I received the following question from Kerry (in Durham, NC):
I have read many articles about reading people (how to tell if someone is interested, body language, pointers, etc.). However, I wonder if there are any more subtle signals that are specific to first meetings or relationships. Please share the cues you feel are not in the world of advice and podcasts. I must be missing them. Getting past date three is harder and harder. Master of mingling, please advise.
Thank you for the question, Kerry. Reading body language and signals is an important part of the dating process. While I would rarely say that any signal is 100%, being aware of certain clues can definitely be helpful.
First, and most importantly, the stage of the dating process we are in can make a big difference in the signals we should be looking for. Reading people during a first meeting versus reading someone well into a relationship should be very different.
Here are some thoughts:
(1) Body language is important if you want to encourage someone to approach you. At this point all you are really trying to do is let someone know that you may be interested. The purpose of your signals is to inspire the person to talk to you or ask for your number. Traditional signals like a smile and holding eye contact for a second or two have always worked best on me. There really isn't any need to get much deeper than that at this stage of the game.
(2) Looking for a vibe or connection is much more important than reading physical signals after a date or two. After you have been out a couple of times the physical signals don't matter quite as much. What you are looking for here is the amount of comfort that he seems to have with you. Does he seem to enjoy your company? Does he seem relaxed around you? Does he seem like he's glad to see you when you get together?
(3) Look a little more deeply after you have been dating for a while. Once you have been dating someone for a few months or so, it doesn't really matter if he crosses his arms around you, etc., right? Now is the time to look a little deeper if you want to assess how the relationship is going. Are you arguing and fighting more than you are having fun? Do you laugh a lot together? Are things just kind of ho-hum? Does he take you for granted? Does getting together just seem like you are going through the motions?
(4) Some signals of interest may be counter-intuitive or illogical. Does he disagree with you without walking on eggshells? Does he tease you in a way that's not mean? Does he seem at times to be pushing you away? It is true that these may seem like signs that he doesn't like you, but they could also be signs that he is extremely comfortable with you and thinks you're fun.
(5) Some signals may be subtle. Does he remember things you said you liked from earlier conversations? Does he notice small details about you? Does he do little random acts of kindness for you without being asked? Don't take these things lightly. They could be signals that he cares a lot about you.
(6) Trying too hard can turn people off who were actually interested at first. One problem that a lot of people have in dating is taking it way too seriously early on. Be careful about turning into an obsessed, signal searching addict. This may sound like the opposite of what you should be doing, but try to casually let things happen and see where they go. Too much effort can push a guy away in a hurry.
(7) Some people are good at faking signs of interest to get what they want. There are plenty of men out there who just want to manipulate women into having sex. This is another reason to not put TOO much importance into reading signs. Some people are just great actors.
(8) Reading body language is not an exact science. We can talk about possible clues to what someone is thinking, but there are no guarantees. Sometimes people fold their arms because it's cold or comfortable, for instance (not because they are trying to shut you out like the traditional thinking says).
(9) Sometimes things won't work out no matter what you do. I think a lot of us stress out too much about what we did wrong when a relationship doesn't work out. Sometimes the connection just isn't there. When this happens, it wouldn't matter what we did or didn't do to try to win the person over. We are better off not having to force things.
Hopefully these ideas were useful. Just be careful about assuming too much about reading people. Reading body language and signals can give us clues and hints about what people think, but nothing is a guarantee. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and see where it leads and not worry about it...
I hope that helped, Kerry. Thanks for reading!
Doug (The Mingle Master)
Follow me on Twitter @TheMingleMaster
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