According to Psychology Today, flirting originated as a more efficient way for our human ancestors to gauge potential mates (Rodgers, 1999).
The process allowed individuals who felt attracted to one another to reveal this attraction without actual sexual activity, which could lead to pregnancy. Flirting created a comfortable social plane to assess the physical fitness, health and behavior of a potential mate.
Flirting has a variety of purposes.
First, flirting is simply another factor in the complex system of procreation. Human beings and other mammals strive to carry on their species, which requires reproduction. Due to the superior intelligence of human beings, the act of reproduction is significantly more intricate. Social expectations necessitate that both parties be willing participants in the act and preferably be involved in a relationship. Flirting acts as the icebreaker for the commencement of intimacy, allowing two people to reveal their interest in a less direct manner.
There are several types of non-verbal and verbal behaviors involved in flirting.
Women tend to smile and open their eyes wide, and often giggle. Men may puff out their chest, rotate their pelvis and laugh or talk loudly. Each person's behavior is a non-verbal attempt at displaying his physical attributes and revealing his interest to the other party. A variety of non-verbal cues exercised by each individual make up the delicate dance of flirtation. Eye contact is a key component when flirting. Prolonged eye contact signals interest to another person, whether she is standing across the room or only feet away. If a person avoids eye contact, this may be a subtle clue that he is not interested. During flirtation, distance can also delineate the level of attraction. Most people maintain a safe distance from one another in a typical conversation. Close contact generally occurs between intimates or family members. During flirtation, standing quite close to a person, brushing against her body and gently touching her all reinforce interest.
Certain situations are more conducive to and appropriate for flirtation.
Parties, bars and dance clubs often serve as ideal flirting arenas; in fact, many people congregate at these places for this purpose. Educational settings such as college campuses also create a comfortable flirting atmosphere as young adults seek potential mates. Other events and locations may be significantly less appropriate for flirtation. Office and work settings may have strict anti-harassment policies, and flirting can occasionally be misconstrued as crossing these lines. Areas where people congregate with a specific purpose--such as libraries, fitness centers and shopping centers--may not invite flirtation. Regardless of the location, people must interpret the situation and person of interest before engaging in flirtation.
Although flirtation can appear to be innocent fun, there is often a greater purpose underlying the behavior.
Flirting without the intention of future contact may hurt someone's feelings or cause a sense of betrayal. Likewise, flirting when you are already involved in a serious relationship can lead to adultery and can damage a relationship that is currently intact. It is important to enter a flirtatious situation with a concrete idea of the goal in mind, and to convey those feelings clearly to the other individual.