Flirting 101: Breaking the Touch Barrier

One of my best friends from college, Maggie, called me up yesterday needing advice:

“Shells, I have a serious dilemma.  I really like this guy who I work with, and we’ve been friends for a long time, but I have no idea how to make it obvious that I’m interested in him.”

“Well, what’s your typical interaction like?  Do you make him laugh, hug him goodbye, what?”

“Oh no, our relationship is very professional.  We talk when we see each other, but I never hug him, just a wave.”

“Mags, are you kidding me?!  You’ve never broken the touch barrier?”

“The touch what?”

And so, dear readers, this blog post will be devoted to one of the most important tactics of flirting: breaking the touch barrier.

Every time you touch someone, a chemical called oxytocin is released in your brain.  Nicknamed “the love hormone,” oxytocin is responsible for helping people bond.  For instance, after giving birth, a large amount of oxytocin is released to help the mother bond with her baby.  A large amount of oxytocin is also released during sex.  On a side note, this is why it is so hard to break up with someone you’ve had sex with; the large amount of oxytocin has made you bond to that person much more than you would have without sex.

Although merely touching or hugging someone doesn’t release as much oxytocin as sex, it does release some:

In humans, oxytocin is released during hugging and pleasant physical touch, and plays a part in the human sexual response cycle. It appears to change the brain signals related to social recognition via facial expressions, perhaps by changing the firing of the amygdala, the part of the brain that plays a primary role in the processing of important emotional stimuli. In this way, oxytocin in the brain may be a potent mediator of human social behavior.[1]

As you can see, a little oxytocin is a great tool when flirting with someone.  However, you have to make sure that you don’t touch with too much forwardness or creepiness. Below are 5 ways to break the touch barrier in a subtle yet noticeable way.

1. Hugging 

This one is pretty obvious, but can only be used in certain circumstances.  If you’re like Maggie, hugging would be too forward in a work scenario.  It would look out of place and obvious for Maggie to hug Mr. Perfect goodbye when she gives waves to everyone else.  However, when in a more casual situation, hugging is key.

2. Admirable Touching

Let’s say Maggie notices Mr. Perfect has a new watch on his wrist. “Oh, I love that watch!  Is it a Tommy Hilfilger?”  Then, she can lightly touch his wrist as she ooohs and ahhhs in admiration.

3. Needing Protection

Let’s say you’re walking down the street and a car drives by really fast and close to the sidewalk.  If you’re frightened, or want to pretend to be frightened, you can grab the guy’s arm in fear.  This not only allows you to touch him, but also builds him up as a man by recognizing him as a protector.

4. Playful Punching

Again, this tactic should only be used in more casual situations.  Pretend you and your PBF (Potential Boyfriend) are joking around or playfully bantering.  If he starts to tease you, you can playfully (and gently) slap his arm in flirty, reprimanding way.  This is even more effective if he use his name while doing so.

5. Laughing

If you’re standing or sitting close to Prince Charming and happen to be laughing, try to move your head so it touches his arm or shoulder.  For instance, my friend Bridget was adorably flirty with her crush, Matt, at a dinner party this past weekend.  Someone started to tell a funny and embarrassing story about Bridget, making her throw back her head and laugh. While laughing, she touched her head against Matt’s shoulder, feigning embarrassment.

If you use these 5 tactics in the right situations, you will succeed in releasing oxytocin in both yourself and your love interest.  However, pay attention to how the guy responds; if he draws away or acts awkward, don’t push it.  He may not be interested and not meant for you.  However, if he responds enthusiastically by hugging you back, smiling, offering protection, or laughing, be encouraged and keep up the good work!

Have a wonderful rest of the week! ~Shellie

[1] http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/archive/newsrel/health/02-08LoveHormone.asp

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