Flirting has become something of a lost art. Oh, it still lives on, after a fashion, but it has become bogged down in sexual assumptions, painful innuendos, and leprosy-inducingly bad pick-up lines. If you peel away the lechery and the desperate scrabbling, you find, at its core, a simple expression of interest in another person.
In America, especially, it’s easy to lose sight of that. With our many schedules, workloads, television programs, to-do lists, musings, frustrations, fears, and desires to think about, it’s a wonder that we find other people interesting at all. And when we do, it’s usually because of what they can provide. Truly thinking about another person before ourselves is a very foreign experience for most.
Which is why it is so gratifying to be paid attention to. Verbal compliments are easy enough to construct and pass out without manifesting any real feelings but true interest, genuine rapt attention, complete absorption in another person is very difficult to fake. To be held captive by a word or a stare is the sincerest compliment you can give.
Flirting is usually reserved for romantic encounters, which is natural enough—we all seek partners who are more interested in us than in themselves—but is there an unspoken law that says it must always be this way? I believe the basis of true flirting—genuine interest in another person—can be used to improve any relationship, romantic or no. You can use this “platonic flirting” with a customer at the place you work, a cousin you’ve never gotten to know, or an aisle-seat neighbor on your third-class flight to Peoria.
So try it. Look the other person in the eye. Watch his or her face to see what thoughts and emotions are hiding behind the spoken words. Put other distractions out of mind. Learn what kind of music he likes, what she does for a living, where they dream of going on vacation. Figure out what makes the other person laugh. Find what you have in common. You might be surprised by how many people are worth knowing, and knowing well.