Real-Life Flirting Skills
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Real-Life Flirting Skills

Who says it's only good for meeting men? Those trusty old seductive skills can do much more for you -- if you know how to use them.

You Charmer, You

We're not afraid to say it: You're never too old, too married, too anything to flirt. It just never goes out of style. For heaven's sake, what is the definition of flirting, anyway? It's just another term for turning on the charm. "It's the chemistry that exists between people," says Leil Lowndes, author of How to Be a People Magnet (Contemporary Books, 2002). "Between men and women we call it flirtation, but do the same thing at work and it's called charisma, or with a girlfriend and we call it friendliness. It all comes down to adding a pleasant layer of connection, lightness, and fun to your interactions."

In other words, flirting may be a great way to get the attention of the opposite sex -- just like a peacock's tail, a firefly's glow, or a baboon's red behind -- but even when you're attached or just not looking, flirting can be a playful, harmless pastime. What's more, a well-placed wink at the right time can actually help you ease your way out of an uncomfortable confrontation, or help you get what you want.

We're obviously not talking about flashing cleavage, Samantha Jones-style. There are lots of nonsexual flirting techniques: standing close, holding eye contact, touching on the arm or shoulder, keeping your body language open. But the most alluring skill you can learn is just to hush up and listen. "Paying deep attention to someone -- making that person feel like the center of the universe -- makes him or her feel fantastic," says Lowndes. "You validate them, make them feel good, and that makes them like you and want to be around you more." Just being quiet and behaving like your mother-in-law's monologues are fascinating can net you a reputation as a sparkling conversationalist.

So how do you use those tried-and-true flirting skills in fresh and new ways? Read on for some real-life scenarios you might find yourself in, and a little advice to help you implement your newly-rediscovered charisma.

Working the Flirting

  • Your daughter's teacher is annoyed: You forgot to send in a white T-shirt for tie-dye day, and she had to tie-dye a hankie.
    Instead of offering up a lame apology, which'll just get the teacher angrier, inspire her protective instincts to your advantage. You know how you bat your eyelashes when you need a big, strapping fella to reach the paper towels on the top shelf of the supermarket? The same principle applies here. The difference is, you appeal to her emotions rather than her muscles. "Head things off by saying, 'Oh, please don't be too angry,'" says Lowndes. "Her instinctive reaction is to say 'Well, I'm not really angry,' so you won't feel too bad." What's also effective about this is once you've gotten her to say she's not that angry, her emotions will subconsciously follow her words, and she really won't be as irritated with you. Voila: you've made her feel powerful, then protective, then mellowed-out. Aren't you the clever little vixen!
  • You arrive at your car and see a traffic officer with her ticket-book ominously flipped open.
    We know you'd like to rant and rave about the injustice of your missing the meter-change by a mere three minutes, but that's not going to get you anywhere. Instead, create an us-versus-them feeling between you and the officer. Start by using her name -- it's right there on her lapel -- in a friendly fashion, showing her you understand she's a hard-working human being, not a walking uniform. Say, "Officer Hanson, I know you're just doing your job, but I'm sure you know what it's like when the line at the Gap just won't move, right?" It's just like when you sit in a corner at a party with a cute guy, making fun of the other people to foster a little togetherness. Jolly her along, get her to laugh with you, and you might find yourself not owing $25 to the city.
  • You were supposed to have that report to your boss by noon, but you're just...not done.
    You've got to go in there and face the music, and it sounds like it's going to be all bagpipes and accordions. One well-known flirt technique is mirroring -- subtly copying the actions, gestures, and body language of the person you're talking to. "It's known as neurolinguistic programming, and it's a tried-and-true seduction technique," says Lowndes. "Birds of a feather really do flock together -- we tend to like people who seem to resemble us; it makes us feel safe. So if you can make your boss feel friendly toward you, her attitude may soften." The key here is to be subtle. Don't play Mirror with her, scratching your nose with your right hand exactly when she does, like the old routine with Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx. Do it a moment later. And enhance the connection by keeping your posture like hers -- tall and straight if that's how she sits, floppy and exhausted if that's her style. You can even make your pace of speech like hers -- rapid and peppery, or slow and drawly.
  • Your ticket says "coach," but when you check in for your boarding pass, business class starts sounding awfully nice.
    Just as when you're trying to hook your chosen guy-prey, flattery will get you everywhere. "Begin by complimenting the airline, the customer service, and the workers you've come across," says Lowndes. "Talk to that clerk as if you really see what it's like from his perspective. Put yourself in his shoes." Tell him how annoying the rush of people must be, comment on how many customers he's already handling, express his feelings for him, and he'll feel validated and loved. Of course, no amount of flattery will make a seat appear if the flight is overbooked, but the worst that can happen is you create a feeling of goodwill. And that might get you an extra bag of peanuts.
  • Your feet are killing you, but all the seats on this train have people in them.
    There are certain combinations of flirt-tactics that, when used correctly, can almost always get you what you want. In this case, you want to combine the power of touch with eye contact and a friendly smile. Touch that seated man somewhere neutral -- the arm, the hand -- to get his attention and beat down the imaginary wall he's put up around himself (to create private space in a public place). "Just be careful not to startle him -- even a gentle touch is extremely powerful," says Lowndes. Once he looks up at you, don't take the victim-y, pout-y route -- it annoys people. Instead, give him a smile, even if it's a tired one, and explain that you're not feeling so great and would so appreciate it if he could let you sit down. Play it right and he'll be flattered that you chose him to ask, as the most generous and trustworthy-seeming fella on all of Amtrak. You sit down, he feels noble, and everyone's happy -- isn't that the way things should be?

So next time you're in a stitch, flash a sassy smile, and throw in some innocent yet oh-so-handy flirtation. You're almost sure to get what you want -- and at the very least, you'll have made light of a tricky situation.