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The Body Language of Attraction: Signs to Watch

Author Kathy Batesel writes about topics she has experienced, worked with, or researched thoroughly.

Signs of Attraction or Disinterest

Draw that special guy or gal closer by knowing how to make yourself more approachable. By recognizing the body language of attraction, you'll be able to judge if they feel that same kind of attraction toward you.

By learning about subtle indicators of disinterest, you can avoid wasting time with people who are just "being polite," too. Here are some subtle (and not so subtle) signs our bodies use to communicate nonverbally.

Which of these photos shows the best first date? What body language clues you in?

Which of these photos shows the best first date? What body language clues you in?


Does a Smile Reveal Interest?

The most obvious sign is the one that's most easily faked—a smile. But it's also the first indication that someone can be approached. It takes practice to recognize a polite smile versus a genuine one, but even the most inexperienced of us have noticed the difference at least once or twice in our lives!

When a smile is genuine, a person's eyes widen slightly and their lips are parted. Closed-lip smiles show restraint, meaning someone's thoughts are elsewhere. When their eyes narrow slightly instead of getting a tad wider, they're showing signs of discomfort. This is a good time to withdraw for a little while if you don't want to wear out your welcome.

Do You Know When Someone's Attracted?

Eyes Reveal and Hide Information About Attraction

Pupils enlarge as if they've turned toward a source of light. (You can see this effect for yourself if you watch your eyes in the bathroom mirror and then turn on a flashlight near your face.) Because it's an involuntary response, it's a good indicator of whether someone's receptive to you. You'll need to be alert to catch it, though. Eyes quickly readjust to light conditions.

Women who feel anxious about making a good impression will smooth their hair repeatedly. This isn't a positive indication that they are attracted to you, however. You'll have to guess about whether there may be other reasons they are concerned with looking their best. (For some women, it's almost a compulsive behavior!) Both men and women will adjust clothing or jewelry for the same reason.

Then there are signs that show another person feels a high level of mental rapport with you. Imagine yourself sitting at a restaurant with your date. Your drinks have arrived, and you're chatting amicably. What do you see?

If your date's wishing they were somewhere else, you'd probably recognize the signs: looking around the room, avoiding eye contact, checking their watch, or even checking for text messages and missed phone calls.

When they're enjoying themselves, their posture changes. They may lean toward you slightly when you speak. If you take a sip of your drink, a moment or so passes and they raise their own glass to their lips. If you clasp your hands pleasantly on the table, before long they're doing something very similar with their own hands. This "mirroring" indicates a high degree of comfort.

Not everyone meets at restaurants, of course. Some behaviors can be noted in almost every conversation, whether it's at a football game or in a waiting room. Eye contact is a no-brainer for American men and women. Prolonging a gaze just slightly longer than polite shows interest. (Doing it for too long could get you slapped for your rudeness!) In some cultures, however, it is considered impolite for a woman to meet a man's eye, so if you are a guy who's hoping for a date with a woman from another culture, don't get discouraged simply because she avoids eye contact.

Personal Space and Body Alignment

Similarly, different cultures have varying ideas about what constitutes personal space. For Americans, a couple of feet apart is considered appropriate for conversation. If you stand too far, people will think you're disinterested, and if you get too close, they'll judge you negatively.

Intruding upon someone's personal space causes them to feel invaded and even hostile. If you move in too close for their comfort, you'll see them move to protect themselves. The mildest response is for them to subtly step back from you until their comfort zone is reestablished. Their feet may turn away from you, and their entire body will follow soon after. If they're extremely uncomfortable or they're disliking the conversation, they will cross their arms over their chest. (Women do this when men can't seem to stop looking at their breasts, too, so if you see this sign, you've already been written off as a potential date. Just sayin'.) Finally, men and women may take a step backward if you've invaded their personal space.

A gentleman who is interested in a woman may touch her elbow lightly to emphasize a point. If she's not attracted to him, she will subconsciously move away from his hand. If she wants to know him better, she will probably have (or find) a reason to reciprocate a touch back. She's likely to tilt her head slightly without breaking eye contact if she's interested in him, too.

These are basic indicators that help you recognize what others are feeling when they interact with you. For other examples, watch the video (above) to discover just how much information you can get by paying attention to signals people send unconsciously.

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