Sunday 25 March 2018

Why flirting has always been woman's best weapon

Readers, I have a dark confession: I live to flirt. Thus far this week, I have flirted with Swiss train guards, a Gallic chef, one of my closest friends and an airline pilot. None of this had anything to do with eroticism. Rather, it was an attempt to charm the poor blighters -- by which I also mean: charm something out of them.

Happily, the world of science has come forward to confirm my credo. Girlish wiles count for much, according to a study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Researchers measured the effects of feminine charm within negotiations. They defined this beguiling quality as a management technique available to women, combining warmth, flattery, playfulness, and a certain sex appeal.

Such behaviour was discovered to boost economic benefits, improving bargaining success by up to a third.

Professor Laura Kray, of the University of California, Berkeley, who led the investigation, confirms: "Women are uniquely confronted with a trade-off in terms of being perceived as strong versus warm.

"Using feminine charm in negotiation is a technique that combines both. The key is to flirt with your own natural personality in mind. Be authentic. Have fun.

"That will translate into confidence, which is a strong predictor of negotiation performance."

To which I say: "Ha!" and "Tra la la", while lightly touching your arm.

One might call it "emotional intelligence", and if women hold the advantage, then lucky us.

Women shouldn't be embarrassed that strategic flirtation is largely a female preserve.

One can be a feminist and a flirt.

Indeed, long before the dawning of the feminist era, charm had the status of our most ancient weapon.

Helen of Troy was the world's earliest and most epic flirt. Carried off by force as a child -- her marriage dictated by geopolitics -- Spartan Helen was history's most charming pugilist, working with the means available to her.

Even stiff-shirted Hector was won over.

After 10 years of bitter siege, her cuckolded husband charging towards her to take a bloody revenge, she bared her beautiful bosom -- less "Kill me now", more "Get a load of this". Cue an immediate volte-face.

What would otherwise have been the world's most benighted couple went on to live together very happily, Helen wrapping hirsute, clodhopping Menelaus around her pretty little finger.

Eleanor of Aquitaine secured the thrones of France and England in such a way, and was not averse to flirting with her uncle or sons when necessary; a strategy that made her the most powerful woman in the world at a time when they were expected to be mere walking wombs.

Still, such wiles are not without their perils: witness Anne Boleyn's seven-year flirtation, followed by a rapid demise.

Nor are they without their risks: for every artful flirt, there is someone clumsily vamping into the void.

Hannah Betts

Irish Independent

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