A Letter From a Reader

I love getting questions from readers.  Talking about body langauge in the abstract is so much less interesting than seeing how it plays out in real-world situations.

A while back a reader sent me the following email:

Ricky XXXXXXX () wrote:

Is she interested: body language

I was out on a date recently and noticed that my date seemed interested in the conversation. Her body pointed towards me, leaning in and she made lots of eye contact.  She also kept looking around the room a bit, even checking behind her which was a football game and she has told me she’s not interested in football. I don’t think I was looking at the game, but I did find myself becoming similarly distracted.  It might have been mimicry or it might have been me feeling antsy and just wanting to know what was going on around me. What do you make of this combination of signals?


My reply will be a bit long, but that’s because there’s so much in the way of “teachable moments” in his question.

Ricky, there are several good signs in her behavior.  She’s oriented toward you, making eye contact, leaning in.  But you mention her looking around the room.  The question is, did she do this more than would be expected?  Not having actually been there, all I can do is offer an educated guess.  The fact that you’re asking about it suggests to me that it was at least more than you expected, particularly since she told you she doesn’t care for football.

What’s bothering you about this situation is that some of her behavior is incongruent.  We get our most revealing clues about what a person is really thinking when their body language doesn’t all line up.  In this case the news is mostly good.  But it isn’t great.

The bulk of her body language was very positive. It showed that she was interested in you and attentive to you.  However, you clearly were in an environment with too many distractions.  Her looking around was probably no more meaningful than your own.  Flashing television screens are likely to attract attention no matter who is involved in the conversation.  I wouldn’t read too much into it.

That’s the good news.  Here’s the bad.  If you’re really trying to bond with somebody, or trying to establish a more intimate level of communication, a sports bar is a terrible place to do it.  You need an environment where both members of the conversation can focus on each other with minimal distractions.

Body language isn’t the only form of nonverbal communication. How you interact with your environment can send signals too.  In this case, it all depends upon what each of you was expecting from the date.  If you’re both looking to simply relax, laugh, and very casually get to know one another, it wouldn’t be too bad.  But if, for example, she were looking for a signal that you were interested in progressing beyond casual friendship, the very act of taking her to a sports bar would be sending a nonverbal message that you really weren’t reciprocating her affection.  Under those circumstances you would have made a bit of a stumble.  It wouldn’t necessarily be one you couldn’t recover from, but first impressions do tend to be lasting impressions.

I would be interested to hear what became of the relationship.





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