Body language is the nonverbal communication that happens between people when they’re around each other - things like facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture. It’s pretty much all how we say things, without actually saying them.
Things to know
- Body language is the nonverbal communication that happens between people when they’re around each other, such as facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture.
- Body language can be conscious or unconscious, and the meaning of hand gestures and eye contact can vary between cultures.
- Facial expressions are the easiest and most automatic type of body language to process, and smiling is a universally recognized body language sign but not all smiles are genuine.
There aren't many hard and fast rules when it comes to body language but hopefully this mini-guide and the following topics can help guide your intuition:
- Types Of Body Language
- Signs That Your Crush May Like You Back
- Key Differences Between Men & Women
- Cold Signs To Look Out For
- The Art Of Flirting Is Dynamic
- Dispel Any Doubts - Simply Ask Them
Types Of Body Language
Our body language can be conscious - actions we decide to make, or unconscious - reactions that our bodies have to our emotions without our conscious participation,
A conscious body language is a deliberate form of communication. When someone gives you the thumbs-up, you immediately understand what they’re saying. A nod of approval, a sarcastic eye roll, or a shoulder shrug can do the talking for us - mid-conversation or from across the room.
We know what it looks like when someone is lost, looking for something, or having a frustrating conversation. Body language is mostly common knowledge, even though we don't talk about it much.
Beware - the meaning of hand gestures sometimes varies between cultures. A thumbs-up in the United States has a different connotation than a thumbs-up in the Middle East.
Even eye contact can mean different things between cultures. While some cultures regard eye contact as a sign of honesty, other cultures view eye contact as a sign of disrespect. Physical contact is another one. Some cultures welcome physical contact while others don't appreciate it all.
Other times our behavior is an unconscious representation of our feelings. We stand up tall when we’re feeling confident, and our eyes light up when we think of something we love.
Eye contact triggers oxytocin, the love hormone.
Someone might repeatedly pull up their shoulders when they don't know how to deal with a situation or cross their arms when they're feeling defensive. Body language signs aren't always something we do on purpose or have control over.
People learn how to read body language early on in life. Babies mimic facial expressions, and by the time they’re toddlers, they’re using those facial expressions to emotionally manipulate us. (if you’ve ever told a 3-year-old they can’t have a cookie, you know what I’m talking about.)
While everyone uses body language to communicate, some people use the science behind it to study the behavior of others. Patti Wood is one of the best-known body language experts and has made an entire career out of analyzing the body language of famous people and giving practical advice on the subject.
Detectives will tell you that someone wringing their hands is anxious and that when someone looks up and to the right while talking, they’re lying.
Actors and directors pay special attention to non-verbal communication and all the ways that it can add authenticity to a character. A teacher might notice a change in a child’s posture when they’re having problems at home. A salesman might touch your arm to establish trust.
While all this information about body language signs could be put to many uses, what we really want to know is:
Signs That Your Crush May Like You Back
Facial expressions are the easiest and most automatic type of body language for us to process. We let the world know how we’re doing by the expressions on our faces - whether we like it or not.
There are only a few people who are good at hiding their facial emotions, and most of them got rich from playing poker or are off being spies somewhere.
Smiling is perhaps the most universally recognized body language we have, but not all smiles are genuine!
We all know that fake smile looking staring back at us from photos that took too long to capture - but what is it about that smile that makes it look fake, you ask? It’s the eyes. A fake smile only engages the mouth, while a genuine smile engages the entire face - most noticeably, the eyes.
Not only do the eyes light up when a person is genuinely smiling, but studies also show actual pupil dilation when we look at something pleasing to us. On the flipside, dilated pupils will contract when we look at something we like less.
If someone likes you, even if just as a friend, their face will have a welcoming expression - slightly raised eyebrows and a relaxed smile. They’ll be genuinely smiling, and you’ll be able to see it in their eyes. They’ll hold eye contact with you, blink less than usual, and their pupils might look large.
Eye contact triggers oxytocin, the love hormone. If the person you're interested in is making eye contact, not the fleeting kind but the kind that makes your heart race, that's a good sign. Next time you're together, watch for it. If they hold your gaze, chances are, they're seriously into you.
Remember, eye contact can be tricky. Some people are a little shy and may not be comfortable with making eye contact even if they fancy you. Try to look out for eye contact and a combination of other body language clues.
While it’s a good sign when your crush is showing you a welcoming facial expression, don’t ignore the rest of their body posture. A long time ago, researchers discovered that torso direction plays an important role in showing interest. If your crush's belly is facing towards you, they're interested alright.
If they're feeling you, their shoulders and hips will be angled towards you, and their arms will be relaxed and open. Their feet will be pointing at you if they’re standing, and they will cross their legs towards you if you’re sitting.
If you're walking together, they might walk in time with you, put their arm around your waist or hold your arm. If someone saw the two of you together, might they guess that you're already in a romantic relationship? If the answer is yes, you might be in luck with this one!
A lot of people get a little nervous and jittery when their crush is around, so if the person you're interested in seems awkward or clumsy when you come around it could be a good sign.
Fidgeting, clammy hands, and flushed cheeks can all be indicators that they're crushing on you.
Pay attention to what your crush does when you look away. If they're adjusting their clothes, fixing their hair, or applying layers of lip balm (hint hint) they're showing clear signs that they are attracted to you.
The nonverbal parts of the way we talk can also give us clues, regardless of what is being talked about. When someone likes you, they'll speak to you more slowly, calmly, and with a sweet tone.
They won't be short with you, rush through conversation, or interrupt you. Their curiosity will have you talking for hours while they hang on to your every word.
Pay attention to the way this person engages with you during a conversation. Do you have their undivided attention, or are they checking social media? If their phone is out of sight, that's a pretty good sign.
Are they actively listening to you and participating in the conversation? If they are, make sure you're paying close attention to them as well!
The way they ask questions is also a great way to tell if they're into you. Do they ask you about the weather or do they ask about your hopes and dreams? Deep questions show they want to get to know you on a deeper level. So if they go beyond the usual superficial questions, that's a pretty good sign.
Leaning forward is a clear sign of engagement. It could also be a sign of attraction. Does your crush trying to get closer while they're talking to you? If they do, you have their full attention. Lean forward too and see what happens.
Another type of body language, physical contact, can give you even more insight into what your potential lover's true feelings are. If they’re always finding reasons to touch your arms or hold hands while you’re talking, there’s a chance they’re flirting with you.
With physical touch, it’s extra important to take this person’s culture and personality into consideration when you’re analyzing their behavior. In some cultures, friends and even strangers might touch one another’s arms while talking or touch faces in greeting. Some people are just touchy-feely to everyone. Some just aren’t - to anyone.
it's hard to nail down any one action as a sure sign that someone is thinking of you as a romantic partner, but a combination of behaviors can tell a story.
If you’re thinking your crush might be into you because they kiss you on the cheek or hold your arm while they’re telling you a story, take notice of whether they’re treating everyone that way, or just you.
If they’re treating everyone that way then, congrats! You made another friend! If you seem to be the only person getting this touchy attention, they might be looking for a little something more from you. Go ahead and get touchy too, it might be the start of something interesting.
Closely related to physical touch, the proximity that someone keeps to you can be another clue. Someone who likes you might stand more closely to you than others, or share a seat with you when they don't have to.
Sharing personal space and letting someone into your comfort zone is a great way to build closeness.
If you two are sharing personal space, there may be even more subtle signs revealing an emotional connection. You might notice yourself or your crush take a deep breath, have an increased heart rate, or high body temperature. These are all reactions to chemistry and sexual attraction.
Mirroring is when one person copies another person’s gestures and facial expressions. Con artists everywhere know that when someone mirrors our movements, we unconsciously like and trust them more. Involuntary mirroring occurs when we’re around someone we really like.
The next time you're having a chat, look out for verbal mirroring. Someone who likes you might mimic your word choices, or match your vocal pace. If that person starts to use the same words as you, and if the volume of their speech increases and decreases with yours, they just might like you.
If they're mirroring your body language, they’re either doing it unconsciously and they’re into you, or they’re doing it on purpose because they want you to be into them. Either way, this is good news! Maybe it's time to ask them out?
Key Differences Between Men & Women
We've looked at some of the typical signs someone is into you but did you know that men and women give slightly different body language clues?
Women may show their attraction by exposing their necks, flipping their hair, or even touching their lips. Their voices also tend to go up in pitch to sound more feminine around a love interest.
Have they dressed up knowing you might be at the party? That killer outfit is no accident. When she likes you, she wants to make sure she looks her best in your presence.
Men, being the more territorial sex, will get in a love interest's space. Remember the classic movie theatre scene? It's not a gimmick after all. A man who's interested will drape an arm over his love interest's chair or shoulders. Like women, men’s voices tend to change too - they get deeper and sound more masculine.
Cold Signs To Look Out For
On the other hand, “closed-off” body language might be your cue to kick rocks.
Crossed arms, a downcast or darting gaze, and furrowed brows all indicate a person who is wishing they were somewhere else. Maybe they’re just having a bad day, or maybe it’s you (sorry).
The Art Of Flirting Is Dynamic
Keep in mind everyone is different, and body language shouldn’t be the only thing you’re relying on to see if this person likes you! Some cultures have different body language traditions than others, and sometimes people just don’t like making eye contact, or always shrug their shoulders - it’s not always personal and shouldn’t be taken so.
Healthy relationships come in all shapes and sizes, and body language between partners evolves.
According to Patti Wood, it's hard to nail down any one action as a sure sign that someone is thinking of you as a romantic partner, but a combination of behaviors can tell a story.
Be sure to look out for other signs too. Is that person interested in spending some quality time with you? When they do see you, are they attentive? If they are and they seem to remember even the smallest details about you, something more could be blossoming.
Still wondering if they're into you?
Dispel Any Doubts - Simply Ask Them
The moral of the story is: there are some clues that a person who likes you might reveal through their body language and the way that they interact with you, but it's still important for you to pay attention to the big picture and not rely too heavily on these signs, if you feel like your crush is actually into you, then maybe it's time to let him know you like him back.