How your body language makes you more attractive — and is your number one flirting hack
“Attraction: it’s biological, it’s physical, it’s chemical, it’s mental. But it doesn't end there. It’s also detectable, manageable, and maneuverable” - Tonya Reiman, The Body Language of Dating
When you first meet someone you are attracted to, it’s easy to agonize over the right thing to say. How do you compliment them without being too forward? How can you be vulnerable without oversharing? How do you come off as charismatic and interesting, but not weird?
Yes, all these things are important for winning someone over. But the most important thing, according to researchers, might be what you aren’t saying — in other words, your body language.
According to body language expert Tonya Reiman, women in North America — and in the U.S. in particular — often overlook body language as a crucial element of flirting. On the other hand, she argues that the seemingly effortless allure achieved by women in other communities around the globe — in Spain or Poland, for example — can be chalked up to body language. And it’s important to focus on women here, because when it comes to this, they often control the conversation.
In other words, if a woman is showing with her body language that she is confident, available, and open to being approached, that will automatically influence the level of attraction felt by those around her. On the other hand, negative emotions — such as anxiety, nervousness, or depression — can also be subconsciously transmitted through body language, and this can have a deleterious effect on attracting potential partners. As the Gottmans report in their book…
So what makes "attractive" body language?
Most of it comes down to vulnerability — in other words, more open, approachable postures. These can be beneficial for people of all genders. A few areas to pay attention to are:
- Your feet: This may seem odd, but when you think about how many nerve endings are in your feet (and how much real estate feet-related neurons take up in your brain), it makes sense that your feet are in tune with how you feel. In fact, feet have been called “the most honest parts of the whole human body” for the uncanny way they often reflect your mood (1). Pointing your feet towards someone can indicate your continued interest in getting to know them.
- Your balance: It’s intuitive, but important: you lean towards things you like, and away from things you don’t. Leaning towards someone shows that you are attracted to them, which will encourage them to be attracted to you.
- Your shoulders and arms: Having an open posture is another way to display confidence and willingness to talk to someone. Crossing your arms, on the other hand, is a sign that you might be defensive, and is less likely to encourage others to approach you (3). If you are already engaged in conversation with someone, crossed arms can indicate distrust or disinterest.
- Your elbows: Elbows are a surprisingly powerful tool for displaying your attraction towards someone. The next time you go in for an introductory handshake, lightly place your left hand on the person’s right elbow. Oddly enough, the gesture has been shown to create an impression on the person whose elbow is touched. This additional physical contact creates a momentary bond between the two participants, and can lead to increased feeling of intimacy (3).
- Your hands: The most “attractive” hand position is open palms. This shows that you are being genuine, and it will make someone more likely to trust you. In fact, if someone is pleading with you to believe them, and they are coming to you with open arms and open palms, they are likely telling the truth.
- Your thumbs: This one is more relevant for men, but positioning of the thumbs can indicate ego and dominance (3). Openly displaying your thumbs for everyone to see — for example, by hooking them on the outside of your pockets — shows confidence and authority. Alternatively, having your arms crossed and your thumbs tucking in towards your chest communicates the opposite.
- Your eyes: Frequently referred to as the “window to the soul,” eyes have a lot to reveal when it comes to displaying attraction. Studies have shown that pupils dilate when a person’s eyes are exposed to pleasing images, including attractive people, good food, or music. Therefore, humans naturally find dilated pupils warm and welcoming. Interestingly, this is also why many successful romantic encounters occur in dimly lit places, according to Patrick King’s “Read People Like a Book: How to Analyze, Understand, and Predict People’s Emotions, Thoughts, Intentions, and Behaviors.”
The Short Cut to Appearing Confident
While all these tips are helpful to understand the importance of body language, it would be nearly impossible to coordinate so many body parts at once in a real-life situation. Luckily, the Gottmans have a few shortcuts that can help you to “learn” attractive body postures with ease.
- Belly breathing: Push your belly and your diaphragm down when you breathe, allowing for fuller, deeper breaths. You will soon feel relaxed, and the rest of your body will follow suit, making you appear effortlessly confident.
- The “Airhead”: Think about what it would feel like if your head was filled with helium, and lightly pulling away from your shoulders. This will cause you to expose more of your neck, which communicates fearlessness.
- The Low-and-Exposed: If you are holding something in your hand — such as a cell phone, a drink, or a purse — keep it low or to the side of your body. Holding items high on your chest appears defensive, as though you are attempting to shield yourself.
- Brake Application: Walk slowly, and with purpose. Confident people don’t feel rushed; they take their time. This also communicates to others that you are worth waiting for.
Men in particular may have success with these additional body language hacks:
- The Clark Kent: Superman’s power pose — you know the one, where he stands with his hands on his hips and his feet apart — works for a reason. It conveys that he is not afraid to take up space, which is a great way to communicate confidence. Simply throwing your arm around a nearby chair or kicking your leg up on a stool can show that you are at ease with yourself and the space around you (1).
- The Friendly Guy: Intragender touching, such as giving another man a high-five or a pat on the back, also conveys social ease and confidence (1).
- Reiman, Tonya. The Body Language of Dating: Read his signals, send your own, and get the guy. Simon and Schuster, 2012.
- Gottman, John, et al. The Man's Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the" love Lab" about what Women Really Want. Rodale, 2016.
- Read People like a Book: How to Speed-Read People, Analyze Body Language, and Understand Emotions. Discover Press, 2021.