How To Get Your Flirt On (According to Science)

If you ever wanted to know if a guy is flirting with you, listen to his voice. According to new research published in the Evolution & Human Behavior, men tap the power of their vocal chords when they’re interested in a woman.

Apparently, when heterosexual men were asked to flirt with a woman they found attractive, they made certain vocal adjustments, namely they deepened their voice and their inflections took on a “sing-songy” quality. Researchers interpreted this as an attempt by men to communicate both virility(the deep sound) and tenderness (the sing-songy-ness)—a one-two punch of flirtation.

The researchers claim that “because low-pitched masculine voices might be associated with aggression, such modulation could potentially enable men to signal both their masculinity and lack of threat simultaneously.”

If only it were that simple for women. It’s not—the study found that heterosexual women only modulated their voice with other women, and researchers don’t really know why. (Peacocking? Competitiveness?)

So how does a lady flirt back when a guy is doing that weird thing with his voice? Here are some other (fairly) scientific ways to get your flirt on.

1. Make non-creepy eye contact

This sounds really basic, but this nonverbal cue is proven to be a consistent and excellent signal of interest. A study in the Journal of Research in Personality had participants share 2 minutes of unbroken eye contact with a stranger of the opposite sex, and afterwards the participants reported increased feelings of attraction. Now, don’t run around staring at someone unbroken for long stretches of time, as you will likely be reported or arrested or something, but do try to make confident eye contact when talking with your crush. Nerves can often get the best of us, but if you trust that what you’re doing is often more powerful than what you’re saying (yay! no more cheesy lines!) you can relax and let those peepers to do the talking.

2. Reach out and touch someone

A giant “duh” to this one, but hear me out. According to the book, Close Relationships, the types of touching low on the flirting totem pole were pretty obvious: “shoulder push, shoulder tap, handshake,” while the most successfully flirtatious touch was, “the soft face touch, followed by the touch around the shoulder or waist, and then the soft touch on the forearm.” I’m gonna go out on a limb (pun intended) and suggest starting with that last one, male or female. Another key mentioned in this book is that informal and soft touching indicates the most romantic intention. So less punching him on the shoulder as you make a joke (my move du jour ages 13-22,) and more subtle forearm touching.

3. Just wear red, OK?

Sounds simple? It’s cuz it is, Flirtypants. Apparently gobs of research has been done about this ‘power color’ that causes wearers (of both sexes!) to be perceived as attractive and sexually desirable.

“We think that red, due to the association with hearts and Valentine’s Day and lingerie and things like that, takes on a sexy meaning,” University of Rochester researcher Andrew Elliot told CNN. “There’s also a possibility—a rather provocative possibility that there’s a deeply embedded sort of tendency for heterosexual men to see red as an attraction cue because that’s what happens in the wild.”

4. Make ’em laugh (and then get serious)

Unlike my nervous, merciless teasing + banter approach (I’m so smooth,) Michael Christian, author of The Art of Kissing, suggests using humor as an opener, but always following it up with a serious question, “”Humor is one of the greatest ice-breakers. It allows you to get your foot in the door, so then you can talk about whatever else is topical or relevant.” Being lighthearted and witty can show confidence and intelligence, just don’t turn it into an awkward one man band. And, like Christian suggests, transition quickly into something with a little more substance (you’re the total package, remember?)

5. Play hard to get (but in a nice way)

Now let me preface with this: I hate games. But, according to psychologist Richard Wiseman (and author of 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute) the deeper part of this flirting technique isn’t to play games, it is to communicate your value and, at the same time, your potential scarcity. His research suggests giving a potential date the impression that, generally speaking, you are hard to pin down, while simultaneously paying specific, enthusiastic attention to the person of interest. Got that?

I wish there was a way to just let the cat out of the bag and tell the person you’re flirting with that you’re interested, or that “this is me flirting with you,” but alas, that doesn’t seem to be how human nature works. Researching flirting online, I found so many forums with questions like “How do you know you’re being flirted with?” and “How do I talk to girls?” and “Is he flirting or being mean?” It’s clear we’re all in this together when it comes to understanding the subtleties of flirting. So chin up, roll with the punches, make some prolonged eye contact and grab that forearm. Oh and lead with your best witty joke, while wearing tons of red. What could possibly go wrong?