Doctor NerdLove’s handy guide for reading women’s body language.
One of the hardest parts of meeting women is the intial approach. For many men it’s a nerve-wracking enterprise—nobody wants to suffer the indignities of being shot down, especially if it’s in a public space. How’re we even supposed to know if they’re into us or not? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if women would let us know whether or not they were interested in us or whether they like us?
Turns out… they do. It’s just that most men aren’t picking up on it.
It’s amazing just how much we communicate without realizing it. In fact, the vast majority of human communication—up to 80% according to some studies—is non-verbal.
When it comes to dating, much of this can be deliberate. It can be anxiety-inducing, even frightening to try to tell someone you’re interested in them… or that you’re not. Many women prefer to provide subtle signs of interest or disinterest rather than risk the potential of humiliating themselves by being direct. They will try to give off signs through body language, letting people know whether or not they’re interested in being approached.
Being able to read people’s signs is a critical aspect of dating. Knowing how to read people lets you know when someone is interested in you and, critically, when they’re not and you’re better off not approaching them. Being able to read her body language is a great way of being able to gauge just how well an interaction with someone is going, as well as how to tell when you’ve fucked up. If you know how to recognize a woman’s signs and body language, you’ll be set to read her like a book.
WATCH HER EYES
A woman’s eyes are more than just a place to look when we’re pretending that we wouldn’t rather be staring at her boobs; they’re a vital means of non-verbal communication.
Eye contact can be incredibly intimate and powerful, which is why we get uncomfortable locking gazes with strangers. And yet, eye contact is a frequently overlooked, subtly potent way of communicating interest or disinterest. If you’ve ever played the eye-contact game with someone—you’re looking at them, they catch you looking, you look away quickly and only look back when you think she’s not looking—you may have been missing out on one of the most sure “come here” signals there is.
A woman who is interested in being approached will often use eye contact as a way of signaling her interest in you. If she’s making strong eye contact—holding your gaze for longer than a second or two—she’s likely interested. The longer she keeps contact, the more interested she is.
Many women will use a variation of the eye-contact game; they will make a point of making eye contact, then looking down and away before looking back again. Because we’re instinctively attracted to movement, the act of deliberately breaking eye-contact actually works to catch our attention. Breaking eye contact to look down is a submissive action, designed to look demure and inviting, while looking back up to re-initiate eye contact is a way of checking to see if you noticed and are still looking. The smile that comes with it is all but screaming “Yes, that was intended for you, now why don’t you come over here and talk to me already?”
Some women, especially particularly confident or assertive ones, will give what’s known as the “elevator gaze”; looking up and down your entire length. It’s a blatant “sizing you up” look and getting it is a sign that she likes what she sees.
On the other hand: is she actively avoiding eye-contact? Does she seem to look away as soon as she notices you looking, but doesn’t look back? She doesn’t want to talk to you. The most you can expect from her are polite but curt answers before she either tells you to go away or gets up and leaves herself.
Similarly, if she catches you looking and looks up and away, the intended message is very clear: “Don’t even bother.”
If you’re talking to someone who maintains eye contact or breaks and reinitiates it quickly, you can feel certain that she’s actively interested in what you have to say.
On the other hand, does she seems to be looking around the room every few seconds while you talk? Either she’s incredibly bored or she’s looking for an acceptable way of getting out of the conversation without blatantly violating the social contract. Once you notice that she seems to be looking everywhere but at you, you can be fairly certain that she’s about to see someone she needs to talk to right now—who also happens to be as far away from you as possible.
CHECK HER SMILE
This one seems like it would be obvious on its face: if she’s smiling at you, she’s interested. Nobody smiles at someone they don’t like, right?
Actually, no. Not really.
Smiling is an important means of non-verbal communication that has its origins in our primate ancestry and it can carry a wide variety of meanings. Smiling is often a sign of submission and reassurance; in many cases, by smiling we are sending the signal that hey, we’re not a threat, you don’t have to hurt us. A smile is frequently a way of placating others, especially if they seem as though they’re aggressive or angry. Baring one’s teeth in a smile can also be an implied threat or dominance challenge; Southern women especially learn early on how to deliver withering insults with a faux sweet smile. A smile can also be a disguise, masking the real underlying emotions; because they are socialized to not be rude, women will often smile at people they’re talking to even if they don’t particularly like them. A fake smile can keep up the social illusion that she’s interested in what you have to say, when in reality she desperately wishes that you would be decapitated by a flying toilet seat.
If you want to discern the message behind a smile, you need to be able to tell the difference between a real smile and a fake one.
A genuine smile, one that signals interest, is one that reaches the eyes. Also known as a Duchene smile, a genuine smile engages not just the muscles around the mouth but the eyes as well; a real smile will cause crinkling at the corners of the eyes.
You may also notice the sudden appearance of floating hearts and cartoon birds.
A fake smile, on the other hand, just engages the mouth alone. It’s occasionally known as the “Botox” smile for the way that the rest of the face seems to not react.
READ HER BODY
A smile that seems plastered on—one that doesn’t reach the eyes—is a sign that she’s not interested in you, and is only continuing the interaction out of politeness.
The human body is incredibly expressive; we can convey emotional states, complex concepts, even sexual interest with just the position of our bodies and limbs. Women will give far more information via body language than almost any other signal.
The first and biggest sign is to look for is open or closed body positioning. A woman who is interested in you and who is comfortable in your presence will have more open body language; that is, she will be sitting up straighter, orienting herself towards you and leaving her arms and legs uncrossed. On the other hand, a woman with closed body language—pointing herself away from you, crossing her arms across her chest, hunching in or taking up less space—is trying to tell you that she’s closed off to you.
You also want to look for where her body is pointing. Humans tend to be goal focused and we will frequently orient ourselves in the direction of what we’re interested in whether its the buffet, a sexy stranger, or a speedy exit. If she’s pointing herself at you—especially with her knees and feet—she’s interested in you. Pointing away from you, on the other hand, is an indication that she’s bored or annoyed by you; she’s putting herself into a position where it’s easy to get up and move on.
If you find that the woman you’re talking to is mirroring your actions—she takes a sip of her drink when you take one of yours, when you cross your legs and lean to one side, so does she—it’s a strong signal that she likes you. We tend to like people who are similar to us; adopting the same body language—known as the chameleon effect—as the person we’re interested in is a way of helping to trigger that feeling. Mirroring the body language of others is a way of enhancing rapport and fostering a feeling of comfort and familiarity.
Interestingly, much like the time-dilation effect, the affection and warm feelings that mimicry brings seems to work both ways; both the mimic and the person being copied find that they’re subtly encouraged to like the other person more.Mimicry is also a sign that the person you’re talking to is paying close attention to what you have to say; the more absorbed she is in what you’re saying, the more likely she is to mimic you unconsciously.
IS SHE FIDGETING?
There are two types of nervousness when it comes to dating. There’s the “Oh God, I think he’s going to tell me to rub the lotion on my skin” nervousness that comes from being creeped out and the “Oh God he’s hot, do I have something in my teeth, shit, what about my breath, do I have any gum, please Jesus tell me I didn’t put on my ugly underwear today” nervousness that comes from being attracted to the person you’re talking to. Both women and men tend to unconsciously indulge in what’s known as “preening” behavior when they’re interested in somebody; these are little gestures and movements aimed at trying to groom themselves a little and presenting a better, more attractive display.
In women this most often manifests in playing with her hair, whether it’s hair tossing or twirling it around her fingers. Tossing the hair draws attention to the face and especially the neck and shoulders—two areas that are especially sensitive during foreplay. Twirling or absentmindedly playing with her hair meanwhile, is an unconscious way of drawing attention to it; the unspoken intent is to reinforce her femininity and desirability. It also helps show off her hair itself, a subtle indication of health and genetic potential.
Other signs of attraction include leg crossing. Many people will repeatedly cross and uncross their legs when they start feeling anxious or nervous; being attracted to someone can make them squirm in their seat at times. Much like with watching for orientation and pointing, how she’s crossing her legs can be a clue. A woman who’s interested in you is more likely to point her upper leg in your direction – the better with which to show off her gams to their best advantage. It’s a subtle sign, but one worth looking for.
Other signs of attraction-based nerves involve calling attention to her mouth. Lip licking—the “my mouth is dry” kind, not the Basic Instinct type—is a frequent sign of interest. Excitement tends to cause our mouths to go dry. Similarly, biting one’s lip calls a man’s eyes to her lips—another visible reminder of her femininity as well as one that prompts men to think about kissing.
SIGNS IT’S TIME TO GO
Being able to read her signs is a great way of knowing just how you’re doing. Someone who’s growing more attracted to you will laugh at your jokes—even your dumb ones—and will start edging into your personal space by leaning in as she pays attention and asks questions.
At the same time, a woman will often use signs to tell you that she’d rather you didn’t come talk to her at all. If you’re approaching a woman and she starts to turn her torso to face away from you or she steps back, she’s trying to send a signal that no, she doesn’t want to talk to you. When she starts to act fidgety—in that twitchy, “too much nervous energy building up” sort of way and she’s becoming increasingly curt as she talks to you, she’s wishing you would catch a hint already and realize that she’d prefer you walk away, but doesn’t necessarily want to cause a scene by telling you so directly.
When you start getting the “go away” signs from a woman, the best thing you can do is mercy kill the whole interaction. Make up a reason to leave, say “it was nice talking to you” and just move on to talk to somebody else… someone who’s been giving you the come-hither signs.
THE BETTER YOU CAN READ, THE MORE YOU WILL SUCCEED
Approaching women can be nerve-wracking; the feeling of uncertainty about whether she would be interested in getting to know you or not is enough to cause actual anxiety attacks in men. But if you can learn to read her signs, you will be better prepared to tell who is receptive to meeting you and who would rather be left alone. Learning to read the clues that women give guys is like a cheat code; once you know what you’re looking for, you can approach new, awesome people with confidence instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. It takes practice; some of these signs are subtle and easy to miss while others can be misinterpreted if you aren’t careful. But once you learn her signs, you won’t have to worry about making the wrong move or overstaying your welcome.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock:
Kristen Stewart Photo – AP