How we convey messages with our bodies is entirely culturally subjective, and for our US readership living in one of the largest cultural mosaics on earth, reading those messages can be confusing. To boot, a lot of us are living with some form of anxiety or another, and the way we express ourselves and engage with others might vary quite a lot depending on the time, the place, and with whom.
One strategy worth considering is bypassing the traditional dinner interview and engaging in an activity with your date, opening up room for the unexpected. However you choose to date, when the same old thing starts to feel like a drag, try something new. Signs of compatibility and signs of chemistry might become more visible as you realize whether you’re the type who’s charmed by your partners’ nervousness to try new things, or one who thinks it’s sexy when they’re more adventurous. How your date shows up for whichever event you choose, though, will likely be more visible in their bodies than in their words.
Let’s hack some human behaviors to talk about how to read body language on first dates.
It’s not just their body language being read.
Read that again. Even if you’re very comfortable with yourself and known to charm on a first date, there’s nothing wrong with checking in on some of your own behaviors, and even actively modifying a few to boost the potential for connection or to put your match at ease. Note: this does not mean to stop being yourself or treat your date like an experiment, it’s more about embracing mindfulness of how we might come across.
If you’ve ever heard of the book “How to Make Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie, you might remember that people feel GREAT when you remember their names, children’s and pets’ names, and personal details such as birthdays. That was written in 1936, but since then, we’ve discovered that a lot of Carnegie’s points are backed by modern clinical psychology. It turns out, people receive a similar release of feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin when they feel acknowledged through non-verbal cues. So let’s talk about those.
What is Good Body Language on a Date?
Good body language on a date can be your secret weapon for making a positive impression. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:
- Maintain Eye Contact: Maintaining good eye contact conveys confidence and interest. It’s a two-way street – by looking into your date’s eyes, you show that you are engaged in the conversation and interested in what they have to say.
- Smile Genuinely: A sincere smile can be infectious. It’s a clear sign of happiness and warmth, which can make your date feel comfortable and appreciated. Note: you might not have one in you, and that’s more than okay, but it can make a difference, regardless of gender–especially to break ice or to slip out of an awkward pause.
- Open Posture: Sit or stand with an open posture. Avoid crossing your arms, as it can be perceived as defensive or closed off. Here’s a great example of something that might be completely unconscious and feel strange to work on, but a gentle invitation to remember that people can’t see what’s really happening on the inside. An open posture signals that you’re approachable and welcoming.
- Mirroring: Subtly mirroring your date’s body language can create a sense of connection. It shows that you are in tune with their feelings and can establish a feeling of rapport. This one is a little tougher to “try for,” as it often happens entirely naturally when things are feeling good on both sides, but try a gesture or two and see how it feels in a conversation.
What about them?
Aside from how you present, learning how to read body language on first dates can help you decipher if there’s a spark of attraction. Eye contact, smiles, open postures and mirroring, just like what you might be mindful of, are great signs, but we’ve got some more things to look out for on the other side of the street. Be careful to try and observe these on the periphery of your attention, if possible; if you’re scrutinizing their every move, you might not be fully present in their conversation. Here are some great signs to look for:
- Engaged Body Language: If your date leans in, maintains eye contact, and faces you directly, it’s a positive sign. It suggests they’re interested in what you’re saying and in getting to know you better.
- Touching and Proximity: Flirting signals such as light touches on your arm or shoulder can indicate a growing attraction. Allow only what you’re comfortable with, but know that if your date is sitting or standing close to you, it’s also a strong sign that they feel a connection.
- Pupil Dilation: This one’s practically unfakeable. Research has shown that our pupils can dilate when we’re attracted to someone, so keep an eye on your date’s pupils when you share a moment of connection! Maybe not while kissing, though. People don’t like that.
- Smiling and Laughter: A date who’s truly feeling the vibe will likely smile and laugh frequently. It’s a clear indicator that they’re having a good time and are interested in you.
- Active Listening: If your date is actively listening, nodding, and responding thoughtfully to your conversation, that’s a huge green flag, especially when they appear genuinely engaged in the exchange, and not just waiting to respond.
These subtle cues can provide valuable insights into your date’s feelings and level of interest, but as you layer some of this knowledge into your dating expectations, it’s worth remembering that body language isn’t always a foolproof indicator.
We’re all different.
People may have individual idiosyncrasies in the way they behave, verbally and nonverbally, so while these signs can be helpful, they should be considered alongside other factors, like their conversation, and of course the overall context of the date and identity of the daters. It’s also worth noting that everyone has their own comfort zones and ways of expressing interest–there’s no perfect way of knowing what they’re thinking. Male attraction, especially, has some of its own particularities, and queer dating a number of its own unique complications.
The most important thing, we’ve found, is to be yourself and remain authentic while also being sensitive to your date’s cues. Building a connection is a two-way street, and effective communication, both verbal and nonverbal, plays a significant role in getting there.
The Tawkify Way
Our matchmakers are well-versed in talking to humans and gauging potential chemistry. We’ve worked with over 4 million people, and we know: dating while balancing your own full grown-up life can be difficult, which is why we’re happy and proud to do the heavy lifting. If you’re going it on your own, while we’re pleased to provide these expert insights to help arm you with a little extra context when you’re out there, we do encourage fun and levity. Choose somewhere you might enjoy even if your date is a snooze, and you’re sure to shine a little brighter and enjoy yourself without overthinking it.