- The wider the pupil dilation, the more attraction people feel toward one another.
- Pulling away from another person's touch either indicates dislike or that one is not ready for an intimate relationship.
- People who like one another mirror each other’s body positions.
When you meet someone for the first time, especially in a romantic encounter, you often know quickly if you like the person—but how do you know if they like you?
There are a few nonverbal cues that instantly let you know if someone is interested in you:
1. Mutual Eye Contact
People look at people they like and avoid looking at people they don’t like. The neurochemical oxytocin may be responsible for increased eye contact. Elevated oxytocin levels increase mutual eye gaze and provide a sense of well-being, which increases mutual attraction. Oxytocin also increases pupil dilation, which indicates interest. The wider the dilation, the more attraction people feel toward one another. During the last century B.C., Cleopatra, reputedly the most alluring woman of her time, dilated her pupils with atropine to make herself appear more sensual.
There is a fine line between increased eye contact and staring, which is impolite. You can increase mutual gaze by maintaining eye contact as you turn your head to break the gaze; the other person does not perceive your extended gaze as staring because your head is turning. If the person you are with maintains eye contact, they like you.
2. A Light Touch
People often touch the person they like. In romantic relationships, women may lightly touch the arm of the person they are talking to. This light touch is not an invitation to a sexual encounter; it merely indicates she likes you. Men express their liking for other men by fist-bumping, chest-bumping, or lightly hitting the other person on the shoulder with a closed fist. Men similarly express their like for women by engaging in playful physical activities. Another form of touching is preening. Picking lint off of another person’s clothing or straightening a crooked tie indicates that the person likes you. Touching is a good indicator that a person likes you or dislikes you. If you casually touch another person and they abruptly pull away, the person does not like you or is not ready for a more intimate relationship.
3. Inward Leaning
Body orientation is an important indicator that the person you are talking to likes you. People lean toward people they like and distance themselves from people they dislike. Inward leaning increases as rapport increases. For example, if two people are sitting next to each other, their heads will turn toward each other. Next, their shoulders will turn toward each other. After that, their torsos will fully turn as they face one another. Finally, the two people will lean toward each other.
People who like one another mirror each other’s body positions. Mirroring can help establish rapport and can also be used to test whether the person you are talking with likes you. It sends a subconscious signal to the person you are with that you like them; in turn, they are predisposed to like you. When you meet someone, mirror their body position. At some later point in the encounter, change your body position. If the other person mirrors you within several seconds, they probably like you.
People who like each other remove any obstacles between them. People who don’t like the person they are with often place barriers between themselves and the person they don’t like. Barriers include personal items such as purses, newspapers, magazines, cups, cushions, and similar items. A barrier does not necessarily mean that the person doesn’t like you, but it does let you know that rapport has not yet been established. A cup or glass can be used to monitor liking: If the person you are with places their cup or glass between the two of you, it forms a barrier signaling that rapport has not yet been established. As the conversation continues, monitor where the person places their cup or glass. If they place it to one side or the other, thus removing the barrier between you, they probably like you.
Watching nonverbal behaviors allows you to monitor the progress of the rapport-building process and lets you know if the person you are with likes you. Nonverbal behaviors also predispose the person you like to interact with you, which gives you an opportunity to develop your relationship under favorable conditions.
Scheele, D, Striepens, N., Güntürkün, O., Deutschländer, S. Kendrick, K. Hurlemann, R. (2012). Oxytocin modulates social distance between males and females. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32-46.