10 Unwritten Rules of Flirtation

We've all done it--cast an extra glance at a person who looks attractive, occasionally smiling, maybe striking up a conversation. Flirting is fun, it's sociable, and it can lead to an enduring romance. That said, there's an unwritten code of behavior that should be followed when you flirt.

Rule number one: Eye contact should be the way you start flirting, says Peter S. Kanaris, Ph. D., a psychologist from Smithtown, Long Island, who also is the coordinator of public education for the New York State Psychological Association."You are saying, hey I'm interested in you," he explains. "Eye contact back from the other person establishes that much of a connection."

Rule number two: If eye contact is rebuffed, you may not want to proceed to the second step. Assuming the person returned your gaze, it's now time for a smile, Kanaris says. And if they smile back, be aware of your body language and your posture--and watch the other person's. "You shouldn't be folding your arms across your chest and leaning back," he says. "If the other person's arms are open, and he is smiling and leaning forward, that indicates interest."

All of these non verbal signs will soon give you the opportunity to break the ice with an actual conversation starter.

Rule number three: Initial conversation starters work best when they are close-ended and when they focus on situational subjects, like the weather. If you're standing at the bus stop, you may say to the person, "It looks like the bus is late today," Kanaris says. "If they respond to that, try an open-ended question next.Ashing a question like, 'Where do you go from the bus?' invites more conversation," he says.

Rule number four: Follow the other person's lead. If the other person seems receptive, then you can proceed with more conversation. But if you see a closed off type of response, says Kanaris, then that sends the message "I am not interested. It's time for you to go away."

Rule number five: Don't necessarily think you have to fit everything, from the look to the smile to the conversation, all into a single encounter, Kanaris says. "You don't have to barge in all at once," he says. "If you are at the bus stop every day, you might make eye contact the first day, and then the second day, smile and make sure that you are showing appropriate body language."

Rule number six: Don't blatantly stare, says Leslie Seppinni, Psy. D, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. "That can make it look as if you are stalking or desperate, particularly if you are a woman," she says. "Anything over three seconds is too much."

Rule number seven: It's perfectly okay to ever so slightly bump into a guy as you walk by. "Just kind of graze him," Seppinni says. "Then you can say, 'Oh I'm sorry, I didn't see you standing there.'" Or, if you want to get his attention and he's standing nearby, ask him, "I am so sorry, do you need this chair?" In a subtle way, she says, you are telling him that it is okay for him to sit next to you.

Rule number eight: Don't sit with your arms crossed, and don't look like you're pouting. "No one likes to be around a person who looks miserable," Seppinni says. "You want to smile, lean back in your chair, maybe play with a little lock of your hair," she suggests.

Rule number nine: Be a good listener. People love to talk about themselves, Seppinni says. When you do 70 to 75 percent of the listening, you get a chance to find out if you want this to go any further, she says. "And he will be grateful that you took the time out to listen to him," Seppinni adds.

Rule number ten: If it gets to the point where you are going to have an open ended conversation, instead of asking the person what they do for a living, ask "What's your passion?" A question like this won't make the person feel like you are judging him, Seppinni says. "You will get a thousand times more information from the person," she explains. "And he will be thrilled that you are interested in learning all about what he loves."