The Flirting Styles That Work Best for Highly Sensitive People

Two highly sensitive people flirting and smiling.

These two flirting styles are better suited to HSPs who crave genuine, long-lasting connections.

When I started looking for love, I noticed that one of my friends who always got dates had the opposite personality that I had. He was very assertive, even in situations I would find overwhelming. When he flirted, he was aggressive and made the conversation overtly sexual very quickly.

That’s not me at all. I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP), and my flirting is reserved and gentle. After watching my friend succeed time and time again while talking to women, I became afraid that I would have to change my personality to be more like his if I ever wanted to get a girlfriend.

So I tried to behave more like my more assertive friend. However, I didn’t achieve any success, even though I was basically doing the same thing he was. I also felt like I was acting — not being the real, true me — by going against my personality.

HSP dating shouldn’t be this hard. What was I doing wrong?

The 5 ‘Styles’ of Flirting

What comes to mind when people talk about flirting? You probably think of stuff like winking, sideways glances, small touches, and double entendre.

It’s true that these types of signals can be considered flirting. However, these only describe one kind of flirting. In his book, The Five Flirting Styles: Use the Science of Flirting to Attract the Love You Really Want, Dr. Jeffrey Hall identifies five different types of flirting:

  • Playful: Flirting for fun without any expectations that it will lead to sex or a relationship
  • Physical: Flirting through body language and sexual communication
  • Polite: Flirting through proper manners and nonsexual communication
  • Sincere: Displaying sincere interest in the other person to develop an emotional connection
  • Traditional: Displaying interest through traditional courtship rituals and behaving in ways that are “gentlemanly” or “ladylike”

(Note: You can take an online test to find out which flirting styles you tend towards here.)

So what’s the problem? A lot of flirting advice is centered on the physical and playful styles. There’s a lot of readily available advice about how to approach someone in a bar or club, or what pickup lines to use, or how to get touchy-feely with someone you’ve just met. These styles work well for people who are looking for short-term romance or who are just trying to have fun.

However, this way of flirting can be unnatural for highly sensitive people (and also for introverts, which also describes me). We’re not fans of using the bar and club scene to find love. In general, we care more about having real relationships as opposed to many short-term romances or casual flings. When it comes to sex, we’re usually more interested in doing it with someone we really care about. Since we view sex as something that is mysterious and powerful, many of us “sensitive types” dislike crude or dirty ways of flirting.

Which Flirting Styles Are Right for Highly Sensitive People?

This is going to vary from one HSP to the next, but many highly sensitive people feel most natural (and have the most success) with just two flirting styles:

  1. Hall connects the “polite” style of flirting as better suited for considerate, empathetic people — like many HSPs. About people who are polite flirts, he writes, “They are concerned about their friends and make sure that they are there in their time of need. They are also a bit introverted. Polite flirts don’t need to be the center of attention. In social interactions, they would prefer things to be a bit more controlled and formal.” That won’t describe all HSPs, many of whom are extroverts, but this “polite flirt” description sounds a lot like me.
  2. The “sincere” style is also well suited for highly sensitive people. We prefer conversing about meaningful topics instead of making idle chitchat (sound familiar?). We’re private people, and we tend to only open up to those we fully trust. And, as people who can get overstimulated easily, many of us look for smaller, more intimate gatherings and a sense of deep connection. Thus, this type of flirting coincides well with our nature.

But: this is a personal choice. The “best” way to flirt is the way that will attract the love you desire and be most authentic to yourself.

Some people enjoy flirting for its own sake or are looking to date a lot of people. You might see them in bars using the physical or playful styles — and that’s totally fine. On the other hand, the polite and sincere styles of flirting are more suited for those of us looking for long-term relationships.

How to Flirt Sincerely as a Highly Sensitive Person

Flirting sincerely involves talking to people in the way Dale Carnegie writes about in his book, How to Win Friends & Influence People. This means talking in terms of the other person’s interests and listening to them when they talk about themselves. This shows you’re interested in their values, attitudes, experiences, and beliefs. You’re interested in who they are as a person, which can be a real turn-on, especially to a fellow HSP.

Try to find something they would enjoy telling you about themselves. A great way to do this is by asking open-ended or “why?” questions. When they tell you something about themselves, listen to what they say, then ask follow-up questions based on what they just told you. Or try relating it to yourself.

If they are interested in you, then they would probably like to learn more about you too. Do you have an awesome job? An adventurous story? Have you read something unusual recently? Tell them about it!

When you’re talking to someone you’re interested in, pay attention to their flirting style as well. Try to mirror their style while still being true to your own personality. For example, my girlfriend took the flirting styles test and her results were playful, physical, polite, and sincere. My own style is sincere and polite. Since we’re both sincere flirts, we both enjoy a deep emotional connection. She is very touchy-feely as well. Even though I’m not normally as touchy-feely as she is, I do make an effort to give her a surprise hug every so often because I know that she appreciates it.

However, if you’re unable to mirror the other person’s flirting style without being authentic, or if your flirting styles are drastically different, then you may want to consider whether or not you are a good love match.

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The Power of Authenticity

So, what was I doing wrong that my assertive friend was doing right? As it turns out, women could sense that I was being inauthentic, and they were turned off by it. Could the way my friend hit on women be considered sleazy? No doubt about it! However, he was being honest and I wasn’t. The way he acted made it clear that he’s only interested in casual sex rather than a long-term relationship. His behavior was congruent with his intentions, which appealed to certain women who were also looking for casual sex.

Similarly, I found myself succeeding when I behaved authentically. As a highly sensitive person, I care more about developing deeper, meaningful romantic connections than I do about short-term flings. And I was able to succeed when I stopped trying to be someone I wasn’t.

If you’re interested in more dating advice for sensitive and/or introverted men, check out my website

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A version of this article originally appeared on our partner site, Introvert, Dear.