How to Flirt (with everything)

I’ve seen you. You always want to connect with people, but you’re not always sure how to do it. Sometimes it just happens. You find that, somehow, one of you has invited the other to play. Without being serious, without anyone trying too hard, you find that you’re just enjoying each other, and that part of what you’re enjoying is this exciting sense that something more is possible.

There’s a secret to flirting. When you flirt, you suggest that there’s a secret you know the answer to. There’s a possibility around the corner, something exciting and good and mysterious that could happen, if only the person being flirted with accepts the invitation offered by the flirt. And it’s true. Something exciting and good and mysterious can happen.

There’s another secret to flirting. The exciting and good and mysterious things that flirting suggests are around the corner are always available to you if you just look at the world in the right way. If you look at the world this way, you can flirt with everything, and you start to notice that everything flirts back.

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How to Flirt (with everything)
Steve Bearman
March 28, 2013

Oh! Hey you pressed play, I totally wasn’t sure whether you were going to press it or not. And I'm so excited that you did because I’ve been wanting to talk to you about flirting and now is our chance. I wanted to ask you what kind of flirt you are, I mean, okay the way I see it, there are at least two different kinds of flirts. So the first kind sees flirting as like an activity, it’s something that you do. You are into somebody and you see them at a party or a bar and you engage in this conversation with them and that’s flirting, it’s an activity. But the second kind of flirts is flirting as like a whole orientation to life. It’s a way of being in the world that allows you to flirt with everyone and everything. Now if you are the first kind, you miss out on so much of the magic of flirting, like right now obviously, I'm flirting with you, right from the beginning of this conversation I have been flirting with you. And the flirt is not a like, “I'm into you so let’s get it on” kind of flirt. The flirt is a, “I’ve got something exciting, I’ve got this possibility of something to share with you and I'm going to suggest it, and I'm going to invite you to sharing in it with me”. You don’t know what it is, but if I’ve done my job right, I’ve suggest it to you that something good is going to happen and you have a choice to decide whether you’re going to enter into that “good” thing with me or not. It’s like if there is someone that you’re into and you’re flirting with them you’re doing the same thing, you’re letting them know something is possible. If you flirt really well, then you give them an experience that itself is enjoyable but that’s an invitation that they don’t need to respond to. You say something like, “you’re really cool”, and you just say it in a way where you’re really genuinely expressing your liking for them. They will feel liked and if nothing else happens, they walk away from that interaction having felt liked. On the other hand they might take you on this suggested offer of connection with you, They could respond by complimenting you back or saying thank you or any number of things they’re accepting your overture to connect. Now, for those of who don’t’ flirt because you feel it’s too intimidating, you don’t want to start by flirting in these high stakes situations, where there’s something you really want from somebody and so there’s pressure. Instead, think of the ways that people flirt with other people who they’re not into. Like for instance, people flirt with little kids all the time. Like imagine you’re on the playground with a little kid that you know and you pick up a rock. You’ll encounter the rock with them and you’ll say, “Hey what do you have there? Ooh a rock? That’s exciting! Nice rock, what are we going to do with that rock?” It’s all just an invitation to this possibility of something good. People do it where they’re suddenly manipulative. They might say, “Hey you know when you get done cleaning your room, we can go out and play catch”. And so you’re offering them something. You’re letting them know that you’re manipulating them, but you’re offering them a possibility of something good. And it’s possible to treat everybody like you treat a little kid- not like infantilize them but be playful with them. Assume that they’re interested in connecting and playing and that they’re interested in playing and connecting with you. Another way to think about it is, you can treat everybody like you’re totally attracted to them. That special energy that you bring only to the people that you’re attracted to, you can bring it to other people. Not as a way of falsely coming onto them, not as a ruise, but as an actual expression of interest in them. You pass people on the street, you interact with the cashier, you interact with a bus driver, anybody. There’s always a moment when you can do that. If you know notice the cashiers scanning the items really quickly and operating the register in a really facile sort of way, then you can notice that they’ve been doing this awhile and you can say, “Wow you’ve been doing this a long time, huh?” And in doing that you’re just saying, “I notice you. I notice something about your experience and I’m interacting with you in a way that’s an invitation for you to interact back”. Maybe this is a context in which people don’t generally get real and really connect with each other, but with me you could. Because I am a really interesting person to interact with. And that is the key to flirting with people. You have to know how interesting you are. How lucky anybody would get to be to get to play with you. So that when you’re inviting and suggesting, you’re inviting and suggesting it’s you that they’re going to get to have if they take you up on your suggested offer. So you have to get in touch with your own awesomeness, your uniqueuness, your specialness, your humanity in order to then reach out and connect with someone else’s humanity. Now of course, it’s not just people that you can flirt with. One of my favorite flirts is I flirt with trees all the time and I have a special relationship with trees. But when I walk by a tree I’ll often have this moment of like, “Oh I can have this kind of sensual caress, and be like wow that’s some kind of rough bark you’ve got there.” I won’t say that to the tree but I’ll think it and I’ll have this thought like, “I wonder if I can climb this tree” but instead maybe it’ll be like, “maybe I’ll just give it my weight for a moment, I’m having a little dance with the tree, it’s just a moment of a possibility of something. And then I walk away having enjoyed the intereaction and I hope that the tree does too. You can flirt with the food that you’re about to eat. I mean, if you encounter some really green, beautiful, juicy looking snap peas, you can have this moment of thought to yourself like, "Wow, I can bite into these right now and it'll be a crunchy, juicy, delicious experience, and it'll be healthy and good for me." And so you kind of look at the peas and you're like, "I want to bite into you right now." You don't say it to them but you know, something is good is about to happen. On the other hand, you can be like, "You know what peas? I'll have you some other time. It's time for cookies now. I'm going to be unhealthy and I'll eat you peas later. That could be an exciting flirt with the possiblitity of cookies and unhealthiness. When you've got your dish after you're done, what are you going to do with that dish? Well you could have this moment with the dish where you're like, "I'm washing you right now. You're not going to be one of those dishes that accumulates in the sink. I'm going to wash you so good, you're going to be so clean." It's this exciting possibility of what could happen with the dish because something else could happen too. You could just cavalierly leave that dish on the table. Like, "Pshhh, I'm not going to wash you at all. This is going to be a wash-free day. That's a possibility of something exciting. Another thing I like that people do with food a lot is when they pray before they eat. It always seems to me like they're kind of flirting with God. It's like you're saying to God, "Hey I've got this big, delicious plate of food and it smells really good and I'm getting really hungry right now. But you know what I'm thinking about? You. That's right, you're on my mind right now even as I am about to eat this food." It's an exciting flirt. It's a flirt with the infinite. It's not just you that can flirt with things. Things flirt with you all the time, if you stop and notice. Like before I was filming this, I noticed that my shoelace had come untied. And so I bent down to tie it and I thought, "Oh, maybe these shoes won't come off. So I flirted back and took the shoes off. I'm actually barefoot right now. If you could look down you would see my beautiful naked toes. There are all kinds of other ways that things flirt with you. Something may catch your eye in the distance, like a flower, and you were trying to pay attention to something but something else keeps drawing your attention. It's flirting with you. Do you want to flirt back? Do you want to check it out? This happens all the time with Interchange, my year-long counseling training. Someone hears about it from someone, a year later they see something, and it just comes into their consciousness in some way, so it flirts with them. It's just a possiblity, it's a suggestive invitation. They get to decide, do they want to flirt back? Do they want to check it out? Do they want to consider that it's maybe something for them? Not only are there endless opportunities for you to flirt with everyone and everything, but the world if flirting with you if you stop and notice, and you can figure out whether you want to flirt back or not. I invite you to try on this orientation to life, to approach flirting. For right now, the next person you come into contact with, find some way to flirt with them. Get into them. Whatever way you're into them, get into them. Show them that you're into them. Suggest and invite the possibility of something more really good with you. And don't just do it with a person. The next thing that you're coming into contact with after watching the video, see if there's some way you can flirt with it too. It's just about recognizing that in every moment, so much is possible. So much more than we usually allow ourselves to notice. When you get excited about the good possible things that could happen, you flirt with everything.

About the Author

Steve Bearman, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He founded Interchange Counseling Institute in 2002 and is the lead teacher of Interchange's San Francisco-based year-long counseling and coaching training. When he's not counseling people, leading workshops, and advocating for social justice, Steve climbs mountains, adventures in the urban wilderness, explores the edges and limits of what's possible, deconstructs everything, and finds new ways to put it all back together.