This week's Question of the Day host on Siren is Kate L. Stewart, a psychotherapist and dating coach based in Seattle, WA. In addition to maintaining a private therapy practice, she teaches classes in Flirting 101.
We asked Kate to share some of her expertise as a sex positive therapist and flirting expert with Siren members. Enjoy!
Tell us about your work! What are some of the most common reasons people come to see you as a therapist?
I do a variety of different things at work. Primarily, I am a psychotherapist in private practice, working with individuals, couples, adults and kids, focusing on dating, sexuality issues, self-esteem or understanding themselves better. The people I see the most identify as Sex Positive, meaning that they embrace a more accepting outlook on sex, affirming sexuality as a healthy expression of self.
Clients come to see me for a lot of different reasons, and at a lot of different points in their lives. Usually, someone is experiencing discord in their life, or within their personal relationships. Some people go through depression and anxiety, and need help coping with that. Or they may reach a point where their low self-esteem is getting in their way more often than not. I work with a lot of couples in non-monogamous relationships who are looking for guidance in improving communication and negotiation. I've worked with clients from 4 years old to 77.
When I am not seeing clients in my office, I speak publicly about topics related to mental health and sex positivity, teach flirting and sex education at the Experimental College of the University of Washington or at a variety of fraternities or sororities, or spend time writing books on topics relevant to my work. I'm currently in the process of becoming certified as a sex therapist as well.
What's the simplest way a person can step up their flirting game?
The simplest way to take flirting to the next level is to be brave! A lot of students I've taught have talked of missed opportunities, of talking to an attractive person but not following up with "closing the deal" or exchanging contact information.
"The simplest way to take flirting to the next level is to be brave!" [Tweet this]
For people who are flirting more for fun, and less to make lasting connections, I think the best improvement a person can make is to focus on confidence. What do you feel confident about? What activity or skill do you feel you've totally got a handle on? I ask this question of students, from frat boys and sorority girls, 30-somethings to people in their 60s, and I've gotten the most incredible answers. I've heard: parallel parking, being a state wrestling competitor in high school, to identifying infectious diseases. One student even said "my sexuality" when I asked what he felt confident in! Whatever you feel confident in, focus on that when you are about to start flirting with someone, and the more specific the image, the better. For example, the state wrestling champ visualized his best competition when he was trying to conjure up confidence.
Flirting with someone face-to-face is one thing; having a flirty conversation on the internet is another. Are there any flirting strategies you can recommend to people who are trying to reach out to meet others online?
Yes! So much flirting is happening online these days, and it is really important to keep that in mind. Flirting online can feel really awkward, but then again, flirting in person doesn't come naturally to a lot of people either!
When we talk about flirting online, we have to really break it down into the different websites or places where a person might be flirting. Flirting with a stranger on a dating website may feel totally different than flirting with an acquaintance or friend on Facebook. The first question to ask yourself is, how well does this person know me? If you are flirting with someone you have met before, they may have a better feel for your sense of humor. This mans you can use more humor, or reference something funny the two of you have done or seen together. If you are flirting with someone you don't know, as silly as it seems, emoticons can really help the person you are talking to understand that you are flirting. The simple ;) is the best emoticon to use, because it basically says I'm joking with you!
The reason you would use an emoticon is because it is really difficult to get a clear read on tone over email. Everyone either looks A) not funny, or B) very dry and sarcastic, because there is no non-verbal communication to pick up on.
To sum this up, I basically have two tips for flirting online:
1) Use humor. It's okay to use emoticons, even if it feels juvenile.
2) If you don't know who you are flirting with very well, treat them like a friend, because if you interact with someone like you already feel comfortable with them, you are more likely to make a connection.
Psychotherapist Kate L. Stewart Shares Tips for Flirting Online [Tweet this]
This is really useful advice! So, what if we try our best at flirting and it doesn't work, or the person is just not interested? What's your advice for learning to handle rejection gracefully?
Quite honestly, there's no perfect answer to this question. Rejection is not fun, and it basically just takes repeated exposure to feel comfortable with it! What I teach my students is to try not to feel invested in each person they flirt with. Even if it feels like there aren't very many people out there to flirt with you, you need to do whatever you can to convince yourself that there are "plenty of fish in the sea," so to speak. Abundance is the idea!
For more info on Kate's services and teaching schedule, visit her website here.