You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t used flirting to influence another individual of the opposite or same sex at some stage in their professional life. So, is flirting just about sex or can it be utilised as a skill to influence others? Well, I say a big resounding “yes” to influence. And here’s why.
The intent to connect
Generally, when individuals think of flirting they assume that it is with the intent to have sex (dirty buggers!). This is not the case. Flirting can have two different intents:
- Sexual intent
- Building a mutually beneficial platonic relationship.
Flirting is a social skill and assists to build instant rapport with another. Once rapport is established your ability to influence another’s decision-making process increases dramatically. The benefits are numerous, when dealing with suppliers, alliance partners, colleagues and, of course, clients and the media.
Flirting shortcuts a lengthy relationship building process in which time is wasted and exorbitant amounts of energy are expended just to get someone to like you. If they like you, they’ll do business with you. Flirting provides an instant connection in which both parties feel safe enough to express their personal opinions without fear of judgement. This is a key component in clearly identifying and responding to another’s needs, minus the “surface conversation” typical in business that delays the outcome process.
The benefits of flirting
A study done by the University of Alabama in 2003 found that individuals with low energy levels were associated with low flirtatious activity. They also found that these individuals thought of themselves as less attractive than their flirtatious counterparts. There is no doubt that this has massive implications on one’s self esteem and their ability to confidently interact and engage with others. When you are confident in yourself, you are less likely to be affected by what people think of you, thereby are more willing to confidently express yourself in your business and personal environments more freely.
Why flirting works
Everyone likes to feel accepted. Our entire society is based on the premise of fitting in and finding our place. When we feel liked and loved, we respond positively. When others hold back from us, we have a tendency to mirror their behaviour and create our own distance to protect ourselves. In creating this distance we disallow true communication to occur and for others to say what they really think.
Many of us avoid complimenting others because we make the assumption that they will perceive it as a come on. Our over-politically correct society is causing more damage than good. We’re so scared of saying something in fear that we’ll be called sexist or even accused of sexual harassment that instead we say nothing at all and devoid others of a positive personal experience. This is leaving us void of genuine experiential interactions that have the power to influence for mutual benefit.
Applying it to business
The application of this social skill is designed to influence another and leave them with a “moment” by which they can remember you by. Within each conversation your objective is to energetically shift someone from one emotional state to another (i.e. sad/neutral to happy and energised). This is where influence is achieved. This can occur by applying a mix of the following:
- Making eye contact
- Smiling frequently
- Complimenting their dress sense
- Complimenting their work skills
- Being playful in your interactions
- Joking in a non-sexual manner
- Making them laugh at least once during each interaction with you
- Seeing the conversation as your chance to play and enjoy the experience of the interaction
Knowing your boundaries
Are there risks to flirting? Absolutely! Your playful nature may be misinterpreted as a sexual advance. However, this only ever happens when there is sexual energy in the background of how you’re engaging. You know when the interaction has gone or is about to go too far. It is at that point that you make a conscious decision to pull back and remain professional.
We teach others how to treat us. Understand and take responsibility for your interactions and how you are perceived. Others reflect our own behaviours back to us. They are your mirror to how well you interact. Are they standoffish, aggressive or even aloof around you? It is quite possible that this is happening because you’re exhibiting those exact same traits and they’re mirroring you.
Engage within boundaries and you’ll never be placed in or create an awkward situation. Such boundaries may include:
- No touching (other than handshake, tap on shoulder, kiss on the cheek)
- Inappropriate gazing (i.e. nether regions/bust line, that’s just obvious!)
- Taking the conversation down a sexual path
- Playing favourites in front of other staff/colleagues/clients
Don’t be such a prude!
For those of you reading this who are in deep shock and disgust at the mere thought of flirting to influence others, ask yourself this: are you associating it heavily to sex or to the enjoyment of human interaction? Separate the two and for god sakes, lighten up. We’re here to enjoy one another’s company, not detest it.
Ben Angel is a public speaker, trainer, media commentator and personal stylist. His new book, “Sleeping Your Way to the Top in Business,” will be released in August 2009. Go to http://www.benangel.com.au for further details. Follow Ben’s styling tips on Twitter: @BenAngel
Photo: Ajda Gregorčič