WOMEN
02/01/2012 03:59 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2012

The World's Best Flirting Technique

So, where to start? How about at the very beginning -- the moment you lay eyes on a man you like, and want him to lay eyes back on you?

There you are, out for the night, in your dry-clean-only jeans, wearing perfume, looking hot, smelling edible. You've done and redone your hair so it looks the right kind of messy. And you see this guy you wouldn't mind talking to. Say it's a guy you've met once or twice in passing, and thought, "Why isn't he at the parties I go to?" But here you are, at a party, and so is he. What's the natural thing to do? Yeah, the natural thing to do is freeze.

Seriously. It's natural. Don't feel bad about it. He's probably a little terrified too. So don't let a little case of the nerves stop you from walking across the room and striking up a conversation. How, you ask? Hang on for a little story about the world's best first-few-minutes flirting technique. It's so good that it's actually more of a flirting philosophy -- one you should keep on using at every stage of your relationship, forever!

The year was 2000. I was with my friend Mark at a house party. The lights were low. The necklines were lower. We were feeling all self-conscious the way men tend to when they roll into a place together. You know what I'm talking about: Two guys walk into a bar or a party like some kind of lady-molesting team. They try to appear laid-back, or at least not desperate, as they awkwardly suck down their drinks, ogle women and don't talk to each other.

These lame and transparent characters are called wingmen. Some people think the wingman is the second fiddle. Not true. If two single, straight guys are out together, they're both wingmen.

Anyway, Mark was my wingman on this night, and I was his. I came back from the bathroom and saw a gorgeous woman chatting him up. I'd noticed her when she'd walked in, but I had quickly become distracted by another woman at the party whom I'd slept with once -- and never called after. Should I do it again and hate myself? Not do it again and hate myself? I was too absorbed in this internal debate to actually put all that aside and approach someone new.

Ms. Gorgeous had blond, almost freakishly long hair. If you were a hair fetishist and you saw her at this party, you'd have had some kind of aneurysm. And there she was, talking to my wingman.

"She's from Delaware," Mark filled me in.

"You don't say," I replied.

"Look at that hair! Wouldn't you think she should be from Sweden or something? Or at least Minnesota?"

Ms. Gorgeous laughed and put a hand on Mark's arm. I still remember the dread I felt when I saw that hand touch his arm. You know a flirty touch when you see one. With that little brush of her long fingers, she became at once more desirable and more unattainable.

I figured that since she was after Mark -- and I didn't have a chance with her -- I would at least try to make her laugh. And I spent the next half hour in that attempt, not wanting to piss off Mark, but curious whether she wanted me to stick around. Eventually, when I went to the bar area to get another drink, Ms. Gorgeous said she'd come with me. Yes! I was thinking. I got her! Little did I know it was she who'd gotten me.

Flash-forward three months to my bedroom: Ms. Gorgeous and I are a couple and will be for another glorious and tumultuous six months. We are naked in bed, eating take-out sushi and talking about the night we met. She looks at me slyly and says, "You know, I never wanted to talk to Mark in the first place. I was just trying to get to you."

"Shut the f*** up!" I say.

"Are you kidding me that you didn't know that?"

"All these months I thought you were harboring some unresolved attraction to Mark!" I say. "And all this time I've actually felt guilty around Mark, like I stole you from him."

"It's one of the greatest tricks of all time," says Ms. Gorgeous. "Always hit on the wingman."

Always hit on the wingman. It was so simple, so perfectly tailored to men's innate competitiveness, so ... genius! Ms. Gorgeous was right: The Wingman Technique is probably one of the most effective seduction tactics ever. Not convinced? Here are four reasons why:

1) Flirting works best when it feels effortless.
Imagine the man of your dreams hanging out at a party near the beer cooler with his friend Mark (work with me, it's an exercise). Now imagine you have to go up and talk to him. How do you feel? Like you're about to go skydiving only without that little backpack that has the parachute in it? Of course. You're terrified. And damn it, now that you've let the moment pass, he's talking to that chick in the Uggs. Or worse, he's getting bored and making his way to the door.

Now imagine that Mr. Dreamboat Dude isn't there. It's just Mark. Mark in the mock turtleneck, with the bad sideburns. If you were forced to go talk to him, would you be nervous? I didn't think so.

Think about it like a job interview. There's a truism that your best interview is always for the job you don't want. Flirting is the same way. Have you ever noticed how effortlessly cute you are when you're talking to someone you're not attracted to? How you're always getting the wrong guy to eat out of your hand? The best part of the Wingman Technique is that you get to be effortlessly cute and confident and relaxed in front of the guy you actually like.

Hitting on the wingman is like interviewing for the job that you don't want, with a recruiter for your dream job standing right there, very impressed.

Big caveat: There's a difference between flirting and coming on like a starved velociraptor. I bet you can guess which side of the fence to stay on. Go easy on it. Be subtle. If you go overboard, you'll seem desperate -- or possibly nuts.

2) Men crave what they don't have.
Here's the second reason the Wingman Technique works. I call it the Cheeseburger Principle: When a guy sees his friend eating a cheeseburger, he instantly becomes hungry for a cheeseburger. Even if he just ate. Even if he's trying really hard to be a vegetarian. Watching a woman flirt with his friend has the same effect. It makes a guy realize she is ... no, not a piece of meat. but ... worth getting hungry for.

3) Competition makes the heart beat harder.
This point is an extension of the Cheeseburger Principle: If men think something -- or someone -- is too easily attained, we worry we may be too good for it. Just like every other bad habit we have, this one surely goes back to our caveman days, when "getting the girl" meant chasing her other suitor 16 miles, pushing him down a hill and rendering him unconscious with a good bonk to the head. As exhilarating as it is to get close to a beautiful woman, it's even more of a rush if we have to (figuratively) bonk someone over the head to claim that spot. More centered, together, enlightened dudes may be above this way of thinking. but sadly, most men aren't there yet. So let your crush see you as a challenge to win over. When a guy gets the chance to talk to you, he should feel like it's a big opportunity.

4) You never know, the wingman could actually be your man.
Suffice it to say that sometimes the guy who doesn't knock your socks off the first time you lay eyes on him is the real catch.

Bottom line: This isn't really about the wingman. It's about power. Remember when I said hitting on the wingman is a flirting philosophy? Well, here's that whole theory in a nutshell: When you hit on the wingman, you're in control of the situation.

This post is excerpted from Always Hit On the Wingman: and 9 Other Secret Rules for Getting the Love Life You Want by Jake. Copyright 2012 Conde Nast. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

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