In all honesty, dating isn’t always as entertaining as romcoms and Sex and the City make it out to be. Sometimes, finding someone with whom you feel a magical connection can feel an awful lot like, well, work.
First dates—particularly those with someone you met through an app, which is the status quo nowadays—are particularly stressful. Basically, you’re expected to jump into a potentially intimate situation with a complete stranger and show off your best self before you know whether you two have chemistry. (Or even what they actually look like—because, somehow, they managed to look completely different in the few pictures they posted to their profile). Draining, much?
So it’s not surprising if some of that trepidation sneaks into your body language on a date, even if you’re actually feeling the person you’re with. And considering that research has shown more than half of what we convey in social interactions is through nonverbal posturing, it pays to be mindful of what your body is “saying.”
To avoid unintentionally appearing standoffish on your next date—and confusing your love interest about your intentions—I asked relationship experts to share some of the unconscious body language mistakes people often make when they’re out with someone they’re into. With your most powerful presence on display, you may just find that more of your first dates end in a smooch. (And orbiting becomes a much rarer occurrence.)
Read on for three ways you may be pushing your dates away with your body language—without even realizing it.
Mistake #1: Closing yourself off physically
According to Christine Kershaw, a doctoral candidate in University of Alberta’s Department of Psychology who recently co-authored a meta-analysis on the behaviors of attraction, affiliative actions—making eye contact, smiling, initiating conversations, laughing, and maintaining proximity—are crucial to communicating attraction and are the building blocks for developing a rapport with your date, which is extra important when you’re meeting someone for the first time. Yes, this can be challenging if you’re shy around someone you like. But if you don’t exhibit those body signals, your date will likely assume that you don’t care to forge something meaningful.
Maria Avgitidis, matchmaker at NYC-based dating service Agape Match, adds that you shouldn’t touch or hide your neck, because that gives the impression that you’re uncomfortable, being disingenuous, or are hiding a secret. She also warns against covering your other two vulnerable zones—your torso and your crotch—by crossing your arms or legs. (Instead, keep your legs uncrossed and together). Finally, she says, try not to fidget. You may just be nervous, but that body language can indicate impatience.
Mistake #2: Bringing your office body language to your date
According to Avgitidis, there’s a significant difference between the body language you exhibit in a professional setting and during a date—and boss babes should leave their work body language at the office. “When we go to work as women, especially in male-dominated industries… we want to be taken seriously, so we have a more astute walk. We are more purposeful with our actions, and we can be more assertive,” she says. And while these are all great attributes in general, this energy can sometimes make a date feel like a job interview.
If you’re meeting a suitor straight from your job, Avgitidis suggests doing a relaxing, 15- to 30-minute activity beforehand—like grabbing a coffee solo or getting a quick blowout—to create a “buffer zone” between work and play. Bonus points if you sniff one of these essential oils to get yourself in the loved-up mood.
Mistake #3: Coming on too strong
Maybe the stars have aligned and you’re finally on a date with someone who’s good-looking, funny, and seems genuinely interested in getting to know you. (Unicorn!) It’s only natural to want to make your attraction clear by letting your flirty, sensual flag fly. But don’t go too far—Kershaw says there are social norms for displaying sexual interest during an initial meeting with someone, and being too flirty can be a turnoff for some people.
“Flirtatious glances, eyebrow flashes, fixing your clothes without necessity, or presenting your chest could negatively impact the impression you make on your date,” Kershaw says. That said, the way body language is interpreted largely depends on the intention and perspective of each person, she explains. So if both you and your date have previously ascertained that you just want a summer fling—or you’re both fiery, fast-moving Aries—then sexual body signals may be more than welcome.
Sick of swiping? Here are 6 healthy ways to meet your next love interest IRL. And if you want to up your chances for a second encounter, wear activewear on your first date.
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