A recent study published in the journal Personality and individual differences investigated the top flirting deciding factors that drive people away from a potential partner. According to the findings, the biggest turnoffs include having a “slimy” approach, poor hygiene, and not showing exclusive interest.
Flirting is an important step in attracting a romantic partner, although not everyone does it well. Bad flirting has its consequences: Many singles cite poor flirting skills as the reason they’re single. So what does bad flirting look like and are there behaviors people can avoid if they want to get better?
The study’s authors, Menelaos Apostolou and Chrysovalanto Eleftheriou, set out to answer these questions by asking people what behaviors bother them the most when a person approaches them with flirty behavior.
“Mating is a fascinating aspect of human behavior,” said Apostolou, a professor of social sciences at the University of Nicosia.
First, the researchers surveyed 212 Greek-speaking men and women about their deciding factors for flirting. Specifically, participants were asked to imagine being approached by someone interested and to write down behaviors and traits that would lead them to “rule out the possibility of giving in to their flirtation.” Two researchers then independently analyzed these open-ended responses and together developed a list of 69 items that were cited as flirting detours (eg, narcissism, lack of humor, poor dress).
To classify these deciding factors into a smaller number of broader categories, the researchers presented this list of 69 items to a second sample of 734 Greek-speaking people. This time, they asked the participants to imagine that someone was flirting with them and to rate the extent to which each of these items would turn them off.
The study authors then applied a statistical procedure called principal components analysis, which allowed them to summarize these 69 traits into a smaller set of 11 factors. The top three factors were poor hygiene (eg, rotten teeth, bad breath), lack of exclusive interest (eg, looking bored, looking at other men/women), and a slimy approach (eg, ., making slobbery comments about one’s own appearance, rude). ). The other 8 deciding factors were vulgar language, poor appearance, excessive intimacy, lack of intelligence, narcissism, lack of humor and low self-esteem, stinginess, and having different points of view.
Interestingly, sex differences emerged. Women gave higher ratings for almost all 11 factors, suggesting that they were more sensitive to the deciding factors than men. The exception was that men gave higher ratings for some of the items related to poor appearance, such as “unattractive body” and “poorly dressed.” The explanation for the generally higher ratings of female participants could be that women have evolved to be more selective with their partners due to greater parental investment in child rearing.
There were also age differences: older participants tended to rate the decisive elements as more unpleasant than younger participants. This may reflect the tendency for people to raise their dating standards as they get older, as they become more attuned to their relationship preferences and more interested in long-term relationships.
Apostolou and Eleftheriou say their findings can guide clinicians hoping to help clients improve their flirting. “It follows that people can become more effective flirtation initiators if they work on their approach, avoid making, for example, obscene and sexist comments, touching and being too intimate, and also avoid flirting with more than one person at a time.” , they write in their study. The findings also suggest that working on personal hygiene and improving vocabulary are other ways people can improve their flirting.
Since the study sample was limited to residents of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, the findings may not generalize outside of this context. “I wouldn’t say there are any big caveats, but given the complexity of the phenomenon, more study is needed to fully understand what constitutes bad flirting,” Apostolou said. Additional cross-sample follow-up studies could illuminate how factors such as cultural context and sexual orientation influence factors that break flirting agreements.
“Research indicates that many people (perhaps one in two) have difficulty flirting,” Apostolou added. “Understanding what the deciding factors are in flirting would allow people to improve in this domain.”
The study, “What Constitutes a Bad Flirt: An Exploratory Study of Dealbreakers,” was authored by Menelaos Apostolou and Chrysovalanto Eleftheriou.