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Baffled By Body Language?


Feel clueless when it comes to decoding the cues people send via subtle glances and gestures? Finally, here’s help for your most pressing questions.

By Dustin Goot

sst… want the inside scoop on how to suss out if someone has a crush on you, breed some feel-good vibes on a date, or even figure out whether that cute person sitting across from you is dying for a kiss? Believe it or not, the answers to all these questions and more can be found in the mysterious science of body language. Allan Pease, author of The Definitive Book of Body Language, has been studying the messages people send with their eyes, hands, posture, and more for years. Below, we’ve asked him to answer some of the most common questions that trip people up in the dating and mating game. Trust us, this info will come in handy.

How can you appear confident on a date even if you’re nervous inside?

People who project confidence stand erect—shoulders up, chest out. Confident people also walk slightly more quickly than average, taking medium to long strides and swinging
Avoid touching your face on a date, which signals you have something to hide.
their arms slightly like they’re in a march. A subtler thing is not to blink very often. The average blinking rate is 8 to 16 blinks per minute. If you slow yours to four, you give the impression you’re cool and in control.

How do you show someone you’re interested in them?

With people we like and admire, we mirror their body behavior. If the date goes well, mirroring is something you’ll do naturally, but you can also intentionally mirror the other person’s gestures and posture. It may feel weird, but the other person will just think you’re getting along really well.

How can you tell if someone is interested in you?

Look for preening signals. Preening is what animals do to make themselves more attractive. In humans, some basic examples would be arranging your clothes, touching your hair, or stroking your arm. These signs may seem obvious, but people miss them all the time in a dating situation, especially men.

Are there signals that turn people off?

In studies, if a speaker crosses his or her arms, the audience recalls 40 percent less of what the person says and has a more negative attitude toward him or her. They can’t even say why; they’ll just say they had a bad feeling. Also avoid any scratching or touching of the face. When you hide your face, we feel like we don’t know you, and we don’t think you’re telling the truth.

What’s the best way for a woman to catch a guy’s attention?

It goes back to the preening signals I talked about earlier. She might twirl her hair or touch her thigh. The thing I tell women is that you can’t be too obvious. Subtlety is lost on men. When a woman wants to pick up a guy across a table, often she’ll lift up her eyes and gaze at him, then look away. Women think it’s an obvious sign, but men think she’s not interested because she looks away. On the other hand, if a woman holds a guy’s
Steeple your fingers, and you’ll make a good impression.
gaze and gives him a big perky smile, then he gets it.

What’s the best way for a guy to catch a woman’s attention?

When it comes to body signals, men don’t have a great range of options because in traditional courtship, women give the green lights and men make the approach. The best thing a guy can do is dress right, look confident in the ways I’ve mentioned and keep an eye out for a woman’s “green light” gestures.

How do you initiate casual physical contact without looking desperate or clumsy?

Men should brush the point of a woman’s elbow while they’re talking. Just give it a light touch, not a grab or a squeeze. Leave it there for no more than three seconds. She’ll be aware of it and her response will tell you how she feels. If she’s not enjoying the date, it will feel like you’re touching an electric wire. Women, on the other hand, should target a man’s hand and lower arm to capture his attention.

Is there anything you can do with your hands so you aren’t fidgeting on a date?

The best resting posture is anything with your palms vertical or facing up. Turning your palms down looks pushy or arrogant. Don’t hold hands with yourself or interlock your fingers; that means you’re reassuring yourself because you’re not confident. When you gesture, keep your hands below your chin and keep your fingers together. People who are nervous spread their fingers really wide.

But do people really have much control over their body language? How can you learn to harness this power?

We actually recommend that people take home videos and role-play situations with friends. A lot of people don’t even know what they’re doing until I show them on film. Once you see what your habits are, you can make a determined decision to unlearn or improve them.


Dustin Goot is a freelance writer based in New York City. He has also written on dating and relationships for Wired and Time Out New York.
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