The 9 Primary Signals of Flirtation

Ron Riggio
3 min readAug 8, 2021



  • While the meaning of specific nonverbal cues can vary, at least 50 of them can be generally thought of as flirtatious.
  • A woman’s “head toss” can be interpreted as a message saying, “I’m arranging myself for you.”
  • A relaxed demeanor and low tone of voice makes men appear more masculine and confident.

This post is co-authored by nonverbal communication expert Alan Crawley.

Last week, we focused on body language cues that turn people off. In this post, we will look at nonverbal cues of sexual attraction and seduction.

First, it is important to note that body language is not a true language. The meaning of specific nonverbal cues can vary with the situation, by culture, or by individual differences in style.

That being said, there are at least 50 nonverbal behaviors that can be labeled cues of flirtation that can turn others on. Here are a few of the more common ones.

Flirtatious Body Language in Women

Coy Smile. This consists of two somewhat conflicting signals — a lowered head of “ shyness “ and a bold stare of confidence (Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1971; Morris, 1977). The head is turned to the side and tilted down. There is a slight smile on the lips and eyes gazing forward to make eye contact. This sends a message of “I am vulnerable but open to you.”

Head Tossing. An upward or sideways jerk of the head as if one is throwing aside long hair. It signals a sort of “grooming behavior” that suggests “I am arranging myself for you.” The seductive appeal is threefold: The movement grabs the other’s attention; it displays tossed hair showing off this attractive feature, and the movement allows pheromones (“sexual scents”) to emanate from the hair.

Self-Touching and Massaging the Skin. Another “inviting” body language cue that suggests a woman’s availability is when softly rubs her own neck, thighs, or face. It suggests the desire to be touched and the unconscious message of: “See how smooth my skin is.”

Rotating the Wrists Outward. Exposing the inner part of the wrist is a signal of interest and invitation, directed toward the person which sends the unspoken message “I approve of you and you may approach.”

Flirtatious Body Language in Men

Open and Relaxed Posture. Being relaxed and open (i.e., not crossing the arms in front of the body) sends a message of self-confidence and invitation. A study of speed dating found that males with open postures received more offers from women than did men with closed postures.

Space Maximization. Research shows that men who take up more space with their postures and gestures are perceived as more attractive. It suggests dominance and makes the man more visible.

Assertive and “Smooth” Demeanor. Men appearing “in control” with a minimum of anxiety cues is a turn-on. Movements, gestures, and posture shifts should flow smoothly — almost as if the man is moving underwater.

Signs of Flirting in Both Women and Men

Tone of Voice. In general, a higher tone in women, and a lower tone in men is more of a turn-on. During courtship behavior, women may have a tone of voice that seems almost childlike — which can trigger a sense of “protectiveness” in men. Deeper voices, for men, signal more masculinity.

Positivity. Our own research on “seductive” nonverbal behavior suggests that people use different nonverbal cues to try to attract others, but one commonality is that the other person has to perceive those as “positive/pleasant” emotional messages. Both men and women who do not do well at appearing seductive tend to have their emotional messages judged as “negative/unpleasant.”

All of these behaviors seem to have a biological/evolutionary root related to courtship and reproduction. The body language of women appears more flexible, vulnerable, and youthful (signals related to fertility), while men’s body language tends to display cues of dominance, strength, and confidence (signals related to power, possession of resources, and capacity to protect).

Which body language cues tend to turn you on?

Facebook image: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

Originally published at



Ron Riggio

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College; Author; Consultant