Read: Why Consent is More Complicated Than a Cup of Tea
2. Ditto for Personal Space
If you’re flirting with someone IRL, be mindful and do not infringe on someone’s personal space unless given physical cues or verbal confirmation signalling it’s OK. Don’t be that jerk who doesn't know how to flirt and pushes an undesired agenda.
Also, do not touch another person without explicit, enthusiastic consent. This is non-negotiable. You may think a casual hug or arm around the waist or shoulder is OK, but unless the recipient clearly says it is – it is not OK.
3. Non-Verbal Indicators of Attraction Are Not Permission
In my experience, some (often male-identifying) folks interpret friendliness, such as a subtle smile or even basic friendly banter, as a sexual come-on, even if it isn't meant that way. It's important not to misconstrue those things as something they're not. If someone tells you they aren't feeling it, take it for what it is and leave them alone.
If you are on the receiving end of a flirtation and you’re not into someone, the easiest way to shut down a conversation is by being direct. You can still be polite while doing so, but if they can’t take a hint, screw being respectful and nice. All the conditioning we’ve been force-fed (I speak as a female-identifying human) not to hurt someone else’s feelings often does us a great disservice.
Read: A Step-by-Step Guide to Negotiating Consent
4. Be Present
When you’re focusing your flirting attention, be present and listen – actively. It’s important to hear what the person you’re smitten with has to say and to pay close attention to their non-verbal cues. This also means not checking your cell phone every two minutes. Knowing how to flirt means being intentional; I pinky swear your efforts (and interest!) won’t go unnoticed.
I know, I know. This command doesn’t always land well. But if you’re trying to make an impression with someone, a friendly, authentic smile will always go a long way.
Read: Yes! Why Consent is Totally Sexy
If you want to be intentional in your connection, make eye contact. It’s another way to intimately show up that doesn’t involve much effort or physical contact.
You can express a whole lot with just your eyes and holding someone’s gaze a few seconds longer than normal is an easy way to signal that you like someone.
7. Gentle Teasing
Okay, this one may not work for everyone, so feel it out and proceed with caution. I’m not into full-court press teasing, pretty much ever. But, in the name of flirting, some playful prodding can be OK.
Just don’t be a relentless jerk about it. If you’re unsure of whether gentle teasing is OK, a simple, “Is this OK?” will work.
Read: Getting Curious: The Surprising Skill for Hot, Fun and Consensual Sex
Flirting is the sexy slow burn in getting to know someone. Take it slow and get to know the person. This will help you better understand them and read their reactions more accurately. Even when our intentions are good, we can and do still screw up. If you do, own it, apologize, and don’t do it again. When both parties are into it and on the same page, flirting can be a lot of fun. Remember, consent applies to every interpersonal communication, no matter what.