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Art of flirting

There are certain social graces to be kept in mind before indulging in flirting.

MENTION THE word flirting and you can see the reaction instantly... a few raised eyebrows, a few shy smiles and a lot of intrigue, mystery and confusion surrounding the topic and the whole concept itself. Several doubts also engulf a person on how she can find out if someone is flirting with her and whether it is good or bad.

All of which points to the confusion between the puritanical view on one side, and the pleasure one feels while at the receiving end of a flirtatious encounter on the other! The dictionary definition of flirting goes thus: "being playfully romantic; something of little value or importance; speak or act in a playful or flirting way; (to) toy (with)". Flirtation is a gentle amusement, a social mind game, played out by adults. This could also be the start of a future romance. By itself, it has no value, or meaning.

Flirting is a primal force, part of the basic instincts of human nature. Anthropological research shows that flirting is to be found, in some form, in all cultures and societies around the world.

Many puritanical cultures have given flirting a bad name. People become so worried about causing offence or sending the wrong signals, or being "branded" a flirt that they lose the natural talent for playful, harmless flirtation. Despite the disapproval of puritans, moralists and their modern equivalents in both the `moral police' and `political correctness' camps, these basic flirting instincts persist and the human species survives!

However, knowing the boundaries and limits is vital to make flirting either enjoyable or obnoxious and offensive. Like every other human activity, flirting is governed by a complex set of unwritten laws of etiquette. We generally obey these unofficial laws instinctively, without being conscious of doing so. We become aware of the rules only when someone commits a breach of this etiquette — by flirting with the wrong person, perhaps, or at an inappropriate time or place, or speaking, behaving in a way that causes eyebrows to raise.

Have tact and realise that flirting is done with consideration and good sense. You should be aware of the individual sensitivity of the person you are flirting with because this is a coy game in which there is no room for being crude.

At a party or at a pub, a certain amount of flirting is socially sanctioned and acceptable. At pubs though, there are distinct boundaries to keep in mind. The seating around the bar is considered "public zone" and it is all right to strike up a conversation there. Anyone seated at a table especially one situated far away from this public zone should not be intruded upon, unless invited to join the group, as these tables become private zones.

Workplace flirting is more risky, and it has to be extremely subtle and discreet. Otherwise, it can turn out to be a double-edged sword. Since the operating word in a business arena is gender neutrality, technically, flirting has no place. Moreover, it is distracting and many businesses do frown upon office romances.

As a woman professional, you need to be noticed for your performance and not for your flirtatious behaviour because that reputation will undermine all your achievements. As for men, you do not want to behave in any way that will give rise to the issue of sexual harassment.

A genuine warm smile, a nice compliment, listening skills, intelligent conversation, self-confidence, eye contact — all play a part in making that connection with the opposite sex. Keep in mind that the "others" about whom you are so worried, have and will indulge in this little social game. Now relax, be yourself and have fun!


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