It’s like the movies: you’re in a bar with your friends, you look up and someone catches your attention from across the room—then they meet your eyes, and you get The Look. It’s all well and good up to this point, but then comes the time-old question of what happens next? Do you approach them? Do they come to you? Are they actually interested?
Let’s be honest, we’ve all over-thought situations at some point in our lives. Personally, I do it constantly. When you’re at the start of something, it’s simply too easy to read too far into things and dig for signs that indicate the other person is into you. But sometimes (or maybe most of the time) when you’re looking for those signs that might not be there, you tend to miss the actual signs that are right in your face.
So this week, let’s take a look at some definite non-verbal cues that people use to signal their attraction to you. The typical stereotype in a heterosexual context is that guys are the ones who make the first move—after all, that’s what happens in all the movies and TV shows, right? In reality, it’s actually the females who signal first that it’s okay to approach them through things like glances, coy smiles, presentation of their neck, and hair flips. Along with those, what also suggests that you’re doing well in the interaction is if there is increased touching, more leaning in, more laughing, and lip licks.
When it comes to men, some ways of telling that they’re flirting with you include acts like them taking up more space in their gesturing, more touching of the other person as well as of themselves while conversing—it’s a nervous tic—and more open postures that are inviting and signalling more approachability.
Interestingly, researchers have found that these signals are also consistent across different cultures, which suggests that these actions are more socially accepted universally. The different societal expectations of men being more dominant and needing to achieve high social statuses, and the expectation that women remain young, beautiful, and vulnerable is evidenced through these social interactions. What that means then, is that you can typically count on these signs to be accurate.
Now of course, all of this is assuming that you managed to muster up the courage to approach the person that you find attractive. The question that you might have on your mind right now is how much do first impressions matter?
I hate to say it, but it’s true that first impressions mean a lot. Why is that the case? Well, the halo effect is a psychological tendency that we all have to judge people on the initial traits that we are exposed to. If you spot someone who’s really attractive, then you’ll tend to assume that the person has other positive traits as well, like they’re really funny or intelligent.
Similarly, the primacy effect is another concept that leads us to remember the things that we see or hear first more vividly. So if you made a positive first impression on someone, that person will likely make more positive generalisations about you, and apply that generalisation to later impressions. This may be why we like to ignore or justify people’s red flags when they’ve made a good impression.
When you approach that special someone, you might (or might not) reach for a pickup line to really solidify this first impression, and there are a few different ways in which you can open a conversation with: cute, innocuous, or direct. Cute refers to those super cheesy pick-up lines, like “Do you have a map? Because I just got lost in your eyes.” Innocuous is the more subtle and indirect way of starting a conversation, whereas direct just gets right to the point.
Studies with heterosexual samples have shown that females tend to prefer an innocuous way of starting a conversation the most. Women don’t tend to mind the direct and straight to the point approach either, but less than a quarter of the females in the study liked the cute and cheesy way of starting a conversation—so this is a friendly PSA to dial back on the cheesy pick-up lines.
In an ideal world, how you look and your opening lines will be memorable in a positive way, so that whatever you continue to say and do afterwards will also be taken positively by the person you’re trying to impress. Of course, that’s easier said than done—but at least now you’ll have some psychological backing when you start to over-analyse things that others are doing.