How to chat someone up: a scientific guide

You had me at the correct use of “you’re”

Flirting, from the classic cheesy pick-up lines, the ‘heyyyys’ with one too many Ys to just general, straight up awkwardness. Speaking to the person you are into is never an easy task, let alone getting them to fancy you back as a result of it. We took it to the experts of language to see how it’s done.

Getting the hint that someone is flirting with us isn’t always as straightforward as we think. Research from the BBC explains how we let on that we totally fancy the pants off someone. Surprisingly, a whole 55% of the message comes through our body language; 35% comes from the tone and speed of our voice and a tiny 7% comes from what we actually say. Makes sense, if you recite some romantic sonnet but you are screaming and are hunched over it doesn’t quite have the same impact.

I can tell from your body language

According to linguistic research, the most common, universal way to signal romantic interest is not through language but something as simple as eye contact and smiling. Dr. Monica Moore found that ‘it’s not the most physically appealing people who get approached, but the ones who signal their availability and confidence through basic flirting techniques like eye contact and smiles’. You know what that means, there’s hope for us all kids.

Body language speaks so much louder than the dodgy one-liners spilling nervously out of our mouths. A technique proven successful is ‘mirroring’. This is where you adopt a similar posture to that of the person you are flirting with. Warning, this is not mimicking their every movement in some ‘Simon Says’ like manner, this will definitely put off your potential love interest. Instead, casually mirroring their posture can be a sign of interest, good communication and helps to build the connection between you.

If you do this Simon is probably going to say no

Science has studied the art of flirting

An experiment carried out at Stanford University looked at data (which linguists call a social corpus) from speed dates. After the speed date, the participants were asked to rank their date on their on their flirtatiousness. Both genders who laughed more and used a higher pitch when speaking were deemed the most flirtatious.

Pronouns are important

Results of this experiment showed that men use pronouns such as ‘you’ and ‘we’. Pronoun usage is essential to flirtation. In terms of what you say, these pronouns are the ones that scream: ‘I’m totally into you’. ‘We’ is an inclusive pronoun. This shows your date that you consider the two of you as one item, including them and having the effect of making them feel special. ‘You’ is very direct and shows confidence. Speak directly to the person you are flirting with and use ‘you’ or even better, their name to signal your flirtation.

Chomsky and I – pondering how to chat up the lads

Questions were also popular with men, asking a lot more than the women. This is important to express interest and keep the conversation flowing.

Women in the experiment were seen to use more of the first person pronoun ‘I’ (yes you sassy independent females). This could be a tactic of playing hard to get. Women also tend to take fewer, longer turns. So speaking less often, but saying more.

Get your coat you’ve pulled

How to win over those Tinder dates:

When it comes to flirting over text, people who use more emojis are luckier in love, says Professor Vyv Evans. This is the old classic, that a picture can paint a thousand words. Using more emojis helps to convey feelings and emotion and clearly gives all the right signals. This is so effective that the classic aubergine was even banned on Instagram at one point — I think we all know why that was.

Next thing you know you’ll be a Tinderella

Tyler Schnobelen, a linguist from San Francisco, distinguishes between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ emoticons. The I am 100% flirting with you, winky face and the naughty tongue out emoticons are considered ‘positive’ as they reflect a happy face. The awkward slant face :/, on the other hand, is ‘negative’, being similar to a frown or negative emotion. When it comes to love and flirtation he says the heart emoticon <3, is always followed by “rarer, more elaborate happy emoticons” such as ‘:D, :)), L’) ;P and ;D’. This shows the person you fancy that they aren’t just any old Tom, Dick or Harry. So make sure you get out your special emoticons for the swiped right.

So the experts have spoken. You no longer have to rearrange the alphabet to put you and I together. Let’s just hope that with all these tips you’ll finally get them back to the bedroom, flick through your comma-sutra and see where to insert them.