“She/He is just flirting with you to get what she/he wants!” Sound familiar? Are we all guilty of using sex as a weapon?
Well, yes, actually we are, and we are probably not even aware that we do it.
Sometimes a flirt is so full on that the phrase “Throwing themselves at him/her” could be used. But there are more subtle flirts that may no be consciously noted. The touch of the arm in conversation, the slight bite of the lip, the focussed gaze on the mouth. They may not be noticed unless you are looking for them, but on a subliminal level you have probably already reacted to them.
Probably the most obvious flirts are things like the touch, or the grooming. Picking lint from someone’s shoulder. One of the more common ones and not often noticed is the head dip. The slight angling of the head to one side while listening and the subtle enlargement of the eyes. The act of exposing the neck in ingrained in us as a passive gesture that we can find it very hard to control. It demonstrates vulnerability, passivity and submission. This can be very subtle and is more common in women than it is with men. There are some body-language guides that suggest this posture is a great way of building rapport as it is like lending an ear. I disagree. Remember that this head dip is a sign of vulnerability. If someone is coming to you for advice and support they want strength and positive attitude. This head dip could be interpreted as a weakness in this case. Add to that cognitive load while listening and you come off looking confused and weak.
Flirts can be used successfully, as long as they are not overdone, but you need to ask yourself is it appropriate to manipulate another like this?
Sales people can make use of the flirt, they can cover and divert away from concerns. When selling a product you are also selling yourself. These little flirts are making little insincere promises. The lean of the head, the lick of the lips, hair tucked behind the ear and the tilted head with a ghost of a smile. Or for the men the posturing Alpha. Hand on the hips and chest thrust forward, head held high. Hands in the pockets with the thumb showing or thumbs tucked in the belt line are all great alpha flirts. Timing a flirt well if it is received can have a very positive effect. However, if the flirt is not received well… you have just distanced yourself.
The use of the flirt may not be particularly ethical but as I have said we tend to do it without even realising it. This can increase with “reflective empathy”
As a race we humans are a tribe. Before we used words, posture and facial expression was our way of communicating and this is still ingrained into us these days. We still mirror other people’s emotional signals as an indicator that we are aware of their current feelings. Being interested in someone else’s flirt will naturally cause a flirt response or a rejection.
The danger comes when the flirt progresses too far. Over do it and suddenly what you are offering is not really on the table. You then have the situation of developing rejection that could completely undermine any progress you have made.
I try to avoid flirts if at all possible. They are too easy to misconstrue. I am a firm believer that if you are going to sell something, do it on its own merits, not by offering yourself up into the bargain.
Personal space is very important to people, especially here in the UK. Invading someone’s personal space can be very intrusive and leave people feeling very uncomfortable especially when it is not invited. Think of how you feel stood in a lift when suddenly a lot of people get in. All people you are unfamiliar with pressed in close to you.
Touching is generally taboo unless it is invited; certainly in the UK where a handshake is about the limit of acceptable with someone you have never met before.
Flirts can be fun and exciting, but I would heartily recommend that you keep them out of the business world. Unless of course you are a prostitute.