Whether you're getting back on the horse after a long break or just stepping up your search to meet someone new, mastering the subtle art of flirting is an essential skill. "But how? " you ask. "When we like someone, naturally, our body language, expression and voice changes, reflecting our feelings, and signalling to the other person that we like them," says body language expert Sophie Zadah. We asked Sophie to give us her best tips on how to send all the right signals without uttering a word.
A genuine smile of happiness is the most obvious signal you can send to let someone know you like them. It puts people at ease, telling them you mean no harm and they can trust you. There’s a difference though, between a genuine smile of happiness and a polite smile.
But if we’re feeling fear or anxiety our attempt to smile may look more like a polite smile, which is only seen in the mouth. A genuine smile is seen in the mouth and the eyes because the activated cheek muscles push upwards towards the eyes.
The problem is, only one in ten people can activate their cheek muscles if they aren’t feeling genuinely happy. If you’re one of the 90 per cent who can’t fake genuine happiness, the best solution would be to work on relaxation to quell the fear, that way, your overriding emotion will be happiness.
We raise our eyebrows for several reasons, including in the expression of surprise and to punctuate our words. However, a quick eyebrow flash also says, "I’m pleased to see you". It can be really powerful when used to greet someone–perhaps just as powerful as a smile. The reason? When we like something or someone our eyes and pupils naturally widen — a true indicator of like and engagement. Just don’t overdo it though, you could end up looking like you are questioning, or like a startled rabbit.
An increase in eye contact tells your love interest that you’re interested in them because naturally, we want to look more at something or someone that we like–we’re more engaged or even fascinated with them. What’s more, eye contact can be powerful in getting the other person to like you. This is because when we make eye contact with another person, oxytocin, the hormone of connection and bonding, is released within both parties. Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone, and researchers have found it makes people feel more compassionate, generous and caring–precisely what you want from your love interest.
Touch is another trigger for the release of oxytocin. Be careful with this one though, because it can be inappropriate if used too soon and on the wrong part of the body. What you don’t want is to put your love interest off. Research shows, safe areas to touch with people we don’t know well are the hands and the lower arms. It’s best to start there, and if they don’t pull away or grimace, that’s your cue that it was well received. Before going straight in to touch other areas of the body, increase your level of touch, slowly, over time and gauge how well it’s received. The face and torso are no go areas until you reach a stage of intimacy.
When we like someone romantically, our eye gaze tends to drop slightly lower than when we like someone socially. That’s not to say your gaze should deliberately land on intimate parts of their body, instead, I’m talking a very subtle drop in gaze, around the mouth, neck and upper chest area. The reason we do this is to check out signs of masculinity or femininity–depending on our sexual preferences. For example, indicators of femininity–oestrogen–include soft skin and a rounded jaw, whereas indicators of masculinity–testosterone–include a thicker neck and evidence of facial hair or stubble.
Since eye gaze drops to around neck level when attraction is present, exposing your neck, subtly, of course, draws attention to it, hinting to your love interest to check you out. It also serves another purpose. Since the neck is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body, containing veins vital for our survival, exposing it tells your love interest that you are comfortable with them and that you trust them –"take me, I’m yours’"
When interacting, a slight head tilt tells the other person that you are actively listening, showing that you are engaged with what they are saying. It also shows empathy. When you give people the opportunity to talk and they feel they are heard, they have a more positive experience and start to like you more.
The more we like something or someone, the closer we get. Standing close to your love interest, or leaning-in towards them is a dead giveaway of your interest and romantic intention. But, take it slowly. Like with touch, get too close too quickly, and you risk making them feel uncomfortable. Test the water – move in and see how they respond. If they move away, it doesn't necessarily mean they aren’t interested, they may need more personal space than others or might need a bit more time.
Orientation and Foot Direction
When you are flirting or interacting with your potential love interest, most likely your body and feet will be facing towards them. Not only does this tell them you’re interested, but it also shows that you respect them–you’re paying them full attention, with the whole of your body. Our feet are probably the most honest parts of our body because they give away our intention. Wherever the feet point, that’s emotionally where we want to be. This is a great way to guess the intentions of your love interest. Hopefully, their feet are pointing towards you too.
Preening behaviours, like fixing hair, or straightening out clothes tend to increase when we like someone. One reason for this is because we want to look our best. However, it also tells the other person, ‘You’re worthy of me trying to look my best’. Don’t overdo it though, as you could risk looking vain. As you self-preen, make sure your attention is fixed upon your love interest and not on yourself.
Similar to preening behaviours, self-touch can also increase when we like someone, but there’s a caveat–self-touch also increases when we feel stressed. Self-touch increases when we are stressed because it brings us comfort subconsciously. Partly because it releases oxytocin within us and partly because it reminds us of being comforted by others. Because it’s comforting, we also do it to bring more pleasure to an already pleasurable moment–like when we’re reading a good book, in the comfort of our own home, twirling our hair at the same time. Or, like when we’re in the presence of our love interest–we’re feeling good, but we want to bring even more pleasure to the pleasurable moment.
As you can imagine, in circumstances of stress or pleasure, self-touch looks different. For example, if you’re playing with your hair when you’re flirting, your wrists (another vulnerable part of the body) are more likely to be exposed, your body relaxed, and you’re more likely to be smiling. Whereas, if you’re playing with your hair when stressed, your wrists wouldn't be exposed, and your expression and body would be tense.
The other reason self-touch increases, is to draw attention to specific parts of our body. These behaviours usually occur at a subconscious level. Sometimes we draw attention to our face, or other parts of the body we want to accentuate. In some cases it’s the mouth or lips–in this case, the message is usually one of sexual intent.
To learn more about body language and how it can help you, check out Sophie's offerings.