According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, just 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and a whopping 55% through nonverbal elements such as posture, facial expressions, and gestures. It follows then that those that have an understanding of body language possess an incredible advantage over those who don’t. It’s a skill enables people to send and receive information on an entirely different and subtler level.
When you’re on the dating scene, that means all kinds of information is being bandied about, wittingly or otherwise. We spoke to some top body language experts to interpret some common body language and enable you to speak and read volumes when you’re trying to suss out a potential love match. It’s like a super power really, use it wisely. And once you’re a total body-language expert, be sure to know the 20 Questions You Should Never Ask on a First Date.
A Raise of the Eyebrows
According to body language expert and author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma Patti Wood, there are quite a few different kinds of eyebrow raising and each type carries different message. “One of the most interesting for her money is the full eyebrow raise up with a smile. “We use this when we enter a room or see people we love,” she says. “But a very brief raising of the eyebrows may be saying ‘I like what I see and I want more of it.’” Now, want to keep her eyebrows fully raised more often? This list of 11 Easy Ways to Make Her Feel Special Tonight might be for you.
A Nervous Fidget
When we like someone, they make us a little nervous and our heart beats rapidly. That, plus other signs such as nervous laughter, sweaty palms, and an inability to sit still for any length of time can collectively be described as fidgeting. We like to try to stay in control of our emotions, so when a person has trouble doing this, it’s could be because they’re nervous and excited. On a first date, this could be a good thing. That may not be the case if you’ve been seeing each other for a longer period of time. “Fidgeting is complex,” says Wood. It may send a message that what you’re discussing or the situation you’re in is causing them to fidget because they’re uncomfortable.
And remember: making someone uncomfortable might be on a potential partner’s list of pet peeves that grind down on a relationship.
If your date maintains good eye contact, and occasionally drops his or her gaze to look at your mouth before they look back into your eyes, it could be a very positive sign, according to Judi James, author of “The Body Language Bible.” “It’s a definite sign that someone is attracted to you—and more specifically—is thinking about kissing you,” she says.
That said, eye contact can be overdone. In research presented in May 2015 at the Vision Sciences Society conference, psychologist Alan Johnston and his colleagues at University College London presented research that showed that, on average unblinking eye contact that lasted for over 3.2 seconds was unwelcome. However, subjects were comfortable with a longer duration if they felt the actors looked trustworthy as opposed to threatening.
“Mirroring movements is a natural and ongoing part of every single human interaction,” says Wood, adding that people tend to do it when they feel comfortable and like one another and that it’s when somebody doesn’t match you that it might mean something. “It could mean that they’re uncomfortable with themselves or it could mean that they have something that they’re hiding because the cognitive load required to lie is high.”
A Lick of the Lips
Tonya Reiman, author of The Power of Body Language, says that lip licking is a sign of anticipation: “We lick our lips when we see something we desire,” she says. “It could mean that they’re hungry for you.” “When you’re attracted to someone, your mouth produces extra saliva,” adds Wood. “In response, they might quickly lick his lips or press them together.” Before you start counting your chickens, Wood also says that lip licking could mean that what they said it’s not the truth and they’re licking it away, trying to erase it.
Preening is the conscious or unconscious act of grooming yourself in preparation for or in response to someone else’s attention. “An individual who preens is both attempting to draw attention and present themselves in the best light possible,” says Reiman. “When we are interested in someone or when we are self conscious, our sympathetic nervous system hits a high to allow us to release tension. Thus, we tend to touch ourselves.” Put simply, preening relays the signal that we want to be noticed and that we take care of ourselves so others will notice us.
“People tend to lean towards what they desire and move away from what they are not interested in” says Reiman, adding that a lean-in will unconsciously indicate that one wants to literally get closer to another. “But at this point, I should remind you that almost everything on this list can be feigned.”
“The important cue is to recognize that at any point individuals are able to manipulate most of these movements to give an impression of interest for a variety of reasons,” says Reiman, who adds that understanding red flags and signals are imperative to recognizing Machiavellian moves which are primarily opportunistic and self rewarding.
“We typically touch in general conversation with people that were interacting with to show emphasis and a desire for connection,” says Wood. “People might reach out and touch your hand or touch that up the arm. They could be saying something like “Do you understand what I mean?” or “Isn’t this amazing?”
Directional body positioning. Reiman says that if an individual wants to leave a conversation so they will typically point their feet in a different direction from the individual they are talking to. “If that is not noticed, they will begin to tilt their upper torso away and while doing so, move in a backwards direction to unconsciously demonstrate a lack of interest”
Blushing takes place as the sympathetic nervous system dilates small vessels in the face and body and interestingly, women tend to blush five to six times more than men. “Blushing is a clear indicator of potential sexual interest,” says Reiman. Of course, blushing is also a signal of shyness, shame, and anger, so best make sure your good looks and charm are what’s setting off those rosy cheeks and not some tin-eared quip.
If you’re lucky enough to analyze all these signals and end up going home with your date, please do remember the 11 Things Men Should Never Do After Sex.
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