Dating With Science: If You Were Better At Flirting, You Would Feel Awful
Science Fact: You can teach yourself how to pick up girls more successfully, but you might feel worse about yourself if you do.
Explanation: Let's say you've been quietly carrying a torch for some girl for months. You go to sleep thinking about her, and you wake up thinking about waffles, but then about her again shortly thereafter. Too timid to actually approach her, you resort to more and more pathetic expressions of longing, like walking past her in the hall and whispering "I love you!" at the back of her head, and when she goes, "What?" you say "My glove's blue," holding up a blue glove which you have been carrying around for this specific purpose. Someday, a million years from now, you will summon the courage to actually talk to her—or at least the front part of her, and on purpose.
Then one day, while you are innocently staring at her from your hiding spot under a pile of coats, some sleazeball approaches her out of nowhere. He sleazes up to her and whispers something in her ear—something sleazy, no doubt. But instead of stuffing a pinecone in his mouth, as you expect her to, she giggles, and swoons, and they immediately get married right there in the hallway. Crushed, you drop out of school and live at the garbage dump for the rest of your life. Oh, if only you were a suave, flirtatious person, all of this could have been avoided!
Or could it?
The Science: A German study got together a bunch of average schlubs who wouldn't know flirting unless a scientist carefully explained it to them, then had a scientist carefully explain it to them. Researchers gave these male and female participants different kinds of training on how to pick up the opposite sex. For instance, guys were taught to be more indirect with their affections, instead of simply walking up and saying "HOLY BAZONGAS." They were also taught to demonstrate high-status body language, like starting the conversation by shoving a random stranger down a laundry chute. Girls were taught that they have to use body language cues an average of twelve times before men will pick up on them, because the first eleven times you wink coyly at them, their brains are thinking about tacos and they will fail to notice. All participants, male and female, were told to use subtle touching to communicate interest—the brushing-her-shoulder kind, not the kind where you just honk a random body part.
The results: both guys and girls were twice as good at flirting as when they'd started. They doubled their success rates at getting phone numbers. And they perceived themselves as more intelligent, more dominant... and more selfish, and more dishonest. Bluh?
So What Should I Do About It?
This is kind of a loaded study. The point of it is that, sure, this stuff does work—if you treat flirting like a manipulative science, you'll get the job done—but you won't feel as good about it as when it happens spontaneously. The high-status body language thing is a good example; you can project power and wealth by treating people like they're beneath you, and it works, but at the end of the day you're still acting like a jerk, and you know it. Leveraging people with Brain Tricks doesn't feel like emotionally valuable human contact.
The best approach is to try to teach yourself confidence and poise, but to be genuine about it, rather than just going through your flirtation subroutine like a sleazy robot. After all, as the study author himself pointed out, the real value of having a flirting strategy isn't what's in it; it's the assurance you feel from having any kind of strategy at all. You'll always be more charming if walk up to someone with a plan, rather than walking up and blurting out "Hi, I'm name is..." and then leaping out the nearest window in shame.