When you’re on a first date or talking to someone you may or may not have a crush on, do you ever wonder if they’re, well, into you? Never, right?
A world in which you can tell if someone likes you right away could spare countless hours of deliberating over text messages with your BFFs, ghosting situations (the worst), and unwarranted high hopes (sad but true). That’s exactly the world that Vanessa Van Edwards lives in: As a bona fide body language expert, the author and professional people watcher (I mean, she’s conducted countless behavioral studies) can read the messages that others are sending via their non-verbal cues.
“Over the course of a 30-minute coffee date, you typically send over 800 non-verbal signals.”
“Over the course of a 30-minute coffee date, you typically send over 800 non-verbal signals, but you’re very unconscious of sending or receiving them,” says Van Edwards. “Knowing what you do is very empowering.”
There are actually ways to send subtle signs that you like someone—and yes, you can do so without being obvious or cheesy. It’s all in your body language. “Once you’re familiar with the particular cues, it’s like seeing the world in HD,” she says. “You’re suddenly seeing all of these minor things that were always there but you never noticed.” Ah, the possibilities.
Keep reading for the three most important body language signals to know in the game of romance, according to Van Edwards.
First things first: Your (and your conversation partner’s) position says a lot about interest—and it can stem from something as seemingly minor as where your feet are pointing. “When someone’s into you, they want to get as close as possible,” Van Edwards explains. “A person will angle their feet towards the person they’re most interested in, because subconsciously they want to move towards them. It’s fronting.” Essentially, the tell-tale signs are that if both feet are in parallel, it’s a good date; it’s a bad date when the feet are angled towards the door (which says means that you and your dogs want to get out of there).
If you or the person of interest are touching their face or playing with their hair, they’re feeling confident—in both themselves and in you. “This is more specific to women, but it happens with both genders,” says Van Edwards. “Often, a woman will touch or play with her hair. This releases pheromones, and means she’s trying to call attention to her estrogen.” As for men, they’re looking to accentuate their testosterone levels (remember, this is all subconscious!)—which they do by touching their jaw, hair, or beard. “A square jawline indicates high testosterone,” she says. Guys could alternatively show off their muscular forearms, wrists, and hands (also indicating manliness).
When someone’s uninterested, however, they become stiff. “If a person is uncomfortable or not feeling flirtatious, they tend to not do this,” says Van Edwards. Or if someone’s dealing with a condition like dandruff or a pimple, they’ll be more withdrawn, to try not to draw attention to it (which is why Van Edwards partnered with Head & Shoulders to help women feel their most confident in the dating game).
It might seem like a no-brainer, but eye contact makes all the difference—and it turns out that there are chemical reasons behind this. “When someone’s into you, they want to build up oxytocin—which is playfully known as the cuddle hormone,” Van Edwards explains. “Eye contact is really important for attraction because if someone’s holding a mutual gaze, it produces oxytocin, which gives you the warm and fuzzies.”
When it’s going really well, looking into each other’s eyes can come along with leaning in towards each other and even a playful touch on the arm or leg. “If there’s no interest, then someone will be looking down, looking at their phone, looking around—essentially, just not making eye contact because they’re not that engaged or caring about producing that oxytocin,” says Van Edwards. If that’s the case, then—it’s their loss.
Originally published on March 12, 2018; updated on August 20, 2018.
Once you’re over that hump, you can follow Kristen Bell’s love tips for a healthy relationship. And this is why relationships may be key to your longevity, according to science.