The next time you’re cozying up to a date or cute stranger and they look you in the eye before glancing down at your mouth, they might not be signaling you’ve got food in your teeth. You may in fact be on the receiving end of the “Triangle Method,” a new flirting technique trending on TikTok that describes a series of visual cues in the shape of—you guessed it—a triangle.
Although the starting point varies slightly among users, most recommend doing it in the following order: look deeply into someone’s left eye, then their right, glance down at their lips, then back up to their left eye. According to one commenter, the triangle method proved so powerful that after testing it out on a second date, she was immediately invited on a romantic vacation.
“What we’re talking about is triangular gazing, which can be highly suggestive and indicate romantic interest,” says Karen Donaldson, a communication, body language, and confidence expert. “Lingering eye contact heightens intimacy while the lips are an erogenous zone and a pleasure point. When doing the triangle method, you’re implying you’d like to touch your lips with theirs.”
It might sound simple to pull off, but the triangle method does require a bit of skill. Do it too quickly, too many times, or too theatrically, and you’ll end up looking more screwball than hot. Done right, TikTok claims it's a secret weapon of seduction. Does the research back it up? Women’s Health asked three experts to decode the science behind the triangle method theory, explain why it's so potent, and how to tell if it's working.
Meet the experts: Karen Donaldson is a communication, body language, and confidence expert. Marisa T. Cohen, PhD, LMFT, is a relationship and family therapist based in New York. Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, is a psychologist and founder of Growing Self.
What is the triangle method?
Not to be confused with doe eyes, which involves staring directly at the other person with wide-eyed, eyelash-batting innocence, the triangle method is decidedly more hot. And while its nickname is new, TikTokers have pointed out it’s been around for a while: the strategy has been used by Marilyn Monroe to drive men wild, Kate Winslet to charm Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, and even two non-human CGI characters in Avatar. When deployed correctly, it’s a subtle, sultry move that shifts your focus around their face in a slow, triangular motion: eye-eye-mouth-eye. And before you ask, no, it doesn’t matter which eye you look at first.
“It works the exact same. It’s the clustering of the three gestures that tells them you’re interested romantically, you like what you see, and you desire more from them, whether it’s a conversation, a closer interaction, a date or a kiss. It’s straight-up flirtation,” says Donaldson.
Why does the triangle method work?
“The triangle method hasn’t been empirically researched, but it is based on real scientific evidence. Tons of studies have shown that holding sustained eye contact with a person does enhance feelings of connection and builds trust over time,” says Marisa T. Cohen, PhD, LMFT, a relationship and family therapist based in New York. “Momentarily breaking eye contact by moving your focus down to the mouth keeps things intimate, but not too intense. It’s not a stare-down; it's a fluid, organic motion.”
It also doesn’t leave you too vulnerable. “The great thing about it is that it’s hot, but not too risky of a maneuver. It’s fun and it’s playful without letting you go too far before knowing if your feelings are reciprocated,” adds Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, a psychologist and founder of Growing Self. “It leaves a margin that preserves everybody from potential embarrassment.”
How should I employ the triangle method?
The objective of the triangle method is mutually intensifying the moment. “If they continue to meet your gaze, smile in response, or raise an eyebrow, that suggests they return the sentiment,” says Donaldson.
Leaning in or scooching closer is another non-verbal way to let you know they’re feeling it. “Things should naturally take shape. Their body language will indicate they’re on the same track by closing the space between you for added intimacy,” says Cohen.
Depending on the setting, they may even attempt a smooch or makeout session. The triangle method does convey an interest in kissing, notes Donaldson. “Although you’re not actually touching someone’s lips, you are suggesting it.”
A quick word on what not to do: “During the course of a conversation, it’s okay to use it in comfortable intervals,” says Cohen. “But if you’re continuously circling their face, it might look like you want to eat them.” In all seriousness, though, if they start looking around at everyone or anything but you or shift their body further away, it’s probably a sign you should pull back.
However, if the chemistry is off the charts, there are lots of ways to up the ante. Close out your triangle move with a sly smile and a one-shoulder shrug, a seductive, non-verbal challenge that says the ball’s in their court. Another follow-up could be touching their waist or lightly grazing their hand. The important thing, says Bobby, is staying engaged in the moment.
You also don’t have to be just-introduced or newly dating to enjoy the effects of the triangle method. One TikTok boyfriend says that while the triangle method initially reeled him in, it still keeps things sizzling when his significant other trots it out. The best thing about the triangle method? Once you’ve gotten them hooked, the real fun is finding out what other shapes you can make together.
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