Lessons in love: How to kickstart a romance

Flirting isn’t a talent, it’s a skill and anyone can be good at it with practice, says Deirdre Reynolds.
Lessons in love: How to kickstart a romance

FLIRTING with landing a date for Valentine’s Day?

Forget old-fashioned tricks like batting your eyelids or flashing a coy smile across the bar.

One of the world’s top flirt coaches has revealed how to really find love this February 14 — and she claims anyone can become a pick-up ‘scientist’ by Tuesday.

Speaking exclusively to Feelgood, social anthropologist Jean Smith says: “Some people look at flirting as an art, but I actually teach it as a science.

“Flirting is something that is quite subjective and emotional for people.

“By looking at it as a science, we can deconstruct the different components and turn it into a skill, rather than something we’re either born good at or not.

“Like any skill, the more you practice, the easier it gets.”

On her renowned ‘Fearless Flirting’ tour of London, she teaches men and women how to approach attractive strangers everywhere from the supermarket to the bus stop.

But it doesn’t hurt to flirt with people you don’t fancy either, she explains: “One reason people find flirting scary is because they wait until the most attractive person they’ve seen in ages is there.

“[Whereas if] you’re practising all the time with everyone, when that moment comes, you’ll know what to do.

“The way I would hope people would use flirting is just having better interactions in their everyday life.

“Queuing is so boring — so do you want to stand there and be bored or do you want to have some fun chatting with the person behind you?”

Smith gets a lot of Irish women coming over for ‘girls’ weekends’ on her Fearless Flirting tours.

“Basically, I take people to central London and teach them how to ask people questions.

“You’re in the supermarket or the gallery anyway, so why not just talk to as many people as you can while you’re there.”

Social anthropologist Jean Smith.

Social anthropologist Jean Smith.

One survey by Cupid.com showed almost nine in 10 men would love a woman to put the theory into practice by making the first move.

But with a separate survey finding just one in 10 women willing to take the risk, Cupid could have his work cut out for him this week.

Despite reputedly having the gift of the gab, as a nation, our flirting is far from fab, says Eithne Buckley of Cork-based dating agency TwoHeartsMeet.

“I think it’s due to a lack of self-confidence with the opposite sex,” she says.

“In many cases, this is due to boys and girls being segregated throughout their school years.

“They don’t have a natural comfort with the opposite sex to flirt effectively.

“Face-to-face flirting can be mentally and emotionally demanding for people who lack the confidence to do it well.

“Often, it’s easier for them to adopt an alter ego online and be the witty character they would love to be in the real world.

“The problem with this is it can lead to an anti-climax when a couple get around to meeting in person having chatted and flirted successfully online.”

Sending a winking face emoji is easy, agrees Smith, but winking at the objection of your affection offline is far more daunting.

“One of the draws of online dating is that it makes us think that we won’t be rejected, or it won’t hurt as much [if we are],” she says.

“So that’s why we sit behind our computers and send an emoji rather than winking at someone in the pub.

She believes people are not getting what they want from dating apps such as Tinder. “Ultimately, we want to connect with people in the real world.”

Spontaneity and fun are the key components of a good flirting encounter, according to the expert, but a “prop” like a cuddly canine — not a cheesy chat-up line — is the secret to breaking the ice.

“I used to teach people how to start conversations, but then I realised [it was better] to teach people how to ask a question because that only relies on you doing your part,”says Smith.

“Now what I do is I teach people the skill of recognising a prop.

“The perfect example of a prop is a dog — there are a million different questions [you can ask someone about their dog].

“So the skill isn’t thinking of a question to ask, the skill is recognising, ‘Oh, that’s a prop — and now I can ask a question around the prop’.

“On my flirting tours, for example, at the gallery the portrait is the prop or at the supermarket the food is the prop.”

Just don’t overegg the pudding, warns matchmaker Buckley: “Lack of subtlety is one of the biggest mistakes people make when flirting.

“Most people see flirting as verbal and forget it can be physical as well. By physical, I mean a light touch of someone’s arm, and not groping, which some men think is giving a woman a compliment.

“Good flirting should be so natural it doesn’t even come across as a come on.”

So how do you know if someone is being flirty or simply friendly this February 14? It’s simple once you know how, it seems.

“One the most commonly asked questions is, ‘How can I tell if someone’s flirting with me?’” says Smith, who researched the flirting behaviour of people in five different cities, including Dublin, for her book, The Flirt Interpreter.

“One of the pitfalls I’ve noticed of Irish flirting is that no-one knows if the person actually likes them or is just ‘having the craic’.

“In my research, I found that there were six different ways that people understood when someone was flirting with them.

“I created an acronym HOT APE (Humour, Open body language, Touch, Attention, Proximity, Eye contact) for the six signs of flirting — so the more of these signs that someone’s exhibiting, the more likely that they’re interested.”

DON’T fret if your flirting falls flat though, says Feargal Harrington of Irish dating site A Real Keeper, who also reminds singletons their fellow flirts have feelings too.

“Unfortunately not everyone is going to reciprocate your feelings,” he says. “So accepting that some rejection is coming your way will make coping with it easier.

“If your advances are refused, having a somewhat cavalier attitude will not only insulate you from any real pain, but could also result in the object of your overture finding you a lot more confident, and therefore more attractive.

“My advice is not to invest too much in a potential match before you have a chance to establish if they are interested. Act fast on a crush in order to avoid any major bruising to your ego if your feelings aren’t mirrored.

“Meanwhile, if someone expresses an interest in you, but you don’t reciprocate then be grateful that they found you attractive, thank them for their time and wish them the best.”

Even flirting with disaster can be fun, agrees Smith: “I’m always surprised at how much power we give strangers over our own self worth.

“Are we actually willing to let every single person around us affect our mood, depending on what’s going on with them?

“Flirting is basically just being open to an encounter anywhere you are,” she adds.“We don’t have time for everyone to like us, so the thing is to just act like yourself — and you’ll attract people who like you for who you are.”


DO: Flirt indiscriminately at first, so when that tall, dark, stranger does come along, you’ll be sure to wow as you woo.

DON’T: Chat someone up just to boost your own ego - flirting is flattering, being strung along definitely isn’t.

DO: Ask open-ended questions that entice the object of your affection into a flirty conversation that could lead to an even flirtier coffee.

DON’T: Wait until you’re in the pub to do it — the supermarket, swimming pool or bus stop are all equally fertile ground for flirting.

DO: Prepare to be shot down despite your best efforts — and refuse to be put off by someone who is simply having a bad day.

DON’T: Play hard to get — honesty is always the best option.

DO: Use eye contact to say you’re interested. And remember, there is nothing more attractive than a good sense of humour.

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