New research suggests that during a short get-to-know-you conversation, people show they are attracted in a way that matches their flirting style.

"This is the first study to show that different ways of communicating attraction reveal a person's flirting style," explained Jeffrey Hall, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas. How you flirt says a lot about what flirting means to you.

To reach this conclusion, Hall's team observed 51 pairs of opposite-sex strangers who had self-identified their flirting styles in a questionnaire. Hall breaks down flirting styles into physical, traditional, sincere, polite and playful categories.

In the new study, strangers interacted for 10-12 minutes. Afterward, the participants reported their level of attraction toward their conversation partners.

Hall and his team coded 36 verbal flirting behaviours such as making compliments, asking questions and revealing information and nonverbal flirting behaviours such as leg-crossing, palming, leaning forward, playing with objects and nodding.

"We found that as people became more attracted to their conversation partner, they showed that attraction in ways that revealed their flirting style," Hall pointed out. People with the sincere style - who communicate attraction through self-disclosure and focused attention - were attentive and less fidgety in the short interaction.

"Female sincere flirts laughed and smiled more and more frequently showed a telltale sign of interest - the coy gaze," the authors wrote. Males who were traditional flirts (those who believed men should make the first move) were more likely to lean into the interaction and adopt an open body posture.

Traditional females acted in more demure way, by palming - or showing their wrists and hands - and gently teasing their conversational partner. The hardest flirts to read were the polite flirts."A polite flirt tends to be very hands-off and respectful but as you can imagine, this type of flirting is not obvious to the people they are attracted to," Hall informed.

They lean back, create even more space and are more even in verbal tone."For most people, it signals a lack of closeness, but polite flirts do it more the more attracted they become," the authors added.

Physical flirts offered fewer compliments when they were attracted to a potential romantic match. Across all flirting styles, a few things are true. When it comes to flirting, most people are pretty subtle.

"Everybody does it differently. Because flirting is low-key and varied, we are often oblivious when people send us signals of romantic attraction. Perhaps that is why Cupid's arrow misses the mark all too often, Hall concluded.

The study appeared in the peer-reviewed Journal of Nonverbal Behaviour.


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