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10 Signs That a Date Isn't Going Very Well

Self-grooming, rigid posture, and feet turned away.

Key points

  • Behavior analysts have identified 10 common signs of disinterest or lack of attraction.
  • Several body language signs can have different meanings, particularly those related to feeling tense or bored.
  • Both "eye blocking" and "upper lip raising" are strong indicators of dislike or disinterest.

One of the most common uses for reading body language is to determine whether another person is attracted to you. Most of us instinctively recognize signs of attraction: maintained eye contact, leaning in, and smiling, although there are some gender differences in these behaviors.

However, signs that a person is not attracted (or even bored) can also be helpful to recognize, particularly on a first date. Why spend your time or money on a second date if that basic level of interest just isn’t there? Behavior analysts have identified ten signs of lack of attraction or interest that might be observed at a first meeting. The usual rule of body language applies: look for several signs and don’t jump to conclusions if you see only one of these behaviors.

  1. A Single Raised Eyebrow. If your date is looking at you with a single eyebrow raised, they are probably skeptical about what you are telling them. At the very least, they are doubting that what you are saying is completely true as opposed to being an exaggeration or distortion of the facts.
  2. Slouched Posture. There are two ways to read this sign. If your date is slouching while you are sitting up straight and looking alert, they are indicating a loss of interest and maybe even a lack of respect for you. But if you are slouching and your date mirrors you by also slouching, that is more likely a sign of their interest in you. The mirroring of posture is a common sign of wanting to engage with the person.
  3. Creating a Barrier. Placing items between you and them is one way to put space between you, and is usually a defensive move. If the other person places one item, such as a cell phone, between you and them, it probably means little. If they continue to place items between you, or if they move so that larger items are between you, they are seeking a safe distance from you. This is inconsistent with feeling attraction, even for a person who is usually anxious.
  4. Eyelids Closing for Long Blinks. Behavior analysts call this “eye blocking” and note that we do this instinctively when we are looking at something we don’t like or find to be offensive in some way. Enough said on that.
  5. Self-Grooming. Here’s another sign which can be read two ways. If they are self-grooming when they first see you, it is probably because they want to look their best for you or show their respect for you. For example, straightening a shirt or combing their hand through their hair as you first appear is not a problem. But if you have just asked them a question and they look down at their shirt to brush off something, they are showing a lack of respect or interest in your question
  6. Yawning. Most of us interpret yawning as a sign that the other person is sleepy or tired. While that may be true, it is probably not a good sign, particularly on a first date. Yawning can be a way to reduce tension by drawing in extra oxygen. You might take note of a yawn as a possible sign of tension. It can also be a sign of boredom. Most people will yawn after seven to nine minutes of listening to something (or someone) which doesn’t really interest them.
  7. Rigid Posture. As with yawning, this can be a sign of tension by someone who is interested. Most of us sit or stand with stiff posture when we are tense. One would hope that this is not the posture of the entire date, as it would suggest that the person is not content or comfortable in your presence.
  8. Thumb and Forefinger Pressed Against Face. This movement is called “facial denting” and is usually another sign of tension, and an effort to relieve that tension. This can indicate intense interest or it can indicate extreme boredom.
  9. One Side of Upper Lip Slightly Raised. This is a classic sign of contempt. If you see this without a clear context to explain it, you can assume it’s “game over,” at least for that encounter.
  10. Feet Pointed Toward Door. The direction in which a person’s feet are pointed usually indicates their focus of attention at that time. If their feet are pointed away from you, it’s a sign that they have lost interest. This is particularly clear if their feet are directed toward another person in your group, even as you are speaking with them. Feet pointed toward a door or exit suggests that your date wants to leave soon.

Final Thoughts

You might want to take note of any of these signs and remain aware of how many you’ve observed within one date. It’s probably to your advantage to take a step back (pun intended!) from making more plans if you note several signs of disinterest. Read the cues and use your best judgment about whether or not to pursue that relationship.

Facebook image: Mego studio/Shutterstock

References

Rouse, Scott. (2020). Body Language: How to Decode Nonverbal Communication in Life, Love, and Work. Emeryville, CA: Rockridge Press.

Pease, Allan, & Barbara. (2004). The Definitive Book of Body Language. New York, NY: Random House.

Navarro, Joe, & Karlins, Marvin. (2008). What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People. New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks.

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