The other week, I made a list for Body Language associated with Flirting and had a huge response to the topic. Flirting is often a big component to teen fiction as well as any novel with a romance vibe.
Because Flirting is all about reading the signs, I thought it might be useful to also look at the Body Language used to show flirting disinterest. After all, not every character ends up with the girl or guy, and some are too clueless to understand their flirting attempts are a total turn off. As writers, sometimes our goal is to show the reader something that the characters themselves are unaware of, and this is where body language signals are so important. For sake of clarity, I’ll give examples where the male is the flirting initiator. 🙂
Sorry, I’m Just Not That Into You
A lack of eye contact If the girl is more into studying the contents of her purse, checking for texts or fiddling with her drink straw than him, this is your male character’s cue that as far as romantic matching goes, he isn’t on her radar.
Excuses If an excuse is used to get out of the conversation that does not involve a time constraint (bell for class rings, a work shift, etc), seems rushed or paper thin, move on. When under pressure, people often grab onto the first idea that will get them out of the situation. If her exit excuse sounds phony or nebulous, it probably is.
Closed body posture Crossed arms, rigid muscles, taking a step back or leaning away or to the side, holding a purse or jacket as a barrier between you…these are all ways she’s announcing a lack of interest.
Stiff reactions to humor If a weak smile or faked laugh is all his attempts at being funny elicit, it’s probably time to move on to a warmer reception elsewhere. If her reaction is veiled sarcasm or derision, then he should definitely take the billboard hint and get out of there.
Attention is elsewhere If your guy is trying out his moves and she’s scanning the room, checking out other things going on, looking for friends and only making a passing attempt at interacting, it’s like a clue gun to the head: NOT INTERESTED.
The Infamous BUT If she pays you a compliment and then tags a but onto it, that my friend is the kiss of death. You’re a nice guy, but… I like you, but… You’re a lot of fun, but… These are all examples of how maybe you were witty and fun, but she didn’t feel the chemistry.
Want your character to avoid instant rejection? Avoid these Flirting Don’ts:
—Don’t stare. A gaze should linger, but staring can be creepy and makes people uncomfortable.
—Don’t undress her with his eyes or have him make lurid comments unless she does first. Hot flirting at the right time is good, but making her feel like a side of beef isn’t. Never exceed the other person’s intensity.
–Don’t ignore personal space. No one wants their space invaded. Watch for signs she wants him to move closer–leaning in, moving herself closer, etc. If he moves too close, too fast, it will make her uneasy.
–Don’t talk too much or make it all about him. Nerves often make people feel more talkative. But if he monopolizes the conversation or doesn’t allow her time to respond or add her own thoughts, she’ll lose interest fast. Ditto if his idea of attracting her is to air all his excellent qualities, interests, abilities, etc. No one finds ego attractive.
–Don’t act insecure. He might be scared to death, but he can’t show it. If he walks up to her with failure on his mind, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
–Don’t be over-touchy, especially on first encounters. Even if she’s sending signals she’s like to be touched or even touches him first, show some restraint. If he turns into an octopus, her good judgement ‘warning system’ will kick in and he’ll end up wallowing alone in #flirtingfail
Do you have any ones to add? How do you show the ‘not into you’ vibe without resorting to telling?
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Sharon K. Mayhew says
Wonderful post, Angela! Your blog is the go to blog on so many topics…
Stephen Tremp says
Al clue gun to the head. That’s great. I’ll have to rememebr that one.
Excellent advice on how to add flirting into your novel! I’m bookmarking this!
Bish Denham says
You are SO good Angela! Excellent.
Mary Witzl says
An afterthought — any girl who keeps talking up a good friend of hers and how smart, nice, sweet, pretty she is, is probably not interested in the boy she’s promoting her to. Sad but true.
Mary Witzl says
This is so timely. My daughter is being pursued by a boy who is kind, smart, cute, and funny — but she wants him to be ‘ a friend’. I don’t know who I feel sorrier for, her sitting there with all the classic ‘I’m not into this’ body language you’ve described here, or him, looking totally smitten but totally rejected. And I’m a little sorry for my inner teenager: I never had a boy 1/10 that nice express interest in me; it seems like quite a waste of a perfectly good boy.
Stina Lindenblatt says
Love this, Angela. Now I see where I went wrong for all those years. 😉
Angela Ackerman says
Sierra, good one!
Laura, you’re right–this happens in other social situations, too.
Claire, I didn’t notice it until after I posted, lol.
Nancy, I agree, there is a lot that can be done in dialogue on both sides of the flirting table. 🙂
Tricia & Shannon, thanks for stopping in!
Tyler, I definitely think those setting would be more difficult, but it would still really depend on the ability to ‘read’ the body language–perhaps even more so. Let’s say you had a gay man wanting to test the sexuality waters of another man…I think that a lot of watching would take place before approaching, and even then, the instigator would take care to make sure certain signals were in place before stepping the flirting up a notch.
Kelly, Ann & Pat, thanks so much. i’m glad this helps!
Tamika, you’re right–technology can definitely fit into flirting…and letting someone know it didn’t quite work out.
Karen, that is totally flirting and comes under the header of touching/taking something that belongs to him. *wolf whistles*
Shayda, see this is exactly why I thought this post wouuld be useful. So much can be done with a socially awkward character. 🙂
Catherine, I’m glad it brought memories back! That’s lots of fun, isn’t it?
Jesse, that’s chees city right there. Definitely bad pick up lines classify as #flirtingfails. I waffled over adding them, because some guys can get away with it, if they are hot for one, and the guy can laugh it off.
Jessica, I think the most common way to show a character becoming aware of feelings for another that they didn’t suspect is through the use of jealousy. Put the ‘surprise interest’ character in a situation where your MC sees someone else interested in them. That cardinal jealousy emotion will come out and your MC will be shocked, realizing they have feelings for her that go beyond friends.
Thanks Karen! You da best!
Karen Lange says
Good stuff. As always. 🙂 Thanks for being a great resource.
Jessica Lei says
SO useful. It’s funny how people do these things without really knowing they’re doing it!
Now, the next question is how to portray a MC’s feelings evolving about someone they weren’t interested in at first. HMmm…
Deb Salisbury says
Bookmarked! I hate to admit that sometimes I don’t realize that a guy’s been flirting until hours later. :blush:
You just make me want to post about the worst flirting fail I ever witnessed. At a party in college, a guy comes up to me, sticks his car key in my side, twists, and says, “Does this turn you on?”
I can’t imagine he ever got more than my look of disbelief/get-the-hell-away-from-me out of that one.
Catherine A. Winn says
I love this subject. It brings back many memories of those innocent years! Yay for flirting! Congratulations on topping a thousand followers!
Shayda Bakhshi says
Yeah, I noticed that! Also, love this post. I think it’s a good thing to riff off of when you have a character that’s exceedingly BAD at flirting. It gives me some more ideas about how to give my social awkward characters some EPIC FLIRTING FAILS. 🙂
I just posted about this on my other blog, because a girl came up to my son and took bites of his food. I said this was flirting and he said no it wasn’t. So I asked my followers what they thought and of course everyone said yes, it’s flirting, she likes him. It’s interesting the different flirting behaviors of boys vs. girls. And sometimes they don’t even catch on when they’re being flirted with!
In the modern word of technology in which we now live, I think a delayed text or email says a lot too.
Failure to reply:)
Pat Tillett says
great post! Body language and seemingly innocent words mean everything…
Ann Finkelstein says
This post and your earlier one on body language are both excellent. Thanks.
Ha, love the poster! And the topic of antiflirting. Fun and useful!
I liked both of these posts, but I’m a bit curious how one goes about doing the same thing but with more “unconventional” (and I use the term loosely) settings, such as a male not being interested in a female making the first move, or in same sex situations that don’t devolve into the stereotypical “Whoa I’m so not gay!” response.
A good read as always. :3
Shannon O'Donnell says
This is great!! What would we do without you to make all our concepts concrete for us?! 🙂
Tricia J. O'Brien says
That’s an excellent list. It’s amazing how many people fail to read those signals.
N. R. Williams says
Excellent post. Dialogue is a great place to up the tension especially if one character is pretending to be hard to get but really deep inside, wants the other character to persist.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author
Claire Dawn says
Good stuff. I didn’t even see the grammar til you mentioned it. lol.
Angela Ackerman says
Ha, anyone else see the irony of a poster making fun of bad flirting through bad grammar? LOL
Laura Pauling says
Why is flirting such a fun topic? Great posts, Angela. I think I’ve used all of those excuses – but not just b/c a guy is flirting – when anyone is monopolizing a conversation or is talking about themselves – I show all of those signs!
Sierra Gardner says
Being told you are a ‘friend,’ as in “It’s so fun to go out to dinner with a friend.” It’s a hint that they enjoy your company, but aren’t feeling any sparks.