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Flirting and body language
Tracey Cox

A number of subconscious triggers play a major role in the dating game, governing how we see each other. Find out how to avoid getting the push before you've said "hello"!

Statistics differ but most experts agree it takes us between 90 seconds and four minutes to decide if we fancy someone - and as much as we'd like to think it all rests on that witty one-liner, it doesn't.

Fifty-five per cent of the impression we get from someone comes through our body language

Thirty-eight per cent is from the tone, speed and inflection of our voice

and a mere seven per cent is from what we're actually saying!

First impressions

This doesn't mean you can get away with droning on about your passion for snails and butterfly collection forever (content is crucial later), but it does mean you need to get the body language right straight away or they won't bother to stick around to find out how fascinating you are.

If you're not already feeling horribly self-conscious, you should be. To make you completely paranoid, here's another scary thought. Before you've even spoken to the person you've got your eye on, the way you've walked and stood is more than 80 per cent of their first impression of you!

We make snap judgements based on instinct but the fact is, almost every facet of our personality is evident from our appearance, posture and the way we move.

So, how do we tell if our body is sending the right signals - and (more importantly) how to read theirs? Let your body do the talking (and the flirting) by learning to recognise...

The five secret sexual signals that someone is flirting with you

The flirting triangle. When we look at people we're not familiar with (in a business situation for instance), our eyes make a zig-zag motion: we look from eye to eye and across the bridge of the nose.

With friends, the look drops below eye level and moves into a triangle shape: we look from eye to eye but also look down to include the nose and mouth.

Once we start flirting, the triangle gets even bigger - it widens at the bottom to include their good bits (like the body). The more intense the flirting, the more intensely we'll look from eye to eye - and the more time we'll spend looking at their mouth.

If someone is watching your mouth while you're talking to them, it can be very, very seductive. It could be that they're imagining what it would be like to kiss you.

Mirroring. This is what separates a good flirt from a great flirt: nothing will bond you more effectively than mirroring someone's behaviour. This simply means you do whatever it is they do. If they lean forward to tell you something intimate, you lean in to meet them. If they sit back to take a sip of their drink and look you in the eye, you pause then follow suit.

The theory behind mirroring is that we like people who are like us. If someone is doing what we're doing, we feel they're on the same level as us and in the same mood as we are.

There are two no-go areas with this one, though: firstly, only mirror positive body language; second, capture the spirit rather than mimicking them. As a general rule, wait around 50 seconds before following their gestures.

The eyebrow flash. When we first see someone we're attracted to, our eyebrows rise and fall. If they are similarly attracted, they raise their eyebrows in return. Never noticed? It's not surprising since the whole thing lasts only about a fifth of a second!

We're not consciously aware of doing it, but it's a gesture that is duplicated by every culture on Earth. In fact, some experts claim it's the most instantly recognised non-verbal sign of greeting used by humans.

The trick is to watch for it when you meet someone you fancy. Better still, tell them you're interested on a subconscious level by prolonging your eyebrow flash for up to one second - deliberately raise them while catching their eye for full impact.

Pointing. Sneak a peek at what their feet and hands are doing - we tend to point toward the person we're interested in. If we find someone attractive, we'll often point at them subconsciously with our hands arms, feet, legs, toes.

Again, it's an unconscious indicator to make our intentions known. Unconsciously, this is often picked up by the other person, without them really knowing why.

So if you've got your eye on someone in the corner, point your body in their direction - even if you don't make eye contact, they may take the hint.

Blinking. If someone likes what they see, their pupil size increases and so does their blink rate. If you want to up the odds in your favour, try increasing the blink rate of the person you're talking to, by blinking more yourself. If the person likes you, they'll unconsciously try to match your blink rate to keep in sync with you, which in turn, makes you both feel more attracted to each other!

Now, one final word before you go rushing off to the nearest bar to practise all this. Before you go, you must understand...

The golden rule of body language

Don't judge on one thing alone. Sitting with your arms crossed is often perceived as a defensive, stand-off posture. But it might also mean you're freezing cold, you're having a fat day or just spilt coffee all over your top!

Don't jump to conclusions, instead look for clusters of behaviour. If someone has their arms crossed and their lips are pursed disapprovingly, it's a fairly safe bet they are on the defensive. Most body language experts favour the Rule of Four, which means look for at least four signals suggesting the same thing before totally believing it.

Safety on dates

If you're cyber dating, using the personals or even a dating agency you haven't tried before, it makes sense to...

  • Arrange to meet for coffee or lunch rather than dinner. Not only are you safer in the day but you don't waste time if it doesn't work. Help prevent any unwanted chasing (which might turn into stalking) by being polite but not leading them on. If you don't fancy them, just say '"You're a lovely person, but unfortunately, not what I was looking for."
  • Stick to an area that's well lit with lots of people around. It's a good idea to meet in a place where you're known so the person you're with can be identified. Chat away to the waiter/waitress so it's obvious you've been seen with them.
  • Don't invite strangers to your home and don't go to theirs until you know them very well.
  • Trust your gut instinct and listen carefully to their relationship history. Are they using the service for the right reasons or are they just after sex?
  • Give the details of your date to several friends - where you'll be, the time you'll meet, the person's name, phone number and address. Get them to phone you an hour into the date to check you're OK; you phone them a few hours later to report in again.