Megan Schmidt
KU News Service

New book outlines five types of flirting styles

Wed, 09/11/2013

LAWRENCE — “I’m pretty sure he likes me. Why doesn’t he just ask me out?”

“She’s always smiling at me, and she laughs at all my jokes. Is she interested in me, or does she act that way with every guy?”

When it comes to the opposite sex, questions like these have stumped most men and women at some point in their lives. Two people strike up a conversation, share some laughs, but the friendliness never progresses to romance.

There are more pieces to the puzzle of heterosexual flirtation than people may realize, said Jeffrey Hall, a University of Kansas communication studies professor whose new book, “The Five Flirting Styles: Use the Science of Flirting to Attract the Love You Really Want,” hit stores this month.

Inspiration for the book came from Hall’s involvement in flirting style research printed in Communication Quarterly in 2010, which received national media attention. Hall’s research has been featured in USA Today, Time, U.S. News and World Report, and Cosmopolitan.

It’s worthwhile to spend some time pondering flirtation techniques, including your own, Hall’s research shows.

“There aren’t that many people out there who aren’t, at some point, interested in a long-term relationship,” Hall said. “The statistics show the vast majority of Americans will be married at some point in their life.”

There’s no “right” way to flirt or show romantic interest in another person, but being aware of your tendencies may help you correct off-putting behaviors, Hall said.

Hall establishes the five styles — physical, polite, playful, sincere and traditional — using data first discovered in a sample of more than 5,000 eHarmony users in 2007 and later confirmed in a 2010-2011 survey of 4,500 individuals worldwide. Those who missed being part of the survey can still take the questionnaire online.

Hall’s research showed that while many people exhibit a mix of flirting styles, for most, one style is dominant.

For the woman wondering why her crush is so friendly, but never asks for a date — he may simply be the “polite” flirt. These types feel too much (or any) touching or complimenting is not only rude, but risky, even though other experts say these behaviors are clear indicators of romantic interest.

“Polite flirts can end up taking forever to get a message across because they’re so cautious. They’re respectful, they’re hands-off, and they avoid doing anything that’s too aggressive or suggestive,” Hall said.

Polite flirts were 10 percent more likely to use the Internet to find their last flame, FSI data showed. They were also 10 percent more likely to have found a mate at school than other types. Women and people age 40 and older were most likely to prefer a polite flirting style.

Unlike polite flirts, “physical” flirts rely on body language to express interest. They may play with their hair, adjust their stance or use touch to interact with the opposite sex. People tend to perceive a physical flirt’s everyday manner as more sexually charged, Hall wrote.

Physical flirts, too, are more likely to be “switched on” — open to and looking for signs of flirtation and sexual interest from others — than, say, polite flirts, who may not even notice when someone is trying to flirt with them because they’re frequently “switched off.”

“Their problem is they’re more likely to assume the person they’re flirting with is interested when they’re not,” Hall said. “They can end up stepping on toes and making people feel uncomfortable.”

Physical flirts were also 33 percent more likely to admit to flirting with other potential partners while in a long-term relationship and 36 percent more likely to date several people at the same time, FSI results showed.

For a “playful” flirt, making others uneasy is the least of their concerns. This type enjoys the attention and the “game” of flirting. They enjoy flirting for its own sake, even when a relationship or hookup is the last thing on their mind.

“They can come off as dismissive and belittling with their game playing,” Hall said. “They might be successful with short-term dating, but it’s hard for them to go beyond that in a relationship.”

The FSI survey results showed about half of respondents who said their latest romantic relationship was a casual fling, were also playful flirts. They were also 15 percent more likely to lie to get someone interested in them.

Unlike playful flirts, “sincere” flirts strive for emotional connection and enjoy getting to know their crushes. They ask questions and pay close attention during conversation. This flirting style is the most common, perhaps because it’s usually the most effective, the research showed.

“A sincere flirt might not like meeting people at a club because the loud music makes it hard to really talk to someone and get to know them,” Hall said.

FSI results showed sincere flirts were 20 percent less likely to have met their last romantic partner in a club or bar, and 26 percent more likely to have met their last partner online.

For “traditional” flirts, specific beliefs about gender roles guide the way. They think women should avoid being too forward and that men should make the first move, open doors and pick up the tab.

FSI data showed women were much more likely than men to be traditional flirts. The traditional style was the least popular style among male respondents. For female respondents, the traditional style took a three-way tie with playful and physical styles for third place. This means a woman in a crowd is just as likely to be a traditional style flirt as a playful or physical flirt.

Apart from learning more about their own flirting style, Hall said readers may also come away from the book with a better understanding of why some flirting techniques work for some, but not others.

“It’s not about using a one-size-fits-all-approach or teaching people to be pickup artists,” Hall said.

Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@NYTimes columnist @WCRhoden will speak at a symposium about race and sports April 23.
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

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