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Body Language - 4 Sure Signs Of Attraction

Your date’s gestures can send you silent signals of desire. Read on for tips to help understand those subtle signs of attraction.

by David Givens, Ph.D.

an you tell when someone is interested in you? Are you sure? Since no one likes to be rejected, it's a good idea to understand the subtle signs of attraction (or lack thereof) before you launch yourself into the line of fire. As an anthropologist who studies mating and dating rituals, I'll help you decode the top four body-language cues. Use this information to either proceed with your flirtation—or flee with ego intact.

Before we get into the specifics, know this: For all of our technological advances and psychological insights, when it comes to the silent signs of sexual attraction, we are no different than beasts. For the past 500 million years, every member of the animal kingdom has utilized certain signals to communicate their interest in mating. These boil down to the message: "I am harmless; I won't bite." (Charles Darwin called these signs "submissive displays," because they make the subject seem more approachable.) Seeing any one of them may signify physical attraction. Seeing all four at once is compelling evidence that you are liked—and very possibly lusted after.


One of the most easily detected signs of attraction is lifted shoulders. This motion indicates that a person has activated what biologists call the "cute response," a bashful, almost childlike behavior that reveals a softer, more compliant side. This is an emotional, involuntary muscular response to someone you like, and it has a universally disarming effect. (It is also a natural response when you're oohing and ahhing over a puppy or cuddling with a baby.) In a dating scenario, this unconscious movement tells you that the person you're interested in wants to get a little closer—and that you shouldn't be shy.


Pigeon toes may not sound like the sexiest of gestures, but an inward rotation of the feet suggests definite interest. Anatomically referred to as "tibial torsion," this toes-turned-in posture occurs when someone feels both smitten and somewhat intimidated by you. By "shrinking" the body, the subject is creating a less threatening profile. Put simply, pigeon toes do for the body what the smile does for the face. Both actions say: "If you approach, I won't snub you." Worth noting: In direct contrast to pigeon toes is the more aggressive military posture. This toes-out, hands-behind-the-back posture is reminiscent of soldiers at ease, and its aloofness should tell you that it's probably best to keep your distance.


As you talk to your potential love interest, watch his or her hands. Specifically, take note of whether the palms are facing upward, while gesturing or resting on a table. The brain is programmed to perceive vulnerability and openness in this motion. In courtship, these gestures are psychologically friendlier than palm-down cues. (Indeed, think about the downward hand motions that President Bush uses when talking to the country about Iraq or that a grade-school teacher uses when trying to calm rowdy students. Not a maneuver that communicates warmth and connection.)


Your date has more than friendship in mind if he or she uses the forehead bow. Here's the tell-tale gesture: The person tips the head slightly forward and looks up at you from under the eyebrows. (Think of Lauren Bacall looking at Humphrey Bogart with her famous come-hither look.) A fragment of the full-body bow, which is used in cultures around the world to show respect and deference, this head motion and those bedroom eyes can indicate that you may not be very far away from an actual bedroom. In direct contrast to this move is a posture of domination: A subtle tilting back of the head and casting of a downward gaze. That look should tell you where you stand—and that, in fact, you should go stand elsewhere because this individual is not a good prospect for love.


David Givens, author of Love Signals: A Practical Field Guide to the Body Language of Courtship, is an anthropologist who specializes in nonverbal communication. When he's not people watching, he studies the courtship of reptiles, mammals and birds.
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