuss other things, topics that are interesting and show your intelligence. Let him in a little but keep him wanting to learn more.” Bekker recommends trying the old bait-in-switch in conversation — change the topic when he starts to ask too many questions and ask him about himself instead.
5. Talk a little dirty
Let’s reserve this one for those times when you need to heat up a long-term relationship or nudge a casual dating relationship a little closer to the bedroom. Talking dirty may be one of the best ways to turn someone on, without any physical contact involved. Dr. Jenn Mann, psychotherapist and host of Vh1’s Couple’s Therapy and author of The Relationship Fix, tells SheKnows, “Talking dirty is great for couples for a number of reasons. Combining the physical (you just might be touching yourself while texting, if you are really good with your fingers!) with verbally erotic material is a powerful combination. This kind of talk/text helps you verbalize what you like and want.”
And, Dr. Jenn says, sometimes it’s easier to text about something you might not have the courage to say in person. Sexting helps to get things warmed up — with no actual foreplay needed. According to Dr. Jenn, “It’s one more dish at the buffet of seduction.”
Originally published April 2012. Updated Sept. 2016.