The use of body language and romantic eye contact in flirting is something that many hopeful Casanovas think will give them an edge in romance and act as some kind of silver bullet in their love lives. However, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that body language is by no means an exact science, and that body language can more often be vague or misleading to read.
A simple example of this is the folded arms. Many people take this to be a subconscious ‘barrier’ that shows a lack of agreement or interest or a defensive stance. However it’s very possible that these people are actually just cold, or feel the need to rest their arms somewhere. For some people it’s a nervous habit.
The key here is to understand body language as contextual – to realise that the situation needs to be taken into account when deciphering body language. Similarly you need to look at clusters of behaviours rather than just one isolated gesture. For example if someone is avoiding eye contact, crossing their arms, crossing their legs and turning away from you, then chances are they’re not interested. But that’s obvious right? Well yes, the point here really is that the true signs of body language conveying thoughts or emotion do look obvious. That’s their purpose – to communicate – and we have evolved and been brought up to be able to identify these signs.
So baring that in mind, let’s take a look at a lot of the ‘body language’ symbols that people try to pick up on in order to determine if someone is interested. We’ll do this from the male perspective for arguments sake as we’re normally the ones sad enough to buy a lot of this self-help baloney. So, according to these books and ‘gurus’ a girl who is interested will: use romantic eye contact, point her foot towards you, use ‘accidental’ touching, flick and play with her hair, touch her face and mouth, laugh at all your jokes, tilt her head to one side, bite her lip, display her neck (seriously…), and display the inside of her wrist. What she won’t do apparently is: fold her arms, look around the room, fidget, point her foot at the door or another man or lean her head on her hand.
This leaves a whole host of poor fellas exasperatedly trying to spot these strange indicators during a conversation. Did she just look at me in a way that suggested romantic eye contact? Is she pointing her feet towards me? Or is that just because the door is behind me? Is she cold or is she defensive? When really they should just be paying attention to what she has to say and using their common sense and innate ability to interpret those signals.
The best thing to do then is to forget all these strange little cues of body language and to just focus on the one – the romantic eye contact. Think about your own behaviour when you like someone; chances are you try to sustain eye contact with them and spend more time looking at them. Sound familiar? Well then it only stands to reason that someone who fancies you would react the same way.
The problem is that you can probably already tell when someone fancies you based on romantic eye contact alone. As mentioned earlier it’s part of what our brains are designed to do. It’s called ‘theory of mind’ which refers to the in-built capability we all have to put ourselves in someone else’s situation and so interpret their behaviour. This makes it child’s play to spot when someone is acting flirtatious using extended romantic eye contact, smiling and checking out your body.
However the fact that you’re reading this article suggests that you’re still having problems (apologies if that’s not the case and you’re just here out of a genuine interest in body language). The problem however most likely stems from the fact that you don’t want to act on the body language and romantic eye contact you’re picking up on. The problem is that there’s a chance you could be wrong – and if that’s the case your attempts to move in for a snog are likely to be met with rejection leading to embarrassment and damage to your reputation – and no one wants that.
So you think someone’s interested but you can’t be sure. So instead you look up various types of subtle body language cues to look for so that you can be certain of your conclusions. This way you know you won’t be rejected… right? Well the problem is that these subtle signals are even more tenuous when isolated and so you’re no more likely to act on these. All you’re really missing is confidence.
The solution then is to pay attention to the romantic eye contact and take it as a fairly certain sign of interest. If you get the feeling that someone’s interested from the way they’re looking at you and the way they’re acting, then the chances are that they are interested. People fancy a lot of people, and if you’re in a social setting or a bar then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be one of those people. However it’s only those who act on the signals that will get anywhere.
In short, there’s no silver bullet, and sometimes you have to bite the bullet (in a mood for ‘bullet’ metaphors today apparently) and take a risk. If it backfires then you won’t have lost anything but if it goes well then you’ll be glad you went for it. And even if you do crash and burn, it will only improve your ability to read the signals and you’ll be less likely to do so again.
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