Oct 01, 2021
The art of body language: how to guess what your date is thinking

Have you ever wished you could tell what the other person was thinking? You're not alone in that. It's a skill that would be helpful in everyday life, but it's often missed in the matters of the heart. Being able to read even some of your date's thoughts would make things so much easier, right?

What is body language?

This is where kinesics comes in. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, kinesics is "a systematic study of the relationship between nonlinguistic body motions (such as blushes, shrugs, or eye movement) and communication". It's not exactly mind-reading, but it's the closest you can get. Over half of information is conveyed through body language; only 7% of it is attributed to verbal communication.

Getting better at reading these very important physical cues in conversations can make you a better communicator. Mastering body language can help you in both professional and personal relationships since most relationship issues are caused by bad communication skills.

Body language in communication

So, how can you guess what someone is thinking? We have gathered some handy tips for you to use. They are only applicable when you have a visual of the person. Understanding the tone of the online message is much harder, especially if you haven't met them in person yet.

When reading these tips, bear in mind that you should always look at the bigger picture, not get stuck in decoding one specific sign you noticed. Context is everything - but we'll get to that once we go through some of the specifics of body language.

Reading body parts

Let's start with reading body parts. There is a lot more to tell than could fit in this blog post, but this shortlist is a good place to get you started.

Eyes

Eyes are a mirror to the soul, they can reveal so much information about your date. Pay attention to the movement of the eyes - are they locked into yours or darting around the room?

Locking eyes with you or keeping them on your face in general can be a sign of interest and active listening. If your date's glance keeps moving away, it can show discomfort, disinterest, boredom or even lying.

Of course this and most other signs discussed in this article are mostly inherent in neurotypical individuals. Discomfort with direct eye contact does not have to mean your date isn't interested in you - maybe they feel stressed or not good about eye contact in general.

Another thing to keep track of is the rate of blinking. No need to start counting blinks per second, just the general gist is enough. If your conversation partner starts blinking more rapidly, it's likely their stress levels have increased - or it can also mean that they are lying about something.

As mentioned before, try to pair the readings from the eyes with what the rest of the body is signalling. Increased blinking rate paired with yawning could mean your date didn't get enough sleep last night and they might benefit from a nice cup of coffee.

Mouth

You might think that reading the nonverbal cues of the lips would be the easiest - everyone knows a smile means happiness, right? It's not that simple. There are many different kinds of smiles and learning to differentiate between them can be a useful tool in your arsenal.

A genuine smile does not stop at the mouth. It involves a lot of muscles, making the entire face move along. Eyes get slightly squinty from cheeks rising up. The sides of the eyes get those attractive smile lines. A true smile should be visible even when you cover the lower half of the face.

If your partner smiles but only the lower half of the face moves, they are pulling a fake smile. They are trying to show pleasure, but it never reaches the eyes because the feeling isn't there. They may be faking it for many reasons, ranging from common social courtesy to simple discomfort or even deceit. Look for the sings from the rest of the body to complete the picture.

Hands and arms

Take a look at the hands of your date. Are they fidgeting in a display of nervous body language? Are the palms open towards you or making open gestures towards you to show interest in communicating with you? Are the fingers in a relaxed curved position or tightly gripping a cup in stress?

Arms are no less important. Commonly, crossing arms on your chest is considered to be a defensive posture, but there is more to that. When paired with relaxed body language and a smile, it conveys comfort and confidence. After all, arms and hands have to go somewhere and it is a comfortable pose.

Is your date exhibiting crossed arms, sideways glances and raised or hunched shoulders? They clearly do not feel relaxed in this situation and are putting up a defensive wall. Could be that the date isn't going that well or they don't feel safe in the current environment.

Feet

A lot can be read from the positioning of feet and legs. When two or more people are standing next to each other, the direction of their feet also shows the direction of their interest. 

People usually pay more attention to the signals sent by the upper body. Those that are actively trying to control their body language often focus more on their face and general posture. Thus, the position of feet can reveal secret messages regardless of what the person is trying to communicate.

Reading your date's gestures

Let's focus more on some common gestures in body language. Don't forget to pair these readings with what you have learned in the previous part, since a gesture on its own does not give the full picture.

Mirroring

Mirroring someone's movements is ingrained in human nature. As children, we learn by mimicking the adults around us. As adults, we use mirroring to show agreement. If your date is unknowingly mimicking your posture and gestures, it is highly likely that they are interested and engaged in communication.

It does not necessarily mean romantic interest - mirroring is used in all kinds of communication, including with bosses and colleagues at the workplace. But having someone move in sync with you is definitely a very good starting point.

Involuntary movements

Is your date's leg involuntarily bopping under the table? Are their fingers constantly fiddling with whatever happens to be in their hand? 

Generally, all these signs point to nervousness. They can also be paired with avoidance of eye contact, or in case of higher levels of stress, with hastened breathing.

Head movement

Head movement can provide extra hints on body language when engaged in conversation. Pay attention to your date when they are listening to you. Are they nodding along? Slow nodding can show active listening, whereas hasty movement can show impatience or wanting to get a turn to speak.

Is their head tilted sideways while listening? Besides resembling a cute puppy pose, this can mean interest in what you are telling them about. Beware the tilt backwards though, especially if paired with a frown. That is a telltale sign of suspicion or uncertainty.

Touch in body language

You're engaged in conversation or looking at something and your date brushes their hand against yours or leans their hand on your arm? Definitely a positive sign! They are signalling their interest and their comfort around you. However, if you are leaning in and they put a palm towards or against you? Back off. This is the most common sign for stop.

What about when they're touching their own face? That can often accompany lying or disagreement. Sometimes, it's simply a sign of anxiety, a way to soothe oneself.

Other body language signs to learn

By now, you should have a pretty good idea on some basic things that people communicate through non-verbal means. This article will definitely not be able to teach you everything there is to learn about kinesics - though there are special books and courses for that. But there are some other relevant and easily learned signs you should keep an eye (or ear) out for.

Proximity

You can read a lot from the proximity between people and how that distance changes over time. If your date keeps moving closer to you over time or is leaning in, it's safe to say they feel good around you. However, if you move closer and they get further back or lean away, take note of that and give them space.

Creating physical barriers

Since we're already on the topic of someone wanting more space, let's talk about barriers. There are different ways people subconsciously create boundaries to keep their distance. The easiest is crossing their arms, physically closing themselves off from you. As said before though, you need to read the rest of their body language as well to see if this is what they mean.

It's also possible to use objects rather than their own body to create a barrier. Holding a phone in the air between you, using a menu at a restaurant to block you out are ways to create a physical barrier.

Posture and posturing

Is your date sitting or standing in a comfortable and confident way? A pose with hands behind the head is often associated with feelings of confidence and superiority. If they're sitting with their elbows on the table to support their head, that often signals interest in the conversation and paying attention to you. 

Voice pitch

Time to do some detective work with your ears. This is easiest if you already know what this person's voice sounds like in regular situations. If their voice starts sounding lower and slower than usual, that can indicate sadness. However, men changing their voice to a lower pitch can show attraction to their conversation partner, wanting to sound more masculine.

On the opposite end, a faster and higher voice can be a sign of happiness. Women can modulate their voices to a higher pitch when talking to someone they like - of course this is not limited to only sexual or romantic attraction, but also works in other situations they want to signal liking someone.

The Flirt Face

One last thing: the Flirt Face. Yes, there is a specific facial expression associated with flirting. You probably know the look: a slightly turned and downwards tilted face, a small smile, eyes looking directly at the target of their flirtation. It's not only something seen on the big screen, it is also among the most recognisable non-verbal signs of flirting.

If you see your date giving you that look, you don't need to be an expert in the art of body language to get that they are interested in you. Go get 'em!

Conclusion

With all that you have learned here, we hope you will feel more confident communicating on the dating scene. There is a lot more to body language - we have barely scratched the surface. But even this small guide should come in handy.

Just remember: a single gesture or pose does not tell the whole story. You have to see the bigger picture. Combine your findings from verbal information with the gestures and body language you have observed. People from different backgrounds and cultures can have different reactions and body language. Don't take one or two signs as the ultimate truth when making decisions. Use what you've learned as guidelines and take context into consideration.

Nevertheless, nonverbal communication can be a reliable guide to determining the meaning of a message. Use your newfound powers wisely. Our team wishes you the best of luck with your future dates!



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