First dates are full of mystery: Did that slight lean into the table mean he wanted to get closer, or is he just homing in on the burrata? Did that second reference to her ex mean she’s categorically not over him, or was it no big deal?
The evening may be full of mixed messages, but reading your date’s body language can help. As humans, we’re quick to recognize if we like someone ― Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher says that the human body knows within one second whether someone’s physically attractive or not. Body language experts say we’re equally quick to communicate our attraction ― or lack thereof ― through nonverbal cues.
What should you be aware of the next time you meet a prospective partner for dinner or drinks? Experts share six body language cues to pay attention to on a first date.
Your date leans in.
If your date continuously leans in toward you, chances are it’s their nonverbal way of telling you they’re interested and engaged. That’s especially true if you find yourself in a group and they angle toward you, said body language expert and psychotherapist Paul Hokemeyer.
“A person who leans in toward you is revealing their interest in who you are, what you have to say and the addictiveness of your being,” he told HuffPost. “It shows they want more of you rather than less. Conversely, if they impulsively pull back when you approach them, it’s a sign they find some part of your being threatening or unattractive.”
Their eye contact is intense.
The link between prolonged eye contact and a deep connection isn’t just the stuff of love songs (“You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you”). The link is long established by science, too.
A steady gaze can even fast-track closeness between two people: In an oft-cited 1987 study, social psychologist Arthur Aron had sets of strangers ask and answer 36 questions of an increasingly personal nature. (“Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?” for instance, and more emotionally loaded questions, like, “When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?”) In one version of the study, the participants stared silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes.
The test generated so much emotional intimacy between the pairs that, six months later, one of those pairs were married.
Needless to say, unless your date is staring to a creepy degree, a near-unfaltering gaze is a good sign. So are dilated pupils. Studies have shown that our pupils dilate wider than usual when we’re excited about something or someone.
“If their pupils dilate when they look at you, they’re totally liking what they see. If they shrink, they’re not so much into the view,” said Traci Brown, a body language expert and author of Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence.
They position away from you or use blocking.
Yep, blocking is as bad as it sounds. Experts call this type of body language “distancing language.” When we feel connected to someone, we are more likely to square up with them or face them directly with our shoulders, knees and feet. If we’re not actively interested, we do the opposite, said Lisa Mitchell, a body language expert and forensic interviewer.
“When someone is not feeling a connection, they will purposely stay offset with their body and use their body positioning to signal blocking by doing things like crossing their arms across their torso or crossing their legs with knees pulled slightly up to create a barrier between you and them,” she said.
Their feet point inward.
The toes are telling when it comes to attraction: By pointing our toes inward, we attempt to shrink in size and appear more approachable and more harmless.
“If your date’s feet are pointing inward and in your direction, that’s good,” Brown said. “Are they pointing toward the door? That’s bad news if you like them! They’re mentally on their way out.”
Brown added that the same concept applies to crossing their legs.
“If they’re crossed toward you, they’re into you. Crossed away and they’re out of there ASAP,” she said.
Your date has negative micro-expressions or fake smiles.
Micro-expressions are slight facial expressions that occur within 1/15 to 1/25 of a second. They’re involuntary and expose a person’s true emotions. Your date might be an utter pro at forced smiles, but if you catch a few cringes as you regale a story, they might not be that into you.
“It’s hard for us to hide our true internal emotions from showing up on our face,” Mitchell said. “They often show up as quick flashes of the truth before the person will choose another, less conflict-inducing expression to display.”
Cut your date some slack if they trip over their words around you. There’s a good chance they’re anxious and stumbling over what to say because they’re interested in you, Hokemeyer said.
“When the attraction is strong, it can turn highly intelligent adults into bumbling children,” he said. “So if he or she stumbles on words or has a hard time putting together an evening of cogent thoughts, chances are its because they are very much into you.”