A Facebook friend recently asked me about stalkers, which made me think about the nature of attraction, which led me to think about our ability to recognize attraction. Some guys exhibit stalker-like behavior because they mistakenly believe a woman has romantic interest in them. Unfortunately most dudes tend to be woefully bad at assessing if a woman genuinely likes them or is just being friendly. Men will often say women put out "mixed signals."
This "mixed signal" phenomenon, however, is a problem with the receiver, not the sender. The woman is sending crystal clear signals. The man is the one butchering the message on the receiving end. The problem- we (men) don't always know the specific nuances of physical attraction.
We've all seen (or experienced) this situation- a cute girl smiles at a dude, then he assumes she's totally into him. In reality, she was just trying to be friendly. Worse, a woman is working as a waitress, bartender, or even an exotic dancer, flirts a little to get a better tip, and the dude assumes she's totally into him.
How do guys learn to discriminate true attraction from friendliness or playful "I'm not really interested in you" flirting?
Physical attraction is a biological phenomenon that occurs in the brain... lots 'o chemicals being released. That biology results in predictable behaviors. Knowing those behaviors is the secret. If you see them, she's into you. If not, she's just trying to be nice.
Before we get to the specifics, let's talk about default settings. If you're a dude lookin' for love, you're better off assuming all women are disinterested as your default setting, then alter course if you detect the reliable signs of attraction. Too many dudes put out the desperate vibe when they're looking for a mate, which causes them to interpret friendly overtures as romantic interest. The result- you come off either creepy, desperate, or you scare away women that may be sitting the fence.
Okay, now that we're assuming all women are just being friendly, let's look at the reliable indicators of attractiveness.
Signs She's Interested
- Eye contact: If a woman is interested in you, she will make direct eye contact. The more the eye contact, the greater the level of interest. Furthermore, our pupils dilate when we view someone we find attractive. If the lighting is consistent, this can help conform attraction. Warning- eye contact varies greatly among individuals. Just because one woman gives more eye contact than another isn't a good indicator she's interested. Her level of eye contact with the amount of eye contact she maintains with other people.
- Open body language: Leaning in, opening legs, keeping arms uncrossed... all of these subtle body movements are indicators of attraction. If you're sitting at a table, look where she places stuff. Warning: If she places objects directly between the two of you, she's building an unconscious barrier. That's a bad sign. Also, if you're in a loud environment, leaning in may just be an attempt to hear you better. Consider your surroundings.
- Asking questions: When we're interested in someone, we want to know more about them. The best way we do this is by asking questions. Most of us, when meeting someone new, will ask a predetermined set of questions. "What do you do? Where did you grow up? What's your favorite MM color?" If the questions seem like they're being read from a script, she's probably not in to you. If she asks follow-up questions based on your answers, she's genuinely curious, which is a good indicator of interest. Warning: Many people are inherently curious about others. Like eye contact, it's best to compare one person's questioning behaviors to other people they interact with.
- Touching and invitations: If a woman touches your hand, arm, leg, neck... pretty much anything, it's a powerful indicator of interest. This is especially true if combined with open body language and eye contact. Same deal with "invitations" such as licking the lips (unless you're in a desert), biting lips, and playing with their hair.
- Sympathetic Nervous System Responses: Sounds dorky, I know. But it works. When we're attracted to someone, our heart rate increases, face becomes slightly flushed, palms get a little sweaty, and we get a little more fidgety. It's our body preparing for fight or flight... or in this case- sex. It will most often appear as slight nervousness.
- Laughing and smiling often: This is a good "supporting" clue that can go along with the rest. If a woman smiles and laughs a lot, it's a good sign she's interested. BIG warning: We're socially trained to smile a lot anyway, even to people we may not like. That's why this is more of a supporting cue than anything else.
- "Jealous" behaviors: When both men and women are interested in someone, their behavior will subtly change if someone else threatens to take their place. We're not talking about catfight level behavior changes, they will likely become somewhat hostile toward the newcomer. I knew this dude in college that would bring one of his female roommates to the bar and act as a litmus test. If he met a woman and was gaging interest, he would give a secret signal and his female roommate would approach and start talking to them for a few minutes. The subtle reaction from the woman could help determine if she was really interested or not.
Okay, now let's look at the other side of the coin. What are signs she isn't interested in you?
- Comparing behaviors with other dudes: I mentioned this above, but it's worth repeating: If a woman acts the same way with you that she acts will all guys, she's not interested. Re-read that sentence multiple times until you memorize it. This is especially important for women that might not be very good at flirting. Especially shy women may do the exact opposite of everything I noted above when in the presence of someone they may be interested in. The only way to determine interest would be to compare their behaviors around you with their behaviors around other men. The same? No interest. Different? There may be romantic interest there.
- Looking elsewhere: If a woman is actively looking around when either of you are talking, she's not interested. She's looking for an out. Or she's using you to determine the interest of someone else by judging their reaction. Either way, it's not going to lead anywhere.
- Lack of questions: If a woman is giving more statements than questions, it's a good indicator she's not interested. She's not getting to know you. She's engaging in small talk.
- Closed body language: Crossing the arms, turning away, crossing the legs, and leaning away are all good indicators that the woman isn't interested in you.
- Mentioning of other romantic interests: If a woman mentions she has a another interest (crush, boyfriend... whatever) repeatedly she's not interested. If she's complaining about another love interest, you've been friend-zoned. She's not interested in you romantically, she's just looking for a sympathetic ear.
A note about seduction: Seduction is the art of increasing and decreasing interest to increase attraction. Done well, it's a subtle but obvious game. Most women are very good at playing seduction games. They will give obvious signs of interest, then back off a bit. That cycle will repeat itself to build tension which increases attraction.
The problem: Guys will often misinterpret initial interest followed by disinterest with seduction. A woman may meet a guy, show interest, learn more about him, realize he's not right, then back off. The guy mistakenly believes she's being seductive and will pursue despite very obvious signs of disinterest. That's where some dudes take it to the creepy level (cough, cough, stalkers, cough.)
The solution: Guys can employ a simple test. If the woman is interested then backs off, pursue for a short time, then back off yourself. If she's into you, she'll go back to showing signs of interest and both of you can play the seduction game by showing more and more obvious signs of strong attraction. If she doesn't respond with signs of interest, she is no longer interested. For the love of Raptor Jesus move on. Don't become a creepy desperate dude that gives the rest of us a bad name.
All men should be well-versed in observing and interpreting these signs of interest. They aren't especially difficult to understand, especially when multiple signs are used. Women rarely put out mixed signals... guys are just really bad at interpreting them.
Both men and women readers- have anything to add? Have an interesting experience to share about misinterpreted signals? If so, leave a comment!