Whether you’re just having fun or searching for a lifelong partner, flirting can be an exciting opportunity to meet new people and dive into the dating world. However, there’s more to flirting than just a few well-timed compliments and playful teasing. Much of communication involves nonverbal signals, and flirting is no different. While you will eventually have to open your mouth and let a few words flow out, you can learn to excel at flirting without talking to signal your initial interest.

Relax

Whether you spy someone you like at a party or at a grocery store, take a few minutes to ensure your body is relaxed. HelpGuide.org warns that stress can ruin your nonverbal attempts at flirting. When you feel anxious, you’re more likely to give off the wrong body language signals or even misinterpret the nonverbal cues of others. For example, you may plan to signal your interest with a wide, confident smile, but when stress hits, that smile can come across as stiff and forced, or worse yet, creepy. Take a few calming breaths if necessary before flirting.

Distance

You don’t need to carry a yardstick around with you, but be aware of personal space when flirting with strangers. Social Issues Research Centre suggests that you maintain a distance of at least 4 feet from the person you're flirting with, unless a positive response invites you within arm’s reach. Any closer than 18 inches and you’re in that person’s intimate zone, which is typically only open to close friends, family members and lovers. “Accidental” touches, such as grazing someone’s arm, can be a powerful way to communicate interest. However, unless you’re in a crowded bar where some light contact can’t be avoided, it’s often best to save brief moments of contact, such as a pat on the shoulder or touch of the hands, for when you’re both engaged in comfortable conversation.

Facial Expressions

A constant ear-to-ear grin can come off as phony, desperate or overall unattractive. This is especially true for men; a 2011 study by the University of British Columbia revealed that, in general, women rated smiling men less attractive than their proud-looking or brooding peers. Even with this information in mind, men should be aware that a scowl could make them look entirely unapproachable. It could be best to aim for a relaxed and subtly content expression. On the other hand, men ranked happy-looking women very high on the attractiveness scale. So, a winning smile is the key here for women looking to send nonverbal flirting cues.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is one of the most essential forms of nonverbal cues when flirting. Once you catch your target’s eye, it might be tempting to turn away instantly. However, it’s best to hold that gaze for more than one second. Aim for three seconds at the most, as a prolonged gaze could come off as a threatening stare. If the other person holds the gaze, or looks away only to return to the gaze, there’s a good chance he or she is interested in you as well. Use this as a chance to transition from nonverbal cues to verbal flirting.