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Body talk: Understanding a woman's body language

Does she want you, or doesn't she? Her words may be ambiguous, but her body language says it all.

Imagine this: You're saying goodnight to a terrific woman you've just met and hope to see again. "I'll call you in a couple of days," you say enthusiastically.

"That would be great," she replies, raising her left hand in front of her face, then fluttering her fingers in what looks like a sexy little au revoir wave as she slowly backs away.

You stand there grinning as she turns and strides quickly toward her car. You're excited about all the possibilities - until two days later, when you make the promised phone call and hear, "You know, I don't think we really have enough in common to see each other again."

Huh?

Where did that come from? Didn't she say it would be great if you called? So what's the story?

The problem is, in the euphoric haze of what you thought wasa very promising encounter, you heard her words but tuned out the cues she was giving you in the language of inescapable truth: her body language.

You didn't notice that by backing away from you, by using her hand as a subtle barrier to keep you at bay, and by fanning the air with her "goodbye" message, her body contradicted every word her lips formed. Maybe she didn't consciously know she had reservations about seeing you until much later, but her body knew from the get-go and was letting you know with key rejection signals. And since you weren't reading her completely, you wound up getting blindsided.

When it comes to understanding a woman, what she's doing is just as important as what she's saying - sometimes more so. After all, she can't be totally honest; if she comes out and tells you she's hot for you, she might seem desperate or easy. Or if she isn't interested in what you're selling, she might not want to hurt your feelings by saying so. Luckily, her body's messages are a lot less coy, which means that understanding them will give you a better idea of what she's really thinking and feeling. And then you'll know when you need to change your approach or move on to someone else, and when it's time to go in for the kill.

The next time you meet a woman you're interested in, watch for the following physical signals. (Of course, don't concentrate so hard that you forget to listen to what she's actually saying, too.) The more you practice, the better you'll become at figuring out what's really going on in a woman's head. And who knows? She might be happy to have finally met a man who truly understands her.

1. If she makes direct, steady eye contact, she's interested. (You may be able to stir her on with a few lingering gazes of your own, but don't overdo it - staring will just make her uncomfortable, especially if you forget where her eyes are.)

2. If she leans in close to you, she's attracted. And if she gets close enough to whisper in your ear, she's really saying that she wants to be even closer.

3. If she leans away from you, she's distancing herself from what you're talking about - or from you. Change your approach immediately.

4. If she smiles with her mouth but not her eyes, it's likely that she's just trying to be polite.

5. But if you can see both rows of teeth when she smiles, she's genuinely happy to be with you.

6. If her palms are open, it shows sincerity and receptivity - she isn't hiding anything from you.

7. If her fists are closed or clenched, she's angry or she's protecting herself from you (or she's about to take a swing at you).

8. If she tilts her head, she's creating a sultry, affectionate gaze that shows her interest.

9. If she tosses or touches her hair, this is classic "preening" behavior and is clearly flirtatious in a social setting.

10. if she lifts her hair off her neck and stretches, baring her neck, she's displaying submissive behavior that leaves her vulnerable to you - a telltale sign of attraction.

11. If she taps or drums her fingers, she's bored, impatient or annoyed.

12. If her legs are crossed in your directions, she's inviting you to stay put.

13. But if she's swinging her foot in your direction, consider that she's actually making a kicking motion.

14. If she hides her face with her hand or a menu, she's protecting herself from you, or she's keeping something from you.

15. If her hand is on her cheek, she's still evaluating the situation.

16. If her hand is over her mouth, she disapproves of you or is reluctant to say what's on her mind.

17. If she blushes, or her ears or chest redden, she's nervous, excited and possibly quite attracted to you.

18. If she moistens her lips with the tip of her tongue, that's a very good thing. If she applies lipstick in your presence, that's even better ... especially if she does it slowly.

19. If her arms are crossed, she's defensive and guarded.

20. If she touches your arm, even very casually, that's a very good sign. Even if she touches everybody that way, this signal may not mean she's crazy about you, but she certainly isn't repulsed by you.

21. If she touches any other part of your body, she definitely wants to get to know you better.

22. If she rubs up against you with her body, she really wants you - unless, of course, she just had to squeeze by you in order to get to the bathroom.

23. If she seems generally tense, ask her nicely if she's hada bad day. If she hasn't, it's you. Now is the time to get her to laugh, ask her to dance or at least have another drink before she bolts.

24. If she seems generally relaxed, you're doing fine - she's enjoying being with you and is open to future possibilities. If you keep doing what you've been doing, she'll be putty in your hands.

Seattle-based therapist Joy Davidson, PhD, answers your sex questions in our "Ask Dr. Joy" column.

Pick-up lines

If you're at a bar or a party and have been together for more than 10 minutes, ask if you can buy her a drink. (This may seem rudimentary, but you'd be surprised how many men ignore basic boy-girl etiquette.

If you want to spark a woman's welcoming body signals, you'll need to use that other language - English - to get her interested. Here are few ways to tune up your conversational skills and keep the electricity flowing during that all-important first encounter.

  • Use your sense of humor. If you can make her laugh, you're halfway home. (But if you think a joke might offend her, forget it. There's no faster way to make her think you're a jerk.)
  • If you're at a bar or a party and have been together more than 10 minutes, ask if you can buy her a drink. (This may seem rudimentary, but you'd be surprised how many men ignore the basics of boy-girl etiquette.)
  • Introduce her to people who come by to say hi to you, and include her in the conversation. Be friendly toward her pals, too, but not too friendly toward the female ones.
  • Be enthusiastic about the aspects of your life you really enjoy. If there are aspects you hate, don't bring them up.
  • Women often complain that men talk about themselves too much, so make a focused effort to explore her interests, too. Try posing highly specific, open-ended questions, such as: "What's it like to be a broker in this roller-coaster market?" Or, "How was it growing up with three brothers?"
  • Respond to her answer by adding a least one follow-up question that reveals your genuine interest.
  • If you really don't give a hoot about what she said, instead of taking it, try smoothly drifting to another topic that ignites some mutual enthusiasm. (And if you can't find one, maybe you should drift to another woman.)
  • Maintain eye contact while she speaks, and be sure not to interrupt her.
  • Speak neutrally or positively about other women, especially your ex-girlfriends.
  • Compliment her ideas, her way of expressing herself, her laugh, her wit ... in short, anything you especially like about her that doesn't pertain to her looks or her body. (Save that sort of flattery for your first date, where you tell her how terrific she looks as soon as you see her.)
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