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Everybody flirts. . .; Dare you flirt this Christmas? We reveal how to stop your party blushes.

Byline: CLAIRE HILLS

IT'S the time of year when everybody wants to have fun and Bridget Jones-style singletons may well be in the mood for some festive frolics. But what if you've forgotten how to flirt and lack the confidence to turn on the charm for that special someone? Flirting is a complex art - from choosing your target to discovering if they like you too. CLAIRE HILLS picks up some tips from the experts. . .

CHRISTMAS can prove a fortuitous time for Bridget Jones-style singletons. Parties, mistletoe, roaring log fires can prove a heady mix for romance.

And whether you're looking for that special someone or just fancy a Christmas fling, it is time to put your flirting technique to the test.

Research soon to be published has revealed that flirting is not reserved for the young.

The Baileys Report, which will be published in January, will reveal that there is a generation of 'flirtysomethings' - who are deliberately staying free and single and avoiding the commitment of marriage and children, often into their late 30s.

Flirting is a complex art - from choosing a target to discovering if the feeling is reciprocated.

Kate Fox, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre, says: "Flirting is a basic human instinct. We are genetically programmed to flirt. If we didn't make contact with the opposite sex then the human species would have gone extinct.

"These are people who are playing longer, working harder and are not at all concerned about being 'left on the shelf'. They seem to be postponing their maturity, " Fox says.

Flirtysomethings are not the only ones batting their eyelids.

The Bailey's survey, which interviewed 1,232 men and women aged between 18-40, claims that 99 per cent of those surveyed admit to at least some flirting.

Fox says there are two types of flirting. "There's flirting for fun which is light-hearted banter, then there's what I call flirting with intent, " she says.

The latter is more serious - when those doing the flirting are searching for Mr or Ms Right.

"Most of what goes on at parties is flirting for fun.

"But, of course, some people do meet their future mates at these occasions, " Fox says.

There are taboos, where flirting is deemed inappropriate. The Baileys Report shows flirting with someone else's partner or batting your eyelashes to advance your career are both considered unacceptable.

No matter what the intention, some may shy away from pursuing potential love interests because they fear rejection.

Others may simply lack the confidence to approach the handsome stranger who is lingering on the other side of the room.

But it does not have to be this way.

Peta Heskell, author of Flirt Coach (Thorsons, pounds 7.99), runs a Flirting Academy.

She offers weekend and day workshops in how to be a good flirt (call 07004 354 784 or log on to www. flirtcoach. com for details).

"Flirting is the ability to feel good about yourself and to give out that glow to other people. It is also about wanting to make other people feel good, " she says.

Self-confidence is needed to be a good flirt, Heskell says.

"If you are shy or you lack confidence you'll probably never be able to flirt. Think about what you like about yourself."

Rather than dwelling on imperfections such as chunky thighs or slight lisps, potential flirts should remember their positive points, Heskell believes. This should provide them with the ammunition to go out and attract whoever they fancy.

As soon as they arrive at their destination they should look for a potential 'target'.

Hunters should not be choosy - it may be human nature to go for someone who is attractive but others can be interesting and perfectly compatible, Heskell says.

"Catch their eye, smile at them, then move over to them, " Heskell recommends.

Some are put off if the target avoids eye contact.

"But they should not be because it is instinctive for some to avoid the gaze of those they fancy, she says.

It is important to have something to talk about.

"You could discuss something that's going on in the world or pay them a compliment.

"You've already decided this is someone who looks interesting - now you've got to explore and see if you've got anything in common, " she says. Then let nature run its course.

Working out whether feelings of lust are reciprocated is not as easy as some believe.

"You can never really tell for sure. But you can get some inclination, " Heskell says.

Be warned, signals can be misleading - often people are merely being tactile and are not looking for an amorous encounter at all.

And, if faced with rejection, do not be put off.

Heskell says nobody should get hung up on one person - there are plenty more fish in the sea.

As Christmas is traditionally the party season there are likely to be plenty more opportunities.

THE DO'S & DONT'S OF FLIRTING By Posh Spice's sister Louise Louise Adams, the sister of Posh Spice, is a selfproclaimed flirt and was branded a Flirting Queen by Vladivar Vodka in the search for the Flirt Of The Year 2001 LOUISE'S TIPS FOR THE GIRLS. . .

Take control, you call the shots so do approach men. Be direct - men aren't good with subtlety. Feel good about yourself - think positive and your positivity will rub off on others. Smile - every guy loves a girl who smiles. Act natural and be yourself. If you pretend you're something or someone you're not, he's bound to find out sooner or later, but don't reveal too much about yourself. Keep him interested so he'll want to find out more.

LOUISE'S TIPS FOR THE GUYS. . . Stick to the four rules of hygiene - clean clothes, clean body, clean hair and fresh breath. Talk. Girls love chatty guys who are genuinely interested in them, but don't go overboard with compliments or she'll think it's too much. Flirting is not all about sex. Have fun, make some friends as well as future lovers - keep your options open. Look, but don't touch. There's nothing more annoying than a guy who invades your space and is too touchy, too soon. It'll be worth the wait.

CAPTION(S):

FLIRTY-SOMETHINGS: Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth in Bridget Jones's Diary DISHING THE FLIRT: Flirting expert Louise Adams with her pop star sister Victoria
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 16, 2001
Words:1053
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