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Dating Triumphs and Tragedies
by Nicole Roberge

The Myth of Body Language

Most people know that weird dating observation that if you are attracted to someone, you mimic their body language. Of course there are the others, like if their feet are facing you it means they are focused solely on you, and if they look at your mouth they want to kiss you. So I suppose if they look at the top of your head they want to give you a noogie. Who knows what to believe, and perhaps it is all just another ploy to confuse daters.

But this idea really struck me after a recent date with a guy who I was quite smitten with. Things were fine and we were chatting away and I wasn't even that nervous. But I was sitting there and I suddenly realized that I felt tall. Here I was sitting up straight while he had his arms on the table and was leaning in, engaged in conversation. I suddenly felt awkward feeling so tall, and I didn't want to him to think that he was looking up to the Jolly Green Giant, so I leaned in and put my arms on the table like his. It seemed like no big deal, and we continued speaking this way, but it hit me after I got home that I had mimicked his body language.


Every expert out there confirms that mimicking someone’s body language is a sure sign that the person is interested. And I was, but that’s not why I did it. I did it so I wouldn’t look so damn tall. Then I remembered how white his teeth were, which means I was clearly staring at his mouth. But was I staring because I wanted to kiss him, or because he had white teeth? I did care about what signal I was sending him, but did he notice?

The big question remains—When on a date, do people actually notice these little things we do, and if so, do they really interpret them? Is the whole body language hoopla true?

I decided to find out.

Later that week I met up with another guy, just a casual friends thing. I figured that I would test him. I didn’t tell him of course, I instead let my body language do the talking.

So there we were, sitting, eating and chatting away, both in comfortable lunch positions. I decided to make my move.

He shifted to the right and I moved the same way...and so began our crazy game of table twister.

He put his elbow on the table.
I put mine on the table.

He leaned forward.
I leaned forward.

He leaned back and crossed his leg.
I leaned back and crossed my leg.

But it didn't seem as if he was getting anything out of my body language cues. Which was probably a good thing, because I looked like an idiot.

Perhaps it was because I was making pre-planned, unnatural reactions, but I have to wonder if people really do have these natural reactions and if they are simply normal human responses or if there is real meaning behind them. Because if someone turns their feet toward you in interest, are you likely to turn your feet toward them? It doesn’t seem likely that we would always pick on these cues. Unless you are a fashion fan of footwear, you probably won’t constantly be staring at his feet.

And if you start copying every little move, things could get complicated and turn into a bizarre and awkward experience...if it was anything like my reenactment. Our human chess game was not going so well and finally, after we both almost simultaneously adjusted our crotch, he asked me, “what the hell is the matter with you?”

Apparently, he did notice. And apparently, they weren’t attractive moves I was making.

I explained my real motive and he laughed it off, fortunately, and told me that he had heard those rumors of body language cues too, but had never been able to detect interest from them. Unless someone uses actual physical contact—touches an arm, etc—then it can be hard to gauge one’s interest by a simple wave of the hand. Sure, if someone is leaned in and listening intently, you know they at least care what you are talking about. It’s usually a better sign than if they were slouching down with their hands over their ears. But simple, small cues like turning one’s feet and resting a chin in their hand can often go unnoticed and therefore have little effect on a person’s response.

But something I did find that really struck me was that he was very at ease and sat however he felt most comfortable. And while I was relaxed because there were no romantic intentions, I still made a bit of an effort to reflect his image. If he were sitting up tall, I felt better sitting up tall. If he leaned back a little, I felt okay doing the same. So instead, is this really that, as with many other things, men literally have to make the first move? Maybe women are pre-programmed to follow men’s lead and that is where the body language reactions come from. Or should I just stop worrying about whether or not I look tall? Then maybe I’d gain a few extra seconds here and there of good conversation…and more sneak peeks of his pearly whites.

Dating Triumphs and Tragedies is published every Sunday by Online Dating Magazine columnist Nicole Roberge. She can be reached at

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