It’s no secret that texting is hard — reading between the lines eggplant emojis can be confusing. Do two exclamation points mean he likes me? Did my sarcasm land? Is he taking a nap or is he ghosting me? It’s enough to scare anyone off from taking flirtatious risks over iMessage. That is, except for these brave souls fighting the good fight. They have, with their humor intact, masterfully cracked the code of flirting from your phone. So grab yours, pull up your crush’s contact, and use these strategies to put yourself out there (sans eggplant emoji, thank you very much).

1. Diffuse conversations about feelings.

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“By bringing up astrology and making a so-lame-it’s-cute joke at the end, I avoided actually having to talk about my feelings, which is just about the most Sag thing I could’ve done,” says Shar, 24.

2. Call out the awkwardness of dating.

We all know the plight of saving someone’s number at a bar and having absolutely no idea what their name is the next day. “This is a make-fun-of-myself-before-you-make-fun-of-me first tactic, whereby I acknowledged that, yes, I was drunk and may have forgotten your name, but I do remember a ton of your other positive characteristics,” says Alyssa, 27. “Nice save, right?”

3. Make cliches your friend.

Everyone’s heard the classic “hobbies include: taking long walks on the beach.” “I used this cliche to make my date smile,” says Evan, 25.

4. Be silly and weird.

“There’s not much to say other than this: don’t ask someone you want to date if they want to get bubble tea,” says Stef, 23. “It sends mixed signals (yes, this is my personal opinion, but I stand by it).”

5. Acknowledge when you’re flirting.

“I love hyper-awareness, aka when you call out the fact that you’re flirting as an act of flirting itself,” says Ash, 26. “Very postmodern. Sorry, I went to NYU.”

6. Know when someone isn’t right for you

“This guy and I met on a dating app, and he told me he was looking for a girl who would ‘ruin his life,’ says Em, 22. “Enter this interaction. I never responded, but I wish that I had said, ‘Spoiler alert: I think you might ruin mine first. Thank u, next!’” This isn’t so much a flirty text as a graceful exit. A flirtatious swan dive out of a red flag, if you will.

So what can we take away from all of this? Take chances. Don’t be afraid to show your personality (or weird sense of humor) and hit send, even if it means throwing your phone across the room right after. If they don’t get it, they’re probably not right for you and your excellent wit anyway.

7. Use your intelligence as an asset.

Stand out amongst the sea of mirror selfies, and send something way sexier: a piece of your brain. It takes a lot of effort to take a good pic — I’d rather give someone a taste of who I really am. 

8. Make them sweat.

Flirting is fun, and teasing is one of the best parts of flirting. “I like to hold out and engage in some light text-edging to keep the conversation interesting,” says Grace, 27. Look for clues that the other person is into that kind of banter — the last thing you want to come off as is mean.

9. Be honest about your shortcomings.

It’s way more charming to be yourself than to pretend to be someone you’re not. “Flirting over text isn’t my thing,” says Gerard, 24. “But sometimes admitting that I’m bad at it is what makes girls fall for me.” The takeaway? Being vulnerable is hot.

10. Give compliments where compliments are due.

Sometimes kindness is all it takes to win someone over. “A simple compliment is a surefire way to make someone feel special,” says Lee, 25.

11. Make them laugh.

“As a comedian, my ability to make [people] laugh is my biggest asset,” says Gabby, 29. “Any time a conversation goes stale, I crack a joke.” Putting someone in a joyful mood is never a bad thing when it comes to dating.

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