Dr. Bob Wright | January 16, 2018

Go Beyond Flirting: How to Communicate Your Way to True Intimacy

When you want to get someone’s attention, do you flirt?

Flirting, first dates, and one-night-stands are not the best path to finding true intimacy. If you're looking for a deeper, more real connection, you have to go beyond flirting, and communicate your way it intimacy. Here's how.

In the movies we see flirting as a lot of eyelash batting, sultry glances and witty banter back and forth. Sometimes it’s cute, sometimes it’s edgy, but rarely is it straight forward.

After all, flirting by it’s very nature is attempting to “charm” someone into bed (or at least on a date), right? It’s being coy and demure, yet making your interest known. It’s a way of putting yourself out there, but still playing it safe.

You create a dating profile online curating your best photos. You try to flirt by showing a side of yourself that’s easy-going and “cool.” To a potential date you want to be appealing and their perfect match. You might not order what you really want at a restaurant. You might keep your opinions to yourself. You may stick with neutral topics and giggle at all your date’s jokes (no matter how lame).

Flirting, as fun as it is, is unproductive at best and deceptive at least. Yes, online meeting can get the conversation started and help you assess the playing field, but don’t hide behind your idealized dating profile.

Putting it all out there, or walking up to someone and expressing your honest interest might feel frightening, but it’s also a much quicker means to an end. Telling someone you’re interested and genuinely intrigued at the prospect of getting to know them, will create intimacy much faster than arm touching and eyelash batting.

Hook-Up Culture vs. True Intimacy

Now, in this day and age of swiping left and right and hoping into bed with someone simply based on looks and superficial circumstances has become commonplace. People are intimate in the sexual sense of the word, but it’s not connecting them.

What I find disturbing about today’s hook-up culture is it doesn’t allow for true intimacy. People are patting themselves on the back for being so open, yet in reality they’re closed off. They’re rebelling against their upbringing, society and they’re fearful of truly putting themselves out there.

Instead, true intimacy comes not from sex, but from communication. You can be emotionally intimate with friends, with your parents and family, but most importantly with your partner.

The truth is, not everyone is ready for intimacy. Some of us are still at the beginning part of our exploration and journey to discovery. You may not be prepared to date yet, and truly that’s okay. You don’t need to engage in a sexual relationship with people to keep them interested or put yourself “out there.” In fact, it’s perfectly fine and encouraged to let people know you’re doing personal growth work and simply seeking new friends right now.

Conversation, communication and sharing are where true intimacy is born.

When you tell someone your innermost thoughts and feelings it’s much more honest and vulnerable than flinging off your clothes and jumping into bed together. It takes real courage to tell someone how you feel and discuss what you really want.

You owe it to yourself to be honest and demand what you want and need from a relationship, rather than settling for a mediocre situation. Contorting your personality and needs to match what you perceive as the desires of the person you’re dating doesn’t work. You should be who you truly are.

Honesty Breeds Healthy Conflict: And That’s Okay!

When you’re honest, conflict will come up—probably often—and you know what? It’s totally okay! It’s even healthy!

Oftentimes people tiptoe around on dates (particularly woman, but men do it too) trying to be “polite,” and to put out a vibe they’re easy-going. You might see a movie you have no interest in watching, you might bite your tongue when your date selects a restaurant, you might not even order what you want to eat at the restaurant because you’re worried your date will judge you for eating too much.

The sooner you let those pretenses go, the better! Start going for what you want. Be who you really are! After all, if you charm someone into falling for you, what have they truly fallen for? You, or your most charming false self? You may pretend to have so much in common, but at heart, commonalities aren’t what makes a relationship great anyway. Instead of compatibility and commonality, you should be aiming for honesty.

You see, there’s a long-standing misconception about compatibility. Mainly that it matters.

The compatibility misconception—that having a lot in common is a sign that you are “meant’ to be together—is a variation on the soulmate misconception. A quick look at dating sites reveals that most singles are advertising for people who share the same interests, who like the same things, and have things in common, thinking that these enhance compatibility and likely will reveal or help them find “the one.”
The truth? Compatibility is overrated, according to a number of respected marriage researchers (Marano and Flora 2004), and over-focusing on compatibility can be a sign of trouble. Happy couples are no more or less compatible than unhappy couples. But if one spouse or the other starts to complain saying, “We’re not compatible,” or expressing how important compatibility is, what he or she is really saying is, “We’re not getting along.” Compatibility is transient; it comes and goes, and no couple is compatible all the time. Good relationships aren’t about being compatible. Couples in blissful relationships work with their differences—and grow from them. What is more important is that they share deeper values, meaning, purpose and a dedication to growing. What matters are common values, not common interests.
The Heart of the Fight

We explore this and many other misconceptions about relationships in our book The Heart of the Fight. Even as early on as your first date, you set the precedence for setting up honesty and truth no matter where your path leads (friendship, another date or a potential relationship).

Instead of conforming to the whims of your date, be honest about what you want and what you expect. If you don’t like the restaurant, say so! If your order is wrong, speak up! If your date expresses an opinion you don’t agree with, let them know.

We all owe it to ourselves to be honest in our interactions. If we want to build intimacy, whether we’re dating or in a relationship, we must be truthful in all dealings. Honesty means sharing those deep-seated beliefs and yearnings of our heart. It means, expressing our emotions and it means expecting the same from our partner.

You see, if you’re both operating from a place of honesty, there will be conflict, but there will also be true resolution.

Emerging relationship research proves that couples who have truthful, angry fights early in their relationship are happier over time. Social psychology researcher James McNulty has found that the “short-term discomfort of an angry but honest conversation,” is beneficial to relationships in the long run (Prigg 2012).
As you’ll discover, relationships are stronger than you think. They can withstand the fireballs of argument; more to the point, these heated exchanges can catalyze insight and understanding that foster relationship growth.
Other studies show that conflict early in the relationship helps couples weed out problems that can damage the relationship in the long run. John Gottman’s (1994) research indicates that the “temporary misery” of early conflict is healthier for couples in the longer term. Interestingly, in the early years of relationships, peaceful couples report that they are happier than bickering couples, but when revisited three years later, the peaceful couples are far more likely to be divorced or on their way to breaking up (Gottman 1994). The couples who worked out their issues are more likely to be in stable relationships.

If you’re holding back, or attempting to flirt your way into a relationship, stop! Instead, communicate your way into getting to know each other. Authenticity, it turns out, is one of the most charming qualities out there. Have fun! Explore, connect and engage. Be yourself!

For more on how to navigate the waters of relationships and dating, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for a weekend Foundations Training or network opportunities. Meet friends, connect with others and get to know yourself!

About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash.