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Flirting: What It Is, 5 Different Types & How to Pick a Style that Works for You

When we are attracted to someone, it’s natural to flirt with them. But what is flirting really? Learn all about the different types of flirting and more.

what is flirting - types of flirt

Everybody flirts. And while some are better at it than others, it’s something that we naturally and sometimes even unconsciously do. But what is flirting? 

Does it have an actual definition, and what does it look like in practice? Is it the same for everyone or do we all flirt differently?

There are countless ways to flirt. Some use eye contact, others use body language. Words and double entendres are other forms of flirting. 

Again, some people do it really well but others are pretty terrible at it! The good news is that with a little confidence and practice, you can improve your flirting game and improve your love life. [Read: How to flirt with girls – 25 secrets to help you win her over]

What is flirting, really?

Although we think of flirting as a fun way to get to know people – or perhaps pick up a one-night-stand – it’s actually a natural human instinct that aids in our process of weeding out the duds to find the perfect potential life mate. 

So, when you flirt, you’re subconsciously gauging someone’s ability to be a successful life partner!

It’s very hard to define flirting because it’s a series of behaviors rather than one thing that you can put a label on. However, flirting is a social and even a sexual thing. [Read: How to flirt with your crush – 15 subtle cues to make them fall hard]

It’s how we act around people we find attractive in the hope that they find us attractive in return.

A few flirting moves include:

a. Body language

b. Suggestive remarks

c. Playfully touching or nudging the other person

d. Gentle playful insults that are designed to show friendliness rather than annoyance

e. Giggling or laughing

f. Drawing attention to alluring body parts, such as the lips or breasts 

g. Playful banter

[Read: How to flirt with a friend – 18 ways to tease without being weird]

The list goes on. As we mentioned, everyone flirts differently but now you have a general idea of what flirting is and why we do it. 

Without flirting, how would we ever try and tell someone that we like them, or work out if they like us back? We’d actually have to tell them directly – and how terrifying is that? [Read: How to flirt online – 11 super smooth ways to do it right]

Flirting is natural and fun

We flirt whether we realize it or not. Even if we don’t want to be flirting with someone because we’re in a committed relationship already, we do. 

It’s not something that we need to be ashamed of, if we do it when we’re with someone already, because it’s natural.

It’s just as natural as needing water and eating. Our bodies are preprogrammed to flirt and seek out potential mates. [Read: Is flirting cheating when you’re in a relationship?]

It’s human nature to survive, and flirting leads to reproduction, which keeps the human species alive and well.

You don’t just send a wink in the direction of a cute person in order to flirt. Maybe that’s how it was once upon a time, but not anymore!

Throughout the years, we have evolved to use many different techniques when flirting, some of which we don’t even realize we’re doing. [Read: How to flirt with girls: 25 secrets to help you win her over]

Flirting is subconscious or conscious

A lot of people don’t know the way their body movements change when they’re flirting. When a man approaches a woman and drops a horrible pick-up line, he’s probably got his chest puffed out. 

When a woman walks past a man in the hopes that he’ll approach her, she’s probably swaying her hips more than she normally does when she walks.

These are all subconscious things that we do when our intention is to flirt with someone. These things have been programmed into our minds to do, so they’re largely beyond our control. [Read: Body language attraction – Touchy-feely flirting]

That means the way your body language speaks to someone whom you find attractive is mostly out of your control!

The fact that you smile more around someone you’re interested in, send glances in their direction, and even stand with your feet pointed towards them are all subconscious acts that you perform when you’re flirting. [Read: 10 subtle eye contact flirting moves that always work]

When you intentionally want to pick someone up, you probably do things that you know might get their attention. We know that many men like breasts, so a woman might stick out her breasts. 

We know that many women like strong, muscly men, so he might push his chest out or show his biceps. That is conscious flirting – when you’re doing it and you know it! [Read: 13 lusty signs of sexual attraction to keep an eye on]

Even animals flirt!

If you want to understand subconscious flirting, look at the way animals attract their mates. We do similar things that animals do when they’re in search of a partner to procreate with. 

For example, male peacocks show off the size and variety of colors of their feathers in hopes of attracting a female to mate with.

Peacocks aren’t aware that what they’re doing is flirting, per se. It’s merely ingrained into their subconscious to perform these mating rituals in order to keep their species alive. [Read: How to flirt with a guy subtly without really flirting at all]

But as humans, we flirt in similar ways too, usually according to gender.

A study was conducted by Timothy Perper, a psychologist, and David Givens, an anthropologist, examining women’s body language while flirting with men at a bar.

The study concluded that the majority of women used the same body language when engaging with someone they seemed to like. [Read: 15 obvious flirting signs between a guy and a girl]

They all played with their hair, smiled, giggled, gazed up at the men, swayed their hips when walking, and even licked their lips—all subconscious signals to the men that they are fertile and youthful.

When the researchers then turned the study around to the men, they found many of the same behaviors among that gender. 

The men arched their backs to reveal their chests, sat with their legs spread open, and performed actions that expressed their dominance, such as being loud and authoritative – even flashing their money! [Read: Does he like me? 101 subtle signs and body language clues guys can’t hide]

Flirting is just as vocal as it is physical 

We’re sure you’ve realized by now that flirting is probably even more about your subconscious body language than it is about the words that come out of your mouth. 

Because let’s be honest, some people should really just keep their mouths shut when they want to pick someone up!

Someone could be talking gibberish, but if your subconscious mind picks up on their flirtatious body language and you respond to it, then it doesn’t matter what they say. [Read: How to create sexual chemistry and make it stay]

This may be the reason why some people date complete d-bags. Apparently, their chemistry just mixes well…

One study conducted by Antonio Damasio, M.D. discovered that as soon as we see someone attractive, our brain is sent into a frenzy that actually mimics the brain of a person with a certain type of brain cell damage!

This is really just a fancy way of saying that our rational thinking gets temporarily shut down when we’re crushing on someone, leaving us unable to make coherent decisions. [Read: 15 subtle signs you’re secretly addicted to love]

However, this is *at least in most cases* only a temporary phenomenon, and we can usually come back to reality after that initial infatuation period is over.

Why are there different types of flirting?

You see, none of us use the same flirting style. You might think there’s just one flirting style, but there are several. This is because each person has a different personality. 

For instance, you might be flirting the traditional way most of the time, and you’re not even aware of it. Whereas the people you often go on dates with may indulge in playful flirting with you. [Read: How to subtly flirt with a girl – The art of subtle seduction]

When someone claims they don’t know how to flirt, most often than not, they just haven’t realized which type of flirting they’re doing. Maybe they’ve been flirting all this time – they’re not just not aware they’re doing it! 

Everyone is different

Here’s the thing, when it comes to attraction and interest, everyone has their own style and needs. 

Not everyone flirts in the same way, and this is why people struggle with figuring out if someone is interested in them or not. So, if you struggle with flirting, it’s not necessarily your fault. [Read: How to talk to your crush – The secrets to make them fall for you]

Think of it this way, maybe your flirting skills depend entirely on the types of flirting you resonate with the most. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to flirting, no matter how similar they might seem to you.

We’re all unique, so not everyone will try to flirt the same way with the person they’re attracted to.

We all know when someone isn’t interested

While we may not know when people are flirting with us, the one thing we do know is when someone isn’t interested. [Read: 13 painful and soul-crushing signs your crush doesn’t like you back]

Usually, the problem comes with us being willing to accept the truth that this person isn’t into us and doesn’t share the same feelings we have for them.

It’s easier to spot the signs of someone that doesn’t like you than someone who does.

What does science have to say?

When it comes to types of flirting styles, science has even backed up this claim. A few years ago, a study from the University of Kansas discovered there are five different styles of flirting, showing there’s no right way to flirt or show romantic interest.

Generally speaking, this means that there isn’t a right or wrong way to flirt. No matter which one of the types of flirting you resonate with the most, it’s not right or wrong in any way. 

Even something as withdrawn and conservative as traditional flirting isn’t wrong if it works for the person you want. [Read: What is flirting? The science behind this common act]

The 5 types of flirting and the signs of each type

Once you understand what the five styles are, it’ll be much easier to understand the people you interact with. Knowing how to read these signs will help you out with spotting flirts and also help you understand yourself better. 

Why do you flirt the way that you do? What style do you fit in? It’s time to find out!

Yes, there are more ways than one…

[Read: 15 very obvious signs of flirting between a guy and a girl]

Type 1. Traditional flirting

This is old-school flirting. You know, where men make the first move and women take a passive role in the encounter.

This can be a struggle for women as they need to wait for the man to make a move, which doesn’t always happen quickly. 

As the word ‘traditional’ suggests, this is one of the types of flirting that can be quite conservative and withdrawn. [Read: Easy dating advice for introverts and 19 tips and tricks to flirt]

If you generally take a while before taking action with someone you like, you might just be a traditional flirt. 

Watch out for signs of traditional flirting such as initiating deep conversations, getting bored with small talk, being introverted, and taking longer to make a move.

The downside? If you’re a woman and you resonate with this type of flirting, it can feel frustrating waiting for men to make the first move. [Read: Can a girl ask a guy out before he asks her out?]

Type 2. Playful flirting

People who are playful flirts use their type of flirting as a tool. They love spending their time innocently flirting with people without the desire for a serious relationship. 

You see this most often in parties, bars, and casual settings where it’s normal to flirt around without the intention of a relationship.

This is one of the types of flirting that is very light and fun *for them, anyway*. [Read: How to be more playful and flirty when you meet someone]

Some of the signs you should watch out for are teasing people, using charm and games to develop sexual tension, and having light and casual conversations. 

Playful flirting is a very popular type of flirting, and it’s evident in movies where one or both parties start off with a casual joke.

Type 3. Physical flirting

From the name itself, this is the type of flirting that’s all about physical touch.

If you’re someone who flirts by breaking the touch barrier, then this is your personal form of flirting. [Read: When a guy touches you – The different body parts and what they mean]

Whether it’s rubbing against you, leaning into you, or touching you in every subtle or obvious way, this is how someone with this type of flirting shows they’re into you. 

Physical flirts can build connections with ease and are quick to pick up on signs of interest from others.

When you’re around a physical flirt, you may even feel slightly uncomfortable. The signs of physical flirting are very easy to spot as it has everything to do with physical touch! [Read: How to flirty by touch and use subtle body language to seduce anyone]

Physical flirts will use touch and act rather suggestively. When around them, they come off as very confident and self-assured.

Type 4. Sincere flirting

This is actually the most common type of flirting and to be honest; that’s not a bad thing! Sincere flirting is all about being direct and honest with how you feel about someone. 

The goal is to build an emotional connection by getting to know the person you’re interested in. [Read: How to emotionally connect with someone and feel really close in no time]

It’s similar to traditional flirting in a way that focuses on emotional connections, but it’s not conservative at all. 

Maybe you’ll ask them what book they’re reading or what music they like. This type of flirting can feel like friendship as well, to begin with. 

One of the signs of sincere flirting is asking you many questions to connect with you deeper. You might want to enjoy the conversation in a focused environment like a coffee or bookstore. [Read: Emotional connection – 38 signs, secrets, and ways to build a real bond]

Frankly, this is also one of the most genuine and straightforward types of flirting. It’s almost impossible to miss the signs!

Type 5. Polite flirting

This is possibly the hardest type of flirting to pinpoint because this person is flirting… politely! With a polite flirt, it’s easy to ignore their flirting as they’re very subtle and follow the ‘rules’. 

The downside? It can seem very stiff to others who don’t share this type of flirting, but it’s a very well-mannered way to show your attraction. [Read: The subtlest flirting moves to bring them close without much effort]

They won’t flirt using touch; instead, they’ll always give you enough personal space and will subtly compliment you. It’s a tough one to spot! 

It can seem very shy – sometimes you may not even be sure if they’re just being nice, or actually flirting with you!

Can you be a mix of two types of flirting?

We know what you’re probably thinking – is it possible to resonate with two of the types mentioned above? Yes, of course! [Read: What does sexual attraction feel like? 15 hot signs to recognize it]

We’re human, which means we’re complex. So, you can find yourself in a couple of these categories and using multiple types of flirting simultaneously. This is perfectly normal.

Not everyone fits into a single box, and that’s okay. Maybe you resonate with genuine flirting and traditional flirting at the same time – that’s fine! 

It doesn’t make you weird or unusual; it makes you human! [Read: Sexual chemistry – what it is, how it feels, 52 signs, and ways to increase it]

How can you apply this in your dating life?

Learning more about your flirting type can benefit you in landing dates and flirting with the person you like. In fact, you don’t even need to look for something serious to be applying this, especially if you’re a playful flirt. 

Or maybe there’s this girl or guy you like, and you can now find out which type of flirting they’re using with you.

Maybe you also found out you share the same flirting style. Now, you can use this new knowledge and flirt with them better, using the style you’re both most comfortable with. [Read: 23 First date conversation tips to flirt and impress your date in minutes]

This helps you become more comfortable flirting with someone you like, without feeling too awkward about yourself.

It is possible for you to act in a certain way that can purposely attract someone you like, even if they’re not showing interest in you. 

As you learned above, there are different body movements that the opposite gender is attracted to, and you can purposely use those primal signals to your advantage to attract your crush. [Read: 23 Secrets to flirt with your crush and tease them into liking you]

You can:

1. Make eye contact.

2. Watch your body language, and don’t fidget or cross your arms over your body.

3. Make them very aware of your best assets!

4. Nod along when they’re speaking and show you’re listening. [Read: 10 ways to be a better listener in your relationship]

5. Smile and laugh!

6. Banter with them and make fun of them – just a little…

7. Nudge them playfully or touch their arm.

8. Use the occasional suggestive comment (and I mean occasional)!

You can’t deny it – flirting is fun! You might be struggling with it now, but with a little practice, you’ll find that you enjoy the process and probably get better results too! [Read: 20 signs of attraction in the first conversation]

So, what are the different types of flirting?

There are five types of flirting – traditional, playful, physical, sincere, and polite. 

Each one has characteristics that make it different from the other types of flirting. [Read: 39 Secrets to get your crush to notice you and stages to get their attention]

Now that you know the different types, isolate the ones you feel comfortable using and try to focus more on them. That way, you can actually build your own flirting style within your comfort zone. 

And the next time you’re flirting with someone, you don’t need to do something you’re not comfortable doing. All you need to do is be yourself, and drop a few well-placed hints!

[Read: 16 Secrets to seduce someone with words and make them crush on you]

Flirting is fun, innocent, and can even be the first step to embarking on a wonderful long-term relationship. Knowing and understanding the science behind what flirting is can even help you to also recognize these signs in others who may be looking to attract you

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...