Jean Smith, Anthropologist and Flirting Expert

As a behavioural anthropologist and relationship expert, Jean Smith (36) knows a thing or two about flirting… so much so that she has set up a website entirely devoted to the subject (www.flirtology.co.uk), is currently writing a book comparing flirting techniques between cultures, and regularly organises flirting seminars and flirting tours of London! Here, the American reseracher, who has been living in London for 12 years, talks to Chic-Londres about the art of flirting and offers her tips for the festive season.

Are the English good at flirting and how do they measure up with the French? English men in London are happy for women to take the initiative, as they tend to be quite shy reserved- hence the importance of alcohol in the English culture and the “Dutch courage” it brings, which helps them get rid of their inhibitions. But when women choose to be proactive, they are usually very successful. The French on the other hand are more traditional when it comes to gender roles, with the men doing the work. There is also a stronger intellectual aspect to it, as an important part of French flirting involves a good conversation, which is why alcohol plays a lesser part, as people want to be at their best. Generally speaking, French tend to consider flirting more as a game.

What constitutes a good flirt? People with good flirting skills know how to make others feel good about without needing it to be reciprocated. If they appreciate something about someone, they tell them. When someone is talking to them, they give their full attention and make the person feel as if they are the only person on earth- or at least in the room. People want to be around those who make them feel good, and the ability to do that in a genuine way is the secret of having good flirting skills. Humour is a big asset, as well as the ability to talk to a number of different people about a number of different subjects and the ability to listen.

How has flirting evolved over the past years? The biggest thing that happened is without a doubt the apparition of Internet dating. People have become much more exposed to a large array of potential partners whom they might never have been able to meet before, when they were often confined to a circle of friends from school or university. Dating in London has also become more “Americanized”, in the sense that it is now accepted that one can date a lot of different people at the same time, before making an informed choice.

Why are there so many people in London who struggle to find a partner when there have never been so many singletons looking? It has to do with the exposure effect, which in sociological terms mean that you are bound to be more attracted by someone you see often. That mostly applies to people living in smaller communities and who tend to meet a partner who lives around the corner, which is not something you can do in a big city like London. I also think that a lot of people actually want to remain single, because if you are in your 30s in London, you are, in my opinion, the perfect demographic to really enjoy the singles scene. The temptation is to keep your options open. There are endless distractions to be found in this city and so much things always going on that if you want to get into a relationship, you really have to make it a priority.

What are the mistakes to avoid when meeting someone you are attracted to? A lot of people find it very easy to flirt with someone they actually don’t care about, but freeze with those they really like, because there is a very fine line between excitement and fear, and approaching someone you like can be nerve wrecking. The mistake here is to make the object of your affection into a superhuman, when they are just like everyone else. The secret is to practice, like for a job interview: the more you put yourself in this situation, the easier it gets. Flirting is fun! Don’t look at flirting as something you are forced to do. The only losers are those who don’t try…

Jean’s Flirting Techniques Tips

  • Be confident and smile People are attracted to confidence, the good news being that even if you are not confident on the inside, you can always fake it on the outside. Smiles are easy to give and are a powerful and a positive message to receive. And everyone looks better when they smile.
  • Make eye contact Eyes are a very powerful seduction tool. Women take note: it takes the average guy three glances from you before he begins to understand you are interested. As for the men, they should know that if a woman looks at them two or three times, it is basically the equivalent of them going to a girl to offer her a drink- it means a lot.
  • Be proactive Women are often too subtle and need to be more straightforward. One of my clients once said that she gave the message that she was interested in a guy by pointing her knees towards him when she was sitting: a man would never get that! An Englishman might react like a rabbit in the headlight when a woman approaches him, but once he is over the shock, he usually really likes it!
  • Step out of your comfort zone and be open Many people develop negative scenarios in their head which stop them acting, because as a rule we will do anything possible not to feel uncomfortable. But being open is an attractive quality to others, whether it means being able to talk to everyone at a party or trying something new. And because there are so many social things happening in December, this time of the year is always full of opportunities- obviously, the more you meet people, the more likely you are to meet someone you like.
  • Don’t rule anyone out until you have talked to them Of course, this is very important to set some boundaries, but too many people seem to put restrictions and regulations on who they want to approach- with candidates who must be this age, have this height, etc. But attraction doesn’t only come from looks- it also comes from conversation, with personality and intellect playing a big part.
  • Take the “reject” out of rejection Don’t have too high expectations: if your intentions when you flirt are to find a boyfriend/girlfriend or get some praise, then you might be disappointed. If it is just for fun, then you won’t be so affected. Also bear in mind that rejection isn’t always about you- it is about the situation of the other person, with external factors that you shouldn’t take personally: maybe they are tired or in a bad mood or married. And yes, maybe you are not their type- but the good news is that you may be a million other people’s type… so go flirt with those instead!