If someone instructed you to, "Go over there and flirt with that guy," you'd inherently know what to do. You'd communicate, through a series of body language signals both conscious and subconscious, that you're interested and open to his advances. Cues, like a beaming smile, a casual hair flip, a coy lean forward when he speaks and an empathetic cocking of your head would send the crystal-clear message that you want him.
What you may not realize is that every other time you see each other, from the first date to the first super-charged roll in the hay to the breakup coffee (or the honeymoon, depending on how things go), you'll be using these same nonverbal cues to continually communicate with each other—and with anyone else you date.
Learning to recognize a guy's body language cues sooner rather than later can be one of the most important skills in your dating arsenal. On a good date, you'll have surefire proof he's into you, and on a less-than-great date, you'll be saved from potential embarrassment (he's clearly bored by your "that time I got drunk with my boss" story)—or even clued into the fact that he's not worth a second drink (he barely makes eye contact, staring at everyone else in the room).
Instinctively, you know that a guy's facial expressions, gestures, and mannerisms are windows into his mind and emotional state. But deciphering all these cues can be daunting—or downright maddening. You're already at a disadvantage. Studies have shown that you're not as good at reading expressions as you think you are—not to mention that the culture you grew up in can influence the way you read expressions. Every person has his or her own set of body clues, and putting them together can be a lot like solving a jigsaw puzzle.
More from YourTango: Why You Should Thank TIME's New Marriage App For Trolling You
Still, it's always a good idea to arrive armed with basic knowledge. Here's a rundown of the most common nonverbal cues people give off during dates.
Positive Body Language (a.k.a. He's Into You):
- He gives you long periods of sustained eye contact.
- He moves or leans in closer to you.
- He occasionally looks down and away out of shyness or nervousness.
- He keeps his arms relaxed and uncrossed.
- He gives you real, genuine smiles (as opposed to fake smiles, which are mouth-only. A genuine smile is all in the eyes).
Negative Body Language (a.k.a. He's Just Not That Into You):
- He keeps moving or leaning away from you.
- His feet stay pointed away from you, or towards and exit.
- He keeps his arms and/or legs crossed for long periods of time.
- He continually rubs or scratches his nose, eyes, or the back of his neck.
- He keeps looking away from you, with his eyes going to the side (as opposed to down).
The key to reading nonverbal signals correctly is context. Reading body signals isn't a matter of black and white. Just because he crosses his arms doesn't mean he's thinking about dumping you. Did you just share a giant platter of Indian food? Then maybe that arm-cross just means he has indigestion. Maybe he has allergies, so he's constantly scratching his nose. Or maybe he's super nervous, so he's looking down and avoiding your gaze.
More from YourTango: Sensual Healing: Head-To-Toe Massage Techniques For Couples
If you see one of the negative tells in the list above, it’s a good idea to ask a subtle question or two ("Are you getting a cold? There's a brutal one going around.") to see if your initial read was right. Just remember to avoid slapping too much meaning on a single behavior.
Look for pairings of multiple cues to give you a firm sense of whether your instincts are on target. In general, anything that indicates, "more chances to touch" is a very good sign, like if he grasps your forearm, grazes your cheek, or gently puts his hand on your waist. Other good signs are if he 1) stands taller around you; 2) laughs at your jokes; 3) says something funny and then immediately looks to you for a reaction; or 4) positions himself between you and a crowd of people, in a protective stance. Keep reading...
More great stuff on YourTango: