How often have you met a cute guy or gone out on a first date and wondered, “Is he interested or not?” You replay the whole interaction in your mind, analyzing it over and over again and looking for clues.
Don’t you wish that sometimes you could read your date’s mind? I know I do!
The good news is, while becoming a mind reader isn’t an option, becoming just a little more observant of nonverbal cues may give you some of the answers you’ve been looking for.
An amazing 55 percent of all communication is nonverbal, according to the famous research conducted by Albert Mehrabian. And cuing into these nonverbals can be a helpful way to decode what your date is really thinking. In fact, in Dr. John Gottman’s famous “Love Lab,” the researcher was able to identify in just a few minutes whether or not a couple was headed for relationship trouble solely based on the way they interacted with one another, including body language.
Personally, I have found nonverbal cues to be be helpful in my work as a therapist and in my dating life. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in psychology to read basic body language; all it takes is being aware of some basics.
The amount of eye contact your man makes can be a helpful clue. Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., and author on body language, writes that we make greater eye contact with people we like. Generally, the greater the eye contact, the stronger the relationship is between two people, she says.
Generally, we make greater eye contact when listening but, when speaking, alternate between making eye contact and looking away for brief periods of time. So, when searching for clues, look for strong but not too intense eye contact as an indication of interest. If someone is staring you down unblinkingly and making you feel uncomfortable, this would be a case of too much eye contact. If someone seems to look everywhere but at you, he may be signaling that he is feeling uncomfortable, nervous, or distracted.
It’s important to look for patterns in body language rather than to focus on one specific instance as the end all and be all. For example, if the conversation has been going well but you notice your date happens to glance over your shoulder and seems momentarily distracted, this is not the end of the world. If, on the other hand, he rarely makes eye contact with you the whole evening, file that under “suspicious, but needs further investigation.”
Arms and Legs
What a person does with their arms and legs while sitting or standing can also give you an idea about how your date is feeling. According to research studies, crossed arms and legs can send the message that a person is closing themselves off from a conversation, while relaxed feet and legs and smooth hand gestures are all examples of positive body language. Of course, some people find it more comfortable to sit with their arms crossed, especially if they are nervous, so use your observational skills to determine if this is your date’s preferred stance, he is just a little nervous, or, if it’s a sign that he might be disengaged with the conversation. A combination of crossed arms and no eye contact could be building a case for a verdict of “not interested.”
Next, observe your date’s posture. Is he leaning slightly forward and facing you? Or, is he leaning slightly back from the waist up or turned away at a 45-degree angle?
If he is leaning slightly forward and facing you, he is showing that he is interested in what you have to say. If he is leaning back or is slightly turned away, he might be indicating that he isn’t feeling a strong connection to you. Just like with eye contact and body language in general, look for patterns rather than assigning significance to one isolated event. If he is leaning away, but making eye contact, it might just be that he is really comfortable in his chair.
While this is technically not nonverbal body language, verbal tracking is another indication if he is interested in you and what you have to say. If he is interested in what you are talking about, he will show that he is listening by nodding, adding “hmm” or “uh-huh” occasionally, and commenting on what you are saying. Not only is it a sign he is actively listening, but it also means that he is not dominating the conversation and is genuinely interested in you as a person.
Mirroring occurs when a person copies the physical position of the person they are talking to. It is generally seen as sign that he is feeling connected to you and what you are saying. Say you are sitting with your elbows on the table and your chin resting on your hands. If your date mirrors you with a similar position, it likely means that he is engaged in your conversation. This is a compliment because it means that he is feeling comfortable and connected.
Mirroring applies to any social interaction. I always keep an eye out for it with my clients in my work as a therapist. If my client mirrors the way my hands are resting on my chair or the way I am sitting in my chair, I take it as a positive sign that my client is attuned to our conversation.
What Does Your Body Language Say?
While you might find it easy to decode his body language, he might not find it so easy the other way around. Researchers at Harvard University have found that women are more alert to body language than men are. In one study cited in the book, The Definitive Book of Body Language, participants watched a short film of a couple interacting with a sound off and the results showed that women correctly read the situation 87 percent accuracy, while men read the situation with only 42 percent accuracy.
So be mindful of your own body language, and do your best to show him that you are interested. Remember that he could be just as nervous as you are and might appreciate a clear sign or two (preferably a verbal one) that you are having a good time.
As you can see, there are actually a lot ways you can clue into what your date is probably thinking. Just be careful not to get so preoccupied with analyzing his nonverbal cues that you forget to be present to your conversation with him. Remember, you’re not interrogating him but rather looking for a pattern of signs that he is open, interested, and attentive to you. Don’t forget to trust your gut. And, remember, have fun!
Photo Credit: Manchik Photography