It’s Complicated: Reagan offers flirting tips

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Dear Reagan,
How do I indicate to someone I don’t know very well that I find them attractive? Flirting is hard enough as it is, but lately, I’ve found that I’m hesitant to approach women for fear that I’ll come off as overly forward or creepy. Any advice?
Bearded and Bored

Dear Bearded,

The initial stages of flirting can be insanely awkward. If it seems like other people have it down and you’re the one who can’t figure it out well, good and bad news — no one really knows how to flirt!

Jean Smith, a social anthropologist, lays out in a TEDx talk a clear acronym to know when someone is flirting with you: HOT APE. You can use this to see if someone is flirting with you and also to hone your own flirting skills.

H — Humor: You’re looking for someone that appreciates your kind of humor. If they roll their eyes at your perfect pun, maybe they aren’t that into you.
O — Open body language: Turn toward them and don’t cross your arms.
T — Touch: Smith claims that touch is the best way to make it clear you are interested. An arm touch is a pretty safe bet, given you are getting these other signals from them as well. Just make sure you’re reading their body language too as you do so.
A — Attention: Try not to get so stuck in your head that you forget to pay attention to what they are saying.
P — Proximity: If you find that she’s standing far away, she may just want to keep walking toward the door.
E — Eye Contact: The more eye contact you’re exchanging the better off you are, so long as you do break contact every so often.

Too specific compliments end up sounding cringy (I like the way that sweater hugs your curves). Opt for general compliments (you look nice today, I like your new hair color, etc.).

Make sure to pay attention to her reactions. If she’s not looking at you or if she’s responding monosyllabically, back off. If she is engaging in a conversation or sitting by you consistently, you’re likely safe.

Generally, if you’re not pushy or touchy you should not be coming off as creepy.

Happy Flirting!