As with all things in life, dating can be bewildering at times. Now and again, what people say and what they really mean can be two totally different things. Have you ever wished for the ability to see into your date’s head and figure out what the heck they’re thinking? Are they bored? Am I talking too much? Are they attracted to me? Do they even like me?
Although we can’t gift you psychic powers, we have the next best thing (although mind-reading would help in more areas than dating)—how to read body language.
Chances are pretty good; they’re probably telling you a lot without saying a word via subtle actions, like the way they look at you or touch your arm. These acts are transmitting signals about how they feel. And even if body language can be quiet if you know what to look for and how to read it on dates, your romantic life will get a little less mystifying!
What Is Body Language?
Body language is sort of like Morse code—we all use it, sometimes unbeknownst to us!
It’s how our bodies communicate without using spoken words. Say you see a woman with her arms crossed and a surly expression on her face. Without even opening her mouth, you already sense that she’s irritated or upset, right? That’s good ol’ body language at work!
Our bodies can express a bunch of feelings, like happiness, stress, or even physical attraction through various signals. This can be through our eyes, how we hold our bodies and the way we sit. When we’re on a date, recognizing body language helps us to get a sense of what the other person might be feeling. It’s not mind-reading (we wish), but it does reveal clues.
When it comes to body language in dating, if you can read it, you’re ahead of the pack—we’re going to explore the types (positive and negative) and cues and give you some tips on competently reading body language so you can hit those dating apps with confidence!
Body Language: Non-Verbal Cues in Dating
Picture this: You’re on a date, and the other person says they’re having a good time, but they’re constantly checking their phone or watch. Yes, their words say one thing, but their actions are wildly at odds with what they say. Non-verbal cues often reveal more than words because they’re instinctual and less controlled than spoken communication, giving a more accurate reading of someone’s feelings and thoughts.
In the context of dating, non-verbal cues can be everything—they can show interest, disinterest, comfort, or anxiety.
- A genuine smile that reaches their eyes says you’re heading in the right direction, while a forced grin says otherwise.
- Same thing with an eye-roll at a joke you make as opposed to laughter.
A study led by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer in the field of non-verbal communication, suggests that in situations where feelings and attitudes are being communicated, only 7% of the message is conveyed through words, 38% through vocal elements, and a striking 55% through non-verbal elements (like facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.). This underscores the immense power and superiority of non-verbal communication, especially in scenarios like dates.
Studies in the area of romantic relationships, like those cited in the book “Close Relationships” by Dr. Pamela Regan, affirm that people, particularly in the early stages of a relationship, often rely heavily on non-verbal cues to interpret their partner’s interest and attraction. Eye contact, for instance, isn’t just about where the gaze is directed, but it speaks loudly about attention, interest, and how they’re feeling.
So, whether it’s a subtle brush of the hand, a lingering look, or a playful nudge, non-verbal cues can be louder than any verbalization, articulating emotions that words can fail to convey. Recognizing and interpreting these signals is an interesting and necessary skill in dating life.
Knowing the covert codes of attraction can turn our dating life into a funhouse (not the scary, weird mirrors, we hate those) of discovery—when words are cloaked with ambiguity, our bodies unconsciously convey the truths through different cues. Let’s explore some key non-verbal signs that could signal affection and interest!
- Eye Contact – Gentle and prolonged eye contact can speak volumes about interest and attention. Expert tip: Don’t make it creepy; there is such a thing as too much eye contact!
- Facing Towards You – When your date turns their body towards you, it’s kind of like they’re saying, “I’m super focused on you.”
- Touch – Light, unintentional, or purposeful touches create an actual physical connection that speaks to warmth and interest.
- Mirroring – Ever noticed your date unconsciously copying your actions? That’s mirroring! This can also be creepy, so don’t full-on copy someone—it should be organic.
- Flirting Signals – Playful teasing, or as today’s generation calls it, “roasting,” light-hearted jokes, and genuine compliments are the OG’s of flirtation.
Negative or Neutral Body Language Cues
Now that we know the green light body language, we need to discuss the negative or neutral body language cues. It is just as important to recognize and understand these—maybe even more so.
- Crossed Arms – This classic defensive posture usually means discomfort, disinterest, or a closed-off attitude.
- Lack of Eye Contact – Avoiding eye contact or eyes darting around might hint at distraction, disinterest, or nervousness.
- Turning Away – If your date’s body is oriented away from you, their non-verbal message could be of disconnection or distraction.
- Limited Interaction – Short or outright curt responses or minimal initiation in conversation and physical contact often scream disinterest.
- Distraction – Constantly checking a phone or looking around can signal boredom or lack of engagement.
Picking up on these subtle cues is essential to respect our date’s feelings and get through the interaction with empathy and grace. Sometimes, recognizing what isn’t being said lets us step back, reassess, and approach the situation with tact and respect, meaning a healthy and respectful dating experience for both people—even if it was a terrible date.
Tips on Reading Body Language Effectively
- Be Observant: Pay attention to subtle non-verbal cues.
- Context Matters: It’s super important to consider the overall context when interpreting body language.
- Look for Clusters: Relying on a series of cues is often more reliable than a single gesture.
- Trust Your Intuition: Sometimes, gut feelings can accurately judge the situation.
Dating is fun, but here’s an important reminder: Always respect the other person’s space and feelings! Understanding winks, smiles, and other non-verbal hints is a great tool, but respecting boundaries and making sure both people are comfortable is the bigger priority.
Even if we think someone is giving us the “go-ahead” with their body language, we absolutely have to use our words too! Always ask and make sure they’re okay with moving to the next step, whatever that is.
Understanding body language when dating can be a real game-changer. It’s like having a cheat sheet of what the other person might be feeling. Those long, lingering looks or closed-off crossed arms tell us a lot about interest or a lack of it, guiding us on whether to stick around and see how things play out or bail.
But here’s the thing: While those silent cues give us hints, talking and clear communication are the real MVPs in really getting to know someone. Being open, honest, and straight-up talking about feelings and thoughts is the best way to get to know someone. So don’t just rely on body language—unless you’re both mimes.