In the year 1960, something magical happened. At least, that’s how it seemed. Up until then, presidential debates were covered by newspapers or radio. Then, in 1960, American citizens gathered around to watch the two presidential candidates defend their position as future Commander in Chief–all on TV. This was the first time in history that a presidential debate was televised.
At first, it seemed that everything went as planned. But, then, things got weird.
When pollers took to the public to ask who was the winner, they were met with extremely mixed results. People who only listened to the debate via radio tended to favor Richard Nixon. However, those who watched the debate on TV unanimously agreed that John F. Kennedy had won the debate. They also felt emotionally connected to both him and his message.
How did this happen? The answer is not magic, but the powerful result of non-verbal communication. What is non-verbal communication and how can it help us when dating? Let’s get into it.
Body Language Basics
Non-verbal communication, AKA body language, can be defined as anything that communicates a message but is not a word. Biologically speaking, it is the limbic part of the brain processing our surroundings to alert us to potential threats.
We can think of non-verbal communication as software that is installed within us upon birth. At all times, it is working subconsciously within us to gain the maximum information possible in order to gauge the feelings of others and appropriately express our own. It is not something that can be turned on or off. Though, it can be controlled and learned.
When it comes to dating, non-verbal communication is a very effective tool. Most of our dating decisions often boil down to these instinctual factors that are expressed through non-verbal communication. In fact, most of what we consider to be “chemistry” is actually just two people’s body languages speaking fluently with one another.
When used purposefully, our own body language can communicate secret messages and help us to build a connection with our dates. It can also provide insights into their inner thoughts and feelings.
Disclaimer: Just like in spoken languages, someone’s intentions can be easily misinterpreted if their words or phrases are overanalyzed, broken up, or taken out of context. Body language is no different. Therefore, when decoding your date’s body language, try not to isolate or hyperfocus on only one or two actions. Instead, try to consider the overall experience you shared with them before jumping to any conclusions.
That being said, let’s go over 10 key body language points to look out for when on a date.
#1. Eye Contact
They say the eyes are the window of the soul. So, if it seems your date can’t keep their eyes off of you, this shows they have an interest in getting to know you on a deeper level.
When telling a story, try to notice where their eyes go. Do they maintain eye contact with you, following your every word? Or, do they look away, perhaps distracted by a passerby or what options are available on the menu? If you notice that your date maintains steady eye contact with you, this is a good sign. It shows that they are equally invested in what you have to say.
#2. Luscious Lips
A smile is an obvious green light that your partner is enjoying your company. To make sure their smile goes beyond politeness, check to see if their smile reaches the corners of their eyes. A genuine smile will encapsulate the entire face.
Another tell-tale sign that things are heating up between you and your date can be seen in the fullness of their lips. When we feel a special spark with our partners, the pillows of our lips begin to fill with blood. Why’s that? Scientists suggest that it’s our body’s way of preparing itself for a kiss. The act of gazing at one’s lips is also a subtly sensuous move. If you catch your partner stealing a quick glance at your mouth, it signals their attraction towards you.
On the other hand, if you notice your partner’s lips seem tense, tight, and unmoving, this could be a sign that they feel uncomfortable in your presence.
#3. Expressive Eyebrows
Studies have shown that the size, shape, thickness, and grooming of one’s eyebrows can play a significant role on our overall attractiveness towards the opposite sex. Why is that? The human subconscious has learned the ability to detect factors like someone’s sex, health, and age based on certain eyebrow traits.
Without noticing, our eyebrows communicate constantly. Raised eyebrows can express interest, surprise, or engagement. While furrowed eyebrows can suggest boredom, offense, or disgust.
When the expressions on a person’s eyebrows mirror your own, it shows that they are emotionally invested in the conversation, and therefore in you.
#4. The Lean-in
At the beginning of a first date, our limbic system is working in overdrive to detect whether or not the person sitting across from us could pose a potential threat. This might cause sensations of nervousness, defensiveness, or anxiety within us. As the date continues, our brain will tell us whether or not it is safe for us to let down our guard a bit and relax.
By leaning in close to your date, you signal that you are beginning to feel comfortable with them. It shows that you can trust them enough to lessen the space between you two, and that you are not a threat to their safety. This can also help your date to feel at ease, allowing them to relax with you. Likewise, if your notice date leaning in close as you tell them a story, take this as a sign that they are engaged, enjoying themselves, and comfortable in your presence.
#5. Tons of Touching
If a date is going great, our body won’t be able to contain itself. However, this does not mean PDA. Often, when we feel really comfortable with someone, this will manifest in the way we touch both ourselves and the objects around us. If we feel excited on a date, our body will need to expel the positive energy in a physical way. For example, that could mean touching the face, fidgeting with our clothes, or running our fingers along the rim of a coffee mug.
Likewise, the act of simple touching is a huge indicator of attraction. Seemingly friendly touches on the shoulders, knees, or hands, for example, could be small expressions of desire for the other person. If you notice your date taking small opportunities to make physical contact with you, this likely means that they are physically attracted to you.
#6. Hair Play
Have you ever walked by an attractive person and, before you even realized it, your hand reached to tuck a strand of hair behind your ear? Or, maybe you started tugging at your sleeve to lay flat? Or, adjusting your posture to stand taller?
These are examples of preening or self-grooming responses. It’s our subconscious’s way to present ourselves in the most attractive manner to potential mates.
So, if your date seems restless, or can’t stop touching their hair or figiditing with their jewelry, it could mean that they’re into you, and just trying to look their best at all times.
#7. Crossed Arms
If you want to come across as friendly, open, and attractive to your date, it’s best to avoid crossing your arms. Typically, crossed arms represent defensiveness, disappointment, or discomfort.
Unless your date just forgot their jacket at home, crossed arms are a strong sign that your date is not enjoying themselves.
#8. Synchronized Steps
If you get a chance to walk with your partner, take note of their pace, proximity, and position. For example, if your first date is at a restaurant, try walking with them to their car.
If they walk close enough so that they’re almost touching your shoulder or hand, this is a strong indication of their desire for connection. However, they walk with distance from you–whether slightly far ahead of or behind you–this shows a disconnect in your feelings about one another.
By observing the way in which your partner walks in relation to you, you can gain some insight into both your physical and emotional coordination as a couple.
#9. Feet Forward
When we truly get along with someone, our body will naturally reach out for them. The limbs will point and extend in their direction, and the torso will face and mirror theirs. This is our body’s way of saying: “I wish we were closer together.”
If you want to know how your partner feels about you, look down. A partner who is fully engaged, comfortable, and attracted to you, will likely be facing their feet straight towards your body. If they’re at an angle, this could mean that they still have their defenses up, and aren’t able to fully relax with you, just yet.
#10. Mirrored Mannerisms
What is the best way to gauge compatibility with your date? It all depends on how much mirroring is going on between the two of you. In body language, this is called isopraxis, and it refers to when two or more people appear, behave, or move in a similar fashion.
Echoed posture, gaze, and stance are huge indicators of engagement, comfort, and attraction. When you and your date are really hitting it off, you will notice that your bodies seem to flow in harmony with one another, signaling that there is compatibility between you two.
Laughing simultaneously with another person is one of the strongest indicators we have as humans of synchronicity. So, if your first date is full of fun and laughs, it’s a good sign to start planning for date two.
Feelings That Last
In the example of the 1960 presidential debate, nonverbal communication was the key difference between the experience of these two voting groups. According to viewers, Kennedy’s body language was so powerful, that it expressed a message more impactful than whatever words were uttered by his opponent.
During the first date, we are often flooded with such a rush of emotions that it’s common to forget what was actually discussed with your partner. What tends to stay with us even after we say goodbye, is how that person made us feel. A large portion of those feelings are communicated non-verbally through body language.
The ability to learn and understand these physical cues can increase our success in connecting with others. We will be able to express ourselves and empathize with others in a way that enriches our dating experience.