Forget the champagne and the chocolates; Juliet Lawrence Wilson gets the low down on the important Valentine stuff – how to improve our flirting techniques…
Given that Valentine’s Day was dreamed up by Hallmark in the 1920’s to sell more cards, it’s no wonder that its history is equally dubious. The least incredible version of its origin dates back to Rome in the third century AD when spoilsport Emperor Claudius II outlawed weddings because he believed that single men made better soldiers than married ones, boo hiss! A kindly priest called Valentine dared to challenge him and married young sweethearts in secret (aaah). As often happens in these situations, some fool blabbed, and the unfortunate Valentine was clubbed to death for his troubles but at least he got a posthumous sainthood for standing up for lurve.
Had he lived to see the consequences of his valorous actions, he might not have bothered: for many of us Valentine’s Day is one of the most miserable of the year. Are flowers ‘too obvious’? Should cards be humorous or dreamy? How the hell do you book a restaurant table at the 11th hour? For singletons the day is pure torture and can often be ended crying into a martini whilst listening to Lionel Ritchie songs: a suicidal combination if ever there was one.
But fret not, my unloved friends: there’s still time to improve your chances of finding romance for the 14th! Help is at hand in the form of body language and presentation expert Elizabeth Kuhnke. A US native and former actor, Kuhnke crossed the pond 20 years ago and has been sharing her presentation skills with us more reserved Brits ever since.
“I call myself a ‘diamond polisher!’” she says, “It’s all about smoothing, sharpening and focussing on the positive.”
Fresh from a breakfast meeting with a bunch of MPs, who Kuhnke transformed from mumbling, slouching, scruffy-shoed nightmares to people we might actually want to run our country, she’s delighted to share some flirting tips with Gintime readers.
Before we come to the fine details Kuhnke advises is to have a good think about how you want others to perceive you: “Imagine the sort of person you would love to be and tell yourself you are that person, learn to love the attributes you already possess and focus on positive points.”
First impressions are vital: “When you arrive at a bar or party, stand tall, enter purposefully and slowly and take in the whole space. Assess who is there, who you’d like to talk to, and then approach them calmly and confidently. Always walk into a room as if you own it.”
Just so’s you all know, she doesn’t mean that gives you the right to rearrange the furniture.
Now that we’re in the room, confident, calm and collected, it’s time to get flirting! For us girls it’s all about being sensual: “The crossing and uncrossing of legs is an enticing gesture and creates a bit of ‘frisson’ like the striking of a match!” says Kuhnke. Ladies should also try head tilting, “This exposes the delicate neck, an elegant, vulnerable point.” Running your hands through your hair is a sure way to get your romantic intentions across: “Playing with your hair is an attention grabber. Whether you’re tossing your head, flicking your tresses, or running your fingers through your locks, this sends signals indicating that you’re interested and available. An added benefit is that when your raise your hand to your hair, you expose your soft underarm, a part of the body that most men find irresistible.”
All that money spent on push up bras and it’s the forearm they’re after! Don’t you just love it when life gets simpler?
Now for the chaps! “Give the object of your desires your full attention, smile and lean in to close the space between you and them. Touching her arm or hand is a good way to indicate attraction. Women like to know men are available so putting this across is a good start.”
Life would be a lot easier if people who fancied us just darn well said so, but as many of us are too shy for such forward behaviour Kuhnke has some tips for spotting interested parties:
“Self grooming is an indication for both sexes – we tend to touch ourselves where we would like others to. Guys do this less but often check out their cufflinks, or smooth their tie before entering into conversation with someone they are attracted to. Men lean towards people they fancy: if he’s leaning towards you it’s a sure sign he’s interested but if he is talking to you and leaning towards your friend its her he likes best.”
Men should look out for more sensual signs: “Women often stroke the small indentation at the bottom of their neck when they are talking to a person they like. Fiddling with hair and stroking of limbs are all good signs.”
Most of us have the odd moment of insecurity about our physical attributes but Kuhnke doesn’t think this should be a worry. “Exceptionally tall men tend to stoop and this can indicate awkwardness but they shouldn’t be concerned – as long as they stand tall they are every girl’s dream climbing frame! When they are talking to people shorter than themselves it helps if they move one leg back to lower themselves then bend from the waist not the shoulders to move a bit closer.” Shorter men should also stand their full height with an open stance: “It’s all in the mind: if they remember a time they felt empowered they will grow in stature.”
From a personal point of view I’ve always been somewhat concerned about my lack of five foot nothing stature. “Don’t worry honey, men are so attracted to small women – they just want to pick you up and put you on their knee.” Crikey! “Imagine you are the height you want to be, walk tall and imagine you are sophisticated, sexy and grown up.”
This all seems like pretty hot stuff, but as we Gintimers are a sophisticated bunch of flirters how do we make sure our signals aren’t too obvious? “It’s about engaging, getting to know and connecting with people. Choose places to go that have an environment you feel relaxed and confident in then talk to people who share your interests. Dress in a way that suits you: don’t cover up your good points but wear clothes that represent how you want to be perceived.”
For Kuhnke the most important way of making a good impression is to like who you are: “If we perceive ourselves badly that’s how we’re going to come across. Good posture, an open stance and making eye contact are the key points and remember: a smile is a universal gesture!”
It sure is! However, with powerful knowledge comes great responsibility: use this information wisely. When the right person comes along, you’ll finally know what those Lionel Ritchie songs really mean.
Elizabeth’s book Body Language for Dummies is available now – buy it on Amazon