The secret language of attraction: 7 body language cues to watch for

by Mal James | February 12, 2024, 8:28 am

So, I watched Love Actually recently (don’t judge me), and it got me thinking about body language and attraction.

You may recall that Jamie (the writer, played by Colin Firth) and Aurelia (his housekeeper, played by Lúcia Moniz) fall in love. Nothing unusual about that, you might think; women are always falling in love with Colin Firth. 

What grabbed my attention, however, was that they fell in love without being able to say a single understandable word to each other, with Jamie only speaking English and Aurelia only speaking Portuguese. 

The fact that the story can be told like this exemplifies the fact that a whopping 55% of communication is done through body language. 

Of course, Love Actually is just a movie, though. Can we tell if someone fancies us by reading body language in the real world?

We sure can…if we know what cues to look out for. Today, we get into seven of the most important. 

Let’s dive in.

1) Eye contact

Picture this: you’re at a cozy coffee shop, and across the room, someone catches your eye. As your gazes lock, there’s an undeniable spark, an unspoken dialogue that seems to draw you closer without a word being said. 

Moments like this underscore the powerful link between eye contact and attraction. As noted by Healthline, several studies back this connection up:  

  • One in 1989 found that when strangers engaged in prolonged eye contact for two minutes, they reported mutual feelings of affection, even love. 
  • A 2003 study discovered that prolonged staring at someone’s face increased the viewer’s attraction to it. 
  • And a 2009 study focusing on male participants showed that they found women who held their gaze directly to be more attractive than those whose gaze was averted.

Experts like Professor Ronald E. Riggio have also highlighted the significance of eye contact in signaling love and attraction. In a Psychology Today post, he noted that “Gazing into another’s eyes can signify love and attraction and spur the release of hormones associated with love and affection.”

However, it’s essential to remember that intense eye contact isn’t always a signal of romantic interest; it might simply indicate curiosity or general interest. 

And while employing eye contact to demonstrate attraction can be effective, it’s crucial to maintain a balance. An overly intense stare can feel intrusive or uncomfortable rather than flattering.

2) Mirroring

Okay, so this is another big one, but it’s often overlooked. 

Have you ever noticed someone subconsciously copying your body language during a conversation?

Psychologists call this “mirroring”. As put by Berkley Well Being Institute, it’s  “when we unconsciously imitate others during social interactions.” 

And it very often occurs among individuals who are attracted to each other. We begin to mirror the actions, postures, or even speech patterns of the person we’re drawn to.

Why do we do this? 

A study from 1999  suggests that it can significantly enhance rapport, liking, and trust between individuals. 

You should know that it isn’t exclusive to romantic interests, though. We also tend to mirror individuals we respect, admire, or simply get along with.

Also, if you’re contemplating using mirroring as a technique to signal attraction, proceed with caution. Overdoing it can backfire, making the other person feel uncomfortable. 

3) Hair twirling or flipping (for women) 

So this one is a bit more obvious and is widely noted as a flirtatious act for women by experts such as Professor Ronald E. Riggio, whom I mentioned earlier in this post.

Put simply, playing with hair, such as twirling a lock around a finger or flipping hair back, can convey a sense of playfulness and is often a subconscious attempt to draw attention to oneself.

It’s a form of non-verbal communication that, in the context of attraction, might suggest, “I’m interested in you.”

As with most  body language signs, interpreting this requires caution. Healthline points out that this behavior can also be indicative of anxiety. Some research even suggests a link between hair playing and feelings of boredom or dissatisfaction.

Therefore, it’s essential to consider the broader context and other accompanying signals to accurately gauge its meaning.

4) Dominant postures (for men)

Reflecting on my own experience, I’ve noticed a particular pattern among men when it comes to signaling attraction, and it centers around dominant postures.

When a man is interested in someone, he will often adopt more dominant, expansive postures. This can include standing tall, shoulders back, chest out, or even taking up more space by placing hands on hips or spreading out his arms. 

These postures signal confidence and strength, something that most men innately seem to believe is attractive to women. 

And research would suggest that this is correct. A 2002 study found that “women preferred mates who were higher in income, education, self-confidence, intelligence, dominance, and social position than themselves.”

5) Subtle touching

We all instinctively understand that touching, even in its most subtle forms, can signal a certain level of attraction or a desire for intimacy. 

Light, casual touches, such as a gentle pat on the back, a brief touch on the arm during a conversation, or even seemingly accidental brushes, can be indicators of attraction. These small gestures can convey interest and a desire to establish a closer connection without the need for words.

Professor and ex-FBI behavioral analyst Jack Schafer sheds light on this topic from a romantic perspective.

In a 2016 post on the topic, he explained, “In romantic relationships, women may lightly touch the arm of the person they are talking to.” However, he also warned that “This light touch is not an invitation to a sexual encounter; it merely indicates she likes you.”

Maybe more interestingly, he, among others, has also noted that “preening” others is a sign of attraction. What is that?

Well, if you were to look it up, you would get a definition that’s something like: “to dress (oneself) carefully or smartly.” 

In the context of showing attraction to another, it might mean removing a leaf from someone’s hair or straightening someone’s tie.

But like many on this list, we shouldn’t presume touching means attraction in all cases. Touch is highly context-dependent, and what might be considered a friendly gesture in one culture or setting could be viewed as inappropriate in another. 

It’s also important to note that some people are just more touch-oriented in their communication style, using touch as a way to connect with others in a platonic manner. 

6) Head tilts (for women)

I’ll be honest. When I was a younger man, I was always perplexed by why women do this. 

I’d notice it in conversations, especially when there seemed to be a spark of interest, but it was only later that I came to understand the significance of this subtle gesture. 

Tilting the head to the side, thereby exposing vulnerable parts of the body, like the neck, is a powerful nonverbal cue that can signal trust and openness. Some experts also note that this is a sign of submission in women, a common reaction when women are attracted to a man. 

Again, a head tilt alone might not definitively indicate attraction. However, combined with other signs on this list, it can be a more reliable indicator of interest.

7) Leaning in

Have you ever caught yourself unconsciously leaning toward someone during an engaging conversation? 

This subtle movement is a powerful indicator of interest. It’s a non-verbal way of saying, “I’m captivated by what you’re saying; I want to be closer.”

When someone leans in, it narrows a gap, making the conversation feel more private and significant. 

In the context of attraction, it’s a positive sign, indicating a desire to bridge the gap and connect on a deeper level.

Next time you’re in a conversation, take note of this subtle cue—it might just reveal more than you think about the mutual attraction and interest.

The bottom line

That’s it for today, folks. I hope you found this post helpful.

The next time you find yourself in a social setting, keep an eye out for these cues. Who knows? 

You might just uncover hidden layers of attraction. 

Until next time. 

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