How To Tell If A Guy Likes You: Body Language And Its Role In Attraction
By: Corrina Horne
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
Some body language is fairly obvious in its execution: if you touch your hair a lot, you are grooming yourself. If you lean in toward someone while they are talking, chances are, you are interested in what they have to say. If you take steps to back away from someone, you are trying to create distance. Many body language cues are fairly straightforward, easy to detect, and simple to understand. However, there are countless different types of body language cues, meanings associated with those cues, and even multiple meanings associated with those cues, based upon context. The people involved, too, can alter what body language means. How, then, does body language play a role in attraction?
What Is Body Language?
"Body language" refers to any communication that does not involve verbal indicators. Body language can mean broad movements, such as crossing arms or moving away from someone, but can also refer to even smaller movements that are much harder to detect, such as flaring nostrils or raising a single eyebrow. All of these small affectations (and large ones) come together to create a person's body language.
Body language is a powerful thing, as it can clue you into a person's feelings, motives, and thoughts, even when none of them have been spoken aloud. Body language can be used in relationships of all kind, from a relationship with a new partner to your work and familial relationships. Body language can help unravel hidden feelings, such as the anger of a coworker, or the guilt of a spouse, and it can help you determine how other people are feeling about you or a situation at that moment.
It is careful to note, though, that although there are some broad generalizations regarding body language, not all indicators are identical across people and people groups, so body language should not be taken as a hard and fast rule. Instead, body language functions as a supplementary tool when trying to determine what people are thinking, feeling, and experiencing, and should always be used in context, rather than being used as a definitive reason for assigning feelings to someone else. Body language can be used to set yourself at ease in a relationship or may be used to unsettle you in a situation in which you would otherwise be unaware of the conflict.
Body language is a typical social engagement and is likely to be difficult for people who struggle with nonverbal cues, such as those with Social Anxiety Disorder, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, as these nonverbal cues can be hard to determine when social interactions are difficult to navigate. Body language discernment can be learned-and is often a part of therapy within these disorders-but there is some element of intuition involved both in putting forth your body language and in evaluating others'.
Is Body Language Inherent?
To a large degree, yes. Body language is primarily an unconscious form of communication, particularly where attraction is concerned; although many people work hard to mask their emotions by making their face inscrutable, the smaller indications of attraction, such as flared nostrils, fidgeting, and even a slight lift of the eyebrows are harder to keep under control, and may peek through despite careful machinations designed to keep any indicators of emotion under wraps.
Body language is particularly difficult to hide when large emotions are involved. Your teeth might bare, your nostrils flare, and your fists clench when you are extremely angry, for instance, while you might break into a wide smile and flush when you are particularly pleased. These gestures may be corrected after they have already been put forth, but avoiding them altogether is often difficult, if not downright impossible.
Can You Manipulate Body Language?
Although it is certainly possible to create specific cues to demonstrate a particular intent or hint at something, most body language is actually unintentional and subconscious in its delivery, which is part of what makes it so fascinating; determining attraction and meaning through body language is an art, a science, and a largely subjective domain.
Body language is far more likely to be manipulated if you are working to achieve something. In business, for instance, you can make a conscious effort to square your shoulders, smile, and step toward a broker of a large deal to make yourself seem more engaging, or more confident. In romance, you might make a concerted effort to resist the urge to wipe sweating palms on your pants; you might lift your chest, and stand firm to indicate to someone that you are interested and not going anywhere.
While body language can, to some degree, be manipulated, there are still likely to be indicators of how you are feeling, or what you are seeking in the smaller gestures, including the way your eyes look, whether or not you fidget, and how you hold your mouth.
Signs He Likes You: Body Language And Attraction
The body language signs indicating that a man is interested in varying widely and can range from large gestures to small. Some of the most common and easily-seen forms of body language that indicate interest include leaning in when the two of you speak, making eye contact, making excuses to touch you or be close to you, and smiling when the two of you are together. These are all readily apparent demonstrations of interest and admiration and can be a good stepping stone to evaluating a love interest's body language.
In addition to these signs, though, there are often more subtle indications that a man is interested. When men are interested, their nostrils often flare, eyebrows quirk up, and they may seem to touch their faces or bodies more often than usual. Nostrils typically flare to take in more air and, consequently, more of your scent. This particular show of interest is often sexual in nature, as the pheromones the body is seeking are sexual in nature. Eyebrows lifting are similar, in that the eyes are trying to grow wider to take more in. Touching faces and bodies more come from two things: one might indicate more grooming and expressing masculinity-as is the case in a man who strokes his chin, touches his hair, or rubs his hands together. Touching the body more can indicate nervousness. He might rub his palms against his pants to wick away sweat, or he may tuck his arms and elbows in tightly to his body toward against underarm sweat.
Moving toward you, and filling up more space may also indicate that a man is interested in you. When men puff up and try to take up more space, they are often unconsciously trying to demonstrate dominance in the situation, and indicate that they are strong and masculine. This has been dubbed "manspreading," and is most often seen when sitting: men may lay their arms across the back of a couch and spread their knees, taking up almost double the amount of space they need.
How Reliable Is Body Language?
Body language is a reliable means of determining what people are thinking and feeling-provided that it is evaluated in context with other indicators. If someone is outright awful to you (i.e., treating you like less than nothing, mocking you, or being otherwise cruel), but their body language indicates they are interested, it is best to follow their language instead of body language. While they might be interested, entering into a relationship with someone who feels it is appropriate to treat others this way is a bad idea.
Body language can also be interpreted in multiple ways: if someone is fidgety, sweaty, and uncomfortable, it could be because they like you and feel extremely nervous and on edge in your presence. It could also be, though, that they sincerely dislike you, feel uncomfortable, and are eager to conclude your interaction. If a man's nostrils flare, it can indicate that he is interested in you, and is trying to take in more of your natural scent-or it could mean that he is angry and defensive.
Although body language is incredible for the insight it can provide into others' experiences, beliefs, and feelings, it can also be interpreted in a multitude of ways, and should never be used as the sole source of proof that someone is interested in you. Instead, body language should be evaluated alongside actual verbal communication and behavior.
How To Know If A Guy Likes You: Body Language And Behavior
Body language is an invaluable tool in the proverbial cupboard of anyone hoping to understand human behavior. Body language is often the unconscious, unfiltered version of a person's experience, and can be used to determine what someone is feeling in situations when they are unwilling to be forthright or have not yet offered an explanation for their behavior. Although it cannot be relied upon entirely as the sole proof of someone's affection for you, it can certainly lend insight into a situation and set your mind at ease if you are uncertain about how someone feels toward you. There are several predictors of a man's interest, including eye contact, their body about yours in space, physical touch, and subtle indications, such as flared nostrils and open lips. Using these small clues, you may be able to determine whether or not the object of your affection is similarly interested.
If you struggle to understand body language-or find yourself using body language that is not in line with how you are feeling-a therapist may be able to help you learn how to read the body language of others, or how to align your body language properly. This may be particularly useful in the case of people with Social Anxiety Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or even someone with an impulse-based disorder, as all of these disorders may involve the struggle to interpret social cues and norms.